Used Mercedes SL 2012-present review

Category: Sports car

Section: What is it like?

Star rating
Mercedes SL front corner 2012-present
  • Mercedes SL front corner 2012-present
  • Mercedes SL interior
  • Mercedes SL boot
  • Mercedes SL panning
  • Mercedes SL rear corner
  • Mercedes SL suspension button
  • Mercedes SL rear storage
  • Mercedes SL front corner 2012-present
  • Mercedes SL interior
  • Mercedes SL boot
  • Mercedes SL panning
  • Mercedes SL rear corner
  • Mercedes SL suspension button
  • Mercedes SL rear storage
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What's the used Mercedes SL-Class sports like?

Buying used car, as we all know, is a truly excellent way of recycling, but a used Mercedes SL provides the best way of recycling smugness. The first owner would have felt invincible for being able to afford to drive such a vast and luxurious car. However, second-hand buyers can experience a similar warm glow; buying used enables them to enjoy that same imperious driving experience for less than the price of an entry-level Ford Focus

When the SL appeared in 2012, it could be had with either a 302bhp 3.5-litre V6, badged SL 350, or a 435bhp 4.7-litre turbocharged V8, labelled SL 500. Later on, the SL 350 became the SL 400 and got a smaller yet more powerful 328bhp, turbo 3.0-litre V6. Top of the tree were the AMG models, starting with the 577bhp SL 63 with a 5.5-litre V8 and leading to the very rare 621bhp 6.0-litre V12 SL 65.

Initially, there weren't any trim levels per se, but all SLs came with 18in alloys, heated leather seats, sat nav, DAB radio, dual-zone climate and rear parking sensors. There were many options and packages available, though, including a driver assistance pack with lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control; a luxury (renamed premium) pack with a rear view camera, cooled seat with a massaging function, and upgraded Harmon Kardon stereo, keyless entry and start, plus soft-close doors. It seems amazing buyers even had to pay extra to have a memory function for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering wheel position, as well as for power-folding mirrors.

We saw the introduction of AMG line after the 2016 facelift, to fit in with the trim naming structure of other Mercedes models. This also introduced the Night package that brought in bigger 19in (20in on SL 63) alloy wheels and lashings of gloss black exterior trim. Further revisions in 2019 brought in Grand Edition and Grand Edition premium, the latter of which includes the premium pack.

You might be surprised to find that the SL is fairly agile for something with such vast exterior dimensions. This is because a lot of attention was paid to reducing weight over the previous generation SL; the car is made mostly from aluminium and the folding roof is magnesium in order to keep it below two tonnes, even when loaded with optional extras. 

However, the SL is still no sports car. Numb steering that doesn't provide any real sense of the grip levels, a slightly mushy brake pedal and an automatic gearbox that refuses to provide quick downchanges all discourage you from pushing this car beyond a respectable canter. You can tell that's what it's happiest doing because you'll experience very little buffeting with the roof down and the windows and wind deflector up. Even at motorway speeds. If you're looking for driving thrills along with the wind in your hair, buy a Porsche 911 convertible instead.

This Mercedes is better suited to grand touring, which is why its interior is so nicely finished, with supple leather across almost every surface along with classy satin chrome finishes for the air vents and various knobs and switches. The seats and steering wheel adjust in a multitude of ways (particularly examples equipped with the multi-contour seats that come with the luxury/premium pack) so occupants of all shapes and sizes can get comfortable. There's even a decent view out because you sit higher than you would in most sports cars.

Having said all of that, there isn't quite as much luggage space as you might expect given how big the SL is. On paper, the SL has more luggage capacity in litres than the BMW 6 Series convertible, but due to the bulky folding metal roof, the SL's boot itself is rather shallow and will struggle to accommodate suitcases. You're better off packing squashable bags instead and utilising the many hidden storage areas dotted around the interior – particularly the two behind the seats – for smaller items.

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