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1990 300SL
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31 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
So I own a 300sl, and I have been looking on forums that compare it to the 500sl. I don't know if I want to sell it and get the 500sl.

From what I take, the 500sl is considerably faster, especially from 0-60 where the m104, in my opinion, is a snail. However, when I am on the highway, my experience with the m104 has been pretty amazing. I remember the first time I drove it and it hardly lurched forward. I thought to myself this car is slow, but then I took it to the highway and I was in another world. The engine just kept going and going. I found it had lots of torque 60+ MPH. I also like the fact that the engine is so smooth. I really don't engine vibration at high RPM's.

I am considering selling it and getting a 500sl but I don't know if I want to. The thing is, I actually like the fact that it is slow from the start. In more powerful cars I have driven, my foot tingles on the pedal when I am in traffic and have to really throttle the gas. But with the m104, I can kind of rest my foot since it's not so responsive and I don't feel the urge to gas it and feel the torque. I find myself driving more like a gentleman. But when it gets going I really don't feel that its underpowered.

Does anyone share a similar experience?

If you have driven both, please leave your opinion. I can't speak of the 500sl because I haven't driven one.
 

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97 SL600 Pano, ex: 96 (late 95) SL320
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257 Posts
My experience with the M104 is a little different. I always thought my old 320 was reasonably quick from 0 to 60 (ish) but lazy beyond that. The first gear start helped (standard behavior on the 6 banger I think), and I think the gears are shorter than those on 500/600s. And before flooring the pedal when already on the move, it was a good idea to stick shift to 4th so that it went down tho 3rd on kickdown. The engine really woke up at around 3500rpm so just one gear down didn't always do the trick.

Of course the torque and power of my current 600 are like from another world, but the one thing I miss is making the straight 6 sing at high rpm. It's an amazing sound and feeling.
 

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1990 300SL
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31 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
My experience with the M104 is a little different. I always thought my old 320 was reasonably quick from 0 to 60 (ish) but lazy beyond that. The first gear start helped (standard behavior on the 6 banger I think), and I think the gears are shorter than those on 500/600s. And before flooring the pedal when already on the move, it was a good idea to stick shift to 4th so that it went down tho 3rd on kickdown. The engine really woke up at around 3500rpm so just one gear down didn't always do the trick.

Of course the torque and power of my current 600 are like from another world, but the one thing I miss is making the straight 6 sing at high rpm. It's an amazing sound and feeling.
The 600sl sounds great and it also has a smooth engine. I would consider buying one but I feel that the cost of repairs would be much. But I agree the inline 6 sounds fantastic!
 

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97 SL600 Pano, ex: 96 (late 95) SL320
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257 Posts
I kind of danced around your actual question there, didn't I! :) The 600 isn't nearly as scary as they say but it's probably not for everyone.

Honestly I can't give any tips on whether you should switch to a 500 or not. All I know is that when the hunger for more gets you, it's hard to be rational.
 

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1992 500SL, 1993 300SE, 1997 S320L, 2000 C230K, 2003 E500, 2005 Smart ForFour, 2008 Smart ForTwo
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318 Posts
What you’re describing is very similar to the 500sl experience yet you have the v8 under your foot.

When I first got my 500sl I hade to drive it 600km across country and I couldn’t be more impressed driving on the motorway and hills she just ate it up and it’s only a 4speed!!. The torque is more linear when compared to my E500 which feels peppy/responsive.

Just remember it’s a dangerous habit wanting to upgrade.
For a further comparison, driving my E500 compared to my c63 m156 the E500, it feels like a snail.




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1990 300SL
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31 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
What you’re describing is very similar to the 500sl experience yet you have the v8 under your foot.

When I first got my 500sl I hade to drive it 600km across country and I couldn’t be more impressed driving on the motorway and hills she just ate it up and it’s only a 4speed!!. The torque is more linear when compared to my E500 which feels peppy/responsive.

Just remember it’s a dangerous habit wanting to upgrade.
For a further comparison, driving my E500 compared to my c63 m156 the E500, it feels like a snail.




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I haven't driven a car with the m156 so I cant assimilate. Im guessing it's similar to the m104?
 

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1992 500SL, 1993 300SE, 1997 S320L, 2000 C230K, 2003 E500, 2005 Smart ForFour, 2008 Smart ForTwo
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318 Posts
I haven't driven a car with the m156 so I cant assimilate. Im guessing it's similar to the m104?
Not sure if you’re being serious comparing a m104 to the m156...?

What I’m trying to say is that what you described when driving your 300sl is similar to what I experienced driving my 500sl.

Just remember if you’re looking for a thrill from upgrading to the 500sl, it’s still just a Sunday cruiser engine at the end of the day.


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90 300SL
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533 Posts
With the m104 you do need to get the rev's up, so if required downshifting and flooring will make it go. Driving feel is 'relaxed' and fine for 'normal' driving. I did notice an improved response off the line when I replaced the EHA valve that had begun to weep. If I really get on it has enough go, but it is on 180 cu in pushing 4000 lbs and physics is what it is!
 

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1990 300SL
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31 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
With the m104 you do need to get the rev's up, so if required downshifting and flooring will make it go. Driving feel is 'relaxed' and fine for 'normal' driving. I did notice an improved response off the line when I replaced the EHA valve that had begun to weep. If I really get on it has enough go, but it is on 180 cu in pushing 4000 lbs and physics is what it is!
I rebuilt my engine which is the 3.0l m104. It's really something now. However I am not familiar with the gearbox and shifting response to acceleration. If you have any advice, let me know!
 

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Vogon constructor fleet.
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I had a '93 S320 (long wheelbase) and the fact that the M104 moved that thing quite efficiently was one of the reasons I bought my '95 SL320 instead of going for the 500. I love the sound, the simplicity of repairs and have found it more than adequate on the highway for my tastes. I've got a '97 S500 that, though admittedly smoother, isn't that much of a difference from a "seat-of-the-pants" POV considering the additional weight.

I guess I'm beyond caring about "0-to-60" speeds other than when I'm on the highway and the M104 does just fine in the SL for me. If "off the line" acceleration was my primary concern, I probably would've bought a C7 Vette or newer Mustang GT instead of the SL. It's my summertime cruiser and it's more than capable for that purpose IMO.
 

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1990 300SL
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31 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
I had a '93 S320 (long wheelbase) and the fact that the M104 moved that thing quite efficiently was one of the reasons I bought my '95 SL320 instead of going for the 500. I love the sound, the simplicity of repairs and have found it more than adequate on the highway for my tastes. I've got a '97 S500 that, though admittedly smoother, isn't that much of a difference from a "seat-of-the-pants" POV considering the additional weight.

I guess I'm beyond caring about "0-to-60" speeds other than when I'm on the highway and the M104 does just fine in the SL for me. If "off the line" acceleration was my primary concern, I probably would've bought a C7 Vette or newer Mustang GT instead of the SL. It's my summertime cruiser and it's more than capable for that purpose IMO.
I really like the simplicity and refinement of the inline 6. The 3.2l from what I have read is noticably better than the 3.0l m104 (would like to wrong on that 😂). Have you driven the 3.0l m104? How does it compare?
 

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97 SL600 Pano, ex: 96 (late 95) SL320
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257 Posts
I test drove both before I got my 320. It's been a few years, but as I recall the low end torque on the newer version is quite a lot better. The 3.0 one really needed to be revved. The one I test drove was a manual though, so it helped, although the dogleg manual was pretty bad in terms of shift feel.
 

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1990 300SL
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31 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
I test drove both before I got my 320. It's been a few years, but as I recall the low end torque on the newer version is quite a lot better. The 3.0 one really needed to be revved. The one I test drove was a manual though, so it helped, although the dogleg manual was pretty bad in terms of shift feel.
That is exactly what I have read from others. Power is delivered at lower RPMs in the 320 compared to 300. What about highway driving? Does the gap close?
 

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Vogon constructor fleet.
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I have driven both as well and there is a "driveability" difference between the 3.0 and the 3.2 IMO. If I recall, acceleration in the 3.0 did seem a bit "labored" (though not excessively so) in comparison. Having said that, however, it's still a matter of "horses for courses." If you've got the car for breathtaking speeds, you'll be disappointed (get a 600) but if you want a well-mannered droptop cruiser, either car will suffice.

Here's an example...earlier this year, I was on I-94 driving from Chicago to Michigan and was passed by some guy in a Nissan Z doing about 95. I took off after him and we were at 115 before I backed off (I like my drivers license.) At that speed, I still had some "ceiling" to play with.

As I said, I have no complaints about the 3.2.
 

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1990 300SL
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Discussion Starter #15
I have driven both as well and there is a "driveability" difference between the 3.0 and the 3.2 IMO. If I recall, acceleration in the 3.0 did seem a bit "labored" (though not excessively so) in comparison. Having said that, however, it's still a matter of "horses for courses." If you've got the car for breathtaking speeds, you'll be disappointed (get a 600) but if you want a well-mannered droptop cruiser, either car will suffice.
[/QUOTE
I have driven both as well and there is a "driveability" difference between the 3.0 and the 3.2 IMO. If I recall, acceleration in the 3.0 did seem a bit "labored" (though not excessively so) in comparison. Having said that, however, it's still a matter of "horses for courses." If you've got the car for breathtaking speeds, you'll be disappointed (get a 600) but if you want a well-mannered droptop cruiser, either car will suffice.
This mannerism that you speak of is the sole reason I am seriously considering keeping the 300. Like I said in my original post, I tend to have a heavy foot, which really annoys me when I drive in traffic. I love the 300 because it's slow at low RPMs. I can cruise around in traffic with pleasure because the car remains elegant and we'll behaved. I never feel on edge in traffic with the 300.
 

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Outstanding Contributor
'03 SL500, '03 SL55, '97 SL320, (2) '91 300SL, (2) '91 500SL, '00 S500 -- all for sale
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From what I take, the 500sl is considerably faster, especially from 0-60 where the m104, in my opinion, is a snail.
The early and possibly all 300SLs normally accelerate from rest in 2nd gear. If you move the shifter down to the "2" position, 1st gear is engaged and acceleration is brisker.
 

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1990 300SL
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Discussion Starter #17
The early and possibly all 300SLs normally accelerate from rest in 2nd gear. If you move the shifter down to the "2" position, 1st gear is engaged and acceleration is brisker.
So what is the point of first gear if it starts in second. Also if I put it in second, why does it start in first even though second is engaged? So I need to floor it to get it into first?
 

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'03 SL500, '03 SL55, '97 SL320, (2) '91 300SL, (2) '91 500SL, '00 S500 -- all for sale
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Also if I put it in second, why does it start in first even though second is engaged?
When you move the shifter to one of the numbered positions the transmission will not shift into a gear higher than that number. So moving it into "2" excludes gears 3 to 5 without necessarily putting the transmission in 2nd.

So I need to floor it to get it into first?
No. As I wrote in my prior post, if you are at rest and move the selector to "2", then 1st gear is selected.
 

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1998 SL500 Sport w/pano. Black with Cream interior.
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136 Posts
Of course the torque and power of my current 600 are like from another world, but the one thing I miss is making the straight 6 sing at high rpm. It's an amazing sound and feeling.
Your 600 has two 6-cylinder engines joined at the crankshaft - it should sing like a bird! Or 2 birds!
 

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96 S320 02 CLK55
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The other big difference is in the later electronic transmission. This makes the car so much better and then you you add the V8 and it’s really much more modern felling and quicker. It you want more performance a later model 500 is a much better car than the early cars. I happen to have a really nice 97 500SL for sale if your interested. Shameless plug I guess.

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