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2013 Mercedes-Benz SL begins a return to its roots

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The 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL isn't set to debut for another two months at the Detroit Auto Show, but M-B gave us a sneak peak at the "S-Class of Roadsters" at its Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California earlier today.

"SL" stands for Sport Light, but the last several iterations were anything but. Loaded with luxury and designed as a drop-top Grand Tourer, the SL – despite its badge – has always been a heavy weight. But for 2013, Mercedes is attempting to bring the SL back to its roots with a body in white comprised of 90 percent aluminum. Only the A pillars and roof crossmember use high-strength steel for rollover protection, and unladen with body panels, the chassis comes in 243 pounds lighter than the current model, with the production version tipping the scales at approximately 3,900 pounds – 308 pounds lighter than the 2012 version. With a revamped drivetrain (no details yet), Mercedes claims that fuel consumption will also be reduced by 30 percent.

The aluminum chassis is a first for M-B, and utilizes a smattering of high-tech production methods, including chilled cast longitudinal members, hollow extruded aluminum, a mig-welded frame and front longitudinal beams that are hydroformed for stiffness and improved packaging. All told, torsional rigidity is up by 20 percent and NVH levels should be down across the board.

Mercedes engineers and execs wouldn't go into much detail regarding powertrains and equipment – they've got to save some details for the Detroit show – but two new technologies will find their way into the SL when it goes on sale next year.

In addition to Magic Sky Control – the glass roof originally fitted to the SLK that allows drivers to adjust the amount of sunlight entering the cabin – Mercedes is introducing yet another "Magic" system. The magniloquently named Magic Vision Control is a new take on – yes – the windshield wiper, which utilizes two rows of laser-drilled holes to disperse washer fluid evenly and won't get the liquid inside the cabin when the top is down or soak pedestrians when the SL is stopped – a suitably Germanic solution to a problem no other automaker has addressed.

The SL will also be the first model fitted with the new FrontBass system, comprised of two 20-cm sub-woofers mounted flush in the bulkhead. We had the chance to sample the system in a prototype and it gets the job done, even if the inside of an automobile is still one of the worst places to get your audiophile on.

Expect more details on the 2013 SL to be revealed towards the middle of December before the wraps officially come off in Detroit.

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