The reborn BMW 8 Series Convertible didn’t have to worry too much about the Mercedes SL as the outgoing generation of the Sport Leicht has long fallen out of favor among luxury cabrio shoppers due to its venerable age. That all changes today with the all-new model, which eschews the Benz branding to signal it was entirely developed by Daimler’s performance division AMG as the sportiest iteration to date of the long-running nameplate.
For the overhauled model codenamed R232, the engineers are reverting to a fabric roof that some SLs of the past used to have. By losing the folding hardtop, a considerable 46 pounds (21 kilograms) of weight have been removed, reducing the center of gravity to improve handling. The 8er cabrio rival features a heated rear glass window and a three-layer soft top with a built-in acoustic mat to reduce the level of noise entering the cabin. AMG says it takes 15 seconds to raise or lower the roof in a process that can be done only if the car is driven at speeds of less than 31 mph (50 km/h).
While the 8 Series Convertible comes with a choice of gasoline and diesel engines, the lineup is considerably simpler for the SL since it comes exclusively with a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. At least that’s the case in the United States where Mercedes-AMG will sell its revamped roadster in SL 55 and SL 63 trim levels.
Going with the base model won’t be the end of the world the taking into consideration it still offers plenty of punch, 469 hp and 516 lb-ft (700 Nm) to be exact. Those in need of more oomph can step up to the hotter version with 577 hp and 590 lb-ft (800 Nm). For the first time ever, the SL comes with all-wheel drive to go up against the xDrive-equipped droptop Bimmer. Much like its competitor from Bavaria, it gets rear-wheel steering as yet another absolute novelty for the model.
As far as the design is concerned, the 2022 SL has very few in common with its aging predecessor that had been around for about a decade. Aside from the obvious roof change, it looks considerably sharper and finally gets the Panamericana grille virtually all AMG models already offer. We’d argue the new generation is a massive improvement over the old one, and in line with recent models carrying the three-pointed star.
Perhaps even more drastic changes have occurred inside the cabin where the SL has been totally redesigned. It’s the latest Merc to get a portrait-oriented touchscreen for the infotainment system, measuring a generous 11.9 inches to lend the 2+2 cabrio perhaps the most modern dashboard design in the segment. The large display has a trick up its sleeve as it’s not fixed in place since it can be electrically tilted from 12 to 32 degrees, thus bringing it closer to the driver for easier access.
The driver gets an all-digital instrument cluster measuring 12.3 inches and customers can spend extra to order the SL with an optional head-up display featuring nifty augmented reality that superimposes data onto the glass lens located in the driver’s line of sight. A signature Mercedes feature on convertibles, there’s a heating system at neck level for the driver and front passenger, known as Airscarf and mounted in the headrests.
Other oily bits worth mentioning are the nine-speed automatic transmission with launch control as well as the AWD system’s torque-vectoring capabilities. The rear limited-slip differential and active engine mounts are standard on the 63 model and can be had at an additional cost on the lesser 55. Both trim levels can be optionally ordered with ceramic brakes for superior stopping power.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL not only has to live up to the prestige of one of the company’s oldest nameplates, but it also has to serve as a replacement for the GT Roadster since that model has been discontinued.