Mercedes-Benz SL of the R 129 (1989 – 2001)
- Design icon and innovation champion in one
- The Mercedes-Benz SL models are among the most inflation-proof vehicles
- A pleasure with the top up or down
Quite a few cars from Mercedes-Benz are modern classics right from the beginning. Every model of the SL series is one: the series was established in 1954 by the 190 SL, which the company explicitly described as a touring sports car. At the same time the 300 SL Gullwing was presented, which can be put in the super sports car category. The fourth SL generation was the R 129 series built from 1989 to 2001, which set standards with its design and its many innovations.
The design was the work of Bruno Sacco. It presents itself with the clear lines and strong sense of composure that characterises the appearance of Mercedes-Benz vehicles from the outgoing 1980s well into the 1990s. In the case of the SL series this is complemented by the attributes of a touring sports car – long bonnet, two seats, compact rear end, all packed into a slightly wedge-shaped body: it all goes to make the SL an icon on wheels that signals dynamism and sportiness, but also comfort and elegance as well. The perfection of its design was recognised early on: in 1990 the R 129 series was the recipient of the Car Design Award.
A driver of an SL makes a statement: it’s like travelling in assured style in an elegant, well-tailored suit. That the car is extremely comfortable and makes even long journeys pleasant is simply taken for granted – and enjoyed every kilometre of the way.
The high technological standard includes the recognised high safety level which the Mercedes-Benz engineers give the vehicles for the road. In the R 129 series this standard is manifested, for example, in the automatic roll-over bar which pops up in just 0.3 seconds when the car threatens to overturn. Or in the integral seat featuring some 20 patented detailed solutions, which absorbs energy in a side impact and incorporates among other things the three-point seat belt with belt tensioner and the belt height adjustment coupled with the head restraint adjustment. The safety features, of course, included a newly designed body which was subjected to the severest crash tests and affords the occupants the highest level of safety.
From the outset the R 129-series SL was available with two six-cylinder engines and an eight-cylinder unit. As a matter of principle, they were fitted with catalytic converter as standard. Over the years the drive units repeatedly were adapted to the latest state of the art. In 1992 the 600 SL with twelve-cylinder engine caused a sensation – the SL entered an entirely new dimension of power. The most popular model in the twelve years in which the SL was built was the 500 SL, an eight-cylinder model.
The possibility of driving an SL with the top down is an important buying criterion for many people. In the R 129 series, for the first time Mercedes-Benz gave the touring sports car an automatic folding soft top that opens and closes within 30 seconds at the push of a button. The innovations included the draught-stop, which enables draught-free open-top motoring and which since then has established itself as the standard throughout the industry. The SL is made fit for year-round operation with the hardtop, which is made of aluminium and is standard equipment in the R 129 series.
A Mercedes-Benz SL in the R 129 series is the ideal modern classic – individual, but fully suitable for everyday use, and at the same time stable in value. The brand’s service organisation helps keep it that way: almost every part is available as a spare, and perfect maintenance services are ensured. And so this modern classic may one day – perhaps faster than one thinks – become a genuine classic.