Mercedes-Benz SL-Class (R129)

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This article is about the 1989–1993 300 SL. For the 1954–1963 model, see Mercedes-Benz 300 SL.
Mercedes-Benz SL (R129)
Mercedes-Benz SL 320 (R 129, 1. Facelift) – Frontansicht, 9. November 2014, Düsseldorf.jpg
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Production 1989–2001
213,089 built[1][2][3]
Designer Johann Tomforde; Bruno Sacco (1984)[4]
Body and chassis
Class Sports car / Grand tourer (S)
Body style Roadster
Layout FR layout
Engine 2.8 L 193 hp (144 kW) I6
2.8 L 204 hp (152 kW) V6
3.0 L 190 hp (142 kW) I6
3.0 L 231 hp (172 kW) I6
3.2L 231 hp (172 kW) I6
3.2L 224 hp (167 kW) V6
5.0 L 326 hp (243 kW) V8
5.0 L 306 hp (228 kW) V8
5.5L 354 hp (264 kW) AMG V8
6.0 L 381 hp (284 kW) AMG V8
6.0 L 394 hp (294 kW) V12
7.0 L 496 hp (370 kW) AMG V12
7.3L 525 hp (391 kW) AMG V12
Transmission 4-speed 4G-TRONIC
5-speed 5G-TRONIC
5-speed manual
Wheelbase 99.0 in (2,515 mm)
Length 1997–2001: 177.1 in (4,498 mm)
1989–1996: 176.0 in (4,470 mm)
1992–96 V12: 178.0 in (4,521 mm)
Width 71.3 in (1,811 mm)
Height 1992–2001: 51.3 in (1,303 mm)
1989–1991: 50.7 in (1,288 mm)
Predecessor Mercedes-Benz R107
Successor Mercedes-Benz R230

The Mercedes-Benz R129 SL roadsters were produced from 1989 through 2002. The R129 replaced the R107 in 1989 and was in its turn replaced by the R230 SL-Class in 2002 for the 2003 model year.

The R129 was produced as a two-door roadster with an automated (electro-hydraulic) textile tonneau cover. All R129s came standard with an detachable hardtop that could fitted by folding the canvas roof down and manually attaching it.


Model Chassis Engine Year From Year To
SL 280 129.058 104.943 1994 1997
SL 280 129.059 112.925 1998 2000
300 SL 129.060 103.984 1989 1993
300 SL-24 129.061 104.981 1989 1993
SL 320 129.063 104.991 1994 1998
SL 320 129.064 112.943 1998 2002
500 SL 129.066 119.960 1989 1992
500 SL 129.067 119.972 1993 1993
SL 500 129.067 119.972 1994 1995
SL 500 129.067 119.982 1996 1998
SL 500 129.068 113.961 1999 2002
600 SL 129.076 120.981 1993 1993
SL 600 129.076 120.981 1994 1995
SL 600 129.076 120.983 1996 2002

Model history[edit]

Designed in 1984, the R129 was based on the shortened floorpan of the Mercedes-Benz W124[2] and featured many innovative details for the time, for instance electronically controlled damping (optional) and a hidden, automatically extending roll-over bar. The R107's rather dated rear diagonal swing axle gave way to a modern multi-link axle. The number of standard features was high, with electric action for the windows, mirrors, seats and hydraulic convertible top.

Odometer switched from mechanical to electronic between the 1994 and 1995 models.
Note the slots behind the wheel are different
Note the tail lights are different

Starting in 1993 for the 1994 model year, R129 were re-designated. For example, 500 SL became SL 500. Starting in model year 1994, Mercedes-Benz offered special SL models from time to time, such as the Mille Miglia edition cars of model year 1994 or the SL edition of model year 2000.

1994 cars (for 1995 model year) had minor updates for the car

  • Odometer switched from mechanical to electronic
  • Option for portable cell phone with voice activated dialling
  • Clear front turn signal indicators for US SPEC models
  • Bose stereo now standard, rear speakers and subwoofer

1995 onwards R129s for the 1996 model year featured a minor facelift for the car:

  • Front fender vents updated; only 2 rounded slots, rather than 3 squared slots
  • Bumpers are now body colour
  • V8 and V12 upgraded to 5 speed electronic transmission; previous transmission was hydraulic 4-speed
  • Xenon HID headlamps standard on SL 600, optional on SL 500
  • Addition of side airbags

During 1996 for model year 1997, cars were the first year to have an option of the panoramic roof. Also newly available:

  • A new front-seat occupant-detection sensor could deactivate the right-side airbag when it determined that the passenger seat held less than 26 pounds
  • "Sport" package became an option
  • Automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers standard
  • Three-way programmable garage door opener "HomeLink" transmitters built into the rear-view mirror
  • Replaced the earlier climate control panel with one with a much larger LCD
  • Remote control uses dual infrared (IR) and radio (RF) control

A second facelift occurred in 1998 for model year 1999 which featured:

  • V8 engine switch from M119 to M113
  • Soft Nappa leather seats replace the perforated leather seats
  • Body colour door handles
  • Tail lights with curved faces replacing the classic square stepped lights
  • 17-inch wheels standard: Wheels are now 8.25 x 17" with 245/45ZR17 tires. Sport package is 8" (front) and 9" (rear) x 18" with 245/40 and 275/35 tires respectively.
  • Fiber-Optic digital audio links to the CD player instead of analogue copper
  • One-touch starting- called "Tip-start". Once the key is turned, the engine cranks on its own until it catches and starts.
  • Instrument cluster now has silver rings around each gauge
  • Oil pressure gauge replaced by oil temperature
  • Different engine vanity cover
  • Removed the automatic lock on the left rear storage compartment which houses the Bose subwoofer

Engine history[edit]

1989–1995 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL-24
1998–2001 Mercedes-Benz SL 500
1998–2001 Mercedes-Benz SL 320

Initially, there were three different engines available,

  • 300 SL with a M103 3.0 L 12-valve SOHC I6 (190 PS (140 kW; 190 hp) at 5700 rpm),
  • 300 SL-24 with a M104 3.0 L 24-valve DOHC I6 (231 PS (170 kW; 228 hp) at 6300 rpm),
  • 500 SL with a M119 5.0 L 32-valve DOHC V8 (326 PS (240 kW; 322 hp) at 5500 rpm),

and joined in July 1992 by the

  • 600 SL with a M120 6.0 L 48-valve DOHC V12 (394 PS (290 kW; 389 hp) @ 5200 rpm).

There was a choice of 5-speed manual or 4–5 speed automatic for the six-cylinder cars; the V8 and V12 could only be ordered with an 4-speed automatic gearbox.

In Autumn 1993 Mercedes-Benz rearranged names and models. Also, the 300 SL and 300 SL-24 were respectively replaced by:

  • SL 280 with a M104 2.8 L 24-valve DOHC I6 (197 PS (145 kW; 194 hp) at 5500 rpm),
  • SL 320 with a M104 3.2 L 24-valve DOHC I6 (231 PS (170 kW; 228 hp) at 5500 rpm).

Only the 280 was available with a manual gearbox. SL 500 and 600 continued with their respective engines.

A second facelift, introduced in late 1998, comprised new external mirrors, 17" wheels and new bumpers. Also new were the engines,

  • SL 280 with a M112 2.8 L 18-valve SOHC V6 (204 PS (150 kW; 201 hp) at 5700 rpm),
  • SL 320 with a M112 3.2 L 18-valve SOHC V6 (224 PS (165 kW; 221 hp) at 5600 rpm)
  • SL 500 with a M113 5.0 L 24-valve SOHC V8 (306 PS (225 kW; 302 hp) at 5600 rpm).

The V12 engine remained unchanged.

The North American Market[edit]

Not all engines were offered in North America. The 1990 Mercedes-Benz SL base model was the 228 hp 300 SL version (European 300 SL-24) equipped with a five-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission, but it was the 322 hp 500 SL (with a 5.0-litre V8 engine) which made the most headlines. For model year 1993, the 600 SL was additionally introduced stateside.

The SL 320 replaced the 300 SL in the United States in 1994, but the SL 280 was not offered. The 6-cylinder SLs were dropped from the US line-up in 1998, leaving just the V8 and V12.



Front suspension Independent damper struts with separate coil springs and gas-pressurised shock absorbers, triangular lower control arms with anti-dive geometry and stabiliser bar.

Rear suspension Independent 5-arm multilink with separate single-tube gas-pressurised shock absorbers and coil springs, geometry for anti-lift, anti-squat and alignment control, stabiliser bar.

Wheels 8.0Jx16H2 aluminium alloy and regular.

Tires 225/55 ZR 16 steel-belted radial

Brakes 2-circuit hydraulic power-assisted 4-wheel discs. Antilock Braking System (ABS).


Body construction Monocoque with front and rear crumple zones and removable hardtop.

Front suspension Independent damper strut with anti-dive geometry and stabiliser bar. Separate shock absorbers and coil springs. Negative-offset steering.

Rear suspension Independent 5-arm multilink with geometry for anti-lift, anti-squat and alignment control and stabiliser bar. Separate shock absorbers and coil springs.

Steering Recirculating ball with speed-sensitive power assist and hydraulic damper. Steering wheel turns (lock-to-lock) 3.0.

Tires Steel-belted radials. Performance 225/55ZR16.

Wheels aluminium alloy 8.0Jx16 H2.

Brakes 2-circuit hydraulic power-assisted 4-wheel disc. Ventilated front, solid rear brake discs.

Antilock Braking System (ABS) ABS senses impending wheel lock-up under heavy braking and pumps the front brakes individually or the rear brakes together (to help maintain stability), as needed, up to 30 times per second to prevent lock-up and maintain steering ability.



300 SL[edit]

Wheelbase 99.0 in

Curb weight
1989: 1800 kg – 3,970 lb
1991: 1819 kg – 4,010 lb
1993: 1830 kg – 4,035 lb
1994: 1855 kg – 4,090 lb

Trunk capacity 7.9 cu ft

Fuel capacity 79.9 l – 21.1 gal (US) 17.5 gal (Imp)

500 SL[edit]

Wheelbase 99.0 in

Curb weight
1989: 1880 kg – 4,145 lb
1993: 1889 kg – 4,165 lb
1999: 1890 kg – 4,167 lb

Trunk capacity 7.9 cu ft

Fuel capacity 79.8 l – 21.1 gal

600 SL[edit]

Wheelbase 99.0 in

Curb weight 2020 kg – 4,455 lb

Trunk capacity 7.9 cu ft

Fuel capacity 79.8l 21.1 gal

Interior Features[edit]


Automatic climate control.

Automatic day/night rearview mirror (1993).

Seating and trim

Leather upholstery.

10-way power seats with 3-position memory.

Audio, navigation and communication

Bose Acoustimass sound system (1994).

Restraint system

SRS with driver air bag.

Front passenger air bag (1991).

Automatic pop-up roll bar.

Exterior Features[edit]


Headlamp washers with wipers.

Removable hardtop with electrically heated rear window.

ADS (Adaptive Damping System), standard on 600 SL, optional on 500 SL.

Removable wind deflector.

8-hole alloy wheels (1994–95).

ASR (Automatic Slip Control).

Special Editions[edit]

AMG offerings[edit]

1995–1998 Mercedes-Benz SL 60 AMG
1999 Mercedes-Benz SL 73 AMG

AMG had already offered an SL version while still independent, the AMG 500 SL 6.0 of 1991. After being taken over by Daimler-Benz, there were several AMG SL-models available through D-B dealers.

The SL 60 AMG was the most numerous of these rare cars. Sold from 1993 to 1998, it used a 6.0-litre V8 (5956 cc) engine producing 381 PS (280 kW; 376 hp) at 5500 rpm.[5] AMG claimed a 0–62 mph (100 km/h) speed of 5.6 seconds. Its top speed was limited to 250 km/h (155 mph), but with the limiter removed, it was capable of approximately 185 mph (298 km/h). AMG later unofficially conceded that 0–60 mph was more like 5.0 seconds and the engine produced between 405–410 bhp.[citation needed]

Extremely rare was the SL 73 AMG, sold through Mercedes-AMG in 1995, and offering the most powerful V12 engine ever put into an SL up to that time with 525 PS (386 kW; 518 hp). After a brief hiatus, the SL 73 was offered again from 1998 to 2001. The same 7.3 L V12 was later used by Pagani in the Zonda. Only 85 cars were made.[6]

Also very rare is the SL 70 AMG which was powered by a 7.0 L (7055 cc) V12 engine developing 496 PS (365 kW; 489 hp) at 5500rpm and a maximum torque of 720 Nm at 3.900 rpm. It was a bored out version of M120 6.0 V12, also with shorter stroke. Produced between 1996 and 1997 in 150 units.

The SL 55 AMG was sold in the R129 body style from 1998 to 2001 in limited numbers (5.4L V8, 354 PS (260 kW; 349 hp) at 5500 rpm). It was the predecessor of the production R230 SL 55 AMG sold later, albeit was normally aspirated in the R129 and not supercharged as in its R230 successor. 65 cars were made.[7]

Only about 300 cars in the SL-class were customised by AMG prior to the 2003 model year.

Mille Miglia Edition[edit]

In 1995 Mercedes released the Mille Miglia edition, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stirling Moss's win of the 1955 Mille Miglia road race. The limited edition was available in either SL 320 or SL 500 guise, came in Brilliant Silver metallic, and had Evo II six-spoke polished alloys, red and black leather interior, carbon-fibre trim and extra equipment. Stirling Moss was given the first SL 500 built.

Silver Arrow Edition[edit]

Silver Arrow Edition

A special edition of 2002 SL 500/SL 600 was made to celebrate the 1930s Silver Arrow race car. It had two-tone interior, leather on steering wheel and seats, and special wheels. For the US market, only 1550 Silver Arrow units were produced; 100 units of the SL 600 and 1450 units of the SL 500.

Other Editions[edit]

Several other editions were released of the 129 body SL. These include:

  • 40th Anniversary Roadster Edition (1997)

Sport model SL 320 included AMG staggered tire setup (1997)

  • Special Edition (1998)
  • Final Edition (2000)
  • SL Edition (2000)

Media attention[edit]

Princess Diana's Mercedes 500 SL

The R129 received heightened media attention in Great Britain in 1991 when Diana, Princess of Wales sold her Jaguar XJS to lease a metallic-red 500 SL and became the first member of the royal family to use a foreign car. This was not without controversy as it sparked a media storm as it questioned whether a member of the British royal family should drive a foreign car.[8] Media pressure eventually forced her to return the car to Mercedes-Benz in 1992, with whom it now resides in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.[9]


  1. ^ Werner Oswald: Deutsche Autos 1945–1990, vol.5. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-613-02131-5, p. 165.
  2. ^ a b Eberhard Kittler: Deutsche Autos seit 1990, vol. 6. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 978-3-613-02052-8, p. 215.
  3. ^ Auto Katalog, 2003 edition, p. 312. Note: Figures for 2001 are for calendar year and include early R230 production. Actual Grand Total for R129 probably around 203.000 units.
  4. ^ Brian Long: Mercedes-Benz: SL R129 Series 1989 to 2001.. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  5. ^ Automobil Revue, catalogue edition 1995, p. 380.
  6. ^ "Mercedes-Benz AMG SL73: 525hp and only 85 constructed.". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  7. ^ "Allgemeine Daten vom SL 55 AMG". Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Diana Vrooms, Unbritishly, In a Mercedes". The New York Times. 5 February 1992. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  9. ^ stephenhanafin Stephen Hanafin (25 March 2007). "Princess Diana's Mercedes 500SL on Flickr – Photo Sharing!". Retrieved 1 October 2010. 

External links[edit]