Before the new model arrives, get thousands off the old one.
The name 'SL' stands for 'Super-Leicht' in German, meaning Super Light. Weighing in at over 4,000 pounds, the current 2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has strayed pretty far from its origins, but an all-new model is on the way and should get back to the roadster's lightweight heritage. While the outgoing R231 generation SL won't be remembered as an all-time great it's still a highly competent luxury cruiser.
You can currently score some impressive deals on brand-new SL inventory as Mercedes attempts to clear out the last-generation model from its dealer lots. And if you want to save even more money, we suggest looking at the Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned program, where you can now score a used SL for a fraction of the price of a new one.
Many sports cars these days are incredibly stiff because manufacturers like to chase lap times and 0-60 mph numbers that will end up on magazine covers. The SL managed to steer clear of this trend. It's an old-school Grand Touring car, built to carry two people plus their luggage over long distances in a hurry. Don't be mistaken though, the SL is still a quick car, even if you don't opt for one of the hotter AMG-tuned models. It's not the most dynamic car Mercedes offers, but it's worth the trade-off if comfort is a priority. Even a base SL offers sumptuous luxury, plenty of passing power, and more refinement than almost any other convertible car on the market today.
With a car of this price and complexity, reliability should be a concern for buyers. Fortunately, the Mercedes CPO program offers peace of mind with a one-year/unlimited-mileage warranty that can extend up to two additional years. The CPO program also includes the original balance of the four-year/50,000-mile factory warranty, meaning you can get up to five years of coverage.
Mercedes-AMG officially killed off the SL63 last year, leaving only the V6-powered SL450 and V8-powered SL550 in the lineup. The lesser SL450 model starts at $91,000, and for the premium SL550 model, you'll pay $114,700. And when Mercedes still offered it as new, the SL63 rang in at $154,450.
Shopping on the CPO market, you'll pay considerably less.
We found used SL450 models with a CPO warranty starting at under $60,000 with a few higher-mileage SL550 models checking in around the mid-$60,000 range. Should speed rank as a top priority, we found a CPO SL63 starting in the low $90,000 price range, making it around 40 percent cheaper than it was when new.
Though the SL is more of a luxury cruiser than a sports car, it's not sluggish no matter which engine you select. The SL450 comes with a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, yielding a 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. The SL550 gets a larger 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 with 449 hp and 516 lb-ft, though it only shaves the 0-60 mph time down to 4.3 seconds. On paper, the SL550 seems like only a minor improvement, but the sound and smoothness of the V8 engine is worth the added cost.
For thrill-seekers, the SL63 AMG packs a wallop with a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, dishing out an earth-shattering 577 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque. The AMG variant takes only four seconds to hit 60 mph on its way to a 186 mph top speed. But since the SL is geared more towards comfort than sporty driving, we recommend sticking with the mid-level SL550 model.
The cabin of the R231 SL looks pretty dated next to the palace of screens you get in most modern Mercedes cars, but it still feels premium, with high-quality leather covering most surfaces and active controls. In terms of technology, the SL is a mixed bag with tons of luxury features, but an infotainment system that looks dated even compared with mainstream options. If massaging seats and heated air scarves are more important to you than Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, the SL won't disappoint.
You shouldn't expect a two-seater roadster to offer heaps of practicality, but with the hardtop roof deployed, the SL offers a reasonable 13.5 cubic feet of storage. Alas, the folding metal top takes up a ton of room when stowed, reducing the trunk to only 8.5 cubic feet. The SL450 manages respectable fuel economy figures of 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined and the SL550 is only slightly worse with 17/25/20 mpg. Eco-conscious buyers should steer clear of the SL63 though because it only achieves 15/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined.
While not the greatest model to wear the Super-Leicht badge, the R231 generation Mercedes SL remains a premium roadster. Now that used models have come down significantly in price, we think there is a window of opportunity to grab one at a reasonable price with a CPO warranty. These cars will likely cost too much to own as they age, but for now, we'd happily own a late model SL with warranty coverage, especially considering it covers unlimited mileage. So drop the top, crank up the stereo, and take a weekend getaway in your six-figure luxury convertible on a mid-size luxury sedan budget.