1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Review

Used SL-Class for sale
List Price Estimate:$1,772 - $3,915
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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

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. Then, Mercedes revamped its classic, upping the technological ante by light years over the old car. The redone SL has been available in three styles since then; 320, 500 and 600 Series droptops.

The SL600 is a whompin' V12 two-door roadster. The SL isn't merely a S600 coupe with no roof. It is lighter, more nimble, and based on the SL-Class of roadsters. The bloodline it shares with the gargantuan S-Class is the 6.0-liter V12 that makes 389 horsepower and moves the car with authority. Stuffed into the SL, the V12 is a better performer and costs less than its big brother coupe, but at a stupendous $120,000, that's kind of a moot point.

The...ahem, lowly SL320 and SL500 are the more reasonably priced and more popular Mercedes roadsters. Prices for the SL320 and SL500 fell dramatically in 1995. The SL320, which was base priced at $95,000 in 1994, is starting at about $80,000 this year. Likewise, the SL500 fell nearly ten grand to $90,000. So, do you get less car for your smaller payment? No. The SL320 and SL500 have gained equipment since then.

This year, the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is standard on the SL600, keeping errant drivers in control in all types of adverse conditions. Also standard on SL600, and optional on SL500, are gas discharge headlamps. Side-impact airbags have been installed in the doors of all SL roadsters. A new five-speed electronic transmission debuts this year on SL500 and SL600 models. Also new for 1996, an infrared remote security system, slight styling revisions, and 12-hole alloy wheels.

We don't think you should go for the SL600. The SL500 is just as good, and better in some respects, than its more muscular brother. And with your savings you could get a Jeep Grand Cherokee for the kids to take to Keg-A-Beer University in the fall. If straight-line acceleration and social status are even less important to you, the SL320 serves nicely, and leaves almost 40 thousand in your pocket over the V12 version, nearly enough to spring for an E320 sedan to go with it.

1996 Highlights

Tweaked styling and new alloys freshen the exterior of the SL roadster. Underneath, ESP keeps drivers on track in lousy driving conditions. It comes standard on the SL600, and can be ordered for the SL320 and SL500. Side airbags are standard across the board. A five-speed automatic is included with SL500 and SL600. Cool gas-discharge headlamps are not available on the SL320.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.88 out of 5 stars
My SL320
Joan Ortlepp,07/23/2003
SL320 2dr Convertible
This is my 5th Mercedes. Have had an older 230SL, 2 diesels and my most recent large sedan 300SE. Have sold my 300SE and Miata convertible and combined the features of both in SL320. This car is fun to drive, very comfortable and quick (even though it is only a large 6 cylinder). I got the SL320 because it had the same engine as my 300SE.
5 out of 5 stars
Suprised by Reliability
SL500 2dr Convertible
I have owned 3 other MB's, 2 New and 1 used. This 500 SL was puchased from a reliable dealer. (non-factory) I have always had good success with MB but this older, two owner SL has surprised me with its reliability. All systems have performed flawlessly. Many reviews have spoken disparagingly about this series of SL so I had some concerns about its longevity. So far it has been perfect after 18 months of ownership. The performance is exhiliarating but my best surprise is my fuel mileage. In the city I get a consistent 22MPG while on the road it is 26MPG or better. This model year (1996) or perhaps the care given by its previous owners had provided me a car that's a joy to drive.
5 out of 5 stars
over achiever, what's missing ? Love it
SL500 2dr Convertible
Well i guess ive owned every brand . I bought it for my wife but i cannot get out of it . I was stunned how a 1996 could have things new cars don't. How solid how it eats up the miles . And the attemtion it gets . Think back what was on the road in 1996 ! A chevy or ford or you pick . Nothing comes close in looks. I tead spec, on it no.huge hp numbers . But it pulls and pulls always has power available , a quiet smooth car or push it ot becomes an angry car like an animal kept caged and let free . It never gives you the feeling your over your head driving it . Why did i wait so long ,driving pony domestic cars ?? Now since review added 6000 miles . Replaced the oridginal top window was shot . Took it on day trips we both enjoyed it . It continues to get attention and comments . I have done any work on it myself . It truly is hard to find anyone to work on even simple things ? They German cars have such a reputation for being hard to work on . I think it's because there way ahead of other cars. Think about it 23 years ago rolling into a local garage in need of some kind of work . They open the hood and see a car with fuel injection varible cam timing , covers over everything. Back than. Fuel injection was just starting to come in . That continued the to complicated legend
4.75 out of 5 stars
Great Sports Convertible
SL500 2dr Convertible
This is my 8th Mercedes, including 3 turbo-diesels, and 4 gas-sedans. The build quality is excellent. The ride is somewhat firm but it sticks to the ground and handles turns easily. It quietly reaches 100+mph and there's no wind-noise. The top and rollbar operates with 1 button. The auto-pullup windows are kind of awkward. The break- pedal travels toofar before stopping making easy stops difficult until you get used to the car. It can use a backseat and a larger trunk. The gas mileage is around 16 in city and 22 on freeway, as high as 26 on straight freeway. Car is a bit too heavy at 4170 pounds which affects it's acceleration. 6.3Sec 0-60 is a bit slow for a 315HP $90,000car. Parts overpriced


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Overview

The Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is offered in the following submodels: SL-Class Convertible. Available styles include SL320 2dr Convertible, SL600 2dr Convertible, and SL500 2dr Convertible. Pre-owned Mercedes-Benz SL-Class models are available with a 3.2 L-liter gas engine or a 6.0 L-liter gas engine or a 5.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 389 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed automatic.

What's a good price on a Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class?

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Classes are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.

Can't find a used 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Classs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz SL-Class for sale - 11 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $18,337.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz for sale - 7 great deals out of 18 listings starting at $9,840.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz SL-Class for sale - 12 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $7,362.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz for sale - 4 great deals out of 7 listings starting at $16,464.

Should I lease or buy a 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Mercedes-Benz lease specials
Check out Mercedes-Benz SL-Class lease specials