The Mercedes-Benz SL 350: A German Classic

The Mercedes-Benz SL class was introduced in 1954 and has been in production in one form or another ever since. Much debate surrounded the meaning of SL, as to whether it was Sport Leicht (Sport Light) or Super Leicht (Super Light), and the question was solved in 2017 when Mercedes found an archive paper stating that Super Leicht was the original meaning. The Mercedes 350SL, originally inspired as a light version of a racing car, is available for sale on eBay.

The original SL350

The car was first produced as part of the R107 Mercedes series, and production ran from 1971 to 1980, with the Mercedes 350SL 1980 model being particularly prized by collectors. The model was manufactured with a 3, or 4-speed automatic gearbox, or a 4-speed manual gearbox. The engine was a 3499 cc V8 producing up to 197 bhp. This version of the model was produced with a soft roof as standard, with an optional hard roof.

The first generation R230 model

Production on the 350 SL was reintroduced in 2002 with the R230 generation of Mercedes-Benz cars and continued until production began on the R231 generation in 2012. The R230 was premiered as the safety car for the German Grand Prix in 2001. The main improvements the first generation SL R230 introduced were a folding hard-top roof and a new system, which modulates the firmness and height of the suspensions (known as active body control or ABC) to improve comfort and handling. The engine for this version is a 3724 cc V6 producing up to 242 bhp.

What improvements were introduced for the R230 models?

The R230 models had two major facelifts, in 2006 and 2008, and the notable improvements were:

  • The 2006 changes featured improved ABC and a 7-speed 7G-Tronic gearbox with a sport option for manual mode (including steering-wheel paddles).
  • 2006 also introduced changes to the interior and exterior design, including a reduction in the roof opening time from 20 to 16 seconds.
  • 2006 engine: 3498 cc V6, with up to 268 bhp.
  • From 2008, the engine was upgraded to a 3498 cc V6 with up to 312 bhp, while decreasing the economy rate from 10.4 litres per 100 kilometres to 9.9.
  • The exterior was also remodelled, and a speed-sensitive automatic steering adjustment introduced.
How does the R231 differ from the R230?

The R231 introduces a range of new electronic driving assistance features, as well as improving those previously available, in order to improve driveability, performance and safety. The steel frame is also replaced by aluminium, and the SL 350 weighs in at 140 kg lighter than the R230 models. The engine is a 3498 cc V6 with up to 302 bhp.