The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is one of the highly respected Mercedes-Benz lineages of the past 5 decades, and one of the most popular in this class is the SL500 grand tourer. A perennial two-seater, the Mercedes-Benz SL500 epitomized performance and class in the grand touring coupe and roadster segments, making it one of the best luxury vehicles produced under the Mercedes-Benz marque.
1980: The 500SL
The Mercedes-Benz SL500 can trace back its roots to the 1980 500SL, a 5.0-liter V8-engine roadster that used the Mercedes-Benz R107 platform. The 500SL was offered in either soft top and hardtop and featured pot brakes, larger brake discs and a suspension system based on the tried-and-tested Mercedes-Benz W124 platform. However, 500SL tourers in the United States were
grey market imports – European versions which were modified in order to comply with US emission and crash standards.
1990: The first true SL500
The 500SL continued production until 1989, where it was replaced by the Mercedes-Benz SL500. The first “true” SL500 was built on the R129 platform, fitted with a powerful 322-horsepower V8 engine and what was then considered luxury features such as electric windows, mirrors, seats and roof. The SL500 saw further changes in 1994 and 1995 with a slightly tweaked taillight and turn signal indicator design and a more efficient 302-horsepower V8 engine, respectively. In 1996, the four-speed automatic transmission was also replaced by a five-speed unit. In its first outing, the SL500 was praised for its spirited performance, superior handling and luxurious designs and features, although critics also noted its steep price compared to other Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the market.
2002: Rise and fall
The SL500 was reintroduced in 2002 as the initial offering under the second generation of the SL-Class. The W124 platform was replaced with the newer, sleeker R129 platform for the 2002 SL500 and powered by a 308-horspower V8 engine. It also featured the
Vario retractable hardtop, which was originally available only on Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class roadsters. In 2004, a seven-speed automatic version was offered, and in 2006 the SL500 had major upgrades with a more powerful 383-horsepower M273 V8, a new aerodynamic bumper design, light allow wheels and revised interior colors and trim elements. By 2007, the SL500 was put out of production in favor of the Mercedes-Benz 5.5-liter V8 SL550.
The SL500 was revived in December 2011 under the all-new R231 SL-Class platform. This latest variant is powered with a 429-horsepower BlueDIRECT V8 engine with 7G-tronic plus automatic transmission. It is also the first SL500 edition to be made almost entirely from aluminum, making it 110 kilograms lighter than its predecessors. Other features include a FrontBass system, MAGIC VISION CONTROL windshield wipe/wash system and the optional Active Body Control active suspension system.