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  #1  
Old 08-28-2003, 11:56 AM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Annapolis, MD
Posts: 377
Looking for 95-96 SL - 320 or 500 in MD - newbie

Hi,

My significant other would like to replace her 2001 VW Cabrio with a Mercedes SL. Budget is around $25K.

We test drove a red 95 500SL with 96K miles (price 24.5K) the other day. Nice car, but looking at the carfax we would be the 5th owners and 96K is getting up there. At the same time the SL "rolled" down the road...quite unlike my 95 E300D

I hestitated on getting the car on the spot as I had not done any homework. I also know that there is a 320SL with a 6 cylinder...perhaps she doesn't need 300hp...you know.

So I did some searching at local MB detailers and also checked out the prices on NADA, Edmunds, etc. for SLs.

I found a strange market with sale prices for similar cars varying by as much as $10K. The "books" told me that a 95 SL should retail for $30K but they are available with higher miles for $25K all day long.

Ideally I would like to find a 96 320SL with 60K in great condition with low miles in the low $20Ks. Am I dreaming? I realize the original MSRP was big bucks but it seems like these cars have depreciated and in a buyers market prices are depressed (?)

Questions:
1. SL 320 or SL 500
2. 95, 96 or 97 (perhaps too expensive)
3. Reliablity issues, things to check for?
4. Just curious, what kind of mileage does the SL 320 get?
5. Any worries with 90K miles? I bought my e300d with 86K and now I am at 116K with no problems....

Thanks.

Chuck
Annapolis, MD
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  #2  
Old 08-28-2003, 05:10 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2000
Posts: 44
I can't answer all your questions, but can address some:

1. I prefer the 320... See below
2. 95-96?... Why these specific years?
3. Maint records. Some early 320's had head gasket issues
4. Milage averages 28 Hwy, 21 City
5. I only have 60K... None so far


After driving the 600, 500 and 320, (in that order) I chose the 320. The 600 had a great sound, very linear and smooth acceleration, but felt nose heavy in the twisties (We live on very motorcycle friendly 6 miles of fun). The 500 had more power but not enough to justify an additional $12000 at the time (1999.) The car is primarily driven by my wife. And occasionally road tripped 200-300 miles. We could not be happier with the car. The car is the defintion of comfort and serenity in a convertable. However, because we are downsizing from 3 cars to 2, we will be selling the SL320 and a truck for a Lexus SC430 convertable... The traction control and retractable hard top is more practical for year-round driving in MN.... Plus she's ready for a change.

Good luck!

Crew
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  #3  
Old 08-29-2003, 09:42 AM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Annapolis, MD
Posts: 377
I am interested in 95-96 because those cars seemed to be in our price range...which is around $25K.

She would also like to test drive a Porsche boxter...I sat in one and found it to be a bit cramped (I am 6'4"). I fit fine in the SL500 we drove.

Which 320's had head gasket problems? Is this engine the same as the E320 motors?


Chuck
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  #4  
Old 08-29-2003, 01:38 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Dallas/Fort-Worth
Posts: 5,711
As a 95SL owner, the high mileage would not be the factor for me when considering the purchase. In fact, the most troublesome SL examples are the ones that sit in the garage for years, allowing the seals to rot and fluids to break down.

A tech friend of mine finished replacing the third water pump on an owner's SL...the owner has only logged 8K miles on the car! The seals on the pump blew out from sitting for long periods and were allowed to deteriorate.

Can't comment on the 320, but in hindsight, my wife is the primary driver of the SL and as such, uses it as a grocery-getter, not a touring racer, so the V-8 is a waste for her purposes, in my opinion.

The M119 engine in the 8-cylinder series is pretty much bulletproof, and has a proven track record in other MB models.

What you need to consider is the overall expense of the R129 parts if something should break or fail. As is said earlier, the engine is pretty robust, but that doesn't include the ancillary units like the power steering pump, alternator, etc.

I haven't had problems in that area yet, but mine is still fairly low in mileage.

The softtop/hardtop hydroelectrical system could be a nightmare if a major failure crops up. Individual components run on the average of $300, but you could be in the low $1000s if an electrical CPU component should fail.

In fact, the SL is a surprising mix of cheap and expensive parts. Break the armrest cover slider latch, and it's $8. Break the dash cluster lens, and you're talking $327 (ask me how I know ).
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  #5  
Old 08-29-2003, 07:28 PM
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Join Date: Nov 1999
Location: MD.
Posts: 1,725
See you are from Annapolis. Did you stop by MB of Annapolis recently? They have a good selection of SL lately. I recommend the Triple black 99 SL500 Sport. It has low mileage and that means years of pleausres. I think you will pay a little more from dealer but it is a Star Mark vehicle. You will rest assure that the car is all check out, plus warranty. The SL is not the kind of car you go out and buy from John Doe down the street. When you get one with problems, you may have to sell your first born to get it back on the road.

I have mine for years and there is no problem to tell you about. The 104 engine does have a pre-mature gasket failure, but it is not that much problem to have that corrected.

Just like G-Benz mentioned, the hydrolic top may be a problem.

BTW, stay away the Black SL600 just next door to the dealership. That car looks great from a distance, but a total trash when you open the hood. They are selling it cheap to get it off the lot.

Good luck car hunting!!
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  #6  
Old 08-30-2003, 07:02 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Northumberland, UK
Posts: 1,294
500 is often cheaper than 320 on the used market because of the perceived higher running costs of the 500. In fact, insurance is the same and the 500 gets equivalent, sometimes better, mileage than the 320 because the gearing is different and the engine works less. These issues were well-discussed in a post by "Learoy", who has just bought a nice 500SL. if you do a search on that member, you'll find the post straight away.

I would go for a 500, and I would take the time and trouble to find a good one: it took me three months.
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