New Mercedes SL Roadster sheds the pounds and premieres new FrontBass system
By Darren Quick
November 23, 2011
Mercedez-Benz has managed to significantly reduce the weight of its upcoming SL (sporty, lightweight) Roadster, thanks in large part to a new 89 percent aluminum bodyshell that, at 254 kg (559.9 lb), is 110 kg (242.5 lb) lighter than a comparable bodyshell. The new bodyshell structure also enables a new "FrontBass" system, which will make its world premiere in the SL series, that Mercedes claims delivers "concert hall" sound with the roof up or down. Another feature making its debut is the MAGIC VISION CONTROL wiper/washer system that cleans the windscreen without the splash of road-obscuring water seen in traditional systems.
The new aluminum bodyshell sees the weight of the new SL 500 reduced by 125 kg (275.5 lb) and the new SL 350 by 140 kg (308.6 lb) compared to their predecessors. Under a completely aluminum outer skin, non-aluminum parts of the new bodyshell include even lighter magnesium used in part for the rear panel while the A-pillars and roof frame are made from steel sheet metal incorporating high-strength steel tubing. Mercedes says the weight reductions come in spite of increased comfort, performance and safety.
MAGIC VISION CONTROL
The new SL will also feature the new MAGIC VISION CONTROL wiper/washer system that relies on a system of ducts to supply washing water to the windscreen just in front of the wiper blade lip, according to the direction the wiper is moving. This eliminates the familiar splash of water that can temporarily obscure the driver's vision when cleaning the windscreen.
The system also features three partly autonomous wash programs designed for summer, winter and cabriolet driving. The system automatically adapts the water quantity based on the surrounding conditions, including ambient temperature, speed, and the current driving situation.
The summer program uses small quantities of water which are sufficient to remove the light powdering of dust generally experienced in the warmer months, while the winter program increases the amount of water to cope with dirt mixed with de-icing salt. Meanwhile, the Cabriolet program reduces the overall amount of water used and reserves the majority of the water for the downward stroke of the wiper arm to keep the occupants and interior of the SL Roadster dry when driving with the top down.
For the first time, Mercedes is also offering the option of fully heated wiper blades to prevent the formation of snow on the blades. The system also consists of a washer fluid container that is heated from the residual heat from the coolant and electric heating of the entire hose system. At temperatures below minus 20°C (minus 4°F) the system operates at full power, while at temperatures between minus 20°C and 5°C (41°F) it operates in an energy-saving mode.
The new SL series will also see the world premiere of Mercedes' new "FrontBass" system, which is designed to deliver crystal-clear sound even with the top down. Instead of placing the bass loudspeakers in the doors as is usually the case, the FrontBass system sees them fitted directly in two openings in the firewall in the footwell in front of the driver and front passenger seats. Mercedes claims that the firewall, the vehicle floor and the underside of the dashboard form a sort of funnel that focuses and concentrates the sound to produce sound quality that has been unobtainable in a roadster until now.
Mercedes is expected to unveil the new SL at the 2012 NAIAS in Detroit in January, where we'll likely learn more about the vehicle, including the powertrains on offer when the car is released next year.