Mercedes-Benz SL R129
(280 300 320 500 600)
|Production||1989–2001 213,089 built|
The Mercedes-Benz R129 automobiles were produced from 1989 through 2002. They were sold under the SL-Class model names. The R129 replaced the R107 SL-Class in 1989 and was in its turn replaced by the R230 in 2003 (US).
Designed in 1984, the R129 was based on the shortened floorpan of the Mercedes-Benz W124[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 convertible top.
1994 cars were the first to have the new designation. For example, 500 SL is now SL 500. Also starting in 1994, Mercedes-Benz offered special SL models from time to time, such as the Mille Miglia edition cars of 1994 or the SL edition of 2000.
1995 had minor updates for the car
- Odometer switched from mechanical to electronic
- Option for portable cell phone with voice activated dialing
- Clear front turn signal indicators for US SPEC models
- Bose stereo now standard, rear speakers and subwoofer
1996+ models featured minor facelifts for the car:
- Front fender vents updated; only 2 rounded slots, rather than 3 squared slots
- Bumpers are now body color
- V8 and V12 upgraded to 5 speed electronic transmission; previous transmission was hydraulic 4-speed
- Xenon HID headlamps standard on SL600, optional on SL500
- Addition of side airbags
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 for models 1999+ which featured:
- V8 engine switch from M119 to M113
- Soft Nappa leather seats replace the perforated leather seats
- Body color 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 analog 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
Initially, there were three different engines available,
- 300 SL with a M103 3.0 L 12-valve SOHC L6 (190 PS (140 kW; 190 hp) at 5700 rpm),
- 300 SL-24 with a M104 3.0 L 24-valve DOHC L6 (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 (389 hp/290 kW) @ 5200 rpm).
There was a choice of 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic for the six-cylinder cars; the V8 and V12 could only be ordered with an automatic gearbox.
In Autumn 1993 Mercedes-Benz rearranged names and models. Also, the 300 SL was replaced by:
- SL 280 with a M104 2.8 L 24-valve DOHC L6 (197 hp(145 kW) at 5500 rpm)
- SL 320 with a M104 3.2 L 24-valve DOHC L6 (220 hp (161 kW) 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 (306 PS (225 kW; 302 hp) at 5600 rpm) — full throttle enrichment removed.
The V12 engine remained unchanged.
The North American Market
Not all engines were offered in North America. The 1990 Mercedes-Benz SL base model was the 228 hp 300SL version equipped with a 5 speed automatic transmission, but it was the 322 hp 500SL (with a 5.0 L V8 engine) which made the most headlines. For model year 1993, the 600 SL was additionally introduced stateside.
The SL320 replaced the 300SL in the United States in 1994, but the SL280 was not offered. The 6-cylinder SLs were dropped from the US lineup in 1998, leaving just the V8 and V12.
Front suspension Independent damper struts with separate coil springs and gas-pressurized shock absorbers, triangular lower control arms with antidive geometry and stabilizer bar.
Rear suspension Independent 5-arm multilink with separate single-tube gas-pressurized shock absorbers and coil springs, geometry for antilift, antisquat and alignment control, stabilizer bar.
Wheels 8.0Jx16H2 aluminum 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 convertible with front and rear crumple zones and removable hardtop.
Front suspension Independent damper strut with antidive geometry and stabilizer bar. Separate shock absorbers and coil springs. Negative-offset steering.
Rear suspension Independent 5-arm multilink with geometry for antilift, antisquat and alignment control and stabilizer 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 Aluminum-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 lockup 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 lockup and maintain steering ability.
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
Wheelbase 99.0 in
Curb weight 1989: 1880 kg - 4,145 lb 1993: 1889 kg - 4,165 lb 1999: 2188 kg - 4,670 lb
Trunk capacity 7.9 cu ft
Fuel capacity 79.8 l - 21.1 gal
Wheelbase 99.0 in
Curb weight 2020 kg - 4,455 lb
Trunk capacity 7.9 cu ft
Fuel capacity 79.8l 21.1 gal
The SL 60 AMG was the most numerous of these rare cars. Sold from 1993 to 1998, it used a 6.0 litre V8 engine producing 381 PS (280 kW; 376 hp) at 5500 rpm. 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.
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 hp (391 kW; 532 PS). After a brief hiatus, the SL73 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.
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 bodystyle 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 SL55 AMG sold later, albeit was normally aspirated in the R129 and not supercharged as in its R230 successor. 65 cars were made.
Only about 300 cars in the SL-class were customized by AMG prior to the 2003 model year.
Mille Miglia Edition (1995, 1999, 2000, 2001)
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 SL320 or SL500 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 SL500 built.
Silver Arrow Edition (2002)
Special edition of 2002 SL 500/SL 600 made to celebrate the race car with the same name (from 1930). Two-tone interior leather on steering wheel and seats, special wheels, etc.
For the US market, only 1550 Silver Arrow units were produced; 100 units of the SL600 and 1450 units of the SL500.
The 2002 Silver Arrow Edition was a prominent feature in the 2001 music video Rollout (My Business) performed by Ludacris.
Several other editions were released of the 129 body SL. These include:
- 40th Anniversary Roadster Edition (1997)
- Special Edition (1998)
- Final Edition (2000)
- SL Edition (2000)
Diana, Princess of Wales ownership
The R129 came to public attention in 1991 when Diana, Princess of Wales sold her Jaguar XJS to lease a J-reg metallic-red 500SL 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 a British royalty should drive foreign cars.Media pressure eventually forced her to return the car to Mercedes-Benz in 1992, with whom it now resides in the Mercedes-Benz