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Got $5,500? Have We Got a Luxury Convertible Bargain For You

Take your pick of a 1999 Mercedes 500SL or a Jaguar XK8 roadster.

As they say, you pays your money and you takes your choice. But which of these two luxury roadsters to buy? In one corner, a stately 1999 Mercedes-Benz 500SL—the top choice of Hollywood producers and Manhattan lawyers in its day. In the other, a 1999 Jaguar XK8 roadster, a car which shared its platform with the period Aston Martin DB7. Either could have been yours at the 2019 Barrett-Jackson Las Vegas auction for the low, low price of $5,500. Each is a true luxury convertible bargain.

If your choice is the Mercedes, you probably value solid build quality, safety, and torque. These R129-series SLs were far more structurally rigid than their R107 predecessors, with doors that shut like bank vaults and a roll bar that popped up automatically when the car detected a roll-over risk. Underhood, a 5.0-liter V-8 engine produced 302 horsepower and 339 lb-ft of torque and paired to a five-speed automatic transmission. 1999 models also got the final refresh of the series run, with Nappa leather seats, standard 17-inch wheels, new mirrors, engine revisions, and curved taillight lenses. The Bruno Sacco styling still looks good today, but it's not as sporty-looking as the XK8. This example shows 129,000 miles and a couple accident reports on its Carfax, but appeared clean and solid to us.

Or would you pick the stylish elegance of the droptop Jaguar? The XK8 also has a V-8, but engine capacity is 4.0-liters—20 percent less than the Merc. Nevertheless, power is still healthy at 290 horsepower and 290 lb-ft, and the automatic transmission is also a five-speed. The Carnival Red exterior paint on this example presented well, as did the Oatmeal-color leather with burled wood trim. The car overall had roughly half the miles of the Mercedes, with just 67,000 on the odometer. New struts, brakes, and tires mean that several primary wear items are already replaced for the new owner, but we still don't expect any 20-year-old Jaguar to be especially cheap to keep up.

While we probably wouldn't press either of these luxury convertibles into daily-driver duty, either looks like a great budget option for a limited-mileage weekend cruiser and both are likely eligible for discounted collector-car insurance, making their cost to own a little more palatable. The only question remaining: Which would you choose?

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