Used 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class Convertible Review
Now in its thirteenth year, the current-generation SL strikes us as too 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 for 1990, 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 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 about $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 quicker 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.
Both SLs can be had in various "designo" editions that feature special color treatments inside and out. 2002 also brings the limited Silver Arrow edition to the table, featuring additional goodies like an aluminum-trimmed grille, wind deflector, instrument cluster and shift trim, napa leather seating, special wheels, cross-drilled brake rotors and xenon headlights. Only 1,500 Silver Arrows will be produced: 1,400 SL500s and 100 SL600s.
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.
edmunds expert review process
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.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.