Buyers Guide Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG R230

Buyers Guide Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG R230

Even 18 years on from its launch, the R230 SL remains arguably one of the best-looking models Mercedes has ever produced. The styling is just so right, sleek, elegant, perfectly proportioned, beautifully balanced and there’s not one bad angle anywhere on this car. It looks as good today as it did when it was launched, and perhaps even better because each subsequent angular generation has only served to highlight how good the R230 truly is.


ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE MERCEDES BUYING GUIDE

While the SL was an exceptional car, it was in SL55 form that it truly excelled and this is a car that became a bit of a legend, shocking people with its mind-blowing performance, scintillating V8 soundtrack and making the world sit up and take notice of Mercedes’ latest creation. With the M113K under the bonnet, the SL55 is an absolute rocket ship with a 0-62 time of just 4.7 seconds and it feels completely relentless, with a mid-range that shoves you back into your seat and eye-widening topend performance, especially impressive considering it tips the scales at nearly two-tonnes.


R230 SL55 AMGSupercharged M113K V8 is the perfect partner for the SL. Old tech aside, thecabin still feels special

WHY YOU WANT ONE

The SL55 isn’t just a pretty shell wrapped around an epic engine, though; its ABC suspension does a very impressive job of keeping all that mass in check and it feels surprisingly light on its feet and is a lot more fun from behind the wheel than you might think it would be. And when you’re not in the mood for acting like a hooligan, the SL55 is more than happy to chill out and relax and it’s an extremely capable and accomplished cruiser that will make the miles melt away. The cabin looks and feels special with plenty of leather and Alcantara accents and the optional panoramic roof makes you feel like there’s nothing but glass all around you, and while there are no rear seats the stowage area behind the front seats is a welcome and practical addition that cements the SL55’s credentials as a usable GT.

WHAT TO PAY

Browse the classifieds and you will see that you can pick up an SL55 for quite a bit less than £20,000 but, truth be told, there is a lot that can go wrong with one of these. That means that if you want to enjoy your R230 experience and not end up resenting your purchase, you need to spend as much as you can and buy the best car you can afford and, luckily, you should be able to find yourself a real peach at this price point. We’d be aiming to buy as late a car as possible, ideally one with as few miles on the clock as possible, and a comprehensive service history that shows it’s been cared for during its life to minimise any potential woes. For £16,000 you could get yourself a 2004 car with 68,000 miles, or for £17,500 we found a lovely Jasper blue example on a 54-plate with the later COMAND and 70,000 miles. We also spotted a 2006 facelift model with 89k miles up for a shade under £18,000 and at the same sort of money, there was also a 2005 car with 76k on the clock.

R230 One of the best-looking Mercedes of all time

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

ABC will be the biggest concern on an SL55 – the struts will set you back around £1000 each, the valve blocks are about £700 each and a pump is about £1500. Check that the ABC works properly, raising and lowering the car as it should, and check that the car doesn’t drop down on its suspension after being parked for a while, which will point to a failing pump. Speaking of pumps, in the boot lives the PSE, which operates the locks, fuel cap and self-closing boot lid – if it fails not only will you lose those functions but it will also set you back over £700 for a new one but, luckily, it’s often the impeller that fails and this can be repaired for a fraction of the cost. The roof can become misaligned (listen out for creaks with it up) and leak as a result of this, blocked drain holes will also cause leaks while the boot seals also let water in and this will cause problems with the aforementioned PSE pump as well as the hydraulic roof pump – this was fixed in 2005 but requires all of the boot seals to be removed and replaced. Rust isn’t too much of an issue on the R230, however, the rear arches are a known problem area, so inspect them carefully.

Beyond that, the SL55 uses SBC brake-by-wire, which means when the pump dies you will either need a new one at £1500 or so or get it rebuilt for £375. The M113K can suffer from a failing intercooler pump, which is thankfully a cheap fix, while the valve cover gaskets can leak as can the rear main seal, which is around a five-hour job to fix so it’s only really recommended to get it done if the leak is very bad. Early cars would have also suffered from the Valeo radiators leaking coolant into the gearbox, so make sure this has been changed for the later Behr item.

VERDICT

With beautiful styling that looks like it hasn’t aged a day since launch, monster performance, an epic soundtrack and the ability to be both an absolute hooligan and a perfect long-distance cruising partner, the SL55 ticks just about every box there is to tick. We love this car and we would love to own one, but unfortunately, SL55s can go wrong in a very big way and some of the bills they can throw up are genuinely scary. This is a car you have to be truly committed to looking after properly and one which you have to be prepared to spend some money on, otherwise, the experience could potentially leave you with a very bad taste in your mouth. But if you’ve got the funds the SL55 is a car we’d recommend in a heartbeat.

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