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Mercedes-Benz SLK

Mercedes-Benz SLK Published: 28th Feb 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mercedes-Benz SLK
Mercedes-Benz SLK
Mercedes-Benz SLK
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You can enjoy SL levels of luxury and prestige with its smaller brother, the SLK

Is the SLK a classic?

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of this scaled-down SL, a sports car which redefined the sportster market by creating a car that put the focus on year-round comfort and usability with a coupécabriolet everybody else has copied but with a strength of build and image that few rivals could match.

Yet they don’t make them any more?

Technically, that’s right because the SLK was renamed last year as the SLC to become part of the SL family, another point of favour is this Merc’s classic status. The name is derived from Merc’s iconic SL (Sport Leicht) tag, with a K added for Kurz, or Short, before you ask!

Is it a shrunkeN SL?

Technically, yes. Big brother SLs are based the S Class where as the SLK used a cut down C Class platform and so is that much sportier to drive although lacks the comfort and refinement of the larger SLs. Having said that, the SLK is no second stringer, because it has a lovely interior and, as they cost much the same as a C Class saloon to own, prestige classics can’t come much cheaper.

They’re all autos?

Not quite but majority are but that’s no bad thing even in a sports car as the auto transmission is as good as the manuals are disappointing, due to their clumsy gearchange. Plus, of course, there’s that foot-operated parking brake to contend with – are you Jake the peg? SLKs are not ‘fun’ in the way an MGF or MX-5 is – the enjoyment rather comes from its fine ride and handling balance and ample performance from a variety of engines (supercharged, remember) to suit all budgets and desires.

Autocar rightly said the SLK was more than just any old sports car. “The remarkable new SLK is three cars in one. The most public role is a relaxed wind-in-the-hair poseur’s roadster. Twenty-five seconds later, via a densely technical engineering miracle, it converts to an autobahn express, a true coupé. Or it can be a quickhandling sports car, open or closed.”

Such as…?

There’s at least 163bhp to play with (200K) and as much as 349bhp in the case of the SLK32 AMG with its supercharged V6 – a savage as one road test put it even though it’s offered only with a five-speed automatic transmission! Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, cruise control and a body styling kit. Electronically limited to 155mph, the SLK32 AMG can despatch the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.2 seconds – imagine a TVR made by Mercedes and you might begin to get the idea! Mainstream pick however is the SLK230 sporting almost 200bhp for decent enough performance or the 3.2 V6 with its much smoother 218bhp.

Best models?

Back in 2000 a facelifted SLK saw new variations with a new entry-level model, the SLK200K alongside the new range-topping SLK320. The revamp also saw reprofiled bumpers (front and rear), body-coloured side skirts and redesigned door mirrors which now incorporated the indicator repeaters. At the same time, ESP control became standard across the range while the flagship SLK32 joined the family for 2001.

One year later, a Limited Edition appears, complete with 7.5x17 alloys, black nappa leather and complemented with brushed aluminium interior trim. Both SLK230K and SLK320 editions were offered before the new look, second generation replacement was launched; we prefer the style of the original model, thanks.

But how cheap is cheap?

About half the price of an decent MGB – but you’ll probably pay for your ‘bargain buy’ in the long run because the standard of cars out there can vary an awful lot. And with the earliest cars two decades old, you’re buying on condition rather than the spec. The SL Shop’s Bruce Greetham recently told us: “You can buy a first-generation SLK for less than £2000, although you’re better off spending at least £3000 if you want something tidy – even better if you’ve got £4000 in your pocket.

“While £3000 will secure a reasonable SLK 200K, 230K or 320, with upwards of 100,000 miles on the clock, there are 60,000-mile examples of all these editions within reach if you spend just an extra thousand pounds”.

Stretch to £5000 and you’ll get a higher spec or lower-mileage SLK, while any model that has covered less than 50,000 miles and boasts a few desired factory-fitted extras can still command up to £8000.

You’ll be doing well to find an SLK32 AMG as just 271 were sold here. If you do track one down, expect to pay at least £8000 for it, and more like £12,000 if it’s a low-mileage car in superb condition, adds the SL Shop and we can only agree with these experts because any problem with that clever Vario roof can outweigh the real world values of early cars. Not so clever.

Ah yes, i was going to ask about that

The roof mechanism is pretty complicated but it should also prove reliable in service. However, there are various sensors which can play up, especially if the car isn’t used regularly, so put the roof up and down a few times to make sure all is well. The hydraulic oil should also be replaced every 10 years or so, and it’s worth swapping the pump relay (sited under a cover on the righthand side of the boot) as a matter of course periodically, as they fail.

No, the real concerns can be the rust worries as the SLK’s launch came at a time when build quality was hardly up to what you’d expect from Mercedes and if bad can even make the car uneconomical to repair!

Check the suspension arms and brake pipes for rust. If these have corroded, worse still will probably be hidden away. Check wheelarches, sills, boot lid and number plate surrounds, the area around the rear number plate light, as well as the fuel filler flap. The front rots too but it’s only usually cosmetically.

Anything else?

If the car has a six-speed manual gearbox, make sure the changes are slick; this transmission can fail, although occurrences are rare; autos are fine but the electrics can play up. Other likely electrical glitches include the heater resistor (easily and cheaply replaced), the air conditioning condensor and compressor (it can cost over £1000 to replace both), the boot lights and the brake light switches. The rear light circuit boards can melt while the alarm horn can sound continuously once water has got into the workings – many owners just disconnect it but that’s a dodgy ploy.

The four-cylinder engines are robust and will rack up 200,000 miles happily although head gaskets can let go, as can supercharger bearings, leading to rattling on tickover. The blower will continue to work but it’ll get noisy; reconditioned superchargers cost around £500 so it’s not so bad. Although don’t be taken in by the vendor who stresses any lack of supercharged punch is simply because the engine is in need of a tune up – it’s a big fib!

SLK okay then?

If you’re after an easy going, sportster – as opposed to a proper sports car – that thanks to that hood, can be used every day, then yes… an SLK is okay although, as we said at the start, the German doesn’t dish up MX-5-like thrills and the image is a bit Triumph Spitfire-like for some – but what’s so wrong with that? On the plus side, Mercedes specialists know them well, the owners’ clubs has a special SLK register and there’s even a dedicated SLK day!

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