Mike
Mike Dork
4/11/16 12:45 p.m.

I've wanted an SL for a while now. For a bit it was a R107. Later it was the R129. I still like those, but after an on track event and some autocross, I'm wanting something with a little more performance. I'm not rich, so there are some constraints.

While I could easily afford just about any R107 or R129, I think the R230 cars are better by enough margin to justify their price premium. The whys are never having owned anything luxury, never having owned anything with substantial power, and having a wife who cannot drive stick. It would probably go to autocross events and a Track Night in America event, but really, it's a road car that would be for road trips, back and forth to work, around town shopping, and occasionally, hauling a dog.

I guess I'm looking for perspectives from those who are less enamored with these cars and those who have hands-on experience with these cars.

After some looking, I think I've narrowed it down to the following:

SL 55 AMG.

Lots of power, and there are a lot of them out there. They're also pretty cheap, and a little lighter in the nose than the V12 cars. Between 493 and 510hp, but about 4400 lbs. They seem to be gettable between $15k and $35k, with the majority around $24-$28k. MPG is crappy, but yeah, that's expected. Slow manumatic "AMG speedshift" transmission, with "one-Mississippi, two-Mississippi" manual shifts.

SL 65 AMG.

Silly amounts of power: 604hp, 738lb ft. I can only afford the pre-facelift version of this car, so like the SL 55, the newest car under consideration is a 2008. MPG is similar to the SL 55, but running costs go up due to more expensive consumables, like 24 spark plugs and $1000 ea coil packs. Pricing here is getting up there a bit - $35k seems to be a workable amount for a solid driver with a clean history. Same slow transmission, though I suspect it might matter a bit less.

SL 63 AMG.

The 63 replaced the 55 when the R230 got a major facelift in 2009. Some think this is an ugly car, but it's one of my favorites. The big advantage is the MCT transmission, which blips downshifts and approaches dual-clutch shift performance. This is the only NA engine, and has the middle peak HP and lowest peak torque: 518hp, 465 lb ft. The bottom end of well sorted drivers is at the absolute top of what I could consider spending. Prices on those dip into the high $40k range. It's a real stretch, and I'd rather spend far less.

From what I've been able to gather, the performance problem for all of these cars is weight. They're starting to bring it down with the newest cars, but all of the cars under consideration are around 4400 lbs. There is a guy at our autocross who seems to be doing quite well with a Challenger Scat Pack automatic. The SL55 and SL63 flank the Challenger closely in power to weight, and the SL65 is significantly higher.

The weak point that seems to come up time and again, is that all of these cars have Active Body Control suspension. Internet wisdom is that ABC isn't lifetime fluid, and I would want to do an ABC system flush when I get the car and every two years or 30k miles thereafter.

codrus
codrus Dork
4/11/16 1:18 p.m.

SL65 Black Series:

(Yeah, I know, out of budget, but it's the best SL they ever made)

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
4/11/16 1:25 p.m.

I hate to be the bad guy here but with all the talk of people getting dumped for on track stuff by there insurance company's could you afford to ball it up and walk away? If not I would say still get it as these are fantastic cars but get something for the track that you don't mind if it is recycled in to a kitchen appliance should the worst happen.

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
4/11/16 1:26 p.m.

I am also not sure as to just how much fun they would be on track. They are fantastic road cars but I have never heard anyone say anything good about them as race cars.

WOW Really Paul?
WOW Really Paul? MegaDork
4/11/16 1:36 p.m.

They're great cars, but they are unfortunately within the modern era of disposable MB's. When stuff goes wrong, they're very expensive to have fixed.

Harvey
Harvey Dork
4/11/16 2:11 p.m.

Cruising around car, occasional drive to work, weekend car, yes.

Autocross car or track car, no. It's a heavy convertible that is very expensive to fix, the exact opposite of what you want for even an occasional autocross or track car.

A Challenger is an American car that is relatively inexpensive to fix even if it is a heavy car. It also is not laden with gizmos like these Mercedes.

ProDarwin
ProDarwin PowerDork
4/11/16 2:13 p.m.

This SL

belteshazzar
belteshazzar PowerDork
4/11/16 2:14 p.m.

this thread isn't about Saturns at all.

Mike
Mike Dork
4/11/16 2:16 p.m.
ProDarwin wrote: This SL

One of those just barely missed FTD last month at the local auto x. So, maybe.

Mike
Mike Dork
4/11/16 2:48 p.m.
codrus wrote: SL65 Black Series: (Yeah, I know, out of budget, but it's the best SL they ever made)

Yep, if in budget, the "which SL" question would have a slightly easier answer. That answer would be either the black series, or one of every car I mentioned, and a three car garage to keep them in.

Harvey
Harvey Dork
4/11/16 3:01 p.m.

As for which one to get I'd get the one that looks to be in the best condition possible for your price range with the lowest mileage and I'd probably go with an older one if it meant I could get a non-V12, non-turbo version.

Happy Carmore
Happy Carmore MegaDork
4/11/16 3:13 p.m.

SL63 AMG Black Series Bi-Turbo V12 (I know it was posted above, but it deserves another.)

wearymicrobe
wearymicrobe UltraDork
4/11/16 3:13 p.m.

Black series is one of the most interesting cars made by Mercedes and about the only one that I would want personally. I would get a standard SL550 R230 and call it a day.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt PowerDork
4/11/16 4:02 p.m.

Drove an SL55 AMG at the Mitty when they had the AMG cars on the infield autocross - my impression was that it fit the saying, "You can't make a race horse out of a pig, but you can make a very fast pig." It had acceleration and grip, but turn in wouldn't let you forget that you were driving something that had a couple hundred pound disadvantage over a Caprice cop car.

If I had that sort of driving experience in some big land yacht, my reaction would have been, "This is awesome!" But it's a two seater. I want a two seater to feel like a race horse. It's not a Miata, or even a Corvette; it can't hide that it is some sort of massive luxobarge with the rear seat missing.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
4/11/16 4:44 p.m.

After living with the big 6.2 NA motor in my minivan for a month, I'd buy just about anything so equipped. Love the motor, love the transmission is auto sport mode (manual mode is sloooow). Having that combo in a car less than 5k lbs would be nice.
No, these MB's are not sports cars, they're GT cars, but they're honest about it. You could have a hell of a lot of fun with one as long as you understood where you stand in the world and act accordingly. Brake hard, drive the corners closer to 80% than 100%, and warp space time as you head toward the next corner.

G_Body_Man
G_Body_Man Dork
4/11/16 5:09 p.m.

Here are my top two pics:

SL55 R230

Pros: Brutally fast, spectacular retractable hardtop, much cheaper to own than an SL65, SL600 biturbo, or SL63, bulletproof powertrain, obscenely opulent.

Cons: Not all that small, not all that light, hydraulic top issues, built to a cost and not a standard.

SL600 R129

Pros: shockingly fast, surprisingly reliable, separate hard top and soft top, achingly pretty, built to a standard instead of a cost, cheaper than an SL55, significantly more trunk space when the top is down compared to the R230, noticeable smaller than an R230.

Cons: A bit old, not as brutal as the SL55, no glovebox.

I've experienced both an R230 and an R129, and have found that the R129 feels more like how an SL should than the R230.

Sonic
Sonic SuperDork
4/11/16 7:24 p.m.
mazdeuce wrote: After living with the big 6.2 NA motor in my minivan for a month, I'd buy just about anything so equipped. Love the motor, love the transmission is auto sport mode (manual mode is sloooow). Having that combo in a car less than 5k lbs would be nice. No, these MB's are not sports cars, they're GT cars, but they're honest about it. You could have a hell of a lot of fun with one as long as you understood where you stand in the world and act accordingly. Brake hard, drive the corners closer to 80% than 100%, and warp space time as you head toward the next corner.

This right here. It sounds like you want a nice and fast cruiser that will be capable of going around the track on occasion for fun. The SL would will this mission for you. After this weekend I'll tell you how my mechanically very similar (including weight) CLS63 does on the track. The 5.5k motor is quite nice too, has noticeably more torque than the 6.3 from driving them both, but doesn't sound as good, and the trans isn't as good, as you pointed out.

I'd stick to the V8 cars over the V12. They are cheaper, handle better, are more reliable, easier to work on. The only difference is one is ludicrous speed and one is the plaid.

Mike
Mike Dork
4/11/16 7:29 p.m.

In reply to G_Body_Man:

I had a close call on an R129 SL600 about a month and a half ago. This car was at a dealership in town.

I like the looks of the R129, and the SL600 M120 seems, by all accounts, to be a solid engine. I have two issues with the R129. It weighs the same as an R230, but has far less power, and I don't have a good place to keep the hard top.

I was curious about dimensions, and, at least according to Wikipedia, the R129 and R230 are actually really close. The width, length and height are all within an inch. The R230 SL65 and SL55 are within 45 lbs of the R129 SL600.

Mike
Mike Dork
4/11/16 7:35 p.m.
dean1484 wrote: I hate to be the bad guy here but with all the talk of people getting dumped for on track stuff by there insurance company's could you afford to ball it up and walk away? If not I would say still get it as these are fantastic cars but get something for the track that you don't mind if it is recycled in to a kitchen appliance should the worst happen.

I agree on the insurance situation.

Unless I had a second car just for track use, I'd be sure to carry track day insurance for any events I take in. The track day insurance seems to go by declared vehicle value, so the SL55 would be the cheaper car. I suppose I'd just take my chances at the autocross - that's what I've been doing thus far. We tend to have tight, complex courses at the autocross, so speeds never really get that high.

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