Combine the ground breaking leap in technology of the 190 and the build quality and timeless styling of the SEC coupes, and you would still not have the measure of the impact that Mercedes all new SL made at its launch in 1989. The styling was extremely simple, yet suitable touches (especially around the shovel nosed front end) gave the SL a remarkable stance and road presence. Mercedes chief stylist said that SL was greatly influenced by the wind tunnel work, and that the shape was changed many times during the development. Inside, Mercedes standard dashboard simplicity was enhanced on the switch gear and the trim Looking at the car the best part of a decade after it was launched, it seems almost impossible that the SL project started out in 1981. Safety has to be a major concern with a carbriolet, and Mercedes moved the goal posts with the SL’s innovative active safety packages. The car had a substantial roll bar, which would flip up into position within 0.3 seconds of an impact, or when the wheels became airborne. Also designed to protect occupants were the massive seats structures (including integral seat belts and headsets), cast in one piece from magnesium, and part of the body’s structural integrity.
The hood was electric and could be raised and lowered in 30 seconds. A wide range of engines, six, eight, and twelve cylinder units did little to make the SL a sports car of mass appeal. It was too expensive, but promised an exceptionally long life of outstanding driving pleasure. SLs were often the choice personal transport of the world’s greatest professional racing drivers.