In celebration of the R107 SL, we’ve asked a range of minds from the classic Motoring world to give their thoughts and facts about this iconic car.
Andre Frankel | Classic & Sports Car | Classic Mercedes Magazine | Andrew Martin | SLSHOP’s Team | 50 Facts about the R107 SL
This short monologue belongs to automotive journalist, Russ Smith:
Russ Smith, Classic Motoring
My early impressions of R107 Mercs were not that favourable. I love sports cars, but held the belief that these SLs were just a bit too ‘Dallas’ for me. Sure, I appreciated and understood the benefits of their build quality, but where’s the fun in that?
Much changed when I became a classic motoring journalist. Getting behind the wheel of all manner of cars allowed me to form proper opinions. Many classics I had previously held dear were relegated to the car park of despair. Others, with no few surprises amongst their number, were swiftly hoisted onto pedestals. The R107 is one of them.
My first proper taste was when commissioned to do a comparison test for a magazine pitching a 1987 300SL against a Jaguar XJ-SC 3.6. This was in a way a marque rematch following an earlier comparison between a 280SL ‘Pagoda’ and an E-type Roadster which proved to be an easy victory for the Coventry team.
The outcome this time was very different, the classic game of two halves, to labour the metaphor. It seems easiest if I replay my impressions here, from the driver’s seat. ‘A very pleasant and easy car to drive, with sufficient power to make it enjoyable but not enough to challenge its chassis dynamics and get you into trouble. Frustratingly there’s no feel to the lightly weighted power steering, but the car goes exactly where you point it every time, so is hard to fault. A little safe understeer eventually comes into play, but only beyond the limits most drivers will push an SL to; most will find it delightfully neutral.
‘You also start to appreciate that while the SL is no lightweight per se, it is in comparison to the XJ-SC, which metaphorically speaking is no stranger to Coventry’s pie shops. In most mid-range acceleration measures the Merc matches or even beats the Jag. Part of that is down to the Mercedes engine’s greater willingness to rev, combined with a smarter response to throttle inputs. It also feels better matched to the automatic gearbox, which benefits from a ‘Sport’ mode to sharpen shifts and hang on longer to each gear.’
Despite the SL being around 40% more expensive than the Jag at the time, it was still the one I was left looking for excuses to own in the verdict panel. I described it as ‘A Rolex of a car’. I’ve driven a few more since, with a variety of engines, and I stand by that comment.