The super-light little roadster has a half-century-plus history—here’s how it shakes out
Author of the article:
The Mercedes-Benz SL-Class has served as the German brand’s flagship roadster for almost 70 years. From its first incarnation as the street-legal version of its famous “gullwing” race car; to its later evolution into a super-powerful AMG-tuned road-rocket, the SL-Class has played a key role in the company’s history, both at home and overseas.
Which versions of this popular convertible are our favourites? We dusted off the wayback machine and dove deep into the past to bring you our ranking of the best, and worst, generations of the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class.
1955-1957 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class W198/W121
The Mercedes-Benz 300SL W198 is one of the few automotive icons that needs no introduction. This gullwing-doored coupe arrived in 1954 and immediately made waves around the world as one of the sleekest and most modern designs every to have been committed to sheet metal.
Based on the W194 race car (pictured below) the 300 SL featured a tube space frame (thus necessitating the unique door openings) as well as between 220 and 240 horsepower from its fuel-injected 3.0-litre inline-six-cylinder engine. The car was electrifying to drive, and significantly more advanced than almost anything from Detroit during the same period.
Two years later the W198 would get the roadster twin pictured in blue above; it offered the most powerful iteration of the SL’s engine to deal with the extra weight it brought to the table, and would last all the way to 1963. Three short model years were all the gullwing SL-Class coupe got on the market, but it was enough to send ripple effects through time that are still being felt in the Silver Star’s designs to this day.
1989-2001 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R129
It took Mercedes-Benz nearly 30 years to make a similarly striking second visual statement with its SL-Class. The R129 wasn’t as exotic-looking as its ancestor, but it broke with a long string of boring roadsters that had retreated into a comfortably anonymous sliver of the Mercedes-Benz portfolio. It also brought the convertible into the modern era in terms of handling thanks to a multi-link rear suspension and available adaptive shocks.
The R129, like its predecessors, was available with both a removable hardtop and a soft top, and its clean profile and smoothed-out looks were a distinct departure from the ’80s styling cues that had dominated the brand’s designs (and gave a clear preview of what the ’90s would hold).
It also featured (briefly) the last manual transmission the SL-Class would ever receive in North America (for the six-cylinder 300SL) as well as introduced a near-400-horsepower V12 (in the 600SL) and the completely bonkers 7.3-litre SL 73 AMG (which shared its 12-cylinder engine with the Pagani Zonda). Most versions of the standard R129, however, were motivated a 5.0-litre V8 good for just over 300 horses, with the 349 horsepower SL 55 being the most common AMG model
1963-1971 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class W113
The W113 merged together Mercedes-Benz’s two-seat coupe and convertible offerings onto a single platform. Dubbed the ‘Pagoda’ due to the shape of its roof and greenhouse, this generation SL-Class continues to enjoy strong support from collectors enamoured of its elegant design.
Mercedes-Benz didn’t turn to its racing program to develop the W113, but instead combined the body and platform details of several different sedans in order to create a car that was fun to drive, but not intended for hardcore performance. A six-cylinder engine was retained, and both the 230 SL and 250 SL that followed produced 150 horsepower, matched with the choice of manual or automatic transmissions. The 280 SL that arrived in 1967 to close out the series added a small power bump, although EPA-mandated emissions controls choked out any real gains.
The Pagoda was a boon to Mercedes-Benz in terms of making in-roads in the American market. A favourite of the moneyed class, a third of worldwide production was sent state-side, helping the company grow in a market that hadn’t yet accepted European brands as part of the luxury mainstream.
1955-1963 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class W121
Although it was produced at roughly the same time as the 300SL, the 190 SL W121 differed from the gullwing in a number of key ways. Its unibody design was borrowed from the W121 sedan, it was smaller than the gullwing, and it featured none of the icon’s race-oriented chassis details. It also offered a four-cylinder engine that was good for 120 horsepower, keeping it well back from the 300SL’s six-cylinder.
That being said, in terms of styling it was a clear lift from its showroom-mate, albeit spread across more modest proportions. Despite its classy comportment, the W121 paled in comparison to the W198, and it didn’t help that it was overshadowed by the 300SL when launched at the same auto show in New York City in 1954. Missing the performance pedigree of its contemporary, the W121 is an overlooked member of the SL-Class family.
2001-2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R230
The replacement for the R129 went in a much more overstated direction in terms of both design and performance. At this point Mercedes-Benz was gung-ho for AMG models, which meant that for the first time since the original race car the SL-Class played a major role in the brand’s performance plans.
Front and center was the 12-cylinder 6.0-litre twin-turbocharged SL 65 AMG, which developed an obscene 604 horsepower and 728 lb-ft of torque. This was the pinnacle of SL-Class grunt, rising above the (up to) 510-horsepower SL55 AMG and the (also-)510-horsepower twin-turbo 5.5-litre V12 SL 600. V6 and ‘base’ V8 models were included in the mix, too. Eventually, a refresh of the SL-Class added a third AMG option, the SL 63 AMG’s naturally-aspirated, 518 horsepower V8.
Not only was the R230 over-muscled, it also came with the roadster’s very first retractable hardtop, giving Mercedes-Benz further ammunition in convincing the coupe crowd to try out its convertible. Unfortunately, reliability and build quality from this particular era of the automaker’s production is slipshod, which explains the 2001-2011 model’s low spot in our rankings.
1971-1989 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R107
The R107 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class takes the second-to-last position among its siblings thanks largely to the ultra-low effort that was put into keeping the car relevant in a changing market. The platform was sold for nearly 20 years as the SL-Class (with the SLC-Class fixed-roof coupe, or C107 body style, lasting until 1981) because Mercedes-Benz seemingly couldn’t make enough of them. Americans gobbled up nearly 70 per cent of production as the brand soared in status and became a must-have for young urban professionals and old money alike.
The R107 isn’t a bad-looking car, but it barely changed with the times, and after the first 10 years on the market it had begun to get a little stale. With no other similarly-sized European luxury competitor, however, Mercedes-Benz was content to simply replace the vehicle’s engine options every few years, moving from a 4.5-litre V8; to a 5.0-litre model (the 500 SL and 560 SL), with the other side of the Atlantic benefiting from a series of six-cylinder choices as well.
2012-2020 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class R231
Is there anything wrong with the current-generation SL-Class? Not at all. In a world where personal luxury coupes, roadsters, and retractable hardtops have become relatively commonplace, does the R231 really separate itself out from the rest of the pack? Sadly, the answer is also ‘no.’
Quick, comfortable, and inoffensively styled, the R231 took the AMG onslaught begun by the R230 and cranked it up to 11, and although it lost the non-AMG V12 on the order sheet it’s hard to argue that this car is anything other than lightning-quick in almost every configuration. And yet, its evolutionary design and increasingly insulated driving feel don’t do much to recommend it over any of its Porsche, BMW, or Jaguar rivals. Competent, certainly, but increasingly hard to differentiate from the sea of similarly-gifted six-figure luxury two-doors.
I’ve been an Android user since the first day the first Android phone became available, and I’ve been through many different devices. Of course, like many of you all, I’ve also owned and used iPhones, BlackBerrys, Windows phones, and all the rest of the “cool” tech because I just love cool tech.
I’m also very much a small phone guy because one of the most important things to me is how easy it is to carry something that basically lives inside my pocket. One of the reasons the Galaxy S21 is one of the best Android phones is because it’s not gigantic, for example. The only time I wish my phone were bigger is when I want to veg out and just consume.
I just want to consume.
That’s where tablets shine. Watching videos or playing games on something with a much larger screen is just better, ya know? Yes, I can use my phone and do those same things, and I won’t try to say it’s a bad experience because it’s not. It’s just not as good. I’ve been thinking about getting a smaller tablet to try it again, and Apple might just have shown me what I want in the 2021 iPad Mini.
No, I’m not some sort of “traitor” to the Android ecosystem because I owe zero allegiance to any tech company. I like the way Android works better than iOS does, but that’s just me, and plenty of people feel differently. But I don’t run out and buy a thing because some tech company made it. Every company needs to work for my dollars. And since Google is unwilling to remake the Nexus 7 with great new specs, I don’t have a “favorite” tablet brand.
Source: Android Central
I want a tablet for all the wrong reasons, according to the companies that make them. I have no desire to replace my PC or Chromebook with a Pro tablet. I’m not going to replace my phone with a cellular tablet just because it can make calls and get messages. I like the phone and Chromebook I use, and don’t see how a tablet can replace either.
Since Google isn’t going to remake the Nexus 7, the iPad Mini might be the best substitute.
But the right tablet can tempt me, so long as it’s on the smaller side. I have a Pixel Slate here if I wanted to use a ginormous heavy tablet, and because it has a desktop browser, it’s going to be better at doing many of the things I want a tablet to do. It needs to be plenty powerful enough to play HD video without sputtering and have Wi-Fi that’s strong enough to keep up. A few cool games are a plus, too. My tablet would be just for fun and not at all for work.
I’ve thought about foldables here, too. Something like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 could work, but I’m not yet sold on how the phone side of things play out. Maybe in a couple of years, but now I think I would end up spending twice as much on a device that I would only use as a tablet. Not an ideal situation for my wallet.
I basically ignored all the talk about how artists and professionals love the iPad Mini, but what I did pay attention to has me thinking it might be the one. The power is there — forget all the XX% faster marketing stuff, but I’ve seen enough from Apple to know the Bionic SoC platform is going to handle things. The size is right, and even the $500 price tag isn’t insane like many other Apple devices are.
Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central
Mostly though, it’s the ecosystem. Yes, that word gets tossed around a lot, and sometimes my brain goes numb after hearing it, but this is one place where everything can work great for me. All of Google’s services work well on iOS, so I know I’ll have the experience I want from Google Photos or YouTube, and Apple does a great job at filling in the rest.
Say what you will about Apple’s way of doing business, but the App Store has plenty of great tablet apps.
Yeah, Apple’s walled garden sucks. Ask anyone who wants to play Fortnite on a new iPad Mini about that if you want another opinion, and I’m not a fan of a company trying to tell me what I can do with something I paid money to buy. But I can’t deny that Apple has its shit together when it comes to tablet apps, and chances are I would find a few I would want to install. Google could learn a lot here.
I think an iPad Mini would complement my Android phone and my other tech in the right ways. I’m not rushing out to preorder one just yet, and I’ll wait to read some reviews before I whip out the plastic. I’d also recommend any Android or Chrome user as interested in the iPad Mini as I am to do the same thing.
I’ve talked to a lot of you guys who use an iPad along with your Android phones, and I think I get it now. I’m not going to write it off just because it’s from that fruit company. It might be what a lot of Android folks just like me are looking for.
The stable release of Android 12 hasn’t happened yet, but Samsung has decided to go ahead and give us our first taste of its new One UI 4 update. In some ways, this beta is even better than Google’s, but unfortunately, it’s just as buggy.
Customers in China have placed more than 2 million preorders for Apple’s iPhone 13 lineup, surpassing the number of iPhone 12 preorders in 2020, likely because of the void left by high-end Huawei handsets.
According to theSouth China Morning Post, Chinese customers have already placed more than 2 million preorders on retailer JD.com alone as of Thursday. That eclipses the 1.5 million iPhone 12 initial preorders placed after those models launched.
The higher demand for Apple’s iPhone 13 models appears to stem from Huawei’s decline in the country. Because of U.S. trade sanctions, Huawei is struggling to provide compelling high-end smartphones. Huawei’s latest P50 and P50 Pro, for example, lack 5G connectivity due to the sanctions.
Apple’s devices appear to have filled in the gap. In addition to Chinese retailer JD.com, interest in the iPhone 13 models also appears high on Alibaba’s retail platforms.
South China Morning Post also reports that the iPhone 13 models are priced lower than their iPhone 12 predecessors in China, a fact that surprised many consumers. Each device is about 300 yuan to 800 yuan cheaper than their iPhone 12 counterpart.
Overall smartphone shipments are on the decline in China since Huawei left a void that has yet to be filled by the country’s other Android makers.
Apple, however, is thriving. In the second quarter of 2021, Apple ranked as the fourth biggest smartphone vendor in China behind Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi. As the largest smartphone market in the world, China is a critical region for Apple and other handset manufacturers.
A Counterpoint research analyst told the South China Morning Post that the iPhone 13 is likely to continue the strong momentum of Apple’s previous 5G-compatible lineup.
“There are reasons to believe that the iPhone 13 would sell less because of the lack of new features,” the analyst said. “But considering Huawei’s plight, we think the iPhone 13 will sell just as well.”
Back in 2019, Apple was the primary target of a backlash after the U.S. blacklisted Huawei. However, it appears that the company has largely recovered from the controversy. Although some Chinese consumers continue to advocate for domestic brands, others are citing features and product design as the reasons to choose a smartphone.
“I thought we were supposed to support Huawei and other Chinese brands,” one Chinese consumer posted on Weibo. “But it seems like better products speak louder than patriotism.”
“ProRes video recording up to 4K at 30 fps (1080p at 30 fps for 128GB storage),” reads Apple’s ‘Tech Specs’ page for the iPhone 13 Pro. Further, the fine print at the bottom notes the feature will come “later this fall,” indicating that ProRes won’t even be available on the iPhone 13 Pro at launch.
That means any iPhone customer planning to get the most out of the camera’s video capabilities will want to fork out an extra $250+ for the 256GB option ($1,539 for the 256GB iPhone 13 Pro, $1,689 for the 256GB Pro Max).
Apple describes ProRes as providing “an unparalleled combination of multistream, real-time editing performance, impressive image quality, and reduced storage rates.” You can learn more about it here.
Of course, this only matters if you really care about ProRes video. My guess is most people won’t. However, those who do will want to make sure they get an iPhone 13 Pro with at least 256GB of storage.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.