Mercedes is gearing up for the launch of a new SL convertible, and while there will be those who will sniff with derision and point out that the AMG GT is now Merc's flagship sports car, to them we say: LA LA LA LA LA LA LA WE ARE NOT LISTENING TO YOU. The SL has always been Merc's one true flagship since the first 300 SL Gullwing was launched in 1954, and for us at least that's never going to change (even though the new SL is being developed by AMG - ahem).
Cloth roof and four-wheel drive
So far, what we know of the new SL is that it will share a chassis and some engines with the next-generation AMG GT, that it will have optional four-wheel drive, and that it will return to a cloth folding roof for the first time since the R129 version went out of production in 2001.
From these first photos of the new SL's interior, we now also know that it will get rear seats for the first time since the old R107 version - the square-edged 'Bobby Ewing' SL of the seventies and eighties.
In fact, this is the most seats (four) that the SL has ever had - the 'Pagoda Roof' W113 SL of the sixties had a small folding rear bench seat for some models, but it was close to useless. That was repeated on the R107, but this new R232 will be the first SL to get two, proper, individual rear seats. Mind you, judging from these photos, those extra pews will only be for those who can put up with having their knees crammed into their eye sockets. As with previous SL models, they're really a nicely upholstered place to stash some shopping. Merc claims that people of up to 1.5 metres tall can use them, but if you don't need them then they can be covered over with a pop-up draught excluder for comfier top-down motoring. Or, says Merc, you can use them to stash a (sigh) golf bag.
Massive central touchscreen
We can also see that the cabin takes a lot of inspiration from both the new S-Class and C-Class, with a large, tablet-style central touchscreen for the MBUX infotainment system. That screen leans rakishly back along the centre console, atop which runs a very horizontal dash line (shades of the W113's interior...) with four 'turbine nozzle' air vents running along it. The screen itself measures 11.9 inches across and can be adjusted to suit the driver, and it nestles in a centre console shaped to look like a racing car's NACA air-duct - a throwback to the original SL's racing pedigree, as well as a nod to the modern AMG influence. The driver also gets a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, and of course, both screens can be adjusted and customised pretty much as you like.
Running across the back of the dashboard and blending into the door tops is a contrast stitching line that Mercedes says 'frames the entire interior and runs past the turbine nozzles at the sides.'
The front seats are very slim, and get integrated head rests - both Sports and optional Performance seats will be available, and there will be a choice of two-tone leather, diamond-stitched leather, or a garish sporty option with yellow or red contrast stitching. For driving at night, there's an ambient lighting system that can be tweaked through 64 different colours.
Between digital and analogue
"The interior of the new Mercedes-AMG SL pampers driver and passengers with sophisticated luxury. The new SL combines the highest levels of comfort and quality in its interior, coupled with just the right amount of sportiness. The high-quality combination of analogue world and state-of-the-art digital equipment makes one thing clear: the new SL is the rebirth of an icon for the modern era," says Philipp Schiemer, chairman of the board of management at Mercedes-AMG.
"The SL is an icon of the brand with the three-pointed star: This roadster has stood for automotive fascination and desire for decades. A great opportunity and challenge for design, because every designer wants to create icons," says Gorden Wagener, chief design officer for Mercedes. "The result is a revolutionary interior experience caught between digital and analogue luxury. We created the most iconic SL ever since, the luxury icon of the 20s."