Inside the new Mercedes SL

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This post was originally published on BRANDchannel

It’s a compact supercar that can max out at 210 kilometers per hour (130 mph). The Mercedes SL isn’t the oldest model in the Mercedes stable; it’s the most important part of the brand’s history.

From 1969 through 1981, the Ferrari 250 GTi was the market leader. Then came the SL, the heir apparent. But soon after the launch of the SL, it became evident that the car simply wasn’t as appealing to buyers as its closest competitors. It was a great machine, with fuel economy that was pretty good. But the owners were looking for something a little flashier, something that added to the experience of driving — a style Mercedes — like Mercedes drivers themselves — desired.

That’s why the design for the new SL and its model range — which starts with the SLK version — was overhauled. The key element of the design is that the SL is based on the 4 series.

cirrecike via Getty Images

In fact, this is the first time Mercedes has completely changed the shape of its iconic wedge shape since the car was first launched. It’s also the first time that it’s used a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, even though its exhaust system was already allowing it to get up to high speeds before.

But before the engine, there was the body.

To make it a true contender in the class of supercars, the body of the new SL had to be extremely quick in its construction. There’s not only the simple move of packing an engine and all its parts in the front of the car, but it has to have the sort of aerodynamic trickery that was straight out of the “Star Wars” film series. This is achieved by making the trunk at the rear of the car much smaller than its immediate neighbors.

There’s also a huge flat fin at the front, an aggressively curved bonnet and even an unusual air intake pointed at the rear bumper. It’s part of a design language that emphasizes the car’s sculptural power and feels like it’s been designed in a garage rather than a Mercedes showroom.

Power comes from the same turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s used in the A45 AMG, with 280 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. When all of this isn’t enough, it can be tuned to produce up to 350 horsepower. There’s also a large retractable hard top, which may come in handy this summer.

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