There are cars have stood the test of time, with names and shapes that are true icons of the passion for driving. Cars that have remained in production for decades, becoming milestones in the history of automotive design and embodying, generation after generation, the spirit of the time. The SL range from Mercedes belongs to this timeless group, one of the most enduring sports cars ever created, which established the Stuttgart house as a premium car brand.
First generation: 1954-1962
The long lineage of the SL (Sport Leicht or Sport Lightweight) began with the W198 300 SL, the iconic “Gullwing” later joined by the roadster version (with classic doors), and the W121 190, a lighter and cheaper version. When the 300 debuted in 1954, in addition to having a surprising design, it was the fastest production car in the world, with a top speed of 160 mph. Produced in just over 3,200 specimens back then, it is today extremely rare and precious.
Second generation: 1963-1971
Following in the footsteps of the 300 SL would have been a predictable failure: it’s impossible to improve a myth. Therefore, for the W113 model Mercedes gave a decisive turn by designing a coupé that was still powerful but less elite. Thus the Mercedes SL W113 was born, better known as the Pagoda: the second series of the SL-Class was produced in three versions of different displacement - SL 230, SL 250, SL 280. They were among the best handling cars of the 60s.
Third generation: 1971-1989
Only an exceptional model could have replaced the SL Pagoda in the list of the House of the 3-pointed star, and so it was: the R107, a luxury two-seater convertible, has the longevity record for the SL-Class with 18 years and 8 versions built. Launched in 1971 as the 350 SL with a 200 horsepower V8 petrol engine, it evolved up to the 1989 560SL model also in a rigid roof version instead of the classic soft top, also flanked by the coupé version with the SLC initials.
Fourth generation: 1989-2001
After nearly 20 years of R117, it was time to change everything. It was the time of the R129 series: an elegant and modern sports car in terms of style, but above all an automobile with very sophisticated mechanics.
Designed by Bruno Sacco in the convertible version with optional hard-top, it was presented at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show, representing Mercedes' debut in the realm of supercars thanks to the V12 engine options and AMG modifications which later became standard in 1999.
Fifth generation: 2001-2011
To cope with the power achieved with AMG, the SL had to become longer and more spacious. Hence the idea of the R230, a luxury roadster with very high technological and safety standards, with design elements taken from the past such as the “gill” air intakes already seen on the 300 SL “Gullwing”. In 2008 the SL 65 AMG Black Series was launched in a very limited edition, the only R230 with coupé bodywork and an engine derived from the 670 HP V12 biturbo.
Sixth generation: 2011-2020
Among the main innovations of the sixth generation of the SL - in the two versions SL 350 and SL 500 - there is a renewed lightness, due to the platform-body-bodywork aluminum trio which makes it on average 140 kg lighter than the previous series. Other news include the electrically foldable hard top with Magic Sky Control system, seats with Airscarf, the Magic Vision Control wiper with nozzles incorporated directly into the blade. The AMG SL 63 version offers 577 horsepower and thrilling acceleration.
Seventh generation: todayThe seventh generation of the SL-Class, developed by the AMG’s racing division, has been launched today, October 28 2021, finally satisfying the expectations of millions of fans of the brand. Inspired by the past but rocketed towards the future, the new Mercedes SL Roadster focuses more on sporty driving pleasure than previous editions, powered by the M256: 3.0 six-cylinder in-line unit that replaces the V6 and consumes 15% less. It also boasts a 2+2 configuration and a hi-tech dashboard with vertical tablet.