1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

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1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

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Available in 1 styles:  SLK Class 2dr Coupe Base shown
Asking Price Range
$2,324–$12,532
Estimated MPG

21 city / 29 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 5

By 

KansasCity.com
Mercedes-Benz' SLK is so captivating that you might think its initials stand for Sure Looks Kute.

Instead, they are German for Sport, Light and Short. Whatever its name, you're sure to call it fun after slipping behind the wheel. This Miata-sized two-seater, whose youthful spirit and striking good looks are immensely appealing, is one of the Teutonic triplets: BMW's Z3 and Porsche's Boxster are the other two. These three roadsters from Germany have been the buzz of the automotive biz for the last year, pinpointing a resurgence in small sports cars priced around $40,000. The SLK was selected as the North American Car of the Year.

All three have limited availability so don't expect to walk into your local showroom and pick one up. If you're willing to wait, however, you are likely to get one.

The SLK stands apart from the BMW and Porsche in that it has a retractable steel top and a supercharged engine. The flip-fold top is really terrific because it enables you to have a tight, weather-proof coupe or a wind-in-the-hair convertible in just a few seconds. In a Houdini-like disappearing act, the steel top folds into sections and collapses into the trunk electronically. It impinges upon luggage capacity of the trunk, of course, but you can still cram in a couple of small overnight bags when the top is down.

With the top up, trunk space is reasonable. One caveat: If you're planning a weekend trip for two, travel light and don't buy too many souvenirs.

Road trips are ideal because this is such a comfortable cruiser. You can put the top down, leave the windows up and drive with very little wind noise or buffeting.

Its 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine settles easily into a groove, and the supercharger has sufficient reserve power for quick passing or climbing mountains. Called a Kompressor in German, the supercharger boosts horsepower to 185 and gives a flat torque curve from 2,500 rpm to 4,800.

Around town, acceleration feels flat unless you mash the throttle. Then it sprints right away.

The five-speed automatic transmission is well-matched to the engine, but I was happier when I shifted manually to a lower gear to get quicker throttle response.

No manual transmission is offered, but I it would be the perfect complement to this engine. The SLK is more like a small, luxury touring coupe than a hard-edged sports car.

The SLK's 94.5-inch wheelbase is derived from a shortened C-Class chassis, and it has a dual-wishbone suspension in front and a five-link set-up back. Sixteen-inch wheels are standard, with larger tires in back for balanced handling.

Its taut ride gives it sure footing in turns, which it handles gracefully. The standard traction control system (ASR) helps modulate wheelspin should your exuberance exceed available traction, and makes the SLK genuinely suitable for winter use in climes where snow is a possibility.

Inside, the cockpit is small but not crowded. The re is adequate legroom for over-six-footers, and 10 cubby holes and storage compartments provide places for small stuff.

Both front and side airbags are standard, as are anti-lock brakes.

Cream-colored gauges with chrome trim dot the instrument panel and create a nostalgic look and feel to the interior that is keeping with other retro styling cues outside. The dash of our test car was black and red, a colorful combination known as Salsa and intended to appeal to a young audience. More conservative black-and-gray or all-black color schemes are also offered.

The bucket seats, also black and red leather, were as comfortable and supportive as Mercedes' seats always are. A unique feature, especially appealing for young parents and those of us who are new grandparents, is the Baby Smart system that automatically disables the passenger-side front airbag when a special Mercedes-Benz rear-facing infant seat is used.

Demand for the SLK exceeds supply, so be prepare to wait some time should you want one.

Price

The base price is $39,700. Standard equipment includes traction control, anti-lock brakes, dual front and side airbags, heated windshield washers, dual-zone climate control and AM/FM stereo.

Heated seats were the only option on our test car, which had a sticker price of $40,890.

Warranty

The basic warranty is for four years or 50,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: Natty styling, a retractable hard top and a tasteful interior make the SLK a sure winner for those who want the fun of a convertible and the practicality of a coupe.

Counterpoint: The supercharged engine has adequate power if you floor it, but it feels less spirited when driven gently.

SPECIFICATIONS:

ENGINE: 2.3-liter, 4-cyl.

TRANSMISSION: Automatic

WHEELBASE: 94.5 inches

CURB WEIGHT: 3,036 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $39,700

PRICE AS DRIVEN: $40,890

MPG RATING: 22 city, 30 hwy.




    Expert Reviews 3 of 5

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