May 12, 2022

Mercedes-AMG SL: here is the incredible story of the new sports convertible born in California and which spins at 315 km/h

When we left Interstate 5 in the direction of Carlsbad at the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG SL 63 4Matic+ that we were testing, the beautiful sports car must have felt like coming home. Because it was here, in the Advanced Exterior Design Studio at Mercedes, that it all started. It was here that Christopher Thoms, Senior Creative Designer, took his pencil and put his own vision for the new SL to paper, a project that would win the internal competition and serve as the basis for the first SL entirely developed by AMG in Affalterbach.

Capturing the spirit of the legendary 300 SL

We go through the back door – Carlsbad Design Studio’s only entrance for cars – and of course discretion is key, and even a top priority. Like a luxury hotel that says nothing about its famous guests, total discretion reigns here over the projects under development: in Carlsbad, we know well before anyone else what will roll on the roads of the world in three or four years – no wonder the design team won’t let us see it all on our date. Behind some sketches of the Mercedes-AMG SL, a long black curtain protects the design of a secret project from our prying eyes. After the presentation of Mercedes’ latest show car at the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 in Las Vegas, we imagine: is it the Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX? This electric concept car was also designed in Carlsbad.

GQ visits the Mercedes Design Studio in Carlsbad, the birthplace of the new Mercedes-AMG SL.© Deniz Calagan/Daimler AG

The studio is a large, bright room, with the employees’ workstations positioned along the walls. No windows, everything is immersed in the white light of innumerable ceiling lights, and mirrors visually lengthen the room – we are definitely on a sleek design. The model is in the center, visible from all offices. So everyone can immediately see where the rest of the team is at.

But before filling, sanding and polishing the Mercedes-AMG SL, it was already necessary to win the internal competition of Mercedes designers from all over the world. The objective of Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG, was clear: to capture the spirit of the legendary 300 SL, which was also produced as a production sports car from 1954 under the internal designation W198.

Christopher Thoms won the internal tender with his project.© Deniz Calagan/Daimler AG
Christopher Thoms drew the first lines of the Mercedes-AMG SL and thus laid the foundation stone for the current design of the Mercedes-AMG SL.© Deniz Calagan/Daimler AG

After having imposed himself within his studio, Christopher Thoms put his project in competition with the other Advanced Design studios of Sindelfingen, Beijing, Nice… with success: the Carlsbad Design Studio was thus entrusted with the reissue of the one of the most iconic models in the Mercedes range. The champagne corks popped! Then came the fine-tuning stage, in constant exchange with the Head of Design and always following Gorden Wagener’s philosophy of sensual clarity. Some details of the current Mercedes-AMG SL have also hardly changed between the original concept and series production, such as the extremely flat LED taillights, one of the big highlights according to Thoms.

Together with fellow designer Eugen Enns, Christopher Thoms (front) fine-tunes the look of the Mercedes-AMG SL.© Deniz Calagan/Daimler AG
From the first draft to today, the new SL has hardly changed.© Deniz Calagan/Daimler AG
The rear of the Mercedes-AMG SL is particularly noteworthy. The particular highlight for the designer Thoms is the rear with the flat LED lights.© Deniz Calagan/Daimler AG

But the designers may also have taken advantage of the fact that this eighth generation of the Mercedes SL was designed from scratch. The raw structure, for example: “Not a single component comes from the previous model or from another model like the AMG GT Roadster”, assures the car manufacturer. The designers thus had more freedom and were able to give the new 2+2-seater a sporty and fresh look, without losing sight of the original SL. The AMG radiator shroud, with its 14 vertical slats and the two Powerdomes on the engine cover, are just two of the many reminiscences of the first generation SL from 1952 (the W194).