The all-new, next-generation Mercedes-Benz SL has been spotted by our spy photographers, and the forthcoming roadster appears to be undergoing some key changes for its next iteration. Firstly, the next SL will mark a return to the fabric roof after preceding generations of the folding hard-top which the German brand started using with the first SLK, and this generation of SL will also feature rear seats.

This early development car is certainly wearing heavy disguise, which leaves still a considerable amount of the aesthetic to the imagination, though the move to a fabric roof construction will help offset any weight gain from additional equipment to come with the next-generation luxury roadster. This will share underpinnings with the next Mercedes-AMG GT, both of which will use the Modular Sports Architecture and save on development costs as a result.

With the next SL to be engineered alongside the next AMG GT, the luxury roadster can be expected to be ‘far sportier’ than the current model, said AMG chief Tobias Moers, though it will still have the “perfect compromise between driving dynamics and comfort” in order to fulfil the cruiser brief, Moers said, adding that this forthcoming SL will be made exclusively as a roadster, which means there will no longer be a hardtop.

It is very much early days in terms of determining the next SL’s engine line-up, however this is rumoured to comprise a 435 hp inline-six, a 522 hp biturbo V8 and the obligatory Mercedes-AMG SL63 version with around 612 hp. This generation may also mark the return of the SL73 AMG badge, the larger numbers denoting not a 7.3 litre V12 but rather an electrified petrol V8 powertrain. This is expected to be a 204 hp motor for a total output of 800 hp and 1,000 Nm of torque, our sources say.

We can expect plenty more development car appearances in the coming months by the next SL which could debut in 2021 at the soonest, and the next-generation AMG GT sports car sibling that shares its platform is set to follow a year after as a 2022 model. Until then, what do you think of the SL’s return to the fabric roof?