Phil's Morning Drive | Budget Roadsters: 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster
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Budget Roadsters: 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster

Budget Roadsters: 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster

The Mercedes SL has been an iconic roadster since its introduction in the 1950s. Many of those early versions will cost you well over $1,000,000 today. The one I’m highlighting today is the R129 body style, which was built from 1989 to 2002. I always liked its boxy shape even though the styling just screams 1990s Mercedes. If you had asked people a decade ago, or even 5 years ago, about this model most would say it’s just another used Mercedes.

Because of the general “poo poo” attitude about this car (which mostly relates to styling), you can now pick one up for a reasonable price. So much so that I think eventually, like every other SL, it will become desirable. Unlike the cars that followed, it isn’t overly complicated with no air suspension and a ton of electronics that can go wrong. In fact, most of these had enough luxury features to keep a modern driver happy. For purposes of this article, I’m focusing on what you can expect from a 2002 model. These had the most modern features and a few styling touches that I think look great even today – not too mention the fewest problems.

The SL was offered with just two engines in the United States for 2002. The SL500, which had a 302 hp V8, and the SL600, which had the 390 hp V12. These cars could easily top $100,000 at the time but today they can fit nicely within a reasonable budget. Here’s what you can expect to pay for one now.

NADA Guide Pricing

  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500 – 25,000 miles – $15,100
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500 – 50,000 miles – $14,800
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500 – 75,000 miles – $14,475
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL500 – 100,000 miles – $13,075
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL600 – 25,000 miles – $18,025
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL600 – 50,000 miles – $18,025
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL600 – 75,000 miles – $16,825
  • 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL600 – 100,000 miles – $15,425

After some further research of classified listings scattered around the Internet, the NADA numbers seem pretty close. I found a few outliers that were in the $20,000 range with less than 50,000 miles. Either way, we are talking about less than $20,000 in most cases for a world class Mercedes convertible with possibly a V12 engine.

When it comes to options and features pretty much everything was standard in 2002, especially if you chose the SL600. Many of the optional items on the SL500 were standard on the SL600. Here’s a few of the standard and optional features from the SL500 with the original pricing.

SL500 Base Price: $84,800
Standard Features:

  • 5-speed automatic transmission
  • Traction control
  • Dual front airbags w/automatic child seat recognition system
  • Side airbags
  • 4-wheel ABS disc brakes
  • The pop-up roll bar
  • TeleAid emergency assistance system
  • Automatic climate controls with interior air filter
  • Power tilt/telescoping steering wheel w/memory
  • 10-way leather power seats w/memory
  • Heated power mirrors w/memory
  • Remote keyless entry
  • Bose AM/FM/weatherband/cassette
  • Rain-sensing variable intermittent wipers
  • Power convertible soft top
  • Wind deflector
  • Removable hardtop
  • Theft-deterrent system
  • Heated headlight washers/wipers
  • 18- inch staggered width alloy wheels
  • Options:

SL2 Option Package – $1890

  • Heated front seats
  • 6-disc CD changer
  • Xenon headlights
  • Deletes heated headlight washers/wipers
  • Multicontour Power Seats – $740
  • Wood Shift Knob – $190
  • Wood Steering Wheel – $610
  • Heated Seats (Stand-Alone Option) $635
  • Panorama Glass Hardtop – $4,030
  • Adaptive Damping System – $4,050

SL600 – Base Price: $131,550
Standard Features:

  • Everything from the SL500 standard features list plus
  • Upgraded leather upholstery
  • Heated seats
  • Wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • 6-disc CD changer
  • Integrated cellular telephone
  • Xenon headlights
  • Adaptive Damping System

Options:

  • Multicontour Power Seats – $740
  • Panorama Glass Hardtop – $4,030

When it was new, the SL600 demanded a huge premium but now, 16 years later, not much separates the two models. The SL600 is much rarer and of course, the gas mileage is awful – 13/19 for the SL600 and 16/23 for the SL500. One other trim level to consider is the Silver Arrow Edition, which was offered on both version of the SL. Here’s what was included along with the original pricing:

SL500 Silver Arrow Edition – $2500

Polished aluminum exterior trim, machined aluminum and chrome interior trim, two-tone leather upholstery, heated seats, bird’s-eye maple interior trim, 6-disc CD changer, leather-trimmed floormats, cross-drilled brake rotors, silver-painted calipers, unique alloy wheels.

SL600 Silver Arrow Edition – $4000

Polished aluminum exterior trim, machined aluminum and chrome interior trim, two-tone leather upholstery, bird’s-eye maple interior trim, special wood/leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-trimmed floormats, removable panorama roof, cross-drilled brake rotors, silver-painted calipers, unique alloy wheels.

In today’s money, the Silver Arrow Edition will add a premium, but it’s hard to say how much.

Personally, I love this body style of the SL. When it comes to value for money, I think it’s really hard to beat the 2002 version because it was the last year it was offered. At the time, Mercedes produced basically the same car for over 10 years and the problems that plagued the early 90s models were basically non existent by then. With prices below $20,000 in most cases, why not buy the 2002? It has quite a few modern features, it’s very comfortable and you’ll have plenty of cruising power, no matter which engine you choose.

One rare option (and it was expensive when the car was new) I always fantasized about having was the Panorama Hardtop. The majority of it is glass and at the time I thought it was so cool to have an open air view with the hardtop in place. I will admit having the hard and soft top sounds great in theory, but changing the hardtop out for the winter months can be a pain, especially when you consider the 2003 model and beyond have power hard tops.

The bottom line is that you should seriously consider the 2002 Mercedes-Benz SL if you want a large roadster with luxury appointments. It isn’t so modern you risk extra shop time and you don’t have to lay down more money up front. Will the SL from this generation increase in value? That’s tough to say. I think the further away we get from it, the more the 1990s style will become desirable, for nostalgia sake.

 

Photos/Video Courtesy: Daimler AG/MBUSA/Mercedes-Benz

Phil’s Morning Drive, a web series about cars, is now streaming on Amazon and YouTube. You can also follow this blog on Apple News.

 

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