The Mercedes SL has been cornerstone of the Mercedes lineup for generations, offering top-down luxury motoring to those who appreciate comfort, effortless performance and just hint of sportiness.
With a range of powerful engines, long-legged character and saloon-based underpinnings, the Mercedes SL is less about driver involvement and more about delivering its occupants to their destination in comfort – and style.
Here are our favourite examples of Mercedes’ seminal cruiser.
Mercedes-Benz SL W113 ‘Pagoda’
The Pagoda was the product of a project to improve the Mercedes 190SL, developing into a whole new car as it became apparent the 190 would be long-in-the-tooth before its update was released. Popular in period as a stlyish statement and today as a chic classic, the Pagoda has endured as one of the coolest cars in the business – helped along by its gorgeous looks and unique concave-windowed hard top.
Launched in 1963 in 230SL form, the 2.3-litre six-cylinder engine was replaced in 1967 by a 2.5-litre unit, and again the following year with a 2.8-litre. By the time the Pagoda series was replaced by the R107 in 1971 it had earned itself a place in the history books.
While the 230SL and the 280SL each have their devotees, the 250SL tends to be relatively unloved. It’s neither the original lightweight sporting version, nor the powerful, poshed-up GT from the end of production.
The Mercedes SL W113 is a serious investment these days, with great examples selling for six-figure sums. It’s unlikely to reach the values of the 190SL and 300SL – but inevitably there will be a return for a canny buyer.
Mercedes-Benz SL R107
The R107 was the car that took the SL upmarket. Unlike its predecessor, it had thrown off most of its sporting pretensions in favour of becoming a fully fledged GT car. And rightly so: it was a method which served Mercedes well for the best part of two decades thereafter.
Launched in 1971 as the 350SL, the range broadened over time to include the six-cylinder 280SL, plus V8s up to and including the 500SL in the UK – and the 560SL in America.
Most usable of the bunch is the late 300SL six-cylinder, though many find the purity of the early 350SL V8s more appealing. The 500SL is currently the most valuable model, the market finding the larger engine and better specified cars the easiest to resell. There was also an SL derivative named the SLC – stretched by 12 inches, this coupe effectively took the position of the S-Class coupe for a generation.
R107 values have been dragged upwards in recent years by the success of its its older brother. This upward trend is likely to continue as Pagoda values continue to climb, as those who have been priced out of the latter market find early R107s the ideal substitute.
Mercedes-Benz SL R129
Launched in 1989, the R129 SL was softer and smoother still than the previous model. By now, the car had moved firmly away from its sporting past and become a GT in the mould of the Jaguar XJS.
Launched as a 300SL six-cylinder, a 24-valve 300SL-24 and the 500SL V8, the range expanded in 1993 to include the flagship 600SL sporting a monstrous 6.0-litre V12. The range was renamed in 1993 to match the new naming strategy at Mercedes, revised to SL280, SL320, SL500 and SL600.
There was also a rare AMG derivative: the SL60 AMG. Based on the SL500, it featured revised suspension, a 6.0 V8 producing 375bhp, and several other tweaks to transform the soft SL into a truly sporty machine.
Subsequently, Mercedes developed this into the rare SL72 AMG, later sold as the SL70 AMG. This used an AMG-fettled V12, later extended to 7.3 litres for the SL73 AMG. The final AMG model was the SL55 AMG, produced from 1997-2001 using the same engine as the E55 and S55 models.
AMG models are naturally the most desireable, but their scarcity means you’ll struggle to find one. As values of R107s rise, R129 values will inevitably increase to fill the gap. Expect to see the best bargains on six-cylinder cars – 300SL, SL280 and SL320.