Mercedes-Benz SL320 (R129)

Proof that not all desirable SLs have disappeared over the hill of affordability... yet

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his month we’ve shown you how the R230 SL makes good sense – well, in six-cylinder form at least – but for some, only an R129 will do. Prices have risen quickly as the R107 has disappeared out of view, but you can still get into a great SL for not a huge amount of money. This six-cylinder R129 appeals to head as well as heart; while more frugal than the V8, it’s still more than quick enough for the SL’s forte – brisk but refined long-distance cruising.

Given this car’s now 20 years old it looks beautiful. There are a few blemishes, as befits two decades of gentle use: a minor nick above the passenger’s side rear light, and minor marks in the passenger’s-side hardtop lock. There’s also some minor lacquer peel above the rear passenger wheel, plus some stonechips on the nose. The refurbished alloys wear Michelin tyres with plenty of tread.

The interior is exquisite, with no cracks in the wood or 
any marks to the control interfaces; the only signs anyone’s behind has graced the seats is some light creasing on the leather.

This Jersey car has been serviced largely every year, with the last stamp from April 2018. Looking at the receipts, the last big expense came in 2016; the £771 bill included a fresh windscreen and a new lower steering knuckle joint. It has also had a right lower steering arm replaced, plus a new ignition switch. It’s clear this car has been well looked after.

On the road the SL excels at being, well, an SL. That means the aforesaid refined long-distance cruising, with enough oomph for easy overtaking. The SL isn’t exactly a sports car, and this engine’s so good, you might wonder whether an extra two cylinders is worth the hassle. The lighter six-cylinder makes the 320’s handling sweeter too. The steering is fingertip-light but it firms up when needed. We didn’t feel any odd rattles or vibrations, and the brakes were strong but predictable.

R129 SLs have already started to follow the trajectory shown by their Pagoda and R107 predecessors and this example hits the sweet spot between the early cars and cost-cutting later models. This example is in great condition, with excellent provenance, in the best spec. What are you waiting for?

Mercedes-Benz SL320

Year     1998
Mileage     44,600
On sale at     Stone Cold Classics
www.stonecoldclassics.com

Specifications
Engine     3199cc, 6-cyl, SOHC
Transmission     RWD, 5-speed auto
Power     221bhp@5600rpm
Torque     232lb-ft@3000rpm
Weight     1830kg

Performance
0-60mph     8.4sec
Top speed     148mph
Economy     25mpg

Choose your SL (R129 facelift)

The R129 range is refreshed for the 1996 model year with two rounded slots in the wing vents, rather than the previous three, along with body-coloured bumpers. The V8 and V12 models get transmission upgrades from a hydraulic four-speed automatic gearbox to five-speed electric. 

Xenon lamps become standard equipment on the SL600, optional on the SL500.

A year later, previously optional panoramic metal roof, rain-sensing windscreen and garage door opener transmitter become standard fit, and the climate control panel is upgraded. Production ceases in 2001.

Lewis PlumbMercedes, Benz, SL320