I have owned this car for almost a year now, and I was expecting it to cost 3-5k a year to maintain. I had an emergency fund in place fully funded and so far it's been in the shop for some ball joints in the suspension, an intercooler pump (which is upgraded so it shouldn't break for a while) and couple of new rims because the 2 left got bent. I've replaced the alternator, crank shaft position sensor, engine and cabin air filters, a few pulleys and a valve cover gasket. It's going to need trunk struts, accumulator spheres, engine/transmission mounts and a few cosmetic touch ups (but overall my car is in really good shape). This car has costed me $2,000 in the first year to get caught up on maintenance which is cheap for a car like this at 14 years old. The engine was shutting off on it when it got warmed up not too long ago. I was able to diagnose the problem in less then 15 minutes at a cost of less then $28. It was the CPS and it was a breeze to install once I got it (took 10 minutes) and every local auto part shop had it in stock. I replaced the alternator myself on it as well and once you know the procedure it's easy to replace. You need to remove the fan shroud and it will make it easier but it was a breeze as well. This is a very easy car to work on. The hood opens 90 degrees and theres a lot of room to work almost like an old muscle car. The struts and brakes cost a lot retail but you can find them so cheap to nothing if you shop around so the parts are usually very cheap and sometimes free in my experience if you send the old ones in. The engine parts are almost all metal and you don't have to worry about anything breaking unless you over tighten stuff. The car gets terrible overall fuel economy but it's very fast and the acceleration is brutal in a way. There are a few quality problems but they're very small and the average person wouldn't be able to find them. The quality of materials and build quality is overall extremely high for this vehicle especially when you consider it's from the DaimlerChrysler era. It's got a tank like Mercedes-Benz build quality to it. It feels very solid and heavy and the doors are very heavy. The transmissions in these vehicles shift very slow and are a bit cumbersome but are basically the same as you'd find in a Sprinter van or almost any other Mercedes in this time period and is found in almost every V12 Mercedes until 2014 or so. You can also find it in many Chrysler vehicles like V8 Grand Cherokees, 300's, Chargers, Challengers, Durangos, you name it. It's even in some Jaguars and 911's. It's a very heavy duty unit and can run for 100's of thousands of miles. When you need to replace it just make sure it has the correct torque converter and you're golden. The unit should be pretty cheap. This is a very intuitive car. I am not a technician or expert and I can easily diagnose anything in this car in 15 minutes or less. Make sure the hydraulic fluid has been getting changed though before you buy one because the car rides on a fully active hydraulic suspension and one pump runs the suspension and steering. If the fluid is not changed before 50k miles at least, the pump will fail, the lines will get clogged and it can ruin your struts. It can total out your car if someone is careless about this and should be done every 30k along with the transmission fluid or even 20k if you can. This is the only thing you have to worry about. The engine mounts go out early because they're filled with fluid and are soft to make the car ride and settle better so that's normal. Supercharger oil should be done every 20-30k as well and make sure you lubricate the seals and the top. Overall if you listen to what Mercedes tells you to do and do more than what is expected and are good to your car you will be rewarded with one of the most reliable vehicles on the market. 1,000,000 miles on one of these is not uncommon and can go possibly 2,000,000 miles between rebuilds. It's a very solid and simple single overhead cam engine. It's not hard to maintain. Make sure you have an emergency fund in place though. You should have one anyways and it should have at least $12,000 in it.
Seeing the price of these cars on the used market is a tempting purchase. When everything is working it is overall a fantastic car, fast, good looking, comfortable, etc.
HOWEVER: REGARDLESS of what anyone tells you, I doubt there is a more complicated and unreliable car on the market. In under one year, I have spent over $8,000 on unplanned repairs. This is not because the car wasn't maintained, they are just chronically unreliable. Suspension issues, getting stuck in park, trunk leaks, rattles, motor/transmission mounts, supercharger intercooler pump, alarm siren, trunk struts, this is a partial list of the problems that I've had.
Most of the reviews on here are overwhelmingly positive, but you need to see the dates - many 10+ years ago when the car was newer. Most recent reviews will attest to my warning: DO NOT LET THE LOOK/DRIVE OF THE CAR TEMPT YOU.
The car moved from a "love/hate" relationship to a "mostly hate" relationship after being in the shop at least once a month.
Oh, and as a daily driver over 14k miles it has averaged 13.5mpg in the suburbs, but you should know that going in - it costs to go fast.
In summary, there is no such thing as a cheap MB SL, you're paying in depreciation or you're paying in maintenance, pick your poison.
Car has left me stranded and in need of towing 5 times now in 3 years. It has so many electrical problems that no one can figure out, the last time I took it to the dealer for the same thing and spent $3,000 with no real fix. Looks good, is very fast but too heavy to be a real sports car, it drinks gas, and is very unreliable and expensive to own. Another thumbs down for Mercedes' recent product offerings, do you research and you'll find many reports of their shoddy quality in their modern cars.
Power, Looks, Comfort, Amenities
Nav system needs improvement, electrical and electronic systems are absolutely terrible and need to be redesigned from scratch. Hire Lexus to figure out your reliability problems Mercedes.
I have owned over twenty Mercedes and this has been the most exciting to drive and yet the worst for reliability. The quality of the cabin components are cheap and tacky and a disgrace to the badge and the electronics are a complete nightmare. I cannot trust any of the onboard warning systems and my repair bills to try and get them sorted is like paying off the national debt. The depreciation on this vehicle has been alarming and I am so disappointed that this will probably be the last Mercedes Benz I will purchase.
Wonderful concept and design and the adrenalin burst from the performance is intoxicating.
Mercedes should go to Japan and learn about electronics and internal finish.