PH buying guide: Mercedes SL55 AMG

Off the back of Chris Harris's multi-generational SL drive there's a lot of love in the PH office for the venerable Mercedes roadster. One of the best of the breed is the one you see here and, with the weather taking a turn for the sunny, perhaps the time to consider taking the plunge.

The SL55 AMG was the most powerful road car ever built by Mercedes when it was launched in 2002 and, clearly, one of the most PH-worthy SLs ever. It arrived in the UK in the summer of that year, following on from the R230 SL500 on which it was based, with 476hp from its 5.4-litre supercharged V8. The £89,040 SL55 covered 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds and had an electronically capped top speed of 155mph.

There was immediate speculation about the SL55's true top speed from the moment it was launched. To prove the car's potential, one German car magazine removed the electronic limiter and drove an otherwise standard SL55 to 202mph. However, all UK-spec SL55s come with a speedo reading up to 180mph.

The SL55 AMG proved an immediate hit with UK buyers and the AMG accounted for as many as one in four SL sales between 2002 and the less-than-fortunate facelift of 2008. Power was soon upped to 500hp to prevent the similarly engined E55 outgunning the flagship SL, a further round of revisions in 2006 increasing power further to 517hp thanks to a new higher speed pulley for the supercharger and larger throttle valve.

When Merc brought in its revised styling for the SL in 2008, it took the chance to drop the M113 5.4-litre V8 and replace it with the M156 6.2-litre V8 to create the SL63. For this guide, we'll stick with the M113-powered SL55 that is far more plentiful and popular. Even with this popularity, however, early SL55 AMGs are now into the affordable bracket from around £16,000, which makes them a fine performance bargain.

Owner's view:
"After many years of driving different cars, I eventually realised for me, and possibly others, the compromises Porsche and Ferrari make to obtain outstanding lap times at the track do not translate into good cars for the roads we have. So I thought back to the 55 AMG and realised it did everything you would need in a road car."
Richard Harvey

Buying guide contents:

Rolling chassis
Search for SL55 AMGs in the PH Classifieds now

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (51) Join the discussion on the forum

  • donkamio 31 Mar 2012

    spectacular buy for the money. its got me thinking though, what is the competition at this price point?

    bmw m6 conv/audi rs4 cab? prices are in the 20's

    jag xkr convertible?

    maserati spyder?

    996 c2s cab? looks antiquated now and i always pitched sl55's against 911 turbo's

  • johnpeat 31 Mar 2012

    donkamio said:
    bmw m6 conv/audi rs4 cab? prices are in the 20's
    An honest SL55 is over £20K too - everything under that is categoried or has no history or is just tatty and knackered (at least it was the last time I looked).

    Solid honest cars start just over £20K - you might dip a desperate owner below that (esp if the car needs a service or tyres because that costs a LOT of money!!) but the £16K cars are sheds (the £16K one on Pistonheads is a chavved-out Cat C!!)

    Edited by johnpeat on Friday 30th March 16:46

  • The Jolly Todger 31 Mar 2012

    That black wheeled 16k car in the classified looks truly horrible. At least it has 'new steering'.

    Really liked the idea of the SL55 when it first came out but now I think I'd prefer an older R129 SL73.

  • CliveM 31 Mar 2012

    donkamio said:
    spectacular buy for the money. its got me thinking though, what is the competition at this price point?

    bmw m6 conv/audi rs4 cab? prices are in the 20's

    jag xkr convertible?

    maserati spyder?

    996 c2s cab? looks antiquated now and i always pitched sl55's against 911 turbo's
    I bought one last autumn. Wasn't after a convertible (but the hardtop overcomes that issue); competition was NSX, M6 Coupe, Esprit V8, Diablo, AMV8, 355, 360, 930 Flatnose.
    Still no idea what posessed me to buy an auto but it sounds great and is reasonably narrow, reliable and comfortable. For c20K it's a hard argument to say sepnding c40K on some of the others made any sense.

  • V8EVG 31 Mar 2012

    A great article and as a current owner it was of interest.

    I have a 2004 model with only 25000 miles and the F1 Performance Pack. This was something I particularly wanted and in my eyes made the car even more special. It was a £10k factory option but appears to hold its value well when resold. From memory on top of a standard SL55 the pack included 19" wheels, updated 390mm composite brakes, Nurburgring tuned suspension, two oil coolers built into the front bumper, limited slip diff, restricted top speed to c190mph and a leather and suede steering wheel.

    I bought mine last year as a one owner car with 24000 miles and a full history. I have been lucky enough to have had the majority of the performance cars bar the Italian exotica and absolutely love the SL as my weekend car.

    It's looks, sound, performance, ride, brakes and cabin all add up to a really complete car that has reasonable luggage space and can be used all year.

    However with the good sadly comes the bad!
    Despite its low mileage, one owner and full Mercedes history I have spent a considerable some of money on it to fix faults... Or should I say my warranty company has.

    The suspension known as ABC continually dropped on the passenger side and over a period of six months everything has been replaced on one side at a rough cost of £6000. It is now fortunately sorted.
    The car lost power after some spirited driving and then power resumed later once the charge pump had cooled. This is a common fault and was circa £1000

    The heated seats elements failed on the base and upper part of the drivers seat which totalled £2200!

    Although not a fault after 24000 miles it needed new front disc and pads which due to the size and composite nature of the discs was a cool £2200.

    So overall not terribly reliable but with a good warranty (Warranty Direct) you can more or less mitigate the financial pain.

    Some owners might want to part with a car with so many issues but now that they are fixed and the sun has shown signs of emerging it is a keeper (unless someone may me a very generous offer!) and I would genuinely encourage anyone to take a good and careful look at one as their next car whether it be as a daily driver or weekend pleasure.

    Fuel economy today over 50 miles in and out of town was about 15 smiles per gallon!


    Edited by V8EVG on Friday 30th March 18:01

    Edited by V8EVG on Saturday 31st March 07:58

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