The newest Mercedes-Benz SL has the same stylish looks introduced last year in a complete redesign. But underneath the low-slung hood, there's something that hasn't been seen in an SL in 60 years. A four-cylinder engine.
Their previous sporty roadster with only four cylinders was the 190 SL that last saw production back in 1963. Its engine made just 120 horsepower.
Today, the new Mercedes-AMG SL 43 puts out an amazing 375 horsepower from just 2.0 liters. That power figure is V8 territory. Thank modern technology for the accomplishment. Specifically, turbocharging technology taken directly from Mercedes-Benz's successful Formula 1 cars.
The trick is that the turbo - driven by exhaust in any turbocharged engine - gets a low-end assist from a tiny electric motor. The same technology that has brought Mercedes-AMG Petronas driver Lewis Hamilton multiple world championships also scoots this 2+2 roadster smartly along the road.
Of course, the V8 powered AMG SL models are still very much around, but they're lots more expensive. This new SL 43 starts at around $110,000 while the top-dog SL 63 carries a steep base price that tops $180,000 before options. The smaller-engine version of the car skips not only half the cylinders, but also the all-wheel drive and four-wheel steering that come on the V8 SLs. Most drivers will never know the difference.
Mercedes-Benz likely wouldn't have even considered putting an engine of this size in a car like this 10 years ago. But technology is really advancing, and things are changing overall in the automotive world.
Witness another trend for high-performance AMG models: six-cylinder engines. The new AMG GLE 53 carries an inline six - a Mercedes staple for decades - turbocharged, direct-injected, and getting a small power boost from a mild hybrid system for a total horsepower rating of 429 from an engine that's only 3.0 liters in displacement. This mid-size SUV still performs extremely well, worthy of the AMG badge. And this very capable engine package is making its way into a growing number of Mercedes AMG models.
As for the SL, this icon of the brand has always been about style, almost above everything else. Now, buyers can have all the style and wind-in-the-hair fun, while making a smaller carbon footprint, for a lower price. A win-win, thanks in part to modern racing technology.