In almost a century and a half of the automobile industry, few names still carry as much weight and prestige as that of Mercedes-Benz. From the invention of the first gasoline-powered automobile by Karl Benz in 1886 to their modern-day masterpieces, the most iconic Mercedes models have consistently set benchmarks in the automobile industry, from design and innovation, to industry firsts and motorsport success.
Merging impeccable engineering with captivating designs, every car represents a distinct era, encompassing tales of innovation, opulence, and an unwavering quest for excellence.
It’s a long list to choose from, and in no particular order, let’s take a look at some of the best Mercedes cars ever made.
Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren
An homage to, and inspired by, Mercedes’ all-conquering 1950s SLR racing cars, the SLR McLaren, with its butterfly wings and hot rod side exhausts, is an exquisite – some say the ultimate – grand tourer. The 5.4-litre supercharged V8 generates well over 600 hp and is reported to have a top speed of 207 mph. The Merc-McLaren collaboration is one of the iconic Mercedes models and despite production stopping in 2010, it remains capable of going toe-to-toe with today’s sensational supercars.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing
Utterly, joyously and unapologetically beautiful, the 300SL is one of the most iconic Mercedes models in the company’s long and rich history. With its genesis in the 1952 Le Mans-winning W194 racing car, the gullwing doors on the three-litre OHC straight-six were born out of necessity rather than vanity. The race-derived tubular chassis had very high sills and conventional doors simply didn’t fit. At one stage in its lifecycle it was the fastest production car in the world, with a reported top speed of 163 mph. Even today, the 300SL Gullwing remains one of the best Mercedes ever built.
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Built to compete with the best cars Lamborghini and Ferrari had to offer, the SLS AMG was a truly beautiful homage to the 300 SL Gullwing of the 1950s, one of the best Mercedes ever made. Powered by a remarkable 563 hp, 6.2-litre V8, the car was developed with the help of former F1 driver David Coulthard. When it debuted at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show, it was believed to have had – according to AMG – ‘the world’s most powerful naturally aspirated production series engine.’
Mercedes-Benz 600 Großer
If you had to have the epitome of luxury, then only the 600 Grosser will have sufficed. When launched in 1963, this Mercedes-Benz quickly established itself as the company’s flagship car, and time has proven this astonishing vehicle to be widely seen as one of the best Mercedes-Benz models ever. It was the forerunner of the modern, ultra-luxurious Maybach range, and the 6.3-litre V8 was a masterpiece. It’s sheer scale was also dramatic, with the long wheel base version being well north of six metres long. Handbuilt to impeccable standards, notable owners included Coco Chanel, Elvis Presley (who had three), John Lennon and Elizabeth Taylor.
Mercedes-Benz 500K Spezial-Roadster
The 500K has been described as a ‘hand-crafted masterpiece of automotive luxury’, and it’s easy to see why. The five-litre straight eight with a Roots supercharger was a glorious car and it’s believed only 29 Special Roadsters were built. Designed by Hermann Ahrens at the Mercedes-owned Karrosserie Sindelfingen production plant, the 500K Spezial-Roadster was renowned for its striking aesthetics. It represents the pinnacle of pre-war automotive art and engineering and to many, it was one of the best Mercedes ever made.
Described by Mercedes themselves as ‘the world’s most extraordinary, contemporary road-legal racing car’, the AMG-ONE is a plug-in hybrid packed full of F1 technology and developed with the help of multiple world champion Lewis Hamilton. Powered by a single 1.6-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine, it also has four electric motors for a combined output of a staggering 1,049 hp. The top speed of one of the best Mercedes cars ever is a reported 219 mph. With an eye-watering £2.3 million price tag, the AMG-ONE is arguably as close to a street-legal F1 racer as it’s possible to get.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe
Created by legendary Mercedes designer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the 300 SLR (Sport-Leicht-Rennen, or Sport Light-Racing) was one of the best racing cars of the 1950s. It was described by racing driver Stirling Moss as ‘The greatest sports racing car ever built – really an unbelievable machine.’ Just two road-legal versions were built and the 302 hp, three-litre straight-eight was the era’s fastest road car at the time by some distance, reported to be able to reach a staggering 180 mph. A speed out of reach by all but the most expensive supercars even today.
One of the road-legal cars is housed in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and the other was sold in May 2022 for an astonishing £138 million. It is, at the time of writing, the most expensive second-hand car in history. To many purists, it’s the best Mercedes ever made.
A Huge List of Superstars
Of course, it remains a challenge to narrow down the list of the best Mercedes cars ever to this small list alone. There are plenty of other outstanding Mercedes models we haven’t mentioned, including the gorgeous SSK from the 1930s, the wonderfully pretty 230SL Pagoda, the brutally fast CLK GTR and arguably the most famous DTM racers of them all, the 190E 2.5-16 Evolution II (although the BMW M3 may have something to say about that!) Indeed it’s almost impossible to narrow down a single car as the best Mercedes ever made because as you’ve read, there’s some very, very strong competition.
The Mesmerising Magic of Mercedes-Benz
The journey through Mercedes-Benz’s illustrious history is more than just an exploration of cars. It’s a testament to over a century of pioneering spirit, relentless innovation, and an unwavering commitment to perfection.
In the world of automobilia, there’s a certain kind of magic that’s uniquely, undeniably, Mercedes. From the trailblazing Benz Patent-Motorwagen at the end of the nineteenth century, to modern masterpieces, the Mercedes name has stood the test of time, offering not just vehicles, but genuine automotive legends.