Could this supercar be a sensible buy?
When it came out in 2002 this epic Mercedes AMG cost £90,000 and up. Now you could buy an early one for around £11,000. But, you’re thinking, this is a car with a wickedly powerful engine, an immense amount of electronics and doubtless the ability to dwarf that asking price in bills if it goes wrong. So, walk away, don’t look any further, settle for that Ford Mondeo. Thanks for dropping in.
Oh, you’re still here. Hmm, well, let’s reward you for your bravery with sticking with this. Because the rewards are there, oh yes. This isn’t just a Mercedes, it’s a Mercedes AMG. It’s beautiful, classy and very, very powerful.
Under that bonnet is a 5.4-litre supercharged V8. Just imagine what that sounds like and what it goes like, from tickover up to the giddy redline. If your imagination is failing, this is what it goes like: 0-62mph in 4.4 or 4.5 seconds. The original engine made 469bhp but this was soon pumped up to 493bhp and then, in 2006, to 510bhp.
The cabin is luxuriously gorgeous and you have that clever and very practical metal folding vario-roof so you’re sitting pretty whatever the weather.
Naturally you are surrounded by technology there to make the car faster, better handling, safer and just generally more awesome. The handbook will definitely be your friend at first as you get to grips with the tyre-pressure monitoring system or the Active Body Control suspension, among many such systems.
But, this is where you need your courageous pants on, because naturally things can go wrong with a complex car that was built 10 or 15 years ago. That fabulous roof can leak, particularly if the drain holes get blocked, and then water gets into the boot and shorts the roof motor out. Earlier models seem more prone to this.
The engine has a lot of plumbing and it’s tucked in tight so make sure nothing is leaking oil, coolant or anything else. Speaking of which, check the plumbing for the Active Body Control suspension too, as that can fail at around 60,000 miles and costs a bundle to fix. The suspension struts can fail too.
The brakes had a recall on them, in fact several, so check the work was done to the Sensotronic Brake Control. And then there are the electrics, which can cause issues such as in the traction control system, the fly-by-wire throttle and that tyre-monitoring system.
But find a good one that has been looked after and you’ll have supercar money for ordinary car prices. What should you pay? The key is to focus on condition, mileage and specification. Don’t get hung up on model year. You’ll fine older cars going for much more than newer cars simply because this isn’t an age thing.
The main area you should look at is around £14,000 to £17,000, although some in the know reckon you need to spend £20,000 to be safe. Let’s break those figures down a bit more for you
£11,000-£13,995: Early (2002/03) cars with about 100k miles bought privately.
£14,000-£16,995: 2002/03 examples with about 70k miles, from a dealer.
£17,000-£19,995: 2004/05 cars with 70k miles, or low-mileage 2003-2005s with fewer than 50k miles.
£20,000-£25,995: The bulk of 2003-2007 cars with fewer than 50k miles.
£26,000-£30,000: 2003-2007 cars, most with very low mileages and full main dealer histories. Rather aggressive pricing at this point.
£35,000+: Hard to find SL55 with the F1 pack (uprated suspension, larger wheels and revised brakes).