In a long and rich history, Mercedes-Benz has consistently created high-quality cars that are known not only for their luxury, but also for their dynamic performance. In addition, Mercedes-Benz has built a solid reputation for build quality and reliability. In terms of innovation, they are not afraid to load their cars with new technologies.
Looking at their impressive range of sports cars, you’ll find everything from sophisticated to downright scary. The three-pointed star logo is not only one of the most recognizable car logos, it represents some of the most desirable cars in the world. Some of the well-known sports car models from the German car giant are the 1954 300SL, the SLR McLaren and the crazy AMG models. But among the many hits they’ve had, there are also some misses: cars that don’t meet the Mercedes-Benz gold standard. So, here are the five best and the five worst Mercedes-Benz sports cars ever.
10 Best: SLR McLaren 722
After the positive reception of the SLR concept, Mercedes Benz teamed up with McLaren to create the SLR McLaren, which was unveiled in November 2003. Powered by 617 horsepower from a hand-built 5.4-litre supercharged V8 engine, and with active aerodynamics, the McLaren SLR was no slouch.
In 2006, the 722 version was introduced as a tribute to a 1955 victory by Stirling Moss while driving a Mercedes Benz 300 SLR. The 722 drove better, braked better and thanks to the 641 horsepower from the modified engine, it was faster than the stock car.
9 Best: 300 SL Gullwing
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing is an iconic coupé that was ahead of its time in styling and capability. For reduced weight and high stability, the frame was made of thin straight tubes assembled as triangles, while the door panels, hood and boot lid were made of aluminum.
In addition to its streamlined styling, it also boasted excellent driving dynamics thanks to recirculating ball steering and four-wheel independent suspension. In addition, with a top speed of 163 mph, it was the fastest production car in the world at the time.
8 Best: SL 600 R129
The SL 600, introduced in 1993 as the Mercedes-Benz 600 SL, was the top model in the Mercedes-Benz R129 SL-Class. Technologically advanced for the period, the R129 SL 600 was held up by a modern suspension with an electronically controlled adaptive damping system.
It also got power windows, seats, a convertible top, a memory setting for the interior mirrors and an automatic retractable roll bar. Under the hood, Mercedes’ M120 V12 engine displaced 6 liters to produce 389 horsepower for a sprint to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.
7 Best: SLS AMG Black Series
Unveiled at the 2012 LA Auto Show, the special SLS AMG Black Series offers an intoxicating blend of superior firepower and outstanding driving dynamics. Thanks to the 622 hp produced by the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated engine, it was able to reach 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds.
In addition to the breathtakingly beautiful looks, carbon fiber was used extensively for the body panels and mechanical components for a weight of 3,417 pounds. Inspired by the SLS AMG GT3 race car, the SLS AMG Black Series was the fifth model to bear the Black Series emblem.
6 Best: SL 65 AMG
When the SL 65 AMG was introduced in 2004, sports car enthusiasts were excited because they knew they were in for something. Assisted by 2 turbochargers, the 6-liter V12 powerplant under the hood was tuned to generate 604 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque.
Mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission, it steered the beautifully designed roadster to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and the quarter mile in 11.6 seconds. Fast, sleek and successful, the SL 65 AMG was equipped with an infotainment system with navigation.
5 Worst: 2004 SLK 230
Although the R171 SLK debuted with several revisions compared to the R170 generation, it came with an exterior that lacked the visual spark of its predecessor. In addition to a cramped and cheap interior, the SLK 230 also has large blind spots when the roof is up.
Powered by a 2.3 liter supercharged 190 hp I-4 engine, the small car was able to reach 100 km/h in about 7 seconds. Plus, it also had several build quality issues that it deserved 6 recalls and a long line of complaints.
4 Worst: 2018 AMG GT
The AMG GT is a premium sports car that offers exciting driving dynamics, high-tech safety/luxury features and blistering speed thanks to a 469 hp engine. However, despite its apparently solid construction, its reliability is questionable as it has been hit by a avalanche of recalls over the years by the NHTSA.
In December 2017, it was one of the vehicles recalled due to faulty seat belts and issues with the passenger’s front airbag sensor. More recent recalls include one about a poorly installed driveshaft and another about a malfunction in the eCall system software.
3 Worst: 2002-2006 SL 350
While some of the early R230-generation SL-Class models boast incredible power and handling, they were packed with experimental technology that hasn’t aged well. Like other SL-Class cars, the SL 350 also received the infamous Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC) electro-hydraulic braking system that took more effort than it was worth.
In addition, early 2000s V6-powered models like the SL 350 rolled around on a 241 horsepower unit that was just a 0-60 mph time of 6.8 seconds† With better-used options out there, you’re better off avoiding these cars unless you’re ready to face the high maintenance costs.
2 Worst: 1981-1985 300 SL
The first Mercedes-Benz 300SL debuted in 1954 as the iconic gullwing beauty loved by car enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. For the third generation, the 300SL had excellent build quality and ride quality and was offered for the 1985-1989 model years.
300SLs of this generation are particularly susceptible to rust and problems with the distributor cap that cause difficult starting, skipping and poor gait. In addition, the chassis is quite heavy and the 3-liter six-cylinder in-line engine under the hood produced a pitiful 176 hp.
1 Worst: 2011-2016 SLK200
The Mercedes-Benz SLK models, released in 2011 for the third generation, continued to impress with great styling and a luxurious interior. Unfortunately, however, they compete in a segment where the more stylish, higher-performing, refreshed Audi TT for 2011 is also competing.
No, thanks to the steering that lacks precision and feel, the 2011 SLK 200 just isn’t inspiring to drive† In addition to a mediocre drivetrain, it also has: transmission problemsweakening of the suspension, timing chain and camshaft gear failure.