The next-generation Mercedes-Benz SL is being developed by AMG, might be just as cool as the AMG GT

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The 2022 Mercedes-Benz SL is the upcoming, seventh-generation version of the SL-Class, the company’s two-door roadster. Set to break cover in early 2021, the 2022 SL will replace the sixth-generation model, also known as the R231, which was discontinued in 2020 after eight years on the market.

The 2022 SL will bring many big changes to the nameplate, starting with a platform shared with the next-generation AMG GT model. It will also mark the return of the soft-top roof for the first time since the 1990s and rumors claim that Mercedes-Benz will add rear seats. As before, the 2022 SL will be powered by six-cylinder and V-8 engines and Mercedes-Benz will offer at least one AMG variant. Find out what we know so far about the upcoming roadster in the speculative review below.

Exterior

  • Completely new exterior
  • Panamericana grille
  • Slim headlamps
  • Sculpted profile
  • Soft-top roof
  • AMG-inspired rear end
  • Borrows from AMG GT
  • About the same size
2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
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The prototype is camouflaged from nose to rear, but we can still spot some design cues. The most notable feature up front is the big grille with the Mercedes star in the center. It looks a lot like the Panamericana grille offered on AMG models and that’s not surprising. The grille you see here features thin vertical and horizontal bars, but the upper trim models will feature the thicker vertical slats seem on the AMG GT and other AMG versions. The headlamps are in line with Merc’s fresh design language. They’re thinner and feature angular corners. They’re shape is also closer to the AMG GT, so the front fascia may look somewhat similar to the next-generation sports car.

The profile retains the simplicity of the outgoing SL, but it still appears to feature beefed-up side skirts, muscular rear haunches, and vents in the front fenders. The quarter windows are notably smaller than before, which suggests thicker C-pillars. The big news is that one of the prototypes appears to sport a fabric roof.

The SL has been featuring a retractable hard-top since the 1990s, but it seems this may change for the new generation.
2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
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It’s unlikely for Mercedes-Benz to offer both tops, so be prepared for a soft roof if you want an SL in the future. Mercedes’ choice is probably related to weight saving, as a soft-top is notably lighter than a retractable hard-top.

The rear also seems inspired by the AMG GT. The shape of the trunk lid and the ultra thin taillights both remind me of the company’s already iconic sports car. There’s also an integrated spoiler atop the trunk lid, a hint that the new SL is being design with good aerodynamics in mind. The rear bumper looks rather bland in camo, but the wrap surely hides some interesting lines, as well as vertical outlets at the corners. There’s a quad exhaust layout at the bottom and a diffuser-like element between them, but the latter is well hidden under camo.

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
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It’s probably too early to draw a conclusion, but it sure seems that the new SL will be an entirely different car. While the old SL is more of a compact S-Class Coupe, the next-generation roadster will share more with the AMG GT. Size-wise, it should remain similar at around 182 inches long and 74 inches wide. We can’t call it a "baby AMG GT" because it will be slightly longer and narrower, but you get the drift.

Interior

  • Design inspired by S-Class?
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • Big infotainment display
  • Round A/C vents
  • Comfortable
  • Premium materials
  • Infinite headroom
  • Rear seats?
2021 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Interior
- image 932135

The interior remains a mystery for the most part, but our paparazzi got a glimpse of the dashboard and, not surprisingly, it features the big infotainment and instrument cluster displays from the latest-generation S-Class. The former is flanked by round A/C outlets, which should adorn the corners of the dashboard as well. The new Modular Sport Architecture will enable better packaging, so there’s should be some extra elbow and shoulder room for the driver and the passenger.

Rumors also claim that, for the first time ever, the SL will feature rear seats. Of course, they will be smaller than usual and not exactly comfortable for adults, just like in the Porsche 911, but it’s an important addition to the SL, which will become a 2+2 roadster.

Tech-wise, it should get the latest from Mercedes-Benz in terms of connectivity, driving assist, and active safety features. The state-of-the-art soft-top will be electrically operated and will fold and unfold in a matter of seconds.

Drivetrain

  • new MSA platform
  • developed by AMG
  • Inline-six and V-8 engines
  • Based model with 300+ horsepower
  • AMG version with more than 550 horses
  • Nine-speed automatic
  • AWD?
  • Sporty chassis setup
2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948123

The biggest news here is that the SL will ride on a brand-new platform.

New architectures for new-generation cars aren't exactly big news, but this specific platform is developed by AMG.

Mercedes-Benz basically handed development of the SL over to its performance division, so the upcoming roadster will be completely different. Since it’s being developed alongside the AMG GT, it will be sportier and more dynamic than before. Chances are it will be lighter too, even though new-generation cars tend to become heavier.

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948115

The new platform is reportedly called the Modular Sports Architecture (MSA) and we don’t know much about it, but it should be the company’s most advanced to date since it will also underpin the next-generation AMG GT. It should incorporate all sorts of lightweight materials, but it should be stiffer and will accept a wide range of engines, including mild hybrid and possibly even full hybrid setups.

As far as engines go, the upcoming SL will remain true to its predecessor and skip on the four-cylinder and entry-level six-cylinder mills. The base model will most likely feature the 3.0-liter inline-six that Mercedes-Benz offers in some mid-range models. It packs 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque and mates to a 48-volt system that adds 21 horses and 184 pound-feet. The output of this engine is similar to the outgoing SL 450, but the 48-volt system is new for the nameplate and adds a bit of extra oomph and improves fuel economy.

The second inline-six engine is also a 3.0-liter, but this one is borrowed from AMG 53 versions. It’s rated at 429 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque and comes with a 48-volt system that adds an extra 21 horses and 184 pound-feet of twist. This SL will be the most powerful six-cylinder version yet, superseding the old SL 450. It will replace the SL 550 in the lineup, which features a V-8 with 449 horsepower and 516 pound-feet. While not as powerful on its own, this 3.0-liter will hit 450 horses and 518 pound-feet with help from the 48-volt system.

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948127

These regular SL models will be joined by a proper AMG version, the SL 63. But the roadster will ditch the dated 5.5-liter V-8 in favor of the more modern 4.0-liter unit. Also a twin-turbo, this V-8 will generate at least 563 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque plus what comes extra from the 48-volt system. The V-8 alone comes with a slight 14-horsepower and 111-pound-foot deficit over the old 5.5-liter engine, but these figures might increase for the upcoming SL 63.

If you’re a fan of the big gas-guzzling V-12, you should know that there won’t be an AMG SL 65 version. Mercedes-Benz is phasing out the V-12 and the SL makes no exception from this strategy. We could get a replacement, but there’s no specific info about that. If it happens, Mercedes could introduce an AMG SL 63 S model with a beefed-up 4.0-liter V-8. This mill generates 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque in existing models, but the rating could be higher for the SL version.

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948131

There’s also rumors about an upcoming AMG 73 drivetrain that combines the twin-turbo V-8 with an electric motor. This would be a proper plug-in hybrid model. The V-8 is rumored to deliver at least 600 horsepower, while the electric motor could crank out around 200 horses.

This means the AMG SL 73 could generate a combined 800 horsepower and some 730 pound-feet of torque.

Mercedes-Benz actually used to offer an SL 73 AMG version of the roadster back in the 1990s, powered by the massive 7.3-liter V-12 that Pagani now uses in its supercars. This extremely rare version came with 518 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque on tap. So we could witness a rebirth of this short-lived badge, but with an entirely different layout.

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948108

All engines will mate to Merc’s nine-speed automatic transmission. The AMG models will obviously feature the sportier unit from the motorsport division, but the regular SL will also benefit from a gearbox tuned by AMG.

The suspension system will also get special treatment. The new-generation SL will be notably more dynamic than its predecessor, even in entry-level form, while the AMG SL 63 version should be a close contender for the AMG GT on the race track.

How much will the 2022 Mercedes-Benz SL cost?

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948106

It’s obviously too early for pricing information, but it’s safe to assume that the next-gen roadster will be a bit more expensive than the outgoing SL. The latter kicks off from $91,000 in the United States, so the next-gen SL could arrive with a sticker at around $92,000. While the base trim will come in at less than $100K, all the other models will blow past this mark. The AMG SL 63 will probably cost around $150,000.

Who Would the New SL Do Battle Against, Then?

2020 Porsche 911 Cabriolet
- image 813078

The Mercedes-Benz SL is often compared to the BMW Z4 due to its two-seat roadster layout, but they’re not exactly similar beyond that. The SL is more than 10 inches longer than the Z4, so it competes in a different niche. Also, Mercedes-Benz has the SLC to rival the Z4.

A comparison to the BMW 8 Series isn’t the best either. Not only the 8 Series is a proper four seater, but it’s also some 10 inches longer than the SL. The Mercedes-badged roadster is somewhat unique, but if it switches to a 2+2 seating layout, it could go against the Porsche 911 Cabriolet. Sure, the 911 is a rear-engined car, but size-wise it will be similar to the SL at around 178 inches long and 75 inches wide. The 911 Cabriolet is available with a variety of engines, starting with the twin-turbo 3.0-liter flat-six rated at 380 horsepower in the Carrera. The Carrera S comes with 444 horses on tap and both models are available in RWD or AWD configurations. Moving over to the Turbo trims, the Turbo Cabriolet packs a twin-turbo, 3.7-liter flat-six good for 573 horses, while the Turbo S cranks out a massive 641 horsepower. On the other hand, the 911 Cabriolet is notably more expensive. While the next-gen SL will probably retail from around $92,000, the 911 drop-top starts from $112,000.

Read our full story on the Porsche 911

Conclusion

2022 Mercedes-Benz SL Exterior Spyshots
- image 948110

The current-generation SL is so old that no talks about it anymore. OF course, that’s also because it’s a niche car that’s overshadowed by the larger S-Class Coupe and E-Class Coupe, but it’s almost nine years since Mercedes-Benz unveiled it. Fortunately, both the spy shots and rumored info suggest that the German spent these past year redesigning the SL into something completely different. With development handed over to AMG, the SL will no longer be a baby S-Class Coupe with just two seats. It will be lighter, quicker, and more dynamic. The closest thing to the AMG GT if you will. And those new rear seats will enable Mercedes-Benz to go against the Porsche 911.

  • Leave it
    • Is it better than the 911 Cabriolet?
    • Still expensive
Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read full bio
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