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2022 Mercedes-AMG SL is the iconic roadster reimagined

Mercedes' redesigned SL roadster has four seats, a cloth roof and lots of new performance tech -- and the SL55 moniker is back.

The new SL is finally here.

Mercedes-AMG

After years of speculation and a long teaser campaign, Mercedes-Benz finally unveiled the seventh-generation SL roadster on Thursday. Dubbed the R232, this is the most radical redesign of the SL in decades. In addition to being developed solely by AMG on a completely new platform, the 2022 SL has a cloth roof, a two-plus-two seating layout, genuinely modern tech and a bunch of performance features never before used on an SL. As its essentially replacing the AMG GT roadster and the already dead S-Class cabriolet in addition to the R231 SL, the 2022 SL has major shoes to fill -- and it seems like a home run.

The new SL's design isn't especially shocking as it's a direct evolution of the brand's current shark-like design language, but I think it's the best looking car Mercedes has put out in years. At 185.2 inches long the new SL is actually 2.9 inches longer than the outgoing model (and 5.8 inches longer than the AMG GT) and its wheelbase is almost 5 inches longer. But with shorter overhangs, a raked windshield and a squatter stance the new SL looks smaller and tauter -- and it's a couple inches wider, too.

The wide Panamericana front grille works well with the triangular LED headlights and large lower intakes and the superlong hood has two "power bulges" inspired by the original 300SL. The LED taillights echo the fronts in shape and the rounded rear end features quad exhaust tips and an active spoiler with four different positions that can reduce drag or increase handling performance. Staggered 20-inch wheels are standard, but 21s are optional and some of the wheel designs have aerodynamic styling elements. Also helping with aero are the smooth body sides, flush door handles and active louvers in the front air intakes.

It's been almost two decades since the SL last had a cloth roof and I think the new SL is one of the only modern soft top convertibles that looks genuinely good with the top up. Mercedes says the soft top saves 46 pounds compared to the previous gen's folding hardtop, and it can be opened in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 37 mph. Best of all, it'll come in three different colors including a bright red.

I still think this looks like Jar Jar.

Mercedes-AMG

Mercedes already showed the SL's interior in great detail, so there's not much about it we didn't already know. The centerpiece is an 11.9-inch touchscreen running Mercedes' latest MBUX software and the angle of the screen is adjustable from 12 to 32 degrees to minimize glare with the top down. Mercedes describes the interior as "hyper analog," referring to the mix of digital-age tech like the hooded 12.3-inch gauge cluster screen and intricate physical touchpoints like the turbine-style air vents. The interior is of very high quality with nice touchpoints all around and it's easily comfortable enough for long road trips. I still think the center console looks like Jar Jar Binks, though.

The new SL comes standard with a two-plus-two seating configuration, the first time rear seats have been offered on an SL in the US. (The R107 and R129 both had optional back seats in Europe.) The new SL's rear seats are sized similar to that of the Porsche 911. Medium-sized adults can fit back there in a pinch -- at 5 feet, 9 inches tall, it isn't that bad for me -- but the rear seats are really best for children or additional storage. A removable wind deflector can be added above the rear seats, but in my experience it isn't necessary as you can easily hold a conversation with the top down. The powered trunk can be opened and closed with a wave of your foot, and 7.5 cubic feet the nicely shaped cargo area can fit two golf bags.

Four seats are standard for the first time ever.

Mercedes-AMG

Initially there will be two different versions of the 2022 SL, both using AMG's excellent twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. Instead of going with SL63 and SL63 S, the naming scheme used in models like the GT 4-Door, the new droptops are called SL55 and SL63. That's right, the SL55 is back. The SL55 makes 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, while the SL63 puts out 577 hp and 590 lb-ft -- both models match the power outputs of the GT and GT R coupes but with a lot more torque. Mercedes says the SL55 will hit 60 mph in 3.8 seconds, with the SL63 clocking in at 3.5 seconds. A nine-speed dual-clutch automatic is the only transmission option. Coming later down the line will be an E Performance plug-in hybrid using the same setup as the GT 4-Door and it's also likely that the SL will get AMG's inline-six and wild four-cylinder hybrid powertrains as well.

The 2022 SL's new aluminum space frame platform doesn't share anything with the outgoing SL or the GT (though it will underpin future models like the next-gen GT coupe) and the platform uses a mix of aluminum, fiber composites, magnesium and steel. AMG says overall torsional stiffness is up by 18% compared to the old SL and versus the AMG GT roadster transverse rigidity and longitudinal rigidity are increased by 50% and 40%, respectively. Total weight of the body shell without the doors and hood is 595 pounds, and AMG says the new SL has a super low center of gravity.

This new SL marks the first time the roadster has been offered with all-wheel drive and it comes standard. Like in other AMG models, the torque split is continuously variable and the front axle can be completely decoupled for legit rear-wheel drive. Also included on every new SL is a rear-wheel-steering setup that can turn the rear wheels by up to 2.5 degrees, which is better for both low-speed maneuverability and high-speed stability.

The active spoiler is standard.

Mercedes-AMG

A first for AMG is the use of a multi-link front axle that has five links within the wheel rim and the rear gets a five-link setup as well. Standard on the SL63 and optional on the SL55 is AMG's new Active Ride Control suspension system, which replaces the traditional mechanical anti-roll bars for active hydraulic units. In addition to seriously reducing roll, it gives the SL a really smooth ride even when equipped with large wheels and performance tires. This suspension setup also includes a front axle lift system that raises the SL's nose by 1.2 inches and you can store locations that the car will automatically raise at. Adaptive dampers with three settings are standard across the board.

Every 2022 SL comes very well equipped from the factory. Navigation, a heated steering wheel, massaging seats, 360-degree camera system, a Burmester surround sound system, configurable ambient interior lighting, Airscarf neck heating, keyless entry and drive mode switches on the steering wheel are all included. Upgrading to the SL63 nets you the Race drive mode, AMG's Track Pace data recording system, an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, active engine mounts, a head-up display, augmented reality navigation and that fancy hydraulic suspension system -- but all of those items are also optional on the SL55. Other options for both models include comfortable performance bucket seats, carbon-ceramic brakes with bronze calipers and a Driver Assistance package with features like adaptive cruise control with steering assist, active lane-keeping assist, automatic lane changes, automated emergency braking with cross-traffic sensing and active blind-spot assist.

The new SL is the best looking Mercedes in years.

Mercedes-AMG

In terms of personalization Mercedes is offering the SL in a dozen paint colors, including multiple matte options and an awesome bright teal called Hyper Blue. Nappa leather upholstery is standard with four colors to choose from, or the option of black with microfiber seat centers and there are a couple Manufaktur options in classier schemes with even nicer stitching and leather finishings. Interior trim can be had in high-gloss black, chrome black, aluminum or carbon fiber. An available Chrome package brightens up more of the exterior trim while a Night package blacks it all out and the SL63 is available with a Carbon-Fiber Exterior package. Also offered on the SL63 is a functional AMG Aerodynamics package that adds carbon-fiber flics to the bumpers, a bigger rear diffuser, and an active underbody element that automatically extends at 50 mph and creates a venturi effect to reduce lift.

Mercedes isn't ready to say how much the SL will start at when it hits dealers in the first half of 2022, but we can make some educated guesses. Expect the SL55 to cost around $120,000, splitting the difference between the outgoing SL550 and the AMG GT roadster, while the SL63 should start close to $165,000.

The SL55 and SL63 look identical.

Mercedes-AMG