This the first official picture of the new Mercedes-Benz SL, the car expected to re-establish the luxury German company as the maker of the world's finest open-top sports car.

The fifth-generation SL roadster will be launched in Italy in October and appear in New Zealand in July next year.

The launch car will be the V8-powered 500SL. The V6-powered 320SL and V12-powered 600SL will follow. The specialist AMG version will be powered by a supercharged 5.5-litre V8.

Well-heeled New Zealanders have already placed orders for the car. There's no word on price yet but the previous 500SL V8 was $223,000.

The main feature of the SL will be a revised version of the hard-top roof design from the SLK, which lets owners choose between coupe and roadster at the flick of a button.

The car will also come with active body-control suspension, which uses hydraulics to manage ride and handling.

Another high-tech feature is the world's first electro-hydraulic brakes, which links the brake pedal to the braking system by wires rather than mechanically.