We had our suspicions earlier this year, but these latest spy photos make it unquestionably clear: the next-generation Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is getting a cloth soft top. This is a big deal because every SL since the 2003 model year has featured a retractable hard top. It was at the leading edge of the retractable hard top craze that saw competitors such as the Cadillac XLR and Lexus SC430 adopt the design, and an array of more affordable convertibles just a few years later.
While this is a big change for the SL, it’s perhaps not entirely surprising. Retractable hard tops seem to mainly be relegated to a handful of style-conscious targa-style coupes, such as the MX-5 RF and 911 Targa. Most convertibles with fully retractable tops have gone to fabric, even Rolls-Royce, showing that soft tops have advanced far enough to offer hard top-like refinement.
There are other benefits to a soft roof, too. It’s easily foldable, meaning faster raising and lowering times and less heavy and complicated mechanisms can be used. It shouldn’t take up anywhere near as much cargo space as a folded hard top, either, so you can carry your stuff and enjoy the fresh air.
We’re expecting to see the new SL-Class revealed in the coming year as a 2022 model. Mercedes has said it will be a sportier model more like early SLs than the current version. We’re expecting the base model to feature a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six making at least 400 horsepower and a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 making more than 500 horsepower. The interior is taking some inspiration from the new S-Class, too, with a giant center touchscreen.