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Mercedes SLK (1996-2004)

Published: 28th Nov 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes SLK (1996-2004)

Fast Facts

  • Engine: 2295cc/6-cyl
  • Power (bhp/rpm): 193/5300
  • Torque (lb ft@rpm): 206/2500
  • Top speed: 142mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.3sec
  • Fuel consumption: 32mpg
  • Transmission: 5-speed auto
  • Length: 13ft 1in (4.00m)
  • Width (inc mirrors): 5ft 8in (1.72m)
  • Weight: 2750lb (1250kg)
  • Books: Mercedes-Benz cars of the 1990s by James Taylor. ISBN 9-78184-797-096-1
  • Clubs:
  • Websites: he Mercedes-Benz Club.
    0845 6032660,
    Mercedes-Benz Owners.
    01892 860927,
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Running a classic convertible doesn’t have to mean making compromises. After all, few things are more uncertain than the British weather, so if you like to have your cake and eat it, a convertible with a folding hard top is the perfect solution.

Take the Mercedes SLK for example; with the roof down you get all the thrills of open-topped motoring, but at the press of a button the roof slots into place and you’ve got a car that’s as weather-proof and secure as any conventional closed car. Sure, luggage capacity is compromised with the roof down, but you don’t buy a twoseater sports car for its practicality, do you? What you do buy a Mercedes for is its bullet-proof build quality, and while this original SLK isn’t as tough as some of its more prosaic predecessors, it’s streets ahead of most classic open-topped two-seaters. And with prices starting at just £3000, the three-pointed star has never looked more tempting.

What to look for

The SLK is generally well put together, although there are faults which can crop up. The charging system can fail when the voltage regulator on the alternator packs up, and catalytic converters can also pack in – that’s why you should have an emissions check performed before buying, because replacement converters are very costly. Also take a look at the front fog lights; these can mist up then corrode internally, so make sure there’s no rust evident. The roof mechanism is complicated but it should also prove reliable. 

However, there are various sensors which can play up if the car isn’t used regularly, so put the roof up and down a few times to make sure all is well. If the car has a six-speed manual gearbox, also make sure the changes are slick; this transmission can fail, although occurrences are rare.

The original SLK was being built at a point when Mercedes quality was at its lowest, so you need to check the interior for tatty trim and the bodywork for corrosion. Wheelarches, sills, boot lid surrounds and the area around the rear number plate light as well as the fuel filler fl ap are all key areas for corrosion to break out.


You can buy a first-generation SLK for just £3000, although you’re better off spending at least an extra £1000 if you want something tidy. For that sum you can get a good SLK200K, 230K or 320, with upwards of 100,000 miles on the clock. Stretch to £5000 and you’ll get a higher spec or lower-mileage SLK, while cars that have covered under 50,000 miles and have a few factory-fitted extras can still command up to £8000. You’ll be doing well to find an SLK32 AMG for sale as just 271 were sold in the UK, but if you do track one down, expect to pay anywhere between £6000 and £14,000.

Driving one

Entry-level SLKs have just 163bhp, but buy at least a 230K and there’s plenty of poke on offer, so there’s always ample urge when you need it most, whether it’s for fast cruising or a swift overtake.

While some cars have a manual gearbox, most UK SLKs have a fi ve-speed automatic transmission which is lively and shifts ratios smoothly to ensure every drive is relaxed. Anti-lock brakes with discs all round ensure there’s ample stopping power, and considering the SLK’s relatively small proportions, the ride is very good. Unsurprisingly, with the roof up the refi nement is on a par with any fi xed-roof car – but even with the roof down and at motorway speeds it’s still possible to converse comfortably. Unsurprisingly, with the roof up the refi nement is on a par with any fixed-roof car – but even with the roof down and at motorway speeds it’s still possible to converse comfortably.


Nov 1996:

The SLK arrives in 230K form only, with 193bhp.

Feb 2000:

The SLK200K and SLK320 join the range, offering 163bhp and 218bhp respectively.

Aug 2001:

The SLK32 AMG arrives, with a 354bhp supercharged V8.

Jun 2002:

The Limited Edition reaches showrooms, with 7.5x17 alloys, black nappa leather and brushed aluminium interior trim.

Jan 2004:

The Special Edition is offered, with 16” alloys, grey or red nappa leather and brushed alloy interior detailing.

Jul 2004:

A new SLK arrives, known internally as the R171 model; its predecessor was the R170.

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