1998 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

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$79,900

starting MSRP

1998 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

Key specs

Base trim shown

Overview

2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1998 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class trim comparison will help you decide.

1998 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class review: Our expert's take

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Even though it is not as cheeky as the little SLK, the other Mercedes-Benz roadster, the SL series is an eminently enjoyable two-seater loaded with luxury and panache.

SLs come in three flavors — 320, 500 and 600 — and their powerplants range from a six for the 320 to a V12 for the 600. I drove an SL equipped with a 5.0-liter V8 engine and the optional Sport package of 18-inch wheels and more aggressive front and rear spoilers designed by AMA, a German after market tuner with close ties to Mercedes. This package adds $4,900 to the already hefty base price of $89,900, putting the total price on par with a three-bedroom house in suburbia.

While that is out of reach for the majority of us, the privileged folks who buy SLs don’t have to worry about the monthly payment or cost of insurance. To them, this car competes with summer homes or yachts.

Decked out in white paint as stark as a refrigerator, with huge tires and ground-effects spoilers, our test car had the stance of a ballet dancer on steroids. Its muscles rippled, and it looked like it could gobble up the pavement without breathing hard. The Sport package looked a bit too conspicuous in white and I frequently caught people staring at me. If you prefer a lower profile, choose the standard model or else pick a dark color.

Tromp the throttle and the 315 horses respond with authority. It is clearly more of a high-speed touring car than a drag racer because it gathers speed elegantly, deliberately, as one would expect of a luxury car that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. On the highway it motors along with such assurance that you have to consciously reign it back to keep from zooming well past the speed limit.

When I drove the SL500 the weather was still warm, and it was most enjoyable to drop the top, put up the windows, and motor. The wind-blocking screen that folds up behind the seats kills much of the turbulence that would otherwise buffet the passenger cabin.

While the SL doesn’t have the razor-sharp responses, or punishing ride, of an all-out sports car, its handling is considerably sportier than a boulevard cruiser, due mainly to the prodigious grip of the high-performance tires and 18-inch wheels. When the pavement turns twisty and you have the top down, it is a joy.

Putting the top down is absolutely painless. On the console there is a red knob that looks like a miniature model of the top. One touch is all it takes for the top to completely retract and fold itself under a hard cover. It only takes a few seconds for you to enjoy the freshness of top-down motoring.

Inside, leather abounds, and the seats are as comfortable as orthopedic shoes. The instrument layout is the same as every Mercedes, which is to say logical, readable and oriented toward making the driver’s job easy. Secondary controls for radio and climate control can be a tad cryptic, but are easily figured out.

An occupancy sensor in the right seat deactivates the passenger-side airbag when it detects less than 26 pounds in the seat.

Given this car’s price and stature, nearly every imaginable convenience item is standard, from 10-way electric seats to headlamp washers and a roll bar that pops into place in a third of second should you tip over.

Both front and side airbags are standard, as are traction control and anti-lock brakes.

The keyless remote vehicle security system uses infrared light so thieves cannot snatch the radio signals with a scanner.

Driving at night was a joy because of the optional Xenon headlights, whose blue-white color illuminates the darkness much better than standard bulbs. At $950, they are an expensive option, but they last longer than regular lights and provide much better vision.

It has been 40 years since Mercedes-Benz introduced the first 300SL roadster, a car now hailed as a landmark classic. Whether the SL500 will fall into the same category remains to be seen, but it has ea ed a respected place in the company’s history.

Price

The base price of our test car was $89,900. Extra-cost items included a CD changer, Xenon headlamps and the Sport package. The sticker price was $98,510.

Warranty

The basic warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star’s week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: The SL500 is a classic roadster with the refinement of a luxury sedan and the performance of a grand touring car. The automatic top is painless and the seats are as comfortable as your favorite pair or shoes.

Counterpoint: The Sport package enhances handling but also made me feel conspicuous. For a lower profile, choose the regular model and add the bigger wheels.

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 5.0-liter V8

TRANSMISSION: automatic

WHEELBASE: 99.0 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 4,165 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $89,900

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $98,510

MPG RATING: 15 city, 23 hwy.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.5
  • Interior design 4.8
  • Performance 4.8
  • Value for the money 4.6
  • Exterior styling 4.9
  • Reliability 4.7

Most recent consumer reviews

5.0

$90,000 new in 98 and still a dream for under 15k

This car was an absolute legend in its day and still is today. It has become a classic and is one of the only reliable Mercedes ever made. The R129 model is THE one.

5.0

Even at 22 years old my car turns heads

I bought my car a year ago and it needed a fair bit of TLC; I've now worked through all the issues and I can honestly say this car gives me more pleasure than any car I've ever owned including a couple of Porsche 911's, it's comfortable, quick and oozes class

5.0

Fun and reliable

It's super fast. It's cool looking and fun to drive. Mercedes is always more advanced. So this care being a 1998 has everything that a 2012 car has.

See all 13 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Mercedes-Benz
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
48 months/50,000 miles
Roadside assistance
-12 months/unlimited distance
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

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2016

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See all 1998 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class articles