R129 & R230 SL500 experience

swithin

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I have been very lucky in owning a few R129’s the latest of which, a 99 SL500 I have had for the last 10 years and love to bits. I’ve put a stainless steel exhaust on her and replaced the radio but kept the original oh and replaced the roof ecu after frying it jump starting her at the train station 😱

Unfortunately Mercedes is starting to look her age and now needs a new roof, rust treatment on the front wings, drivers seat refurbished and a general tart up of the paint.

With this in mind, I started looking at the for sale ads for a R230 SL500 post 2006. It’s taken me a while to jump into this model as despite its gorgeous looks, it has a reputation as being a money pit, my specialist loves seeing them arrive in March for their Summer work over. I’d seen a few of them on his ramps over the last few years and was astonished at the rust on this model. After reading and watching many reviews on them a post 2006 was sought.

Recently I managed to get one, a silver 2007 SL500 with just 36k on the clock and full service history for just £13k. The car is immaculate and although it’s price is handy for me it’s ridiculous for such a marque in such good condition.

Apart from the obvious differences of looks and power, the r230 is 5.5L the r129 5L, I’d like to share my thoughts on my experiences so far with them both.I’ll start off with initial thoughts and add to them.

Experience: The R129 is a wafting GT, the R230 is equally happy on the motorway and the twisty’s thanks to the ABC suspension. Not saying the 129 is a lard ass but my 8 year old has better luck holding in the vomit in the 230....so far. So driving experience, 230 wins for me. It also wins because it doesn’t need a stainless steel exhaust to hear that glorious v8. The R129 was suffocated with over zealous cats thanks to the over zealous beaurocrats of the time, the 230 has a much better voice with its stock exhaust. Where the 129 floors the 230, in my opinion, is it’s presence on the road. While the 230 is a beautiful car, the 129 seems to be better loved by anyone who remembers a time before speed humps that don’t match the speed limit, inappropriately placed speed cameras and clogged overtaking lanes, empty driving lanes. TBC
 
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swithin

swithin

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alabbasi

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I have a 98 SL500 which was the last year of the M119 engine. The car is wonderful but my 05 SL55 is a beast by comparison. Dramatically better in just about every way, except to live with. Aside from the soft top hydraulics in the R129, the car is simple and DIY friendly.

Both my cars has around 67000 miles.
 
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swithin

swithin

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Can’t figure out how to turn the image
 
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swithin

swithin

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I have a 98 SL500 which was the last year of the M119 engine. The car is wonderful but my 05 SL55 is a beast by comparison. Dramatically better in just about every way, except to live with. Aside from the soft top hydraulics in the R129, the car is simple and DIY friendly.

Both my cars has around 67000 miles.
My 129 is a 1999, I used it as a daily driver right up until I started working from home. She’s 21 in December so lots of birthday prezzies such as new roof. I still use her properly and last year got a bit too exuberant and split some pulley at the front of the engine. Was very lucky the belt didn’t eat too far into the block😳
 
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swithin

swithin

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I have a 98 SL500 which was the last year of the M119 engine. The car is wonderful but my 05 SL55 is a beast by comparison. Dramatically better in just about every way, except to live with. Aside from the soft top hydraulics in the R129, the car is simple and DIY friendly.

Both my cars has around 67000 miles.
My 129 is a 1999, I used it as a daily driver right up until I started working from home. She’s 21 in December so lots of birthday prezzies such as new roof. I still use her properly and last year got a bit too exuberant and split some pulley at the front of the engine. Was very lucky the belt didn’t eat too far into the block😳 D7EF1035-386E-434F-AD97-07401ED78B07.jpeg D7EF1035-386E-434F-AD97-07401ED78B07.jpeg
 
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swithin

swithin

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My 129 has 71,000 miles the 230 just over 36,000
 

alabbasi

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My 129 is a 1999, I used it as a daily driver right up until I started working from home. She’s 21 in December so lots of birthday prezzies such as new roof. I still use her properly and last year got a bit too exuberant and split some pulley at the front of the engine. Was very lucky the belt didn’t eat too far into the block😳
Got it

1588460938888.png
 
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swithin

swithin

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Costs: When I bought my R129 the previous owner had converted it to run on LPG as well as unleaded and though sacrilege it has meant 40,000 miles of extreme fun for the same price as my wife’s mini. It doesn’t miss a beat and the difference in performance is not noticeable at all. Doesn’t harm the engine and in fact keeps it clean. The R230 was a shock when driving it 200 miles home from the dealer as at around 70 it returned 28mpg with roof down and over 30mpg roof up. Now my C250 diesel returns 50mpg on same trip but diesel is more expensive so I’m not really losing much and while the c250 keeps depreciating the SL’s have nothing stopped.
The most expensive cost to me with the R129 has been the roof ECU but looking around that cost can be hugely tamed. The R230 needs hydraulic suspension sleeves which I’ve read are impossible to find yet I’ve ordered 4 at £69 each which my specialist says are just the right job. If the suspension fails 😱 there’s a company in Germany who rebuild them for £450 each. I also have a 12 year old Range Rover which last year fell on its wheels with suspension failure. The boards were full of “get rid” it will cost thousands. I have a fantastic specialist for that car as well and the repair cost was £139 for a sensor. When I asked how much a bigger failure would cost he said ignore the boards and stay away from the dealers.
I feel sorry for those who are being fleeced on a regular basis and who are being turned off the SL’s because of supposed huge bills. I have previously been quoted £4K+ for 2 faults which were resolved by keeping the aircon on, it started working again so no need for expensive compressor and finding my specialist, a radiator issue turned out to be a £27 split pipe and the radiator itself was marked up by £600 by the repairer I ran from.
My point with this post is that if they are serviced on time and looked after they don’t have to cost you the earth and the shear enjoyment of the SL’s is absolutely worth the risk. As I’m typing this I’m already looking for an excuse to drive the R230, it’s right outside my front door and first thing I see. You don’t get that gnawing urge with many other cars in this price range.
 

ToeKnee

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I loved my R230, cost me next to nothing in the two years I owned it except depreciation, which was shocking!
 

Londonscottish

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So driving experience, 230 wins for me. It also wins because it doesn’t need a stainless steel exhaust to hear that glorious v8.
Interesting comparison. To my eyes they are both great-looking cars but the 320 edges it for me. Specifically that iteration.

ABC is a pretty amazing system. A mate of mine drove me down some twisties in his and it was surprisingly hustle-able and it cornered very flat. It hid its weight well.

I've always though of SL's as good places for V8's and I'd imagine the M119 suits the more loping pace of the 129 whilst the more-exploitable Airmatic 230 is an ideal home for the M273.

I've made a similar same change in my E and there is a surprisingly big jump in performance between the earlier and later engines. Along with a quicker gearbox, tighter steering and so on which I'd guess would the same as you go through the generations of SL's?

Anyway, what a great stable.
 

MikeInWimbledon

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Experience: The R129 is a wafting GT, the R230 is equally happy on the motorway and the twisty’s thanks to the ABC suspension. Not saying the 129 is a lard ass but my 8 year old has better luck holding in the vomit in the 230....so far. So driving experience, 230 wins for me. It also wins because it doesn’t need a stainless steel exhaust to hear that glorious v8. The R129 was suffocated with over zealous cats thanks to the over zealous beaurocrats of the time, the 230 has a much better voice with its stock exhaust. Where the 129 floors the 230, in my opinion, is it’s presence on the road. While the 230 is a beautiful car, the 129 seems to be better loved by anyone who remembers a time before speed humps that don’t match the speed limit, inappropriately placed speed cameras and clogged overtaking lanes, empty driving lanes. TBC
I've had a facelift 2007 SL500 on my shopping list for nine months now. Lack of suitable cars, travel, other projects and now "this and that" have delayed doing a deal.

One question for you. Like me, I suspect, you probably like the all options V8 over the SL350. But did you consider a SL350, or just automatically rule it out ? With all due respect to the R129, it must have been quite a jump to go up to the 380bhp R230 with its 0-62 in 4.9 from the R129's 0-62 in 6.3.

It amazes me that these cars are so difficult to sell at these prices. I've seen three facelift cars in the last nine months and all of them are still unsold, as are many others which I didn't go to see, some which have been on sale for a year. I appreciate that SL's require twice the number of notes as a good SLK350 of the same age, but they're still well-maintained cars being sold with more than 80% off the price when new (typically 60k miles ago)

Would appreciate your thoughts on the SL500 v SL350 - even if your view was simply that the V8 was simply the thing to have.

.
 
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swithin

swithin

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I've had a facelift 2007 SL500 on my shopping list for nine months now. Lack of suitable cars, travel, other projects and now "this and that" have delayed doing a deal.

One question for you. Like me, I suspect, you probably like the all options V8 over the SL350. But did you consider a SL350, or just automatically rule it out ? With all due respect to the R129, it must have been quite a jump to go up to the 380bhp R230 with its 0-62 in 4.9 from the R129's 0-62 in 6.3.

It amazes me that these cars are so difficult to sell at these prices. I've seen three facelift cars in the last nine months and all of them are still unsold, as are many others which I didn't go to see, some which have been on sale for a year. I appreciate that SL's require twice the number of notes as a good SLK350 of the same age, but they're still well-maintained cars being sold with more than 80% off the price when new (typically 60k miles ago)

Would appreciate your thoughts on the SL500 v SL350 - even if your view was simply that the V8 was simply the thing to have.

.
Before my R129 Sl500 I had a SL320. It seemed to have much better road manners than the 500 and that was it. This is due to the heavier engine in the 500. The road economy was negligible and hardly noticeable. The 320’s voice is uninspiring as I imagine is the same with the 350.
I saw this week a R230 sl350 and 500 same year and same mileage but over £5,000 difference in price.
At these prices I can’t see the point in getting the V6. It’s hardly cheaper for anything but suspension (ABC) but then again no ABC no fantastic cornering. In my opinion the V6 is a car you use everyday as your first car. The V8 the second car used for long weekend's away.
I would suggest that a V8 will hold its value much better then a V6 so is a false economy purchase.
 

flowrider

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My 129 is a 1999, I used it as a daily driver right up until I started working from home. She’s 21 in December so lots of birthday prezzies such as new roof. I still use her properly and last year got a bit too exuberant and split some pulley at the front of the engine. Was very lucky the belt didn’t eat too far into the block😳 View attachment 95482 View attachment 95482
Load the images into MSPaint and you can turn them the right way up.

Love both cars BTW.
 

flowrider

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Have you checked the boot seals and the drains, especially the drain in the air box? Water leaks are a bigger issue than ABC in my opinion.
 

BTB 500

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ABC is a pretty amazing system. A mate of mine drove me down some twisties in his and it was surprisingly hustle-able and it cornered very flat. It hid its weight well.

I've always though of SL's as good places for V8's and I'd imagine the M119 suits the more loping pace of the 129 whilst the more-exploitable Airmatic 230 is an ideal home for the M273.
I've not driven a coil-sprung R129 but my M119 one with ADS handles pretty well (for a 2 tonne car), particularly in sport mode :)
 

MikeInWimbledon

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Have you checked the boot seals and the drains, especially the drain in the air box? Water leaks are a bigger issue than ABC in my opinion.
Amen to this point. Far more common and a real pain in the boot area.
Cars which have spent their life garaged often avoid this, but those left outside:not much hope.
 

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