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Mercedes-Benz SL : Used

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Justin Pritchard
Mercedes flagship convertible was ready to coddle
Model: Mercedes-Benz SL : Used

Vehicle Type: Luxury convertible

History/Description: Few machines exemplify top-level comfort, premium sophistication and advanced performance quite like the Mercedes Benz SL. A two-seat convertible designed for comfortable, high-speed, top-optional travels, it was available in its last full generation from 2002 to 2012.

Feature content for this luxo-rocket included a fully motorized power roof, navigation, heated leather seats with the “airscarf” neck-warmer system, Bluetooth, premium audio by Harman Kardon, driver-selectable suspension, and plenty more.

Engine options were numerous. Standard in the SL 500 was a 5.0L V8 with 302 horsepower in earlier years, though a 5.5L mill packing 382 horsepower became the base engine a few years later. This base engine necessitated a name-change to “SL 550.” An SL 600 model was also available, featuring a turbocharged V8 with a little shy of 500 horses.

Photo: Justin Pritchard

What Owners Like About The Used Mercedes-Benz SL: The head-tuning factor, on-road presence and performance of the SL were its most highly rated assets, according to many owners. Plenty of on-board storage and all-around comfort were also commented upon positively.

What Owners Dislike:
Some owners wish for better fuel mileage and lower maintenance costs from their SL.

Common Issues With A Used Mercedes-Benz SL: Complaints deal with noises, like squeaks and rattles, as the car ages. System malfunctions, which are typically referenced by a message in the instrument cluster, are also somewhat well documented. Be sure none of these messages are present on the model you’re test driving.

Listen for a metallic “clanging” sound from the rear of the vehicle as it comes to rest, or while it’s resting shortly after being stopped. Numerous owners have reported issues with baffles breaking off inside the fuel tank and floating noisily around. This is an expensive repair if not covered by warranty, though it’s likely to mainly affect earlier models.

Ensure the motorized top works as expected, completing several full open and close cycles and listen for any binding, hesitation or strain. The roof should open smoothly and quietly. Any roof-related repairs could be pricey.
These issues aside, the SL’s relatively low sales volumes and typically low-mileage operation mean that reliability issues are somewhat difficult to nail down. Still, this writer can suggest a few important points to remember when considering the purchase of a used SL.

Photo: Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Justin Pritchard
Automotive expert