2012 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class will be lighter thanks to new aluminum structure

Article by Christian Andrei, on May 25, 2011

Mercedes-Benz fans in the UK will be pleased to know that the seventh-generation SL roadster is expected to arrive sometime in the middle of 2012. This new SL, which is codenamed as the R231, has reduced its weight under a program that’s expected to eventually affect all of its future models. Its most significant change is the use of an aluminum body structure instead of the high-strength steel construction of the current SL.

The new SL makes use of methods that were applied initially to the SLS. As a result, it lost weight of up to 200kg, model for model. It’s an impressive achievement, considering that it boosted its safety level and it added standard equipment throughout the range. The styling of this two-seater is an expected evolution of the SL theme, featuring a long nose, steeply raked windscreen and relatively long boot meant to provide space for a folding hard-top.

This model’s styling is very similar to that of the new SLK. Among its features are a big, open grille, signature side air vent, angular headlamps with unique LED graphics, heavily structured flanks, and a tapered rear end. Its width is highlighted by tail-lights that drape around to the body sides. It also has been given a heavily contoured bonnet.

The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is now in its sixth generation, around six decades since the original version was launched in 1952. Just like the first of its name, the new Mercedes-Benz SL-Class intends to set a trend with its athletic performance, picturesque proportions and high utility value. Two new BlueDIRECT engine options are initially available for the latest iteration of the SL, a V6 engine with an output of 225 kW (306 hp) for the SL350 and a V8 powerplant with an output of 320 kW (435 hp) for the SL500. The new V8 engine in the SL500 is around 12-percent more powerful than its predecessor.

Interestingly, the designation “SL” for the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is derived from the German term “Sportlich-Leicht” that means sport lightweight. The latest evolution of this sports car stays true to this definition as achieved by systematic weight reduction. In fact, the Mercedes SL-Class will be the first series production to benefit from an all-aluminum body shell, which is around 110 kilograms lighter than comparable body shell made from sheet steel.

Despite its lighter nature, the aluminum body shell is more rigid and safer. This level of lightness and rigidity of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class was attained via a systematic intelligent material mix of aluminum alloys and aluminum components that are custom-made to comply with their respective requirements. Mercedes-Benz also employed high-strength steel and magnesium for some parts of the SL.

The weight savings achieved by the use of aluminum body shell were partly offset by the addition of more safety and comfort elements into the SL. But compared to their respective predecessors, the new SL350 and the new S500 are still much lighter, thanks to a host of intelligent details aimed at reducing their weight. For instance, at 1,685 kg, the new SL350 is around 149 kg lighter than the previous model, while the new SL500 – with a weight of 1,785 kg – is around 125 kg lighter than its predecessor. These and other improvements have resulted to better on-the-road performance for the new SL.

For instance, the sports car’s improved longitudinal and lateral dynamics allows for a more superior performance especially during cornering. Moreover, the new SL has wider tracks both at the front axle (plus 38 mm) and rear axle (plus 77 mm) and it boasts of sporty and agile handling. In fact, the new Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is seen to be more agile than its predecessor. Clients could choose from two suspension variants: the standard semi-active adjustable damping and the optional active suspension system ABC (Active Body Control). The semi-active adjustable damping is lowered by around 10 mm in the AMG sports package.

As expected, the new Mercedes-Benz SL is the perfect blend of an athletic profile, agile nimbleness and a luxurious ambience. It uses high-quality materials, equipment and appointments to deliver an exceptionally high level of comfort and everyday practicality. The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class definitely scores high marks in terms of open-top motoring experience, suspension comfort and long-trip convenience as well as in terms of low background noise.

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