The Mercedes-Benz R129 – Early vs Late – The 1998 Facelift

The Mercedes-Benz R129 SL replaced the R107 back in 1989, remaining in production until the R230 arrived in 2004.

1998 is an important year for the R129, as the changeover year between what are now known as ‘Early’ and ‘Late’ cars. The 1998 facelift not only improved the engine range, but made some key styling changes to the world’s most popular luxury roadster. We’ve put an early SL500 side by side with a late SL320 to highlight the differences.

In the image above we can see the upgraded Xenon headlights, redesigned bumper and new style rear headlights. From 1998 the SL was given an added body-colour bumper strip running around the car, a simple addition giving the car a more modern look – which was of course the intention.

The side view of the Early and Late R129’s above shows the enlarged vent behind the front wheel, which of course is now a larger diameter. Note the orange front and side indicators on the early SL500 – these are very hard parts to find (according to our parts department!). Restyled seats, new alloy wheels and body coloured door handles are also clearly shown. The profile of the front and rear bumpers is also very mildly adjusted.

The odometer was upgraded from mechanical to electronic in 1994, but the chrome ring wasn’t added until the 1998 facelift. Again, this is a very simply addition but one that has a big aesthetic impact. The cut of the seats was changed with the addition of the nappa leather (much softer), and the new steering wheel can be seen clearly here. The air conditioning / climate control panel can also be seen, these will vary depending on the options.

The Mercedes-Benz R129 1998 Facelift:

  • M119 V8 engine replaced by new M113 (see our R129 Engine Timeline)
  • Soft Nappa leather seats replace the perforated leather seats
  • New steering wheel design (smaller)
  • Body colour door handles
  • Restyled rear lights
  • 17-inch wheels now standard
  • One-touch starting- called “Tip-start”. Once the key is turned, the engine cranks on its own until it catches and starts.
  • Instrument gauges now have silver rings around each gauge
  • Oil pressure gauge replaced by oil temperature gauge
  • Restyled engine vanity cover
  • Removed the automatic lock on the left rear storage compartment which houses the Bose subwoofer
  • Passenger side storage net added to transmission tunnel

Looking to buy a Mercedes-Benz R129, or have one for sale?

Contact us to discuss – these are fantastic cars and are classics that are very easy to live with.