The SL-Class is a sports coupé, grand touring car manufactured by Mercedes-Benz for over six decades. The SL stands for Super/Sport, and Leicht in German, (Super/Sport Light in English), a designation later used to mark many variations on the SL-Class. It has a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout, and comes with either an inline-six or V8 engine under its hood, with one inline-four in the 190SL. Mercedes initially intended them to fit a niche market for wealthy customers who were looking for a toned-down Grand-Prix car.
The First Generation (1955-1963)
The production SL-Class launched in 1954 with the 300SL (W198), a sports-coupé featuring iconic gullwing doors, which was replaced by the 300SL roadster with conventional doors in 1957, with production stopping in 1963. They came equipped with an inline-six, 3-Litre engine, with 190SL (W121) having an inline-four, 1.9-Litre engine.
Its predecessor, W194 had a successful racing history, winning 24 hours of Le Mans, Eifelrennen at the Nürburgring Bern-Bremgarten and Carrera Panamericana in Mexico. It relied for power on a carburetted engine producing 130kW (175hp), which was less than what the competition cars had. Its strength came from its lightweight build and low aerodynamic drag coefficient, which made it successful in endurance races.
Only 1,400 coupes and 1,858 roadster models were ever produced, for a total of 3,258 cars. The 190SL was produced in more volume, 25,881 total. They were initially not desirable in the targeted market of the United States, but today they are some of the priciest and most sought-after Mercedes-Benz cars.
The Second Generation (1963-1971)
At the Geneva Motor Show of 1963, Mercedes-Benz presented the W113 SL-Class as a replacement to the 300SL and 190SL. Lead designers Paul Barcq and Béla Barényi created the hardtop, nicknamed Pagoda, with thick side pillars to provide additional safety in a rollover situation. It came with a soft-top, and an optional removable hardtop.
All models used inline-six with multi-port fuel injection in 2.3 Litre, 2.5 Litre, and 2.8 Litre variants, paired with a 4-speed manual or automatic transmission, or 5-speed manual transmission. Through its production run, Mercedes built 48,912 W133 cars, releasing 19,440 of this total in the United States.
The Third Generation (1971-1989)
The SL (R107) and SLC (C107) are Mercedes-Benz's second-longest produced models after the G-Class. SL had a two-seat layout with a soft top and optional hardtop, while SLC had four seats and a fixed roof with optional sliding steel sunroof. The SLC or SL Coupe was a first coupe based on an SL roadster rather than a saloon platform. In 1981, its production ended sooner than the SL, when it was replaced by the SEC-Class which was based on the new S class. In total, 237,287 SL cars and 62,888 SLC cars were made, for a total of 300,175 produced.
The third-generation SL were fitted with inline-six engines with 2.8 Litre and 3.0 Litre displacement, and V8 engines ranging from 3.5 Litre to 5.6 Litre. These engines teamed up with a 3 or 4 speed automatic, or 4- or 5-speed manual transmission.
The Fourth Generation (1989-2001)
The new SL-Class was revealed at the 1989 Geneva Motor show and featured an automated, electrohydraulic collapsible textile roof, as well as aluminium detachable hardtop, this time as standard equipment. The design process began in 1984 based on a shortened floorpan of the W124. The total production number is 213,089 cars.
It included innovative features, such as an adaptive damping system and a hidden rollover bar that would extend automatically, as well as seat-integrated safety belts. As a high-class roadster, its standard equipment pieces included power windows/mirrors/seats and a hydraulic soft top.
The fourth-generation SL-Class came with inline-six, V6, V8, and V12 engines, with a wide range of displacements, from 2.8 Litre to 7.3 Litre in the AMG V12, paired with a 4-speed or 5-speed automatic transmission (G-Tronic) or 5-speed manual transmission.
In Australia, available powertrain options were limited to SL500, SL600, and 55AMG, all paired with the 5G-Tronic automatic transmission.
The Fifth Generation (2001-2011)
In 2001, Mercedes-Benz introduced the new R230 SL-Class at the Frankfurt Motor Show and Bologna Motor Show, with the car first appearing as the Safety Car for Formula One at the German Grand Prix in the same year. It received two facelifts through its lifespan, one in 2006 and the second in 2008.
With SL-Class being a high-end roadster, it came with a large number of features as standard, with Night Edition and Sport Edition as the only additional trim levels.
- Standard equipment includes ABS, alarm, alloy wheels, audio remote, climate control, driver/passenger/side airbags, power driver's and passenger's seat, power mirrors, power windows, headlight washers, heated mirrors, heated seats, height-adjustable drivers seat, leather seat trim, metallic paint, PAS, remote locking, Sat Nav, space-saving spare wheel, steering wheel rake/reach adjustment, and traction control.
- Night Edition includes body-coloured bumpers, CD multichanger, cruise control, DVD, front fog lights, service indicator, and sports seats.
- Sport Edition includes body-coloured bumpers, CD, CD multichanger, cruise control, front fog lights, parking sensors, and service indicator.
Powertrain options come exclusively in the V layout, ranging from the V6 to V12, and 3.0 Litre to 6.0 Litre, paired with a 5-speed, and later 7-speed automatic transmission.
In Australia, the available options were:
- SL350 3.5L V6, petrol engine producing 180kW (242hp) at 5700rpm and 350Nm of torque at 3000-4500rpm, a 5-speed automatic transmission
- SL350 3.5L V6, petrol engine producing 200kW (268hp) at 6000rpm and 350Nm of torque at 2400-5000rpm, a 7-speed automatic transmission
- SL500 5.0L V8, petrol engine producing 225kW (302hp) at 5600rpm and 460Nm of torque at 2700-4250rpm, a 5-speed automatic transmission
- SL500 5.5L V8, petrol engine producing 285kW (383hp) at 6000rpm and 530Nm of torque at 2800-4800rpm, a 7-speed automatic transmission
- SL600 5.5L V12, BiTurbo petrol engine producing 380kW (510hp) at 5000rpm and 800Nm of torque at 1800-3600rpm, a 5-speed automatic transmission
- SL55 AMG 5.4L V8, supercharged petrol engine producing 368kW (493hp) at 6100rpm and 700Nm of torque at 2650-4500rpm, a 5-speed automatic transmission
- SL63 AMG 6.2L V8, petrol engine producing 386kW (518hp) at 6800rpm 630Nm of torque at 5250rpm, a 7-speed automatic transmission
- SL65 AMG 6.0L V12, BiTurbo petrol engine producing 450kW (604hp) at 4800-5100rpm and 1000Nm of torque at 2000-4000rpm, a 7-speed automatic transmission
The Sixth Generation (2012-present)
The current SL-Class has the chassis code R231 and rolled into the marketplace in March of 2012. For the first time, SL 600 V12 is not available in the non-AMG configuration. The new SL-Class is broader and longer than previous generations, with a length of 4582mm and width of 1877mm. A brand new folding hardtop roof comes with optional panoramic sunroof with manipulatable tint. Changes from previous models include an all-aluminium body, new windscreen wiper/wash system, FrontBass loudspeakers, and hands-free access boot lid.
The latest generation SL comes with a variety of limited and AMG trim levels, such as Designo Edition, Grand Edition, Mille Miglia 417 and 2LOOK Edition.
- Standard trims include ABS, alarm, alloy wheels, body-coloured bumpers, driver/passenger/side airbags, DVD, power driver's seat, power passenger's seat, power windows, heated seats, leather seat trim, lumbar support, metallic paint, PAS, remote locking, Sat Nav, service indicator, steering wheel reach and rake adjustment, and traction control.
- AMG trim includes climate control, parking sensors and sports seats.
- AMG Line includes audio remote, CD, climate control, cruise control, power mirrors, heated mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat, and parking sensors.
- AMG Sport trim includes audio remote, CD multichanger, climate control, cruise control, power mirrors, headlight washers, heated mirrors, height-adjustable driver's seat, parking sensors, and sports seats.
Mercedes-Benz introduced the facelift version in 2016, updating some of the petrol engines and adding the 9G-Tronic PLUS 9-speed automatic transmission. It also boasts of a revised front end, adaptive LED front headlights, front and rear bumper, and a slightly-revised Vario-roof, which is deployable at speeds lower than 40km/h.
Petrol engines come in V6, V8, and V12 variants, with displacements from 3.0 Litre to 6.0 Litre, paired with 7-speed or 9-speed automatic transmission. In Australia, the powertrain options available are:
- SL350 3.5L V6, petrol engine producing 225kW (302hp) at 6500rpm and 370Nm of torque at 3500-5250rpm, a 7-speed automatic transmission
- SL400 3.0L V6, BiTurbo petrol engine producing 245kW (328hp) at 5250-6000rpm and 480Nm of torque at 1600-4000rpm, a 7-speed or 9-speed automatic transmission
- SL500 4.7L V8, BiTurbo petrol engine producing 320kW (429hp) at 5250rpm and 700Nm of torque at 1800-3500rpm, a 7-speed or 9-speed automatic transmission
- SL65 AMG 6.0L V12, BiTurbo petrol engine producing 463kW (621hp) at 4800-5400rpm and 1000Nm of torque at 2300-4300rpm, a 7-speed automatic transmission
Author: Luka Kusic