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The Warsaw Voice » Society » April 26, 2012
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Technically Brilliant
April 26, 2012   
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The Mercedes SL is one of the icons of the automotive industry. For the last 60 years, the two-seat roadster has been synonymous with not only sporty style and comfort, but also innovative technology.

The history of the Mercedes SL began at the famous Le Mans, Carrera Panamericana and Mille Miglia races. This was after Mercedes-Benz designed a new, sensational coupe for the 1952 racing season. The car’s frame was made of metal tubes connected into triangles. The structure was light and weighed only about 50 kg. To maintain rigidity, the car could not be too high; therefore, the designers decided against using doors opening in a traditional way and replaced them with doors that opened to the top—with the hinges on the roof.

That car, fitted with a V-engine with a capacity of 170, 180, and subsequently 215 hp, proved unbeatable on the racetrack. It was from this design that Mercedes-Benz derived its first mass-produced model in 1954, the legendary SL 300 gullwing. On the basis of that model, the SL 190 convertible was also built. With these two sports models, the era of the Mercedes SL began.

In the following decades, many of these cars became automotive icons, combining luxury with the most innovative technology used by Mercedes-Benz at the time, such as crumple zones, ABS, airbags, a safety rollover bar, and an electrically folding hardtop.

The latest, sixth generation of the Mercedes SL was unveiled a few months ago at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. In line with the tradition of the automaker’s lightweight bodies, the new model for the first time in history was almost entirely constructed of aluminum. Only a few items were made from other materials such as magnesium. The aluminum body weighs only 254 kg, 110 kg less than a comparable steel body, and the weight of the car is 1,685 kg.

The design of the new SL refers to the model’s traditional style—a long hood, a cabin set toward the back, and a muscular rear. The aerodynamic body has one of the lowest drag coefficients among sports cars, Cd = 0.27. At the touch of a button placed in the center tunnel next to the gear stick, the athletic, sporty coupe transforms itself into a sleek roadster within just 20 seconds. The dashboard immediately betrays the vehicle’s sporting pedigree. The wide console combines an air of gran turismo luxury sports car with an uncompromising style typical of sports cars. There are three types of wood inlay and two types of aluminum inlay to choose from.

The V6 BlueDIRECT engine which powers the SL 350 has a capacity of 3.5l and delivers 306 hp. Its lower weight guarantees greater responsiveness and lower fuel consumption—6.8 l/100 km on average. During the test-drive, I even managed to go below this level, to 6.3l/100 km over a distance of 100 km. The fact that this model accelerates from 0 to 100 kph in a brisk 5.9 seconds may be no surprise, but that it burns just over six liters per hundred kilometers is an extraordinary technological achievement. The vehicle’s rear wheel drive relies on a seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission, which works just great.

With the new SL, some unique extras are also making their debut, such the Magic Vision Control windshield cleaning system (that supplies fluid directly to the wiper blades), FrontBass sound system (featuring low-tone speakers placed around the passengers’ legs), Magic Sky Control panoramic roof (a transparent roof that switches to light or dark at the touch of a button) and Hands-Free Access to the car and trunk—to access the trunk, it’s enough to just slide your leg under the rear bumper. Mercedes-Benz is the only automaker that offers automated functions to not only open but also close the trunk. And to help you park your car safely, there is the Active Parking Assist system in which ultrasonic sensors detect free space and automatically turn the steering wheel.

Bartosz Grzybiński
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