Precision engineering and distinct styling made Mercedes Benz stand out from the rest. A Mercedes Benz vehicle is anything but mainstream. Every curve, contour, and line makes the whole vehicle something to marvel at. And it’s not just now that the German luxury automaker has created a driving spectacle. As early as the 1950s, it has already come up with a stunner, a sure winner in its long generation of coupes and roadsters. The Mercedes Benz SL is a grand tourer that first came out in 1954. The SL is short for the German word Sport Leicht, which means sport lightweight. The SL Class launched various models that spanned through several generations. One of the models that made a mark is the Mercedes Benz 500SL.
1980s: The birth of the 500SL
The 500SL was introduced under the R107 of the SL Class. When SLC was dropped in 1981, the R107 series lived on through the 280, 380, and 500SL models. The 500SL was powered by a 5L V8 engine. During this time, V8s were modified to be more efficient. Some horsepower was cut off, but this meant the engine would use less fuel. The re-tuning involved using numerically shorter axle ratios. While other SL models in the R107 series were eventually replaced in 1985, the 500SL was continued. Updated 1986-1989 models, including the 500SL, came equipped with more modern pot brakes and larger discs. Their suspension was based on the W124 sedan.
Although the 560SL had a bigger capacity at 5.6 liter, the 500SL was still regarded as the fastest among 107 production vehicles. It didn’t have much restraint when it comes to emissions, so the Mercedes Benz 500SL only took about 7.4 seconds to reach 0 to 60 mph at its top speed of 140mph. Its torque was rated at 296 lb.-ft. at 3,200 rpm.
1990s: The 500SL lived through the R129 series
Out of the different SL models released in different markets, the 500SL was among the SL vehicles to make a huge buzz. Its specifications included electric windows, mirrors, seats, and roof. Its 5L V8 engine could generate up to 322 hp.
When Diana, Princess of Wales, leased a metallic-red 500SL in favor of her Jaguar XJS, this R129 vehicle attracted public attention. The member of the royal family was the first to use a foreign car, and this became quite a controversy. Because of media pressure, the 500SL had to be returned to Mercedes Benz in 1992.
For the 1994 model year, R129 SLs were re-badged. The Mercedes Benz 500SL became known as the SL500. Mercedes Benz veered away from its naming convention and instead started placing class letters before numbers, breaking its tradition of 40 years.
2000s: More recent SL vehicles
The SL-Class lived through the fifth generation R230 series (2003 to 2008) and the current generation R231 series (2012-present). The more recent SLs have been using mostly aluminum and have been designed to be wider and longer compared to their predecessor. With an aluminum body shell, the newer SLs are lighter. The SL500, for instance, weighs 125 kilograms less. The more recent SLs also feature more assistance systems on-board. They are also equipped with new features such as adaptive windscreen wipe/wash system and FrontBass system.