The mid-life update to Mercedes’ flagship sports tourer brings a range of upgrades such as more power — as if it was missing — a new nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the current seven-speeder, a curve tilting suspension function and revised roof design.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SL also gets a new-look bonnet with ‘powerdomes', and a new bumper to give the car a cosmetic point of difference over its predecessor.
The diamond radiator grille is now signature Mercedes, and it’s more reminiscent of the iconic 300SL. Flanking this are now-standard LED Intelligent headlights.
There are also new alloy wheel designs, and two new colour options — Brilliant Blue and Designo Grey Magno.
The cabin isn’t stylistically all that different. Reinforcing the upmarket bent, you get fully padded belt lines and selectable mood lighting. The three-spoke steering wheel has a magnesium structure, while touchpoints are largely Nappa leather and aluminium.
The analogue gauges and dashtop clock are somewhat retro, while the distinctive gear shifter design with embossed cover carries over. In a cool touch, the dials do a full circuit of the gauges upon start up before returning to six o’clock.
Depending on the transmission mode selected by the Driving Select, the media display presents dynamic driving data: longitudinal and lateral acceleration (in a G-force cross) or torque and output.
The SL has the latest iteration of Mercedes’ active and preventative safety tech, such as autonomous brakes, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane assist and parking assist.
Standard-fit are new LED headlights that don’t just have a cornering function, but have camera-based active high-beam. There’s also integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and support for various streaming apps.
The electro-hydraulic ‘vario-roof’ folding hardtop operates at speeds of up to 40km/h and can be deployed automatically. There’s a new electric boot separator, and the stowed roof can be swung upwards by 25 degrees via a button.
Like on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the Magic Sky Control system on the roof automatically changes from dark to transparent or vice-versa within just a few seconds.
Under the skin
The standard steel suspension under the largely aluminium body can be changed for the adjustable AMG Line package that lowers the car by 10mm by firming up the springs, and adding torsion bar stabilisers.
The Active Body Control (ABC) system has curve tilting, which reduces body movement in braking and cornering. The spring struts of the ABC suspension are adjusted to the respective driving conditions via so-called plunger cylinders (via oil pressure).
Curve tilting applies a maximum camber of 2.65 degrees up to 180km/h to reduce the affect of lateral acceleration.
The entry engine in the SL400 is Benz’s 3.0-litre turbo V6 pumping out 270kW/500Nm. This is 25kW/20Nm more than it produces in the outgoing version, cutting the 0-100km/h time by three-tenths to 4.9 seconds.
The 4.7-litre V8 in the SL500 now makes 335kW (up 15kW) and 700Nm (unchanged), and sprints from 0-100km/h in 4.3s, a drop of three-tenths.
Both of these non-AMG engines get a new 9G—Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission in place of the old seven-speed unit, with five adjustable modes that change the calibration of the shifts (along with the throttle response, steering resistance and suspension feel).
The flagship AMGs get the familiar 430kW/900Nm 5.5-litre biturbo V8 in SL63 guise (0-100km/h in 4.1s, down a tenth). The 6.0-litre biturbo V12 in the SL65 still makes a ridiculous 463kW/1000Nm, and dashes from 0-100km/h in 4.0s.
Performance is also boosted by the sports suspension based on Active Body Control, the high-performance composite brake system and the redeveloped AMG Speedshift MCT seven-speed sports transmission (SL63) or AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic (SL65), meaning no nine-speeders for the torque-loaded AMG.
For improved traction and driving dynamics, SL63 and SL65 are equipped with a mechanical rear-axle differential lock as standard.
Mercedes-Benz Australia offers the current SL400 ($229,000 plus on-road costs), SL500 ($312,000), SL63 AMG ($399,000)and SL65 AMG ($481,000).
Local pricing of the MY16 model has not been announced publicly, but the range arrives in Australia from mid-2016.