Depreciation Station: Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG

Dreaming of relaxing summertime drives in a drop-top Mercedes-Benz show-stopper, but don’t quite have the required six-figure balance sitting in your checking account? Don’t worry, all is not lost: You’re just not looking at the right model.

A decade ago Mercedes-Benz released the SL55 AMG, a beast of a roadster. Underneath that classic body lies a 5.4-liter supercharged V8. It produces enough power to make a ’60s muscle car cower in fear: 469 ponies and 520 lb.-ft. of torque.

Performance is nothing short of astonishing, with a governed top speed of 155 mph. A chip replacement supposedly boosts that ceiling to 186 mph. Acceleration is just as fierce, as the SL55 AMG can rocket to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.

Then there’s the interior, which you can put right up there with a Rolls-Royce in terms of comfort. The seats are some of the best we have ever encountered, while the fit and finish is world-class. Despite the supercar performance, the car glides more like a luxury chariot.

Of course, quality comes with a price. When new, the SL55 AMG started right around $115,000, at the time making it one of the most expensive cars in the brand’s history. Today, though, you can find a nice, low-mileage example of a 2002-’06 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG for as little as $28,000; top-tier cars rarely sell for more than $40,000, making this one of the best used-car bargains ever.

Care and Feeding

The SL55 AMG received a tough engine and transmission, but it’s still a very complex car. Make sure all of the subsystems work properly, or be prepared for some poverty-inducing repairs.

Potential problem areas include the adjustable front suspension and tire pressure monitor system. Bum fuel pumps have also been known to cause leaks.

When inspecting a potential purchase, raise the top and then open the trunk. Is the trunk carpet damp? If so, you may be looking at a leaky trunk seal. The bad seal isn’t a deal-breaker, but the situation puts extra strain on the roof motor, an expensive part to replace. We strongly recommend buying a car with service records; budget about $1500 per year for service.

One Last Piece of Advice

If you do your homework and shop for a nice example, you can’t buy a better budget-friendly, daily-driver supercar than the Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG.

Resources: If you’re going to own a Benz, you need to know the club. Check out the Mercedes-Benz Club of America at mbca.org.

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