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 SL300 had the 3.0-liter dohc 229-hp Six, and the SL500 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 SL600 was added to the lineup. This convertible used a 6.0-liter dohc 389-hp V12 engine. The SL500 also dropped to 315 horsepower.
The SL300 was renamed the SL320 in 1994.
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 Six and V8 have been reduced by $6900 and $9600 for '95. Traction control was also now standard on the SL320.
As of September 22, 1993:
- $85,200 (1994 Mercedes-Benz SL320)
- $99,500 (1994 Mercedes-Benz SL500)
- $120,100 (1994-1995 Mercedes-Benz SL600)
As of August 18, 1994:
- $78,300 (1995-1996 Mercedes-Benz SL320)
- $89,900 (1995-1996 Mercedes-Benz SL500)