Mercedes-Benz plots new driver-focused SL for 2020

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As well as sharing a common platform structure, the two upmarket Mercedes models are also expected to share axle assemblies, suspension, steering systems, 48V electric architecture and hybrid drivetrains, among other components, in a move to cut costs and boost production efficiency. The new SL and GT will be built alongside each other at Mercedes’ Sindelfingen plant in Germany.

Early plans to base a successor to today’s smaller SLC off the same underpinnings have been abandoned following a recent decision not to replace the junior Mercedes roadster due to dwindling sales.

Early prototypes of the new SL have been spied testing with the new platform underneath the body of a shortened S-Class Coupé. They give away little about the car’s mechanical set-up, which is rumoured to runa transaxle arrangement with a dual-clutch gearbox integrated within the rear axle assembly like the GT. However, the overall dimensions of the engineering mules suggest the production version will be slightly larger than the existing SL, which measures 4630mm in length, 1870mm in width and 1310mm in height.

The adoption of the MSA platform is claimed to have had a positive effect on the styling of the new SL, whose proportions are said to be more in keeping with earlier incarnations of the classic roadster than the current model, which shares a platform with saloon models such as the C, E, CLS and S-Class.

A Mercedes source told Autocar that the new SL receives a longer bonnet and more rearward-positioned cabin. “The new platform has given us more freedom,” the source said. “There’s more distance between the front axle and the front firewall. This gives it more traditional proportions.”

The decision to replace the folding hard-top of today’s SL with a more compact fabric hood is also said to have provided greater scope in the styling of the rear of the new model. “It’s much more shapely, especially at the rear, because it is no longer dictated in height and width for the packaging of the hard-top roof,” the source added.

Together with a traditional roadster version, suggestions are that Mercedes is planning to extend the SL line-up with a new coupé model in a resurrection of the much-sought-after SLC hard-top produced between 1974 and 1981.

In a further departure from today’s model, it is also expected that Mercedes will provide the 2020 car with a 2+2 seating layout. Autocar has been told that AMG is keen to give the new SL the same sort of practicality as the Porsche 911, with a set of rear seats capable of accommodating adults for short journeys or, alternatively, luggage as an extension of its boot.

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