Mercedes-AMG has swapped the A45 S hot hatch’s engine into its new SL roadster – but with 48-volt mild-hybrid technology and a Formula One-derived electric turbocharger, it’s not slow.
Nearly 60 years after the original 190SL bowed out in 1963, Mercedes-Benz has slotted a four-cylinder engine under the bonnet of its most iconic sports car nameplate, with the 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL43 – due in Australian showrooms in late 2022.
Following the reveal of two V8-powered variants in October, Mercedes-AMG (under which brand the SL is now badged) has debuted the entry-level SL variant, with a version of the A45 S hot hatchback’s bespoke 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine – aided by Formula One tech.
Rotated to sit longitudinally and drive the rear wheels – and matched with a nine-speed multi-clutch automatic transmission – the ‘M139’ four-cylinder engine quotes outputs of 280kW and 480Nm, 5kW down on the same engine in the ‘entry-level’ A45 (non-S) sold in overseas markets.
The SL43 is the first road car with Mercedes-AMG’s new electric turbo technology – derived from its Formula One cars – which sandwiches an electric motor between the two wheels of the turbocharger, allowing it to spin the turbo up when there’s not enough throttle to do it with exhaust gases alone.
Mercedes-AMG says this system ensures “continuous immediate response”, as “even when the driver takes their foot off the accelerator or applies the brakes, the technology of the electric turbocharger is able to maintain the boost pressure at all times.”
The electric turbocharger is fed by a 48-volt mild-hybrid system, incorporating a belt-driven starter generator unit capable of providing a 10kW electrified boost under hard acceleration, speed up the start-stop system, or switch off the engine under low load, allowing the car to ‘glide’.
Mercedes-AMG claims a zero to 100km/h time of 4.9 seconds – eight tenths down on the 350kW turbo V8, all-wheel-drive SL55 – towards a top speed of 275km/h.
Under the skin, fixed coil-spring steel suspension is fitted as standard – with multi-link front and rear axles – though adaptive dampers can be had as an option, at least in Europe. Most key suspension components are made from forged aluminium to save weight.
Filling the arches as standard in Europe are 19-inch alloy wheels with 255/45 front and 285/40 tyres, hiding 390mm front ‘compound’ brake discs with six-piston calipers, and 360mm rear discs with single-piston calipers. Rear-wheel steering can be optioned.
Five drive modes are included as standard – Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual – which vary stability control intervention, steering weight and other systems. A Race mode can be added with the optional AMG Dynamic Plus package.
Differentiating the four-cylinder SL43 from standard models are restyled front and rear bumpers, four circular exhaust tips (rather than the square outlets of the V8 variants), and the standard 19-inch alloy wheels – though 20-inch and 21-inch wheels can be optioned to match the V8 cars.
Buyers can option an Aerodynamics Package, which adds larger ‘flics’ (or canards) on the front and rear bumpers, a larger rear diffuser, and an upgraded pop-up rear spoiler that can angle itself to 26.5 degrees, up from the standard 22 degrees.
Other elements of the SL43 are carried over from its SL55 and SL63 V8 siblings, meaning a stiffer and lighter aluminium chassis (which will be shared with the next AMG GT coupe), a soft-top roof replacing a hardtop, and plenty of exterior option packs.
Inside, the SL43 retains the SL55 and SL63’s 12.3-inch instrument display and tilting 11.9-inch centre touchscreen. ‘Luxury’ seats are standard-fit with a choice of Artico faux leather and fabric, leather, or nappa leather upholstery, with AMG Performance bucket seats an optional extra.
The 2023 Mercedes-AMG SL43 is due to go on sale in Australia in the fourth quarter of 2022 (October to December) – alongside the V8-powered SL range, due at a similar time – with local pricing and specifications to be announced closer to launch.
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