"What the heck is this?" That's the reaction we had at Autoblog HQ when we first laid eyes on this funky looking black Mercedes-Benz mule. The shrunken rear doors, short wheelbase but wide E-Class-based bodywork, and the roll cage that's visible through the windows all conspired to briefly leave us scratching our heads. Put it all together, though, and we're pretty sure we're looking at a prototype for the next Mercedes SL.
The SL hasn't changed all that much since its last major redesign for the 2012 model year, and the 2020 SL Grand Edition indicates that the current edition is on its way out the door. We expect the next SL to be based on Mercedes' new Modular Sports Architecture, which is being developed primarily by the automaker's performance-oriented AMG division. It will likely be offered as a roadster only, with no provision for a fixed roof.
The next SL should be a bit sportier and more focused than the current grand tourer. "We're bringing back the historic DNA of the SL," AMG head Tobias Moers said in an interview with Autocar. "It's far sportier ... It will have a perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort because it's still kind of a cruiser too."
A glance at the spy photos above indicates that the next SL will have a very wide stance and a classic long hood, short deck design. Gasoline-fueled engines are likely at launch, probably bolstered by Mercedes' 48-volt electrified EQ Boost technology. There appears to be enough room behind the front seatbacks for a small rear seat, but it's impossible to tell for sure from these photos.
There's likely still quite a bit of development work left to do for the next SL, at least judging by this mule and the E-Class bodywork chopped up and draped atop its brand-new chassis, so we probably still have a few years to wait for anything to make it into production. Stay tuned for a possible introduction in 2021 for the 2022 model year.