Favourites
Mercedes-Benz SL Review logo

Mercedes-Benz SL Review

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

1/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

2/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

3/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

4/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

5/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

6/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

7/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

8/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

9/10

Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

10/10

1 / 10

  • Launched in 2012
  • Convertible
  • Petrol
  • Launch year
    2012
  • Body type
    Convertible
  • Fuel type
    Petrol

Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class?

View Mercedes-Benz SL-Class cars for sale
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Famous icon is ageing gracefully

Best bits

  • Luxurious and powerful
  • Do-it-all AMG variants
  • Long-running history

Not so great

  • Getting on a bit now
  • Others are more exciting to drive
  • Could feel more of an ‘event’

Read by

Mercedes SL (2012) frontright exterior

Overall verdict

Mercedes SL (2012) front interior

On the inside

Mercedes SL (2012) frontright exterior

Driving

Mercedes SL (2012) backleft exterior

How much does it cost to run

Mercedes SL (2012) leftside exterior

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The SL is getting on a bit now, and is no longer at the top of its game. But as a motoring event, it still has plenty going for it – and on the secondhand market, it delivers a surprising amount of high-end car for the money."

Mercedes SL (2012) frontright exterior

The Mercedes-Benz SL is a motoring icon that has been around in umpteen different guises since 1954 (and there's a new one on the way in 2021). In that time, it has been driven by many celebrities and some of the world’s wealthiest people. While it isn’t quite the status symbol it once was, it’s still a desirable high-end sports car that shows the world you’ve arrived.


This latest model, wearing new lightweight aluminium bodywork, was introduced in 2012. It’s coming up for replacement, but cars of this calibre are more timeless than ordinary models, so firms tend not to rush their replacements. As with its predecessor, the SL uses a clever folding hard-top roof, giving the best of coupe and convertible worlds in one. It’s a dedicated two-seater, despite being over 4.6 metres long. And although it has a surprisingly roomy boot, most of the space is given over to the luxurious cabin and, of course, that long bonnet.


Mercedes-Benz doesn’t particularly need to worry about fuel economy or CO2 emissions with the SL. It doesn’t sell in large enough numbers to have much effect on the company’s environmental balance sheet. So, you won’t find any downsized turbo petrol engines here, and you certainly won’t find a diesel. Even the entry-level V6 has over 300PS – and quite right, too.


Moving through the range sees power levels jump up – the next model at launch gained 130PS and two more cylinders. A later 3.0-litre V6 straddled the gap, but Mercedes-Benz couldn’t resist fitting two turbochargers to take the 0-62mph time down to barely five seconds.


Then there are the AMG range-toppers, a remarkable pair of machines with colossal power from their V8 and V12 engines. They have Porsche levels of power and thrilling acceleration, yet are also surprisingly supple and smooth when you don’t want to move at warp speed. An SL is fast, but it should never be uncouth.


Inside, the SL feels like a bit of an event. The seating position is of the laid-back sort, with lots of legs-stretched-ahead space, plus the massive bonnet far ahead. You feel positioned well back in the car, which gives a powerful sense of superiority. Folding the roof takes around 20 seconds at the press of a button and opens the cabin up for sunseeking when conditions allow. Needless to say, lots are sold in the sunshine states of North America.


As the sports car equivalent of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, plenty of cutting-edge technology features within the SL. It has a tremendous amount of assistance systems, the option of active suspension, a body made fully from aluminium and some of the finest audio systems you’ll find in any two-seat car – the Harman Kardon systems are outstanding.


The SL was given a mild facelift in 2016, but you’ll struggle to tell the difference. There were under-the-skin changes, a new front bumper and subtle changes to the switchgear. Nothing major, though, because of that focus on timelessness. 


With relatively small numbers of annual sales, the lack of familiarity with the graceful SL also helps it still stand out. It’s maybe not the default choice in this sector, but as a piece of motoring royalty, there’s still plenty that appeals here.


Is the Mercedes-Benz SL right for you?

If you’re after a genuine out-and-out two-seat sports car, the focus of something like a Jaguar F-Type might leave you more satisfied than the SL. Meanwhile, if you just want a brilliant all-rounder with a rewarding drive and jump-seat space in the rear for two, the appeal of the Porsche 911 Cabriolet is undeniable. The Porsche is such a go-to car, the Mercedes is almost forgotten, even in this rarefied sector. And that’s a shame.


Arguably, the SL could get away with being even more luxurious, to take it closer to rivals from Bentley and Aston Martin. Maybe such a repositioning is coming with the next one (it wouldn’t be the first time in the SL’s long and varied life). For now, consider it a bit of a hidden secret – the thinking person’s luxury two-seater. If that sounds like you, you’ll discover a lot to like.

What’s the best Mercedes-Benz SL model/engine to choose?

The entry-level SL 350 V6 engine is fine, with a charismatic growl and, in SL 400 guise, the support of two turbochargers to effortlessly haul it up to speed. But we’re traditionalists, and think the SL is at its best with a V8: it’s hard to ignore the allure of an SL 500.


The AMG models are also very tempting. The 63 AMG gets a 5.5-litre V8 good for up to 585PS, while the daddy of the range is the incredible SL 65 AMG, with an outrageous 6.0-litre V12 putting out a staggering 630PS. If you can afford the fuel bills and eye-watering purchase price, it’s hugely tempting.

What other cars are similar to the Mercedes-Benz SL?

There are other some standout alternatives in this sector. The Porsche 911 Cabriolet is one, and easily outsells the SL year after year. BMW offers the 8 Series Convertible, but Audi doesn’t yet have a sporting alternative.


Jaguar no longer sells the XK, but does offer the F-Type in open-top guise – and has some throaty V8 engines to rival the Merc (plus a more leftfield 2.0-litre turbo). Other than that, there’s not a huge amount of competition in this sector. Genuine luxury alternatives such as the Bentley Continental GTC and Aston Martin DB11 have moved ever upmarket into pricier territory.

Learn more

Mercedes SL (2012) front interior

On the inside

Mercedes SL (2012) frontright exterior

Driving

Mercedes SL (2012) backleft exterior

How much does it cost to run

Mercedes SL (2012) leftside exterior

Prices, versions and specification

Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class?

View Mercedes-Benz SL-Class cars for sale