The Mercedes Benz design has evolved over the years. Every SL generation brings better performance and improved interior and exterior design. For the R129 series, the new lineup made a big step forward from its predecessor, the R107 SL. R129 vehicles handled better, and much of it had to do with the multi-link axle that was used instead of the swing axle of the previous batch of SLs. Variable valve timing provided improved engine performance. And with a five-speed automatic transmission for the newer generation SLs, increased fuel economy was achieved. The R129 introduced the Mercedes Benz SL320 model. Best known for being a comfortable grand touring car, this vehicle handled really well.
1989: The start of the R129 series
The R129 was designed in 1984 and produced from 1989 to 2002. It was patterned after the shortened floor plan of the W124 and designed with various innovations such as the automatically extending roll-over bar. The standard features of the then new series were more modern and high-end. These included electrically powered windows, mirrors, seats, and convertible top. The R129 was designed as a two-door roadster equipped with an automated textile tonneau cover. Vehicles under this series had an extra hardtop roof, which was a standard, aside from the canvas roof, which could be folded down.
In 1993, R129 SLs were re-designated for 1994. The 500SL, for instance, became the SL500. The 1994 model year also saw a new line of special SL models, such as the Mille Miglia edition car and SL edition. These special models were added from time to time over the years.
1994: The 300SL was replaced by the Mercedes Benz SL320
In 1993, the 300SL was replaced by the SL280 and SL320, powered by M104 3.2L 24-valve DOHC L6 that could generate 220 hp at 5,500 rpm. While the SL320 designation was used to replace the 300SL in the US, the SL280 was not available in this market. The naming convention for Mercedes Benz vehicles was changed in 1994. Instead of following the 40-year tradition, the vehicles were named with numbers placed after the class letters.
After the SL320 was introduced for the 1994 model year, some changes were made on the engine and design. It came equipped with a slightly larger straight six compared to the one used on the 300SL. In the latter part of 1998, another facelift was done on SL models. This included new bumpers and external mirrors, as well as 17" wheels. They also got engine modifications. The Mercedes Benz SL320 got an M112 3.2 L 18-valve SOHC V6 that could produce 221 hp at 5,600 rpm. In 1995, the automaker launched the Mille Miglia edition for the 40th anniversary of the victory of Stirling Moss in the 1955 Mille Miglia race. The limited edition was offered in SL320 or SL500. It came in brilliant silver metallic color and was known for its red and black leather interior, carbon-fiber trim, and Evo II six-spoke polished alloys.
The R129 series lasted through 2002, until this was replaced by the R230.