It’s nice to unearth a bargain, and I think I’ve found one in the R231-generation Mercedes SL. The demand for enormous two-seat convertibles seems to have shrunk, which is probably why you can get a Ford Fiesta’s worth of discount off a new SL. And all this discounting has played havoc with used prices, so now it’s not hard to find a once-£70k SL for less than £20k.
When this generation of SL arrived in 2012, much was made of its diet through the use of aluminium construction and a magnesium roof. However, it was still a big Mercedes with numb steering, a leisurely automatic and mushy brake pedal feel, so it was never going to be a match in the driving stakes for the equivalent Porsche 911 rag-top. Nor, too, would the much-vaunted increase in efficiency be anywhere near good enough to equal the fuel economy and immense touring range of a BMW 640d, so you can perhaps understand why the R231 never set any sales records.
But Mercedes’ (and first owners’) loss could be your gain. The SL is still a mighty fine way to cruise around and even the entry-level 3.5-litre V6 is a peach. It’s beautifully smooth and 30mpg-plus is easily achieved.
When buying a used one, ensure the roof works and seals properly by taking it through a car wash (with the roof up, obviously). We’d also suggest you avoid one with the optional Active Body Control (ABC) suspension, because parts are horrendously expensive when they fail on older Mercedes. If you had such issues with this one, all of a sudden your luxury roadster wouldn’t be such a bargain any more.