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Mercedes SL Vs Triumph Stag

Sport Casuals Published: 18th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

What The Experts Say...

Sam Bailey switched to specialising in R107s some two years back and runs the SL Shop. He anticipates selling his 300th model early in 2011, such are their popularity. That said Sam agrees that the SL doesn’t quite make true classic status for the reasons we state in our verdict – but its time will come. Sam says because many cars are just run as a usable oldie rather than a pampred classic, the really nice cars that he deals in are becoming increasingly harder to fi nd (he does have some cracking cars-ed). Sam Bailey adds watch out for the emergence of the later, swisher R129 generation and the original SLK. Prices of both have largely bottomed out he says so buy now.

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If you could design your ideal sports GT, chances are it would be along the lines of the Mercedes-Benz SL. Stylish, svelte, sophisticated and big-engined, the German was the epitome of the easy going, easy owning Grand Tourer. So, it’s a huge tribute to our own Triumph Stag that the Brit has always been talked of in the same breath as this Merc – even in the bad old days when the Canley product was better known as the ‘Snag’. And we all know why… Today, as highly prestigious and yet practical classics, both cars still share a lot in common. And thanks to 40 years of after-sales development on the Triumph by enthusiastic specialists, comparisons across both cars can now include reliability’ and trustworthiness. Both highly desired hot metal these days, what’s the best car for you? England or Germany? Friendly confrontations between the two nations usually fall to the latter (witness too many World Cups!), but perhaps not this time, when the Triumph squares up to the R107?

Which one to buy?

Merc gives you more choice

By the time the Stag had got into its stride, production-wise anyway, Mercedes had replaced the ‘Pagoda’ with a larger, square cut 107 generation, boasting a familiar floor pan, now with a 97in wheelbase and S Class suspension. Boasting a mix of straight six and V8 power plants, the car was good enough to stay in production for almost 20 years. The Stag was a clever sporting take on the staid 2000 saloon, although it’s said that less than 25 body parts were shared between them. The car’s real party piece was its V8 engine; essentially a pair of banked slant four engines Triumph had already made for Saab. The company’s straight sixes were tried of course but were not deemed good enough although one wonders how successful the car would have proven with a varied engine choice.

Like the Stag, the Mercedes was available in soft and hardtop guises, plus there was a larger coupe-only SLC offshoot. Some 70 per cent of Stags were automatics in preference to the four-speed manual with overdrive (which in effect made a six-speed transmission. You try fi nding a manual Mercedes of any kind, even though four and fi ve-speed SLs do exist! Trim levels were uniform on both cars, with the Mercedes plainer but more functional and totally logical.

What’s the best to drive?

Both are made for cruising

Both cars were, and remain, better suited to spirited cruising than hairing around country lanes. In truth, there’s not much in it between this pair, as both feel their age – perhaps more so the Mercedes which was regarded as somewhat ponderous and staid even when it was new. But at least the Merc’s new rear suspension countered the old Pagoda’s tendency to lapse into quite alarming swing-oversteer at quite moderate speeds. The Stag is perhaps more faithful cross country, but soggier, while the ‘Triumph twitch’ as the rear driveshaft locks up under power
remains a quirk you have to live with, as is the light and quite feel-less power steering which takes some getting used especially to if you step out of a modern. Stags are swift rather than speedy; the 145bhp offered by this admittedly smooth power unit merely good enough for lively performance. On the other hand this Triumph V8 sounds great and there’s a good selection of tuning parts that can yield around 175bhp for reliable road use.

Even the base SL engines are good for some 190bhp, while the lusty V8s can punch out 240bhp for GTi-like pace, plus offer far more torque than the Triumph unit. The Merc’s 2.8 ‘six’ has its work cut out but if performance isn’t critical is more than satisfactory. But as we said, these genteel GTs are more for cruising classic car style and both models acquit themselves well, especially five-speed SLs or Stags with overdrive, which really cuts the revs down. The German’s inherent better build means it feels more solid with the hard top removed, and less noisy with it in place – Stags suffer badly from the latter, sadly. The Triumph just about gets away with claiming it’s a 2+2 although adults won’t like sitting in the back for long. But the Triumph fares better in this respect to the SL, where the (optional) rear perches are really only suitable for small children and even then rear space isn’t particularly generous for small teenagers. But the German does have an ace up its sleeve. You can opt for the much rarer SLC derivative and this is a genuine and quite roomy 2+2, thanks to its longer wheelbase, being 14 inches to the good over the SL. However, the SLC is a fi xedroof only and doesn’t quite have the looksof the stubbier SL.

Owning and running

Not much in it

If anything, the Mercedes scores over the Triumph, even with the latter’s better specialist base in the UK. There are several reasons for this, not least the fact that the rugged SL is inherently far more durable than the Triumph thanks to its old school Merc build which even today the German’s new designs lack. As the 107 ran for two decades with some 250,000 sales, there are considerably more around, many still used as daily drivers. And they are well served by independent specialists – many fronted by ex-factory staff. Parts supply is equally good and, if all else fails, well you can always buy the bits you need from a main dealer off the shelf! Also, technically, you can buy one from a main dealer boasting the company’s full 12 month warranty. Although out of production for almost 35 years, few classics are as well supported as the Stag. The owners’ club has even lately gone to the trouble and expense of having brand new cylinder heads made. The Stag is one of the few classics that’s a better buy now than when it was new.

And The Winner Is...

On the face of it, the Mercedes SL appears to be the wisest buy. It offers all that’s good about an old school Merc and at prices that are usually cheaper than an equivalent Stag, yet matches the Triumph pound for pound, punch per punch. That said, the Stag gets our fi nal vote because it has something the SL seems to lack: genuine classic character. It’s a subjective view of course but the Mercedes, as great as, it is appears just too common, too widespread. Many are still happily used as daily drivers and that’s no bad thing of course (apar t from the vulgar customised ones that sully the car‘s image?). All this is a credit to the car, but that makes it more classical than classic in our view. Totally illogical we know…



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