Model Evolution: Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

By Brandon Turkus

October 05, 2011


W198 300SL: Loosely based on the original 300SL racer, the production car featured a 3.0-liter inline-six that featured—get this—direct gasoline injection. Yes, the 300SL pioneered one of today’s hot-button engine technologies in 1954. With 212 horsepower on tap, the 300SL was blessed with a top speed between 146 and 160 miles per hour, depending on the gearing. This was also the last production Mercedes to feature gullwing doors until the SLS AMG. The 300SL retailed for $11,000 when it debuted, or $88,189 today.


W113 230SL: The second-generation SL was available with a 2.3-liter six-cylinder when it debuted in 1963. This engine stuck around until 1967, when it was replaced with a larger 2.5-liter, and finally a 2.8-liter until it was replaced in 1971. 48,192 W113s were produced between 1963 and 1971, with prices ranging from $6185 when it debuted to $7909 when production ceased ($43,561 to $42,095 today).


R207 500SL: The R207 represented the first appearance of a V-8 in the SL range, with displacement spanning 3.5 to 5.6 liters, depending on model year and country. The top dog in the US was the 560SL, which was sold between 1986 and 1989. Boasting the 5.6-liter V-8, 227 horsepower, and 287 pound-feet of torque, all routed through a four-speed auto, the 560SL was the pinnacle of SL performance during its time. Mercedes also produced a coupe version of the two-seat R207, called the C207, or more commonly known as the SLC. Production for all versions of the 207 platform equals 300,175 units.


R129 SL73 AMG: The R129, besides offering the now-regular array of sixes and eights, was the first SL to be powered by a V-12, in the form of the SL600. The real big news was the first AMG versions of the SL-Class. Of particular note was the SL73 AMG, which boasted 525 horsepower. This engine was so powerful, it would eventually find its way into the Pagani Zonda hypercar. The R129 was sold between 1989 and 2002, with over 213,000 built.


R230 SL600: The R230 represented a number of firsts for the SL. For a start, the engine lineup consisted of V-8s and V-12s only (although a V-6 was offered across the pond), while the fabric top of the old cars was replaced with a trick folding hardtop. Once again, V-12s were at the top of the range, with the SL600 and the SL65 AMG representing the maximum in luxury and performance from Mercedes-Benz.


R230 Facelift: This is the most recent iteration of the SL, and is due for a replacement in the coming years. It debuted in 2008, and is more in line with Mercedes current styling trends. The simply bonkers SL65 AMG Black Series joined the SL550, SL600, SL63 AMG, and SL65 AMG. The Black comes to market with a whopping 661 horsepower, 740 pound-feet of torque, and a fixed carbon-fiber roof, on top of other tweaks.

W198 W113 R207 R129 R230 R230

Janis Joplin sang about them, and they’ve been seen or mentioned in everything from Dallas, to Beverly Hills Cop, to I Love You Phillip Morris, to Family Guy. Yes, we are referring to the legendary Mercedes-Benz SL-Class. This grand tourer is an icon of the rich and famous, and quite a performance machine to boot. Join us as we recap its history.