Used Mercedes-Benz SL 1993 - 2002 review

Category: Sports car

The Mercedes SL is quick, comfortable and well-built

Mercedes-Benz SL Open (93 - 02)
  • Mercedes-Benz SL Open (93 - 02)
  • Mercedes-Benz SL Open (93 - 02)
Used Mercedes-Benz SL 1993 - 2002 review
Star rating

What's the used Mercedes SL-Class sports like?

The Mercedes SL is a massively over-engineered vehicle that was designed to give the best possible ride at high speeds. And, with virtually no shudder in the cabin, even with the top down, it feels bullet-proof. However, you do get a lot of wind noise where the windows meet on the 5.0-litre model.

On the road, the SL is smooth, fast and luxurious, with comfortable seats. Performance is stunning and, if you're feeling adventurous and flush for cash, go for the 5.0-litre V8 or even the 6.0-litre V12. Both are devastatingly quick and will take you to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.


The Mercedes SL is quick, comfortable and well-built

  • It's a premium luxury open-top car that cruises well
  • It's expensive to run and a little old-fashioned

Even the smaller engines, the 2.8 or the 3.2-litre, are enough to give you an entertaining ride. And the only note of caution is that, while the SL is great for European motorways, it's a bit too wide for British villages. The only other complaint is that the controls seem a little understated for the quality of the cabin. Otherwise, it's well built, and you'll be unlucky if you hear any creaks.

Ownership cost

What used Mercedes SL-Class sports will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Mercedes SL-Class sports?

The original list price of a 6.0-litre SL was £80,900 so, thanks to the evils of depreciation, a used SL can be something of a bargain. However, in every other respect, it's anything but cheap.

Running costs are prohibitive, for a start. All SL models are in insurance group 20 and the best fuel economy you can expect is 24mpg from the 3.0-litre version.

To cap it all, Merc's traditional reputation for reliability has waned over the past few years - electrical glitches have caused the shine on the three-pointed star to dull somewhat. So, on top of the regular running costs, there's a strong chance you'll need to shell out for repairs.

Our recommendations

Which used Mercedes SL-Class sports should I buy?

The SL open-top came with the choice of an electric roof with auto rollover bar or a steel hard top. So, shop round to get whichever you prefer.

As for other kit, you're better off the newer the car you buy. Climate control was introduced on the 5.0-litre as standard in 1996, for instance, and in 1998 the 6.0-litre got a CD multi-changer as standard.

Likewise, from 1998 the 280 came with an electronic stability programme, leather seat trim, heated front seat, rear child seats and an electrically adjustable steering column. At the same time, Mercedes launched the SL320 and SL500 Anniversary Limited Editions which included a blue soft-top, Evo II 17-inch alloy wheels and a special boot-mounted CD changer.

As far as engines are concerned, the most sensible option is the 320, which will get you to 60mph in around 7sec. That's plenty fast enough and has the added benefit that you won't spend your life pulling into petrol stations.

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What alternatives should I consider to a used Mercedes SL-Class sports?