Sports Leicht (Sport Light), or SL, is the designation given to a class of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, most of which are two-seat sports models. The SL-Class was introduced in 1954 with the 300SL and 190SL models. The 300SL was a true sports car and won many competitions during the mid-1950s, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 300SL series was available in a gull-wing coupethe doors raised vertically instead of opening horizontallyfor 1954 through 1957 and in a softtop roadster for 1957 through 1963. During the same period, the smaller, lower-powered 190SL was available as a two-seat roadster with an easily lowered convertible top and a removable hardtop. The 300 was powered by a 215-horsepower inline six, while the 190 had an inline-four-cylinder engine under the hood.
In 1963, Mercedes-Benz introduced a new design for their SL models. The little 190SL was replaced by the 19631967 230SL, which sported a 2.3-liter I-6. In 1966, an additional model was added, the 250SL, which had a larger 2.5-liter I-6. In 1967, the engine was again increased to 2.8 liters in the 280SL. The larger, more powerful 300SL sports car and racer was not replaced after it ceased production in 1963.
For 1972, Mercedes introduced a new 350SL Series coupe/roadster. Sporting a 3.5-liter V-8, the 350SL was faster and more luxurious than the previous models had been. It was produced until 1980. In 1973 through 1980, Mercedes-Benz also built a 450SL, powered by a 4.5-liter V-8. From 1974 through 1980, a 280SL model was offered, which had a 2.8-liter inline six. In 1980 through 1986, the SL line consisted of a 380SL with a 3.8-liter V-8 and a 500SL with a 5.0-liter V-8. The downsized displacement on the entry-level SL was a response to the fuel crisis of that era and the emission requirements of Germany and the United States. For 1986 through 1989, the SL models were the 420SL, 500SL and 560SL, all with variously sized V-8 engines, and the 300SL with an inline six.
The SL was face-lifted in 1994 and again in 2003. The engine offerings during this period ranged from an I-6, V-6 and V-8 to a V-12. Mercedes-Benz AMG division produced several high-performance versions of the SL over the years, the most notable and rare being the SL73 AMG, offered in 1995 and concealing a 525-horsepower V-12 under the hood. Only 85 of these roadsters were produced. The 7.3-liter V-12 was used in several exotic cars, including a Pagani Zonda. Today, the Mercedes-Benz 500SL is the primary offering, but AMG is also producing several performance versions of the venerable coupe/roadster.
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