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Mercedes Benz SL500 (2000)

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

By Matt/Bob Hagin

Mercedes Benz Full Line Video footage (22:26)

     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 82,640
     Price As Tested                                   $ 101,240
     Engine Type              SOHC 24-valve 5.0 Liter V8 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 303 cid/4966 cc
     Horsepower                                   302 @ 5600 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               339 @ 4250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                   99.0"/71.3"/177.1"
     Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4172 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  21.1 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                  (F) 245/40ZR18 (R) 275/35ZR18
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                         Two-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.32


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/23/20
     0-60 MPH                                        6.5 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          15.0 seconds @ 99.0 mph
     Top speed                                           155 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

(The Mercedes SL series has a history that goes back almost 50 years according to Matt Hagin. His dad, Bob, was around at the time and says it was a very different type of car back then.)

BOB - The latest version of the Mercedes-Benz SL500 is getting a bit long in the tooth, Matt, and it's probably going to be updated in a year or two. But M-B convertibles of any age are a lot like aging leading-man movie stars. They always look great no matter how old they are and we have to admit that the 2000 M-B SL500 roadster has that same ageless quality. The lines are clean and unadorned with a crease around its midsection to eliminate a slab-sided look. Unlike most luxury sedans, the SL500 has only a minimum of fancy wood trim on the inside and the two leather-trimmed seats are typical of German sportsters in that they hold the driver and passenger firmly in place during high-speed back road driving, but they're anything but marshmallow soft. This is definitely not a family-goes-shopping vehicle, although the trunk could hold a pretty good number of grocery bags.

MATT - But a couple of weekend bags or sets of golf clubs would be a better gauge, Dad. Being a convertible means a bit more with the SL500 than it does on other drop-tops. It not only has an easy-to-operate cloth top but there's a removable aluminum hard top that comes with the deal. And if the buyer wants sunshine without the wind, a removable transparent top can be had instead of the aluminum version. And with any of the three tops in place, there's hardly any wind noise noticeable in the cockpit. With the convertible top down, there's a certain amount of wind buffeting but that's to be expected with this kind of car. I'm a great fan of open cars and I think that the M-B SL500 looks its best with the top down. Unfortunately, when the weather is hot and the sun is out, the leather upholstery get pretty warm, especially if you're wearing shorts. The other problem I have with it is that there isn't a place for the child seats I have to use when I transport my little girls.

BOB - This is no family car, Matt, but the mechanics of the car are also extraordinary. The engine is a 5.0-liter V8 that's as smooth as glass. It's an all-aluminum 90-degree V8 which is the classic parameter of American V8s. It uses a single cam on each head and three valves per cylinder. Mercedes claims that this design can put out as much power per cubic inch as a twin-cam design, but produces less emissions, which is a major consideration in modern engine design. The transmission is a five-speed automatic that adapts its shifting points according to the how that car is driven, whether it's going uphill or down, if the driver is "featherfooting" it or if he or she is mashing the accelerator. The skid control system is in universal use throughout the M-B lineup and it applies brake pressure to the wheels that need to be slowed down if the driver is letting the car get out of control.

MATT - The SL500 has a neat convenience and emergency response system. If the "panic" button above the rear-view mirror is pushed, it will automatically establish voice contact with Protection One - a provider contracted by M-B - which can dispatch the police or the local fire department. It will also find the location of the car for the police through global positioning satellites if the car is stolen and if any of its air bags are deployed, Protection One is automatically contacted and if the driver doesn't call off the emergency program, all the emergency-type vehicles are alerted. Another safety feature that's unique to Mercedes sports cars is an automatic roll bar. In case the driver gets too frisky or the car is inverted during a crash, a roll bar that's normally part of the interior's surround structure pops up behind the seats and locks in place. And it does it in a third of a second.

BOB - The Mercedes SL models came into existence in '54 with the gull-wing 300SL coupe. Your mother was being squired around by a mutual friend who had one back then. Fortunately for me, she isn't the kind to be impressed by fancy and expensive sports cars. If she had been, you guys might have wound up with a different last name.