The new Mercedes SL caused a double feel at the Geneva Motor Show 30 years ago: on the one hand, the internal R 129 score with a well-balanced design. At the same time, he combines the goals with sportiness and comfort. Not least, the fans are curious about what will follow after 18 years on the 107 Series SL. The result is a sophisticated, open sports car that stands for "the fascination of driving in unprecedented dimensions". As stated in the Mercedes Press Lounge for the salon, which takes place on 9-19 March 1989.
Already in 1990, the sports car "Car Design Award" received the city of Turin and the Piedmont region. Born in Italy, Bruno Sacco, then Design Manager at Mercedes, lacks the award. The design of SL carries its signature – with clean lines and surfaces without frills, a slightly wedge-shaped body and powerful accents. The design also guarantees good aerodynamics: If the standard hard plate is mounted, R 129 achieves an excellent drag coefficient of cW = 0.32.
The development of the 129 series takes on Mercedes already in the 1970s, but how the figure (W 126 and W 124 seems far ahead of the new SL), the development is drawing. There are always considerations for one derived from the open sports coupe Coupe, which in the SLC series 107, but not realized. (Instead, you design an elegant hardtop, which every 129er SL will have as a standard.) In the early 1980s, the work increased rapidly. The model, which will be measured in a wind tunnel in November 1981, clearly bears the design signing of the Bruno Sacco era. On October 17, 1984, the Roadster received mold release, and on December 10, 1985, Mercedes-Benz specified that the production of the R 129 series should begin in August 1988.
For the start of the new Roadster 1989 has two types with three liter inline six cylinder (300 SL with 190 hp and 300 SL-24 with 231 hp and four valve technology) and also five-liter V8 in 500 SL with 326 hp (from 1992: 320 hp), The development of a top model with a V12 engine releases the company in December 1986.
However, in open vehicles there is an additional risk when transferring in addition to the conventional accident scenarios due to the lack of fixed roofs. Early in the development phase, the fathers of the R 129 series therefore think of a Targa solution, where the B-pillar is extended to a fixed roller bar. But Roadster classic lines would be disturbed.
An innovative solution is found: the automatic scroll bar. He celebrates 30 years ago in the SL world premiere. The prestressed spring damper assembly sets up the roller bar in driving critical situations in just 0.3 seconds. Another innovation for passive safety – and for comfort – is the electrically adjustable integrated seats that have been achieved for the first time in R 129. The three-point belt system is then integrated with belt retractors and belt tensioner and belt height adjustment and coupled head restraint adjustment.
The engineers put a lot of development work into the fully automatic fabric door in the R 129 series. It has a complex frame kinematics, and the control unit monitors the processes with, among other things, 17 interface switches. Premiere also has the wind deflector in the new SL. Today, this solution is one of the requirements for open vehicles. Another special feature is the HDD with panoramic glass, which was available in recent years.
The modern chassis contributes to the high comfort. These include the Adaptive Damping System ADS, which has its world premiere in R 129. It automatically adjusts the attenuation in fractions of one second to the respective driving conditions and is coupled with an automatic level control system.
The new SL met with an enthusiastic response in 1989, initially utilizing the customers production capacity available in the Bremen factory. During the first two and a half years of production, 52,204 vehicles in the R 129 series have already been produced in December 1991. 25 709 of these sports cars are produced in 1991 alone. More than a third of them (34.7 percent) are exported to North America, Germany is the second most important market with 30.4 percent.
In the summer of 1992, Mercedes presents the new top model, 600 SL with V12 engine and 394 hp. It is the first SL ever with a twelve-cylinder engine. Its exclusive character is emphasized by the interior with burl wood and leather. Externally refer only to the rating plate and the V12 emblem on the air outlet grooves on the top of the Mercedes 600 SEL engine. But the big engine makes this SL quite high, even the cost of maintenance is huge.
The reorganization of the Mercedes type designations also applies to SL in July 1993: The class name is now in front of the digit sequence with reference to the engine size. At the same time, the two three-liter variants 300 SL (the last SL with this magic name) and 300 SL-24 are replaced by SL 280 (193 hp) and SL 320 (231 hp). Both have six-cylinder four-valve engines. At this time, 85,300 vehicles in the R 129 series have already been produced.
Exclusive special models and sporty optimized top models keep demand in the 1990s. The result of direct collaboration between Mercedes and AMG 1993 is the new top model for SL 60 AMG with 381 hp. Between 1994 and 2001, a total of 20 special series were produced in different editions, between ten and 1,515 vehicles. The coveted special models include, for example, Mille Miglia Edition and Special Edition.
At the IAA 1995, the Stuttgart brand introduces the revised SL. Externally, it can be seen on the grid with six fins, through white front light units, bichromatic rear lights and new side walls. Among the technical changes is the new, electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission in 500 SL and 600 SL. Mercedes-Benz presents the new xenon light under the heading "Light from Gas". Premiere also has the new panoramic glass ceiling of four squares of different thicknesses glued to the aluminum structure of the facelifted SL. It is available as an alternative from 1996.
SL undergoes continuous development. For example, all types of traffic operators from December 1997 receive the brake assist BAS. In April 1998, Mercedes at Turin Autosalon presented the updated SL. The face lift includes new V6 engines in the type SL 280 (204 hp) and SL 320 (231 hp) and a new V8 engine in the SL 500 (306 hp). Exterior changes are aluminum five-wheeled wheels, the visible exhaust pipe, the exterior mirrors in a matched to the SLK R 170 series, and door handles and body color lock cylinders. Inside is the new four-wheel steering wheel, display instrument with chrome frame and standard nappa leather interior.
1999 followed by two AMG variants of the updated SL. The SL 55 AMG receives it already established in the second series of 5.5-liter V8 engines (354 hp). The displacement giants in SL 73 AMG: Affalterbach drilled V12 to 7.3 liters, enough for 525 hp. Since the 1970s in the 1930s, no Mercedes car engine was any bigger. A special feature of the AMG models is, besides the sporty look, the mixed tires with rear wider aluminum wheels and tires.
SL 129 series ends in 2001. In total, 204 940 vehicles will be manufactured over a twelve-year construction period. The most successful type, with almost 80,000 copies, is 500 SL / SL 500 with four-valve engine.