Premium sporty/performance car; Built in Germany
  • 2-door coupe
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $3,000 – $15,500*


2000 Mercedes-Benz SL600


2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500


2001 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class interior


2001 Mercedes-Benz SL500 Silver Arrow


2000 Mercedes-Benz SL500

Pros:
  • Acceleration (V8, V12)
  • Build quality
  • Exterior finish
  • Interior materials
  • Steering/handling
  • Brake performance
Cons:
  • Cargo room
  • Fuel economy

Even though they’re too heavy and bulky to rank as sports cars, precious few automobiles provide open-air motoring with this much comfort, safety, style, and speed.

Overview

After 18 years in its prior form, a new SL two-passenger roadster debuted for 1990, with a choice of two engines. The 300SL used a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. A 5.0-liter V8, producing 322 horsepower, went into the 500SL. Each engine had dual-overhead camshafts and a four-valve-per-cylinder configuration.

Built on a new rear-wheel-drive platform with a 99-inch wheelbase, the two-seater’s body was 4.3 inches shorter overall than its predecessor. Both models were heavier, too. The 300SL weighed 458 pounds more than the previous model, while the new 500SL tipped the scales at 265 pounds more than the former 560SL.

Both versions of Mercedes’ luxury coupe/convertible came with a removable aluminum hardtop as well as a power soft top. A five-speed manual transmission was standard in the 300SL, with five-speed automatic optional. The 500SL came only with a four-speed automatic transmission.

Safety was a major design factor in the new convertibles. A rollover bar was designed to flip into position between the seats when needed. Made of foam-covered steel tubing, the bar lay flush with the rear tonneau cover, ready to deploy within 0.3 second if sensors detected an impending rollover incident. The bar could be raised and lowered via a dashboard button, if desired. Antilock braking also was standard.

Yearly Updates

1991 SL-Class
Technology took center stage for 1991. Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR), Mercedes’ traction-control system, became optional on SL models with an automatic transmission. The ASR system applied brake force to the drive wheel that was about to slip, and also reduced engine power if needed to maintain traction. An ASD (antilocking differential) joined the option list for 300SL models with manual shift. That system engages only at speeds up to 18 mph. Also newly optional was an automatically adjustable suspension, called the Adaptive Damping System. This one adjusted shock-absorber firmness several times per second at each wheel, to one of four settings, based on road surface and how the car was being driven.
1992 SL-Class
No significant changes were evident for 1992.
1993 SL-Class
A new 600SL model debuted this year, with a V12 engine that produced 389 horsepower. The V8 in the 500SL lost 7 horsepower, now rated at 315.
1994 SL-Class
An inline 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine ousted the 3.0-liter from 300SL models. Torque output grew, but the new engine had the same 228-horsepower rating as its predecessor. At the same time, model designations switched to SL320 and SL500. A Bose Acoustimass sound system now was standard.
1995 SL-Class
A new Electronic Traction System went on the SL320 for 1995, able to control the throttle as well as the brakes. A portable cellular phone with voice-activated dialing joined the option list.
1996 SL-Class
Side-impact airbags went into 1996 models. A new Electronic Stability Program (ESP) antiskid system became standard on the SL600 and optional on the SL500. It used sensors to monitor steering angle, individual wheel speed, lateral acceleration, and brake pressure to determine when the car was sliding. The ESP system then applied brakes to individual wheels as needed, to help maintain control. All models got a fresh grille, body-color bumpers, and 12-hole alloy wheels. Both the V8 and V12 now drove a five-speed automatic transmission. New xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights were standard on the SL600 and optional for the SL500.
1997 SL-Class
A unique new “panorama” hardtop became available as an optional alternative to the standard lift-off aluminum roof. Heat-resisting tinted glass ran the full length of the new top. A new front-seat occupant-detection sensor could deactivate the right-side airbag when it determined that the passenger seat held less than 26 pounds. An integrated HomeLink transmitter was installed, and a new rain sensor varied the intermittent wiper rate to match actual precipitation.
1998 SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz dropped the six-cylinder SL320, leaving only V8 and V12 models. Those added Brake Assist and a new Baby Smart feature that could recognize the presence of a child seat.
1999 SL-Class
Revised internally this year, the V8 engine dropped to 302 horsepower. Exterior trim was now body-colored, and 17-inch wheels became standard.
2000 SL-Class
New options for 2000 included heated seats and an adaptive suspension for the V8 version. Mercedes’ TeleAid emergency system became standard. A Sport package featured newly designed 18-inch wheels, high-performance tires, and different lower-body styling.
2001 SL-Class
Both SL models got “aerodynamic” lower-body styling created by AMG, Mercedes’ performance division. The SL600 rode on new two-piece AMG wheels. The TeleAid system added remote door unlocking, vehicle diagnostics, and alarm monitoring.
2002 SL-Class
Changes were few for the short 2002 season, as Mercedes-Benz prepared to launch a redesigned SL as an early 2003 model.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear-wheel drive

For its first four years on the market, the SL came with a 3.0-liter, dual-overhead-cam inline six-cylinder engine (as the 300SL), or in 500SL form with a 5.0-liter V8. The inline six produced 228 horsepower, versus 322 for the V8. Manual shift was standard on the 300SL, with five-speed automatic optional. The 500SL came only with a four-speed automatic. A 3.2-liter six replaced the 3.0-liter in 1994, and a 389-horsepower V12 engine went into the new SL600 in 1993. Six-cylinder models disappeared after 1997.

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/181
Engine HP 228
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 201
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed manual
5-speed automatic
16/22
16/23
dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 228
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 232
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
17/24
18/24
ohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/303
Engine HP 302
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 339
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

16/23

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 5.0/303
Engine HP 315-322
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 332-347
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
16/20
16/23
dohc V12
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 6.0/365
Engine HP 389
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 420
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

13/19

Road Test

Beautifully finished, these refined road cars blend strong performance with solid engineering and luxurious trappings. Much more athletic than its 1980s predecessor, the SL is impressively stable at speed, with a rock-solid bearing that inspires confidence. Comfortable and luxurious, the SL also delivers a sporting feel with commendable road manners, though it’s too heavy to qualify as a genuine sports car. Sound ergonomics and attention to detail round out the benefits.

Above 3000 rpm or so, the V8 engine feels virtually like a runaway freight train. Just a touch on the gas pedal is answered by a gush of power, as the V8-powered SL moves away from a stop with no sense of strain. Passing power is impressive, too. Acceleration is sufficient with six-cylinder power, especially from the newer 3.2-liter, but it can’t match the V8. In the late 1990s, Mercedes-Benz claimed an SL500 could accelerate to 60 mph in a swift 6 seconds. On the down side, gas mileage is grim.

All versions suffer far less than most convertibles from body quivers on bumpy roads. Suspensions do a good job of absorbing bumps, but you still notice most imperfections because of the stiff, low-profile tires. An SL can get a bit jiggly on broken pavement. Handling is characterized by quick response and little body lean. Braking is powerful and fade-free. Engine sounds are nicely muted, but tire roar is noticeable on coarse surfaces.

Occupants get plenty of seat travel and a multitude of adjustments, along with good head room. Simple, unobstructed gauges are accompanied by clearly marked controls, and the trunk ranks as adequate for a two-seater.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 6
60%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 5
50%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 0
00%
Cargo Room - 2
20%

Other

Value - 2
20%

Total: 45

Specifications

2-door coupe
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
99.0 177.1 71.3 51.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
7.9 21.1 2
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.1 42.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Automatic transmission
Description: The automatic transmission jerks when placed in drive or reverse or makes a grunting noise as the fluid deteriorates requiring a drain and refill (of at least 70 percent of the fluid) with revised ATF. (1997-99)
Brakes
Description: The ABS (antilock brake system) light may come on intermittently and the charging-system light may also come on, but very dim, if the alternator is not charging sufficiently and electrical loads are high. (1990-2002)
Clutch
Description: The clutch pedal may stick on 30SL models due to heat boiling the fluid. A countermeasure, insulated, slave cylinder is required. (1990)
Engine stalling
Description: The engine may stall when the transmission is shifted into gear due to water entering, and corroding, the neutral safety switch. (1992)
Timing belt
Description: Timing-chain tensioner weakness causes knocking and rattling from the front of the engine, especially when hot. (1997-98)
Valve cover leaks
Description: During aggressive driving, especially in turns, oil can get into the air filter-housing requiring a vented valve cover. (1990)
Valve cover leaks
Description: Oil weeps at head gaskets, leaks at valve cover gaskets (1990-95), rear end caps (1990-97), oil-pan gaskets (1990-92).
Water leak
Description: Rain water drips on the starter causing failure requiring a redesigned water drain. (1998-99) Also, water leaks into the molding at the top of the windshield (1999), between A-pillar and soft top (1997), at the A-pillar on hardtops (1994), at the roof near the front doors on hardtops (1994), and from the outside mirrors (1990-95).
Water leak
Description: The central locking system fails from leaks in the system allowing moisture to form in the lines which freezes in cold weather. (1990-02)
Wheels
Description: In tight turns, the drive wheels may chirp due to the limited-slip differential. The problem can be reduced by removing one of the clutch plates. (1990-97)
None
Description: Prior to 1994, engine compartments on the 600SL were not treated with antirust coatings. If desired, a wax type coating only should be applied after thorough cleaning. (1990-94)
None
Description: The hot film mass-airflow sensors have a history of failure often caused by ill-fitting air filters or housing covers and by damaged protective screens located in front of the airflow sensor. (1990-1999)

Recall History

1990-92 500SL
Description: During removal/installation of the air filter housing the preformed vacuum hose may be misrouted, resulting in loss of brake power assist.
1996
Description: The drive-belt pulley can crack. If it breaks, the car will be without engine cooling, battery charging, and/or power steering.
1997
Description: The electrical-ignition filament of the airbag gas generator can become corroded in a very humid environment.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.