Mercedes Benz Gearing
August 21, 2009 11:57 PM   Subscribe

What do the "S" and "L" stand for on the gear shifter of my '83 300D European-model Mercedes Benz?

I've got R for reverse, P for Park, D for Drive, N for Neutral, and then S and L down there. I assumed it was "Second" and "Low"...especially because when I shifted into "L" on a steep hill I got better traction and the expected higher whine. But a friend says that Benzes don't have a "first" gear and on his turbo (American model) its "Second" and "Third." Looking up the German didn't help.
posted by wavejumper to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
Second and Low.
posted by The World Famous at 12:12 AM on August 22, 2009

I just Googled it: "The first, 1 or L mode is meant to lock the transmission in first gear. In this mode a vehicle will move slowly but have more power that can be used when towing or on steep grades. The second, 2 or S mode is used to lock the transmission in the first two gears. This is used in extreme weather conditions like ice and snow and to govern vehicle speed." [source]
posted by halogen at 12:12 AM on August 22, 2009

Your friend's turbo has 2 and 3 because his is a four-speed automatic. You have a three-speed automatic, so you get L and S. Be sure to make a note that your friend is making stuff up to seem more knowledgeable about cars.
posted by davejay at 2:12 AM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

....How could a car not have a first gear. If you took it out, the next one up would just be the first gear.

Literally, gotta start somewhere, right?
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:11 AM on August 22, 2009

halogen has it.

Same on my mother-in-law's.
posted by n o i s e s at 5:12 AM on August 22, 2009

InsanePenguin first gear exists but isn't user selectable.
posted by Mitheral at 5:15 AM on August 22, 2009

Yeah, auto Mercs were/are famous for "starting in second gear". For smoothness and fuel economy, when you move off from a stop the gearbox doesn't select the first ratio at all. This can make the car feel sluggish away from the lights when compared with, say, auto BMWs, the natural ecological enemies of the Mercedes-Benz.

I think if you stomp the pedal far enough to click the kickdown switch then you'll get first from a standing start, but this will cause you to take off like a boy-racer idiot; the only alternative, even if you've got the pedal almost all the way to the floor, is getting going relatively slowly in second. It can be more than just "relatively" slow, too, if you've got a heavy Merc with one of the lower-powered engines.

I presume your friend received a garbled version of this information. It is, indeed, impossible for a vehicle with a discrete-ratio gearbox to not have a first gear, even if that's the only gear it's got.

(See also the old joke about the guy who discovers that most train-wreck injuries occur in the last carriage, and suggests dealing with this problem by removing the last carriage from all trains. :-)
posted by dansdata at 6:13 AM on August 22, 2009

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