The 1990s Mercedes-Benz SL-Class debuted in 1989 and ran through 2002. Its nearest competitors were BMW's 850Ci, Chevrolet's Corvette ZR-1, Porsche's 911 Turbo and Ferrari's 348 Spider, but none really matched the SL's combination of quality, safety, luxury and performance.
Derived from the S-Class sedans, the two 2-seat SL models, shared with the S-Class models, were virtually identical except for drivetrains. The 300SL had the 3.0-liter dohc 228-hp I6, and the 500SL had the 5.0-liter dohc 322-hp V8. The 1992 SL-Class convertibles were carryovers.
All three SLs shared the same 2-passenger body/chassis. It came standard with both a fully automatic folding soft-top and a removable aluminum hardtop. The soft-top stowed beneath a rigid tonneau cover that would operate automatically as part of the convertible's one-button power-top cycle.
For the 1993 model year, a new 600SL was added to the lineup. This convertible used a 6.0-liter dohc 389-hp V12 engine.
For 1994, The 300SL was renamed the SL320, it got a new 3.2 I6 which replaced the old 3.0L. Both made 228 hp, but the new engine made 34 more lb-ft of torque. The manual transmission was dropped as well. The 500SL and 600SL were renamed SL500 and SL600, respectively. The SL500 dropped from 322 to 315 hp.
Even more impressive was an automatic rollbar that would pop up by itself if the SL sensed an impending rollover. There was a switch to raise the rollbar, which could then be fitted with a wind-blocking mesh that allowed rearward vision but would reduce drafts. Other clever safety features included "safety capsule" bucket seats to which the seatbelts fasten, ABS disc brakes, dual airbags and automatic belt tensioners.
As expected, these Mercedes vehicles came standard with unique comfort and convenience features such as an electrostatic air filter for the automatic climate-control system and a 3-setting driver's seat memory. Standard on the SL600 and optional on the others were ADS (adaptive suspension control) and an integrated cellular phone.
Prices for the SL320 and SL500 have been reduced by $6900 and $9600 for '95. Traction control was also now standard on the SL320.
Side-impact airbags were standard for 1996.
This was the last model year for the SL320.
Only the SL500 and SL600 continued on, both without much changes.
The SL500's horsepower dropped to 302.
As of September 22, 1993:
- $85,200 (1994 Mercedes-Benz SL320)
- $99,500 (1994 Mercedes-Benz SL500)
- $120,100 (1994 Mercedes-Benz SL600)
As of August 18, 1994:
- $78,300 (1995 Mercedes-Benz SL320)
- $89,900 (1995 Mercedes-Benz SL500)
- $120,100 (1995 Mercedes-Benz SL600)