New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Wraps come off striking Merc SL

2011-12-16 08:57

DROP-TOP STAR Details and images of the all-new Mercedes-Benz SL have been revealed.

As promised recently, Mercedes-Benz has ripped the covers off its hunky SL Roadster. Be sure to grab something to catch your drool…

Completing the mandate to offer something sporty and lightweight (as its SL nomenclature demands) in the luxury roadster class, the new SL, according to Merc is more comfortable and sportier than its predecessor while also being more than suitable for day-to-day driving.

Mercedes-Benz has previously said how this is its most advanced SL yet, constructed, as it is, almost entirely from lightweight aluminium. Compared to its predecessor, the new flagship drop-top’s shell is nearly 110kg lighter, contributing to an overall weight that is lower by almost 140kg.


The car will be assembled at Daimler’s Bremen facility and is the first production Mercedes model with an 89% aluminium bodyshell, while additional components are constructed from other lightweight materials including magnesium.

The aluminium structure is also stiffer than the previous SL’s steel construction, which has brought about greater passenger safety and less vibration.

The new SL is available with two different suspension systems: semi-active adjustable damping as standard and an optional active suspension system ABC (Active Body Control).

Both suspension variants are combined with a new electromechanical Direct Steer system featuring speed-sensitive power steering and a ratio that can be varied across the steering wheel angle for straight line stability but also reducing the amount of steering required for low-speed manoeuvres.

Mercedes-Benz SL

CLASS IN MOTION: The SL is visibly larger than the car it replaces, but this translates to a more comfortable cabin for occupants.

Of course, among the more entertaining features in the SL would be its range of engines.


There’s a new V6 engine in the SL 350 producing 225kW and 370Nm of torque, while the range-topping SL 500 has the run of a new 4.6-litre V8 generating 320kW and a massive 700Nm (up from the previous SL 500’s 530Nm).

Both engines are mated to Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission fitted with standard Eco start/stop to cut the fuel consumption. Mercedes-Benz quotes fuel consumption for the SL 350 as being 6.8 litres/100km, despite its 5.9 second 0 – 100km/h sprint time. The SL 500 accelerates to 100km/h in a blistering 4.6 seconds.

This SL is much larger than its predecessor – 50mm longer and 57mm wider – but these increased dimensions also translate to more generous space for occupants within a cabin oozing with varieties of wood, leather and aluminium trim.

Befitting its role as a flagship roadster, the new SL also comes with a range of options to make its driver and passengers’ lives more manageable.

One of the key features on the SL is that it is able to convert between roadster and coupe in less than 20 seconds, but on the new SL there are three roof versions to choose from. The roof can either be painted metal, glass or a “panoramic vario-roof” with Magic Sky control that switches the roof to light or dark at the push of a button.

Further demonstrating the SL’s weight-loss regime, the frame of the three roof versions is finished in magnesium, making the roofs about 6kg lighter than that of its predecessor but also contributing to the roadster’s lower centre of gravity.

Mercedes-Benz SL

OPULENT: There's no shortage of luxury trim features in the SL's cabin.

Mercedes’ flagship droptop also debuts a number of top-end features such as the FrontBass audio and "magic vision control" windscreen washer systems.


FrontBass uses the free spaces in the aluminium structures in front of the footwell as resonance spaces for the bass speakers; the vision control delivers washer fluid directly to the wiper blade, taking the direction of the wipe into consideration, so a blast of water can’t be seen from the cabin. It includes a mode for cabriolet driving, which spells the end soapy suds in your eyes while driving with the top down.

Useful, too, is the hands-free function for the boot lid that automatically opens and closes the boot if the driver simply waves a foot in the direction of the rear bumper. Who couldn’t use that?

But the latest SL is not just about cute gimmicks. The standard fitment of Mercedes-Benz’s Pre-Safe, which detects risk of an accident and prepares precautionary protective measures for the vehicles occupants, post-crash measures and a high-level of driver assistance functions make this, Merc says, the world’s safest roadster.

Dr Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said: "There are only a handful of automotive icons. Our SL is one of them: it has class, it has style, it is the ultimate in comfort and luxury. But it combines all that with incredible sportiness and dynamism. You would struggle to find a car that embodies Gottlieb Daimler's aspiration more perfectly than our new SL."

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.