What's New for 2000
Designo editions debut in Slate Blue and Black Diamond with special color-coordinated interior trim. Non-designo versions can be painted in Desert Silver. TeleAid is standard, as is a StarTAC digital phone with voice-recognition technology on the SL600. Free maintenance now covers you during the warranty period.
For years, the classic roadster to own was the Mercedes 450SL. From 1973 to 1989, Mercedes peddled so many of these convertibles to the rich and famous that they became as ubiquitous as cocaine vials at high-society social events. Besides, super-suave Lee Majors drove one as Steve Austin in "The Six Million Dollar Man," and what could be more chic? Then, to the great chagrin of SL lovers worldwide, Mercedes revamped its classic, upping the technological ante by light years over the old car but wrapping the new machine in sheetmetal as dowdy as Martha Stewart.
When the new car arrived, it could be bought in 320-, 500- and 600-Series trim. Cost-conscious poseurs bought the SL320 in droves, but removed the telltale decklid badges so that social peers wouldn't know if they had a six or an eight under the hood, and thus, how much they paid. Don't laugh. That's not a joke. This was widespread practice in La-La Land. Well, Mercedes figured out a few years ago that the price of the SL was getting ridiculous, and with the zippy, and relatively cheap, SLK on the horizon, decided to kill the popular SL320 and drop the price of the V8-powered SL500.
Today, just the underwhelming SL500 and the massively overrated SL600 are available for purchase. The SL500's all-aluminum 5.0-liter V8 makes 302 horsepower and rushes the pudgy roadster to 60 mph in just over 6 seconds. For little more than $82,000, you get everything you need to make friends and neighbors think you're an insolent snob, unless heated seats, xenon gas headlights, a CD changer, panorama see-through roof and multi-contour seats are part of the equation.
For a paltry $47,350 more, you can waste your money on the whompin' V12 SL600. You get 62 more horsepower and plenty of additional torque, but the acceleration run isn't appreciably better than what the SL500 delivers. Other standard goodies include a StarTAC cell phone with voice recognition, added burled walnut interior trim, special two-tone leather, heated seats, xenon headlights, the trunk-mounted CD changer and an adaptive damping suspension.
In addition to appealing designo editions, you can get a $4,995 sport package that includes 18-inch wheels and tires, projector beam fog lights, a body kit and special emblems. The available panorama roof will set you back $3,850. Did we mention the gas guzzler taxes? The SL500 exacts a $1,000 penalty, while the 600 suffers from a $2,600 tariff. At least Mercedes gives buyers the new TeleAid system at no additional charge. TeleAid allows you to contact emergency personnel if you suffer a medical emergency or are being assaulted by carjackers who think the SL is desirable. You can also call TeleAid operators to ask questions about your car, like "Why did I have to pay so damn much for this thing?" or "Why does my $125,000 convertible have a plastic rear window?"
Obviously, our advice is to skip the SL600. On second thought, skip them both and trot over to the Jaguar dealer where you can get the delicious XK8 for thousands less.