The Mercedes-Benz R129 SL is a roadster coupe produced from 1989 until 2001 by German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz. This new model replaced the R107 series which was the second longest running model from the car maker and packed a variety of new features. The new SL-Class was first presented at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1989, with left hand drive sales beginning that summer and right hand sales beginning that fall season. In its first production year, this new SL came runner-up behind the Citroen XM for the European Car Of The Year accolade and was praised by critics around the world for its successful leap into the 1990’s with this major refresh.
Originally designed in 1984 by legendary designer Bruno Sacco, the R129 was based on the shortened floorplan of the Mercedes-Benz W124 and was later pronounced by Sacco as his ‘most perfect’ car design. This model features elegant body lines and a long hood that positioned it as an exotic roadster with a two tone body panel finish for early model years.
In addition to its good looks, the R129 was full of new tech. The seats alone had 20 patented parts including an in-built seatbelt that automatically raised or lowered to match the height of the headrest. It also has a first-of-its-kind roll bar that deploys automatically within 0.3 seconds if a rollover is detected. Dual front airbags were standard in the new SL as well as anti lock brakes, traction control and an electronically controlled limited slip differential.
The R129 came in 4 different variants over the course of its production lifespan, the SL 280, SL 300, SL 500 and SL 600. They would be powered by a myriad of 6, 8 and 12 cylinder engines with all but the 6 cylinder engines featuring dual-overhead cams and cylinder heads with variable timing. The engines were quite powerful but due to its heavy weight it wasn’t the fastest in its class.
Over the years, the R129 has been featured in a number of movies and television shows including “The Rookie” in which a veteran detective played by Clint Eastwood teams up with a rookie played by Charlie Sheen and in one scene, the mismatched pair are investigating an exotic car theft ring in Los Angeles and snag a SL 500 Convertible and drive it out a window, over an explosion and into a warehouse skylight. The R129 also made an appearance in the popular comedy film “Dude, Where’s my car? Where Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott star as a couple of boneheads who go on an epic quest to find their car. It was also seen in the Jim Carrey film, “Liar Liar” as well as the wildly popular Leonardo Dicaprio film, “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
The Mercedes-Benz R129 SL-Class was crucial for the legacy of the lineup as it helped propel the manufacturer into the digital age and will forever be engraved as a pivotal turning point for the manufacturer.