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Mercedes SLK vs Porsche Boxster

Living the HIGH LIFE Published: 17th Jun 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes SLK vs Porsche Boxster

What The Experts Say...

C&V Cars is a typical specialist dealing in prestige and performance cars dealing chiefly in Mercedes. When we contacted the Cambridge- based company, it had a selection of SLKs in stock along with a singleton Porsche Boxster. The outfit admits that it mainly trades post 2003 SLKs these days as the earlier cars are now getting old (a classic?-ed), suffer from undue corrosion and are at the lower end of the company’s price market. Of the facelifted SLK, C&V says it can’t get enough to satisfy demand and is paying over ‘book price’ to secure stock. “If I was driving to Scotland I’d take an SLK, but the Boxster is for fun,” a company spokesperson told Classic Motoring.

Mercedes SLK vs Porsche Boxster
Mercedes SLK vs Porsche Boxster
Mercedes SLK vs Porsche Boxster
Mercedes SLK vs Porsche Boxster
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A prestigious badge for Ford Fiesta money – what’s best?

Sales of convertibles and cabriolets have soared in recent years and the reason is mainly down to the ease of which a modern hood can be worked. No longer are the old tent-and-stick affairs accepted anymore; no now nothing less than power operated will do – and a stylish metal roof if you please at the same time.

It’s the same with classics really. An increasing number of enthusiasts are looking to more modern collectibles due to their better appointments and conveniences as well as build quality, resistance to rust and 24/7 dependability. And all for the price of a half respectable TR6.

Here’s two to consider from the mid 90s – the Mercedes SLK and Porsche’s Boxster; both young enough to supply all the above yet old enough to be labelled modern classics.


When new in the late 90s, this pair of German rivals cost over £30,000 but today the dealer price guides place them for as little as £3500 in the case of the SLK. In truth this stylish coupe- cabriolet was based upon a common or garden C-Class saloon, albeit with a shortened platform to make it a baby SL. It’s real party piece remains its metal roof which cleverly folds away in the boot compartment plus looks really good either raised or lowered. The SLK interior wears a sportier look to differentiate it from the saloon.

Powering the SLK was initially a 2.3-litre four pot, ‘Kompressor’ supercharged (230) but the range soon expanded top and bottom to embrace a 2-litre (200) and a 218bhp 3.2 V6 (320) that was also available in 345bhp AMG guise before the SLK was given a major restyle in 2004.

Porsche launched the Boxster at roughly the same time in 1996 andit was the baby Porker everybody it would be, small wonder considering it took a fair chunk of its styling and make up from the (996) 911, the major difference being the new chassis making the Boxster mid rather than rear engined.

The hood was a fabric affair and the earliest model even came with a Perspex rear screen but the cockpit was very 911-like. Originally the Boxster came with a new 2.5-litre engine yet despite over 200bhp was considered a bit tepid, so a Sport option was soon offered.

Three years later the Second Series hit the showrooms with a 2.7-litre engine and a meatier look plus a glass rear window – at last. The Boxster S model gained a 3.2-litre engine and revised brakes; the Series 2 Boxster S of 2002 was revamped with a more hardcore look, 911 Carrera brakes to cope with six more horses and Porsche’s new side impact protection system that was, optional elsewhere.

If you’re on a budget, don’t dismiss the entry models like the 2.5 Boxster and the 200/230 SLK. Two hundred horses is fair going in anybody’s book while the 197bhp offered by the Mercedes 2.3-litre isn’t to be sneezed at either. Certainly this pair offer exceptional value; SLKs can be had for under £4000 while Porkers go for pennies; as little as £4000 or even less if you look hard enough. Spend just £7000 for the first of the 2.7 versions while even a ten year old 3.2 can be had for £9000 – twelve grand will get you a really good well-historied Boxster at a Porsche independent.


It depends how you like your sportsters. Original SLKs were always criticised for their rather meek and mild nature and it’s true that they are better at cruising than cross country fun, although there’s little wrong with the handling. As ever with Merc ‘fours’ they seem a bit coarse and lack guts although their speed doesn’t lie! It depends what you want as we said earlier and – typically Mercedes – the SLK is made for automatic even though manual ‘boxes were available.

The Boxster is a different kettle of camshafts and without question one of the best drives you can buy – at virtually any price.

Truth is that even the smallest engined Boxster is not underpowered; it’s simply that the near-perfect balance of the mid-engine layout means that the competence of the chassis far outweighs the power output. In short, the Boxster is one of few cars that any sensible driver will be hard pushed to find its limit, except perhaps, on a trackday.

There’s no doubt, however, the very best drive is the Boxster S. The larger capacity means more low speed torque as well as horsepower, and the six-speed box (986 or new 987 version) is a joy to use, the top gear being a great cruiser. On the subject of transmissions, don’t reject a Tiptronic car because it’s an auto: the steering wheel buttons allow quick shifts and the lack of clutch means that (with practice) you can indulge in left foot braking if you wish.

Of the pair, the Porsche is the purer sports car although very civilised. However the SLK is much nicer for those who want an easier time.


Apart from exceedingly decent used value given their badges, both are well looked after by wide army of specialists to keep costs sane. Of the two the SLK will be the easier to run because it’s C-Class based and the design is much easier to work on, and DIY if you wish. Not so the Boxster where the mid engine is tucked away and designed not to entice DIYers!

Specialists should make routine servicing quite reasonably priced at a few hundred at most although involved repairs will be hefty – the Tiptronic auto on the Boxster can costs thousands to fix while Merc autos, with their electronic trickery, are known to fail, but at least that repair cost will usually only run into hundreds if you’re lucky.

In terms of durability the Boxster will probably fare the better. We didn’t know it, but during the time the SLK was launched Mercedes was to endure some serious body issues which afflicted C and E Class models and it’s not simply cosmetic either.

As with all prestige motors, it pays to buy the best you can and that means a solid dealer/specialist backed service history. Preferably buy from a specialist who will have better stock and rejected most of the dross that is advertised in the classifieds.

And The Winner Is...

A difficult one this but overall we’d go for the Boxster if for no other reason that it is true sports car rather than sportster, as pleasant as a good SLK is. There’s a real 911-like feel about a Boxster where as the SLK rarely conceals its C-Class saloon’s origins – or needs to because they make excellent daily drivers as a result and that may be a clincher for many.

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