As many of you know, Mercedes’ current SL class sportscar has some pretty Serious sporting potential. Even with the nearly 1000 hp available from the SLs twin-turbo V12 engine, however, the 2003-2012 R230 chassis SL class is not a car you’d probably describe as “nimble”. It’s not that Mercedes doesn’t know how to make cars that can dance – indeed, the company’s latest roadster, the 47 mpg SLK250, can boogie with the best of them – it’s just that, since the 300 SL “gullwing” of the 1950s, the SL never had any real need to be light and nimble.
That’s all changed, though, what with increasingly stringent CAFE and TUV mpg requirements pushing every model in a carmaker’s line to be as efficient as possible. The latest SLK uses tricky engine and transmission tech to improve its MPG, the SLS is making green waves with an all-electric model, and – now – it’s the SL’s turn to make green news.
The next SL platform, shown here as a naked aluminum unibody, weighs more than 200 lbs. less than the current chassis, helping bring the overall weight of the car down by over 300 lbs., thanks to a lighter roof, lighter wheels and brakes, and trimmer (but just-as-luxurious) seats inside. The aluminum employed in this lightweight frame is stamped, extruded, and cast to form (as the application requires), with the cast forms found in relatively flex-free areas where great rigidity is still required. The extruded beams found in the door sills – similar to the extruded sills used in Lotus’ ubiquitous Elise chassis – contribute significantly to torsional rigidity, for better body control in the corners.
Mercedes will unveil the final, fully-clothed SL early next year, with fuel economy and carbon emission figures easily 20% better (according to Mercedes) than the outgoing R230 models. Until we get to experience the new, more efficient monsters in the flesh, though, we’ll have to make do with visions of lightweight, 800 hp Mercedes super-roadsters dancing in our heads.
You can check out the full mega-gallery (complete with goofy pictures of crash test dummies “taking notes” next to a crashed SL frame) over at MotorAuthority. For you busy bees, though, I’ve pulled (what I think are) the best and put them below.
Source | Photos: Mercedes-Benz, via MotorAuthority.