2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

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2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Available in 2 styles:  SLK 2dr Roadster shown
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Kelley Blue Book Retail
$5,825–$6,400

Est. MPG

18–20 city / 27–29 hwy


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Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 3 of 7

By 

KansasCity.com
Nothing transforms a ho-hum car like a good dose of horsepower and a tighter suspension.

Take the Mercedes-Benz SLK230 Kompressor, for example. With the supercharged, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine and 190 horsepower, it feels slightly anemic unless you drive it with the throttle mashed to the floor.

For 2001 Mercedes created the SLK320 by dropping in the 215-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 and six-speed manual gearbox. Add the $4,135 Sport package with 8.5- by-17-inch AMG wheels and you've got a genuinely quick two-seater with robust performance and knife-sharp reflexes. Bulking up the tiny SLK with more power, steam-roller tires and crisper handling gives it the persona of Mighty Mouse. The downside is a hefty price of $49,300 when so equipped.

The V6 is the same as the one in the new C-Class, and it is delightful. It has an aluminum block, single-overhead camshaft and three valves per cylinder, two for intake and one for exhaust. Torque, the force that actually moves the wheels, is 229 lbs.-ft., which is why it drives with the throttle response of a little V8. Tap the throttle and the action is instant.

The six-speed shifts precisely, as a sports car should, with short movements of the shift lever. The press car had 7,000 hard miles on it and a nasty squeal periodically emanated from the transmission area, perhaps due to the cold temperatures.

Based on our recent driving conditions, you might think a small, rear-wheel-drive coupe is the height of impracticality, but the SLK320 was surprisingly adept this week, thanks to some computerized sleight of hand, also known as ESP Stability Program. ESP combines traction control and anti-lock brakes with a sophisticated yaw-control program that senses a skid and counteracts it by reducing the throttle and applying one brake at a time.

The SLK's interior has been revised with new, more ergonomic seats, a new steering wheel and trim with a machined aluminum finish. The improved seats are a welcome addition and fit well. The steering wheel's combination of wood and leather surfaces is a great tactile treat without being too slippery for gloves.

The SLK has a 94.5-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 157.9 inches, making it a couple of inches longer than a Mazda Miata. The cabin is small, as you might expect, but not crowded.

Compared to its soft-top roadster competitors, the SLK's retractable hardtop gives it greater year-around appeal and makes it feel as tight and warm in the winter as a fixed-roof car. Putting the top down is a simple task: grab the small top-shaped knob on the center console and pull back to lower the top or push forward to raise it. The top folds neatly into the trunk, but it does consume some luggage space.

The SLK320's body structure feels tighter than earlier models. I noticed less cowl shake and vibration.

The Sport package not only looks muscular, but it greatly enhances overall handling. Earlier this fall I was able to drive an SLK320 around a small handling track laid out in a large parking lot and it was as much fun as any vehicle in the Mercedes lineup. It corners flat, has plenty of power and the bark of the exhaust is just right when the top is down.

The SLK320 is a bona fide sports car now, and the retractable top just makes it even more appealing for those of us in winter climes.

Price: The base price is $43,900. The Sport package adds $4,135 and heated seats are $620, bringing the sticker price to $49,300.

Warranty: Four years or 50,000 miles.

Point: More power and better handling have turned the SLK320 into a sports coupe that can face its competition with no hesitation. The retractable top makes it secure in winter and the new seats are a step up for comfort.

Counterpoint: The V6 and Sport package push the SLK's price to near $50,000.

SPECIFICATIONS:
Engine: 3.2-liter V6
Transmission: Six-speed
Rear-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 94.5 inches
Curb weight: 3,018 lbs.
Base price: $43,900
As driven: $49,300
Mpg rating: 18 city, 27 hwy.



    Expert Reviews 3 of 7

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