60 years of tradition – The new Mercedes-Benz SL hits the road in April
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The history of the Mercedes-Benz SL

60 years of tradition – The new Mercedes-Benz SL hits the road in April

Home Auto news Industry 60 years of tradition – The new Mercedes-Benz SL hits the road in April

The heart of a racer in the silhouette of a ballerina. That is the iconic Mercedes-Benz SL, that has been enjoying its sports car status for over six decades. The latest SL will hit the market in April 2016.

Having its roots planted deeply in motor racing, the history of the SL starts shortly after the Second World War II, when Mercedes-Benz returned to the racetrack with the 300 SL, in 1952. It claimed the second and the fourth place in the legendary race Mille Miglia and let no seats vacant on the podium of the sports car race in Bern. It got a one-two win in the 24-hour race of Le Mans as well, snapped the first four places in Nurburgring and the first two in the Carrera Panamericana.

300 SL CoupéThe Coupe turned heads and took breaths away. The English called it “Gullwing”, the French named it “Papillon”.

In 1953, two series production SLs came into the world. It was the 300 SL with a 215 HP output was unique among the sports cars of those times, with its direct petrol injection. And it was not just that, but the victories it claimed along the way.

Four years later, the 300 SL Roadster followed in its footsteps. Sought-after and high-priced, they were as beautiful as exclusive.

The 190 SL (W 121) came next, as a natural addition to the Mercedes-Benz portofolio of that time. The body work was tightly related to that of the Gullwing, but the frame was different, in order to fit the conventional doors. With its 105 HP, the 190 SL was meant to be as sporty as comfortable, just like those that followed.

It was the 230 SL that replaced the 190 and the 300 SLs in 1963. It came to be known as the “Pagoda”, due to its hard top, high windows and elongated design. It went down in history as the first ever vehicle that featured a safety rigid occupant cell and deformable front and rear segments, what we now call the “crumple zones”.

The 250 SL followed four years later. And then, 1968 was the year the 280 SL saw the light of day.

Salon Retromobile 280 SL

In the early 1970s, the SL R 107 series hit the road and it came with a major novelty: for the first time in the history of the SL, this model was powered by the eight-cylinder unit. The two-seater boasted elegant lines, but its crash performance was way ahead of its time. Its life expectancy actually surpassed any expectation, so that the model survived for 18 years, an internal record unlikely to be broken by anyone else but the legendary G-Class.

It was the Geneva Motor Show from 27 years ago that put the SL of the R 129 model series on the stage and it was a major success. The production capacities were soon exhausting, so the waiting periods took several years. It was not only its design that magnetized, but also its safety features: sensor-controlled rollbars that shot up into position within 0.3 seconds when the vehicle was in danger to overturn and integral seats able to withstand forces far in excess of those which might occur in case of a collision.

In 2001, the new SL generation got the Vario roof, bringing an open-top and a coupe vehicle together. The transformation was completed within 16 seconds. And it came with an impressively long list of safety features: the Brake Assist (BAS), the acceleration skid control (ASR) and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), two-stage airbags for the driver and the front passenger, head-thorax airbags in the doors, high-performance emergency tensioning retractors and so on, they all found room in that SL.


The latest SL model has been on the market since 2012. In 2015, it underwent a facelift and the new model is doing its countdown until its market release. April 2016 will put the super dynamic drop top on the road, together with its visual features inspired from its predecessor, like the radiator grille, for example. The car comes with a soft top to keep the weight in check, it sports more powerful engines than its predecessor and the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission is available across the range. The DYNAMIC SELECT with five transmission modes and the Active Body Control with curve tilting function take the convertible to the next level of the dynamic driving.

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