EX­CLU­SIVE! Merc and AMG’s sports car fu­ture

WITH A LIT­TLE HELP FROM THE GT‡ Twinned with the next-gen­er­a­tion GT coupe, 2020’s new SL road­ster will com­bine 2+2 seat­ing, a can­vas roof and mild hy­brid power

CAR (UK) - - Contents - By Ge­org Kacher

MERCEDES’ EN­TIRE sports car port­fo­lio is about to un­dergo a rad­i­cal rein­ven­tion, led by AMG: the next SL road­ster will be big­ger and switch from a fold­ing hard­top to a clas­sic soft-top, the GT sports car be­comes more ag­ile and driver fo­cused, and the smaller SLC road­ster (pre­vi­ously badged SLK) will be sent to the great scrap­yard in the sky.

Mercedes’ per­for­mance divi­sion AMG, which is de­vel­op­ing the 2020 SL and 2022 GT, now has in­creased re­spon­si­bil­ity within Mercedes’ R&D struc­ture, tak­ing charge of all V8 and V12 en­gine de­vel­op­ment, while beaver­ing away on this year’s Project One hy­brid hy­per­car and AMG GT 4-Door coupe. It also had sig­nif­i­cant in­put into the all-new G-Class (driven on p37).

But sports cars are AMG’s brot und but­ter, so it makes sense that To­bias Mo­ers, AMG’s am­bi­tious CEO, got the nod to lead the project. The next SL – co­de­named R232 – will be so trans­formed that it’s very likely to be mar­keted un­der the MercedesAMG ban­ner – or po­ten­tially solely as an AMG.

It will grow from hous­ing two peo­ple to be­ing a 2+2-seater, mir­ror­ing the Fer­rari Portofino’s lay­out. It will also ditch the fold­ing hard­top roof used on the last two gen­er­a­tions, adopt­ing the clas­si­cal can­vas fold­ing roof in­stead.

A longer wheel­base is nec­es­sary for the two ex­tra seats, but ditch­ing the bulky roof will save weight and im­prove boot space. The all-new, alu­minium-in­ten­sive ar­chi­tec­ture houses six- and eight-cylin­der en­gines in a front/mid-en­gined po­si­tion.

To­gether with rear-wheel steer­ing, the en­gine lo­ca­tion should make the SL more nim­ble than its size sug­gests. Ac­tive anti-roll bars and 4Matic all-wheel drive also prom­ise to strike a good com­pro­mise be­tween sporti­ness and com­fort.

The SL will have a 48-volt bat­tery elec­tri­cal sys­tem to power var­i­ous func­tions and pro­vide mild-hy­brid ca­pa­bil­ity, in­clud­ing en­ergy re­cu­per­a­tion and 20bhp of ad­di­tional power, while the flag­ship SL will run a twin-turbo V8, not a V12, with an e-mo­tor ca­pa­ble of punch­ing out 204bhp and plug-in bat­tery charg­ing. The full line-up is set to com­prise a 435bhp SL43 with a turbo 3.0-litre six and 48-volt mild hy­bridi­s­a­tion, two flavours of hy­brid-boosted, twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 (a 522bhp SL53 and a 612bhp SL63) and a range-top­ping SL73 plug-in hy­brid sum­mon­ing 800bhp from its V8 and e-mo­tor work­ing in con­cert.

All 43/53/63 pow­er­train com­bi­na­tions will be avail­able to the SL’s sis­ter car, the AMG GT re­place­ment co­de­named C192. How­ever, the plug-in hy­brid is not cur­rently ear­marked for the coupe – AMG could be wait­ing for the ‘EQ Power +’ boost sys­tem that’s un­der de­vel­op­ment. If this proves vi­able, it will pair the com­bus­tion en­gine with two small yet pow­er­ful e-mo­tors left and right of the transaxle trans­mis­sion.

The GT will re­tain to­day’s transaxle lay­out, where the trans­mis­sion is sited at the rear, but that doesn’t mean the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion GT won’t un­dergo big changes else­where. Although its ar­chi­tec­ture is shared with the new SL, it will have a shorter wheel­base than the up­com­ing con­vert­ible, but will still be more spa­cious than to­day’s GT. And, cru­cially, it will be lighter and more ag­ile than both. No con­vert­ible ver­sions of the strictly twoseat AMG are cur­rently planned.

The new SL was ini­tially set to share its ar­chi­tec­ture with a new-gen­er­a­tion SLK/SLC rather than the GT. But the dwin­dling pop­u­lar­ity of the SLC and ri­vals such as the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster en­cour­aged Mercedes to pri­ori­tise the AMG GT as a part­ner for the SL. And when talks to buddy up with Nis­san for the next Z-car or Re­nault for a ver­sion of the Alpine failed, Mercedes de­cided to aban­don the seg­ment al­to­gether.

The two-door S-Class mod­els are equally un­der threat. With the roomy E-Class coupe and cabri­o­let nib­bling away at them from be­low, and the new SL ex­pected to be sim­i­larly spa­cious thanks to its ex­tended wheel­base, the case for S-Class spinoffs is look­ing de­cid­edly shaky. What’s more, Mercedes could de­velop a fixed-head SL off this plat­form if re­quired...

The SLC road­ster will be sent to the scrap­yard in the sky as part of this ma­jor AMG-led re­vamp

2022’S AMG GT

Shares the new SL’s ar­chi­tec­ture but will have a shorter wheel­base. AMG says it will be more spa­cious and ag­ile than the cur­rent GT, though it won’t have a con­vert­ible ver­sion –

that’s SL ter­ri­tory.

2020’S SL

Gone is the old hard­top roof in favour of lighter, more com­pact can­vas which helps cre­ate more space in the back – it’ll be a 2+2. The range-top­ping SL73 fea­tures a twin-turbo V8 and e-mo­tor putting

out 800bhp.

nd

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