1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Change year or car

Change year or car

$78,300

starting MSRP

1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

4 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • SL320

  • SL600 Roadster

    $122,000

  • SL320 Roadster

    $78,300

  • SL500 Roadster

    $89,900

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class trim comparison will help you decide.

1996 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class review: Our expert's take

By

If you’re Calvinist in nature, a two-seater with a house-size price tagseems like a ludicrous consideration. After all, a small sedan is only 12K.Why spend 10 times that to get where you’re going?

If you feel that way, stop reading right here.

Why? No words can possibly describe the sheer joy involved in driving suchan extravagant piece of automotive machinery as the Mercedes SL500. This is adream machine, an automobile that evokes envious glances and long stares. Itmakes one an instant celebrity of sorts. Certainly, you’ll appreciate — orbecome appalled — as people wave at you, shout at you, and offer themselvesas a passenger.

Who can blame them? SLs have always been beautiful cars, and 1996’sfacelift of headlights, fog lamps and tail lights along with body-colorbumpers and rocker panels only enhance the look. Of course, the big chromeMercedes star sitting in the middle of the blacked-out grille captures theaudacity of this car perfectly.

Just in case you’d like to know, the SL comes in three flavors. The”entry-level” SL320 features a 229-horsepower 3.2-liter in-line six and a baseprice of $78,300. Next up is the SL500, the tested car, with a 5-liter315-horsepower V-8 and $89,900 base price. The top-of-the-line SL600 with a389 6-liter V-12 is yours for a base price of $120,100. All three coupes arecoupled to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Needless to say, no matter which number is on the deck lid of your SL,there’s sufficient power. But more of it never hurts. Just be careful backingout of the garage for the first time in your SL500 — you can get to 60 mph bythe end of your driveway. This car dishes out the speed effortlessly, thefive-speed making the shifts so smoothly you’ll never notice them. The SL500has a new engine management system and a distributorless ignition this year.

New also for ’96 is ESP, the Electronic Stability Program. When ESP detectsa wheel slipping from its intended track, it applies the brakes on the wheelthat’s slipping. Additionally, it features sensors that measure yaw, steering,wheel speed, lateral acceleration and brake pressure, and integrate thatinformation with anti-lock brakes and traction control systems. So what doesall this technology do? Makes you a much better driver than you are.

Riding on huge Dunlop 18-inch tires, this car’s behavior is flat, whetheraccelerating, braking or going through corners. Handling is neutral andfeedback is good, slightly more insulated than a BMW, but easier to live withon a daily basis. Even at insane speeds on public roads, most drivers neverwill fully tap the performance potential of this car.

All convertibles shake over bumps, and even though this Mercedes did a lotless than most, it still exhibited some.

If you do get in over your head, Mercedes has you covered. Dual airbags arestandard. New side airbags are standard as well. Seat-belt tensioningretractors that tighten in a crash are standard . ABS and traction control arestandard. Additionally, if sensors detect an impending rollover, an automaticroll bar pops up and locks in place in a third of second.

While you’re speeding down the road, you’ll note the cabin is a veryhospitable place to spend some time. The seats are big and wide, yet stillhold one in place while carving up corners. They’re also supportive and firm,not so rock-like as some previous Benzes. The dash is familiar to any lover ofthe three-pointed star. The gauges are large and easy to read, although themiles-per-gallon gauge is almost mocking as it swings down to the 10-mpgrange.

The automatic climate control and audio controls are improved over earliercars and prove easy to figure out. Memory seats help prevent arguments and theventilation system filters out dust and pollen. This car features cupholders(!) and decent storage in the armrest and center console. There is no glovebox, but there is a small slot above the center vents. The de ck behind theseats features storage, and the trunk is big enough for two moderately stuffedgolf bags.

The top is fully automatic and works at the touch of a button. As itunlatches the top from the windshield and begins to fold down, the windowslower, the roll bar retracts and the storage compartment lid opens to acceptthe folding top. As passers-by gawk, the top folds into the compartment, itslid closes and the windows roll back up. There. All set for motoring alfresco.

Wind noise is minimal, lower than in most sedans with the sunroof open. Aremovable aluminum hard top is standard (which explains the soft tops plasticrear window).

The Mercedes keyless entry works two ways, locking doors, trunk and gas capwith the top up, and locking all compartments when the top is down. Theinfrared signal can be hard to aim, but it’s harder for high-tech car thievesto copy. Its frequency changes each time it’s used. Additionally, enginemanagement is disabled if someone decides to help themselves to your car.

Over the top? Sure. Any complaints?

Only one.

I wish it were mine.

Mercedes SL500Standard: 5-liter double overhead cam 32-valve V8, five-speed automatic,acceleration slip control, 225/ 55ZR16 tires with alloy wheels, automaticclimate control with dust filter, 10-way power seats with seat, mirror andsteering wheel memory, infrared remote locking and trunk release, AM/FM/weather band/cassette six-speaker Bose audio system, leather upholstery andburl walnut trim, power windows with express down, electronically adjustablesteering column, beverage holders, floor mats, removable hardtop, dualairbags, four-wheel disc brakes with anti-lock, anti-theft system with enginedisabler, headlamp washer/wipers, automatic pop-up roll bar, central locking,power black soft top.Optional: Sport package (specific trim, 18-inch monoblock wheels)Base price: $89,900Gas guzzler tax: $1,000As tested: $97,280EPA rating: 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highwayTest mileage: 18 mpg

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior design 4.5
  • Performance 4.8
  • Value for the money 4.5
  • Exterior styling 5.0
  • Reliability 4.3

Most recent consumer reviews

4.6

Still gets you thumbs up

Bruno Sacco is considered one of Mercedes best designers. He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame along with GMs Bill Mitchell and Harley Earl. Heady company indeed. The other day, I am on the freeway and a motorcycle cop is following me. Then he pulls into the right lane comes up beside me. It is hard to stay the speed limit in this car - it likes to run. The cruise control is your friend. Oh !#$%^ I think He yells out, "Nice Car" and speeds off. I paid $7,000 for this car in 2013. When new it was close to $100,000. I have probably put $20,000 into it making it reliable to the point I could hop in it and drive across country tomorrow. I got it with 113,000 miles and now have 205,000 miles. In addition to normal stuff you'd replace on a (then) 17 year old car, I had to replace the transmission with a factory rebuild. It was the first year of the electronic 5 speed and while it had 3 major updates though 2000, it had its issues. Still, I got 145,000 miles from that. The top is an intricate set up of an electric hydraulic pump and 11 hydraulic cylinders. The cylinders seals leak over time, and I replaced those last year. That can run up to $4,000 depending on where you do it. Had tie rod ends, other front end parts replaced recently. New A/C compressor, a/c hoses rebuilt. Normal stuff for an old car. But getting back to Bruno Sacco - he made cars with timeless designs, such as the 80's line of Mercedes. And he considers this car to be his best design. Make sure it comes with a hardtop. The hardtop came standard but believe it or not some are sold without a hard top. For years I wondered how you managed to lose a hard top weighing over 100 lbs and then it occurred to me that many of these tops were stored outside the home - I have a rack with wheels and it sits in the garage. But if the owner died no one would know where the top is. Others have different opinions but I would avoid the V12 unless you have a lot of money budgeted for maintenance. This was their flagship - $130,000 new, but the engine is tight and just about anything you have to work on involves the intake manifold being removed. Book time on the V12 to replace th rubber valve cover gaskets - 7.5 hours! On this engine (M119 SL500) they are easy. Beautiful car and that engine (V12) is turbine smooth but when you need maintenance... By the same token I would avoid the ADS - their air suspension. Came standard on the 600, optional on the 500, N/A on the 6. Nice when it works but when it ages can be maintenance intensive. In summary, I have spent more money than I thought maintaining this car but I love driving it.

5.0

Great car in winter and summer. Fun Car to drive

This car is great in any weather snow or sun. Fun to drive with Top Down or hard top. A lot of room and many great features.

4.1

I have invested 12,000 in this vehicle counting 58

Better have a fat wallet. I had engine swap,power steering pump,tires,hydraulic issues. Owners manual says it will do 151MPH and it will do it.I had it to136 smooth.

See all 6 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Mercedes-Benz
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
6 years old or less/less than 75,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
1 year/unlimited miles
Powertrain
1 year/unlimited miles
Dealer certification required
164-point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

Compare the competitors

2004

Saab 9-3

$26,425

starting MSRP

1999

Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

$40,000

starting MSRP

2016

Mercedes-Benz AMG SL

$149,700

starting MSRP