Chris Harris on his Mercedes SL 500 R129

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Chris Harris explains why it’s worth investing £20,000 in a Mercedes SL 500 R129 instead of losing £20,000 in depreciation on a new sports car.

All of us know Chris Harris from his time at Autocar: one of the most respected and professional journalists around. Chris now explains why he prefers to spend £20,000 on a 1996 Mercedes SL 500 R129 instead of losing £20,000 through depreciation on a new sports car.

He has a sentimental attachment to the R129 because it was the first car he drove as a journalist. “A car I love”, says Chris Harris.

The model purchased is a facelifted 1996 SL 500. “This R129 is a technological tour de force”, says Chris. One of the highlights of this car is the roll bar behind the seats which, in the event of a rollover, lifts up in less than 1 second.

According to the British journalist, the best things in this car are the superb interior finish and the excellent quality centre console. “The heated seats work so well they even warm your kidneys, and I like the instrument cluster. They’re the finest instrument cluster ever in the history of Mercedes”, says Chris Harris.

The suspension is perfectly tuned for this type of bodywork. The body roll is higher than in a modern convertible. The suspension is so supple and soft and the 300+ HP V8 engine gives faster acceleration than you might expect. But the gearbox is rubbish by modern standards and the steering is almost dead. The SL 500 R129 is not a driver’s car but the brakes are superb.

And the seats with integrated seat belts and automatic climate control are so contemporary. In this car you feel like it was designed with the development budget of an airplane. Chris Harris is also impressed by the complex soft top, the first fully automatic soft top in the car industry.