SL derives from Sport Leicht, meaning 'sport lightweight'. That is exactly what Mercedes-Benz SL-Class cars are: light, sporty and fast. The original SL was the Gullwing in 1954, which got its name from its upwards-opening doors. These original SLs were available either as a coupe with a removable hard top or a convertible soft-top roadster.
The oldest used Mercedes Benz SL-Class cars have classic vintage styling, but are far heavier and less powerful than more modern versions. The first generation produced between 1954 and 1963 had 3.0L engines, but in 1963 came a new design and new technology as Mercedes began to use six-cylinder, fuel-injected engines, in order to improve the power and speed of the next generation of SLs.
Between 1972 and 1989 a number of different engines were available, from a 2.8L six-cylinder to a huge 5.6L V8. While V8 engines were found to be incredibly powerful, the six-cylinder version was far lighter and therefore still rather speedy. In 1994 the SL went through a big change in design; it lost its sporty edge to become sleeker and more modern. Throughout the 1990s Mercedes worked on improving engine quality and reliability, plus braking in order to make the car safer.
An all-new SL introduced in 2003 was, once again, sportier but still elegant and sleek. Models since then have featured a retractable hard top and more advanced brake, engine and suspension technology. One of these more modern second-hand Mercedes-Benz SL-Classes could prove to be as enjoyable as an alternative, brand new sports car of a similar price.
The Mercedes SL has been in production for more than five decades, which is an incredible achievement. The reason it has always been popular is because each new generation has had a new design, ensuring the car's styling remains modern. Moreover, Mercedes has continued to work on engine technology to make sure its luxury sports cars are fast and reliable.