Used 2001 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Review
Now in its twelfth year, the current-generation SL strikes us as dated and pricey when cars such as the gorgeous Jaguar XK8 convertible and entertaining Porsche 911 Cabriolet are less expensive.
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 caviar 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 sheet metal 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, an eight or a 12 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 costly 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 $83,000, you get everything you need to make friends and neighbors think you're rich, unless heated seats, xenon gas headlights, a CD changer, panorama see-through roof and multi-contour seats are part of the equation.
For almost $50K more, you can enjoy the whompin' V12 SL600. You get 87 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 and an adaptive damping suspension.
This year, both models benefit from minor body revisions; and, as introduced during the 2000 model year, both can be had in various "designo" editions, but we can't see popping the extra cash when we feel these cars cost too much even in standard form. 2001 also brings the limited Silver Arrow and Formula 1 editions to the table; both offer additional goodies like napa leather seating, cross-drilled front and rear disc brake rotors and xenon headlights. All SLs feature a host of safety features, like stability control, brake assist, and TeleAid 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 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 or XKR for thousands less.
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This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
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