Mercedes-Benz SL500 Problems


The Mercedes SL500 is a top-of-the-line hardtop grand tourer by Mercedes. The SL was in continuous production from 1954 until 2020. The SL was pitched as a coastal cruiser convertible with lots of luxury and comfort features.

But the SL was not without its share bit of problems. The most common issues with SL models include suspension issues, electrical systems failures, service brakes, fuel system problems, and multiple different airbag and powertrain issues.

Some models like the 2003-2004 or the 2008-2012 production year models were the ones most plagued by issues. Models from 1999-2001 have had the fewest reported problems, which is understandable as these years were the golden years of Mercedes overengineering.

Value of a Mercedes SL500

There is no such thing as a cheap Mercedes SL500, no matter the production year. It has always been extremely expensive new, but the SL500 does become more affordable as the years go by. They always lose a ton of value after a few years. Such depreciation makes these cars attainable for people who were not able to afford a new SL500.

But the issue is the fact that the maintenance and servicing costs associated with these models don’t depreciate. In fact, some older models are even more expensive to maintain now. Mercedes discontinued the SL because the model was suffering from an intense popularity decline, and the sales were in constant decline as well.

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As people lost interest in the SL, the cars began to depreciate even more heavily. SUVs were starting to grow in popularity, and Mercedes decided it was time to discontinue the SL. The competition did not help either, as the Porsche Boxter/Cayman models were always much more reliable than an SL500.

1972-1989 Mercedes Benz SL500 (R107)

The R107 generation of the SL was probably the lowest point in the lifespan of the SL as these models were downright disappointing from almost every aspect. Most SL enthusiasts are not fond of the design of this model either, especially the US versions, which were equipped with ugly plastic front and rear bumpers.

The performance of the R107 was substandard and rather laughable, as even the top-of-the-line SL560 was severely underpowered. But the biggest issue with these cars is the sheer number of problems these cars were, and still are experiencing. Because of this, the value of the R107 plummeted, and one can easily be bought for peanuts now.

Common issues with the R107 range from overheating issues all the way up to timing issues, rust, or electronic failures. The low value doesn’t help the R107 at all, as most people don’t consider these as valuable. Because of this, many of them are being neglected.

2001-2007 Mercedes SL500 (R230)

The R230 Mercedes SL was a fairly popular car when it came out, but after a while, these models also began to show a lot of problems. The early versions were equipped with 5-speed automatic transmission and later ones offered a 7-speed that was rather unreliable. However, Mercedes managed to somewhat resolve the issues in the later models.

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Common issues that plagued these models were lots of leaks, electronics issues, suspension issues, engine mounts failures, intercooler pumps, and more. The later models were a bit more reliable, but the R230 generation will probably always be remembered as the one that caused the most headaches.

The problem with these cars is that they are incredibly complex, and many of the electrical issues were really hard to diagnose. The costs of repairing SL500s have always been exceptionally high, as they demand rather advanced diagnostic equipment and an advanced experienced mechanic.

Mercedes SL FAQ

Why do Mercedes SL models depreciate so quickly?

In general, Mercedes SL models will depreciate as much as 61% in the first 5 years. If you take the entry price into consideration, which is usually above $100k, these numbers are extremely unfavorable.  The newer versions depreciate especially quickly as people are not as interested in buying them compared to older SL models.

These cars depreciate heavily due to the lack of popularity, expensive entry costs, stiff competition, and questionable reliability.

Is Mercedes going to revive the SL?

Recently, Mercedes issued a statement confirming an imminent release of the brand new 2022 Mercedes SL. Mercedes corporate decided to take a different approach with the new SL model, and many people believe that the new Mercedes SL will represent a huge leap compared to older SL models.

Some reports suggest that the new SL will not be offered as a hardtop, but only as a soft-top. Furthermore, many reports say that the new SL will be offered with an AMG enhanced BiTurbo V8 engine with more than 600hp.

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What’s the best Mercedes SL500 of all time?

Many customers believe the R129 generation of the SL500 was one of the best SL500 models ever made. The R129 was in production between 1989-2001, and these years were often regarded as the golden years of Mercedes engineering, as many of the models made in this era were extremely over-engineered.

The R129 SL500 is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 engine packing 320hp, which was a huge power gain compared to the previous R107 disappointment. The design of the R129 was also considered modern at the time, and many do believe the R129 also aged better compared to the previous R107.

What’s the best Mercedes SL model of all time?

If you are in the market for an SL500, the R129 represents the best value for money in the Mercedes SL500 history. But if you are interested in the best possible model Mercedes ever offered with an “SL” designation in general, the 1954 300SL is undoubtedly the one to consider.

The 1954-1957 Mercedes 300SL is an automotive icon many believe to be the most beautiful car ever made. The value of these cars has skyrocketed because of the increased demand. So, if you want a 1950’s Mercedes 300SL, you have to be ready to spend upwards of a million dollars, or even a few million dollars for the best examples.

Marko Mikulic

Why do you love writing about cars? I love writing about cars as cars are a huge personal interest of mine. I was raised in a car enthusiast community and ever since I was young, I always wanted to do car-related work.

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