We know how it looks like already, thanks to previously leaked B&W brochure shots, but here’s the sixth-generation Mercedes-Benz SL in its full glory, from every angle. Making its world debut at NAIAS 2012, the new SL is an all-new chapter in a lineage that dates back 60 years.

“There are around 900 million cars in the world and thousands of models. But there are only a handful of automotive icons. Our SL is one of them: it has class, it has style, it is the ultimate in comfort and luxury. But it combines all that with incredible sportiness and dynamism,” summarises Dr Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the Daimler AG Board of Management and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

“You would struggle to find a car that embodies Gottlieb Daimler’s aspiration more perfectly than our new SL: the best or nothing,” he adds. Want one already?

The new SL, which is longer (+50 mm) and wider (+57 mm), has been produced almost entirely from aluminium and weighs up to 140 kg less than its predecessor. The all aluminium body is also credited for the claimed “agile, sporty handling that has been taken to an entirely new level, coupled with exemplary roll characteristics and ride comfort”.

In addition, the steering knuckles and spring links on the front axle are also made out of aluminium to reduce unsprung mass. The same also applies to virtually all the wheel location components on the rear axle. The standard suspension is a semi-active adjustable damping system, with ABC (Active Body Control) is an option. There’s also a new electromechanical Direct-Steer system featuring speed-sensitivity and variable ratio.

The new 4,663 cc V8 in the SL500 develops 435 hp, around 12% more than its predecessor despite being 800 cc smaller. Fuel consumption has been reduced by up to 22%. At the same time, torque is up from 530 Nm to 700 Nm – a 32% gain. The SL500 does 0-100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, eight tenths faster than the old car.

Similar improvements are seen in the “entry” SL350. The new 3,499 cc V6 makes 306 hp and 370 Nm of torque. It uses just 6.8 litres of petrol per 100 km, making it almost 30% more economical than before. This one does the century sprint in 5.9 seconds (0.3 sec faster than before), enough to see off those pesky hot hatches.

Both engine variants come with a standard-fit ECO start/stop function and Merc’s 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission. Lovely gear knob, too.

New features include the FrontBass system, which “turns the SL into a concert hall” regardless of whether the top is open or closed, and the adaptive windscreen wipe/wash system called Magic Vision Control. The latter supplies water from the wiper blade as required and depending on the direction of wipe.

Unlike its predecessor, three roof versions are available: painted, with glass roof or with the unique panoramic vario-roof with Magic Sky Control. In the latter, the transparent roof switches to “light” or “dark” at the push of a button. When “light” it is virtually transparent, offering an open-air experience. In “dark” the roof provides shade and prevents the cabin from heating up.

The frame is made of magnesium, making the roofs around six kg lighter than before. The operating mechanism for the roof and boot lid has been refined and it now takes less than 20 seconds to open or close.

The COMAND system now comes with web browsing along with access to a Mercedes-Benz online service, offering anything from weather reports to location search. There is also the option of sending destinations and routes via Google Maps to the SL. Merc is also offering new apps for the SL for Facebook, news, share prices and a car park finder, among other things.