- Open-top car and coupé in one – the roof folds in 16 seconds
- Equipped with advanced dynamic handling systems
- Lightweight body with a large share of aluminium
The next SL was presented to the press in July 2001 at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg. Owing to a combination of advanced electronic chassis systems which was unique in the world at the time, the R 230-series SL offered an outstanding driving experience coupled with highest levels of operating safety and so set trends for sports cars and car manufacture in general.
At market launch, the first model available was the Mercedes-Benz SL 500 with an output of 225 kW (306 hp). In autumn 2001 it was joined by the SL 55 AMG with a supercharged V8 engine and 350 kW (476 hp). In 2002 the SL 350 featuring a 180 kW (245 hp) 3.7-litre V6 engine followed, and in January 2003 finally Mercedes-Benz introduced the SL 600 with the powerful 368 kW (500 hp) 5.5-litre V12 biturbo engine as new flagship model.
The comprehensive standard equipment of the SL included, for example, leather-upholstered integral seats plus memory function for the electric seat and steering wheel adjustment (additionally stored in the electronic ignition key); multifunction steering wheel, automatic climate control and stereo car radio.
As optional extras, innovative assistance systems like the DISTRONIC proximity control, the automatic emergency call system TELEAID, the control and display system COMAND or the electronic tyre pressure monitoring system were available.
Leather, fine wood and aluminium are the materials used to ensure the typical exclusivity and perceived value of the SL. There was a choice of two types of leather, four high-quality trim variants and five appointment colours. Matt-finished chrome framed the four individual, classic chronometer-style instruments in the cockpit and also could be found in other details of the interior.
The design of the R 230 series blends tradition and future through distinctive details. For instance, the air intakes in the front wings take up a typical feature of the 300 SL from the 1950s. The thin, wing-like segments on these side air intakes – called fins by experts – also are a reminiscence. The designers use this stylistic element additionally to give a sporty touch to the grilles of the openings on the bonnet.The horizontally stretched radiator grille has always been an unmistakable feature of the SL. The R 230 took up this tradition, but showed it in an up-to-date interpretation, thrusting a louvred radiator grille with a flatter slope than previously into the wind. This made the front end, in combination with the more pronounced wedge shape of the body, appear very dynamic and powerful. The four louvres encompassed the Mercedes star, which in its accustomed size and position clearly indicates the brand to which the two-seater belongs.These typical SL features harmonised with the new elements, the headlamps, for example: on each side two of the familiar four “eyes” merge into one without giving up their basic oval shape. The up-to-date clear-lens look effectively enhanced the standard-fit bi-xenon headlamps and gave an additional pinch of brilliance to the front design.The long bonnet took up the curves of the headlamps and carried them towards the rear in a tense arch. The design of the seemingly muscular wings also evolves from this ensemble. The soft lines of the bonnet and wings merge smoothly into the taut lines that give structure to the sides of the body at the shoulderline. Another line develops in the lower part of the wings from the verve generated by the side air intakes. It gives a formal hold to the large, quiescent surfaces of the doors and creates a visual bond with the rear end. The steeply raked windscreen emphasises the sports car character and accentuates the low, wedge-shaped silhouette.
At the push of a button, or via remote control, the roof can be opened or closed within 16 seconds. An extremely complex swivelling mechanism ensures that the three roof components disappear into the upper part of the boot in a space-saving way. Underneath it, 235 litres (8.29 cu. ft.) of luggage space are available. With the top up, the vehicle offers 317 litres (11.19 cu. ft.) of space, inclusive of the luggage holder in the spare wheel recess – 52 litres (1.83 cu. ft.) more than the previous model. Since mid-2002 a glass roof variant is also available.
Further features underscored the impression of dynamism and elegance created by the R 230 series, for example the body with the powerfully shaped front apron, the muscular curves and the pronounced wedge shape, but also stylistic elements like the distinctive outline of the side skirts, the wide wheels (diameter: 43.18 centimetres/17 inches) or the oval tailpipes of the exhaust system. All body parts – from door handle to bumper –were painted the colour of the car so that from a formal viewpoint and colourwise the sports car appears all of a piece.
This also applied to the rear end, characterised by large, triangularly shaped tail lights. Here again there was no play of colours, but elegant consistency: the tail light lenses were coloured a uniform red – special filters in front of the reflectors ensured that the indicators still appeared yellow and the reversing light white.