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What Car? says

5 out of 5 stars

For That fabulous folding metal roof

Against Boot space shrinks when the roof is folded

Verdict Solid Merc build quality in a sleek roadster

Go for… 200K Auto

Avoid… SLK32 AMG

Mercedes-Benz SLK Open
  • 1. Insist on a leather interior and only buy a traditional Mercedes colour (not bright yellow), as it will make the car easier to sell
  • 2. Check the service history is complete, as neglecting the 9000-mile intervals can wreak havoc with superchargers that need clean oil to work efficiently
  • 3. Go for an automatic transmission because the SLK's manual gearboxes were nowhere near as slick
  • 4. This is no sports car, so the 161bhp supercharged 2.0-litre is plenty powerful enough
  • 5. Check the tyres aren't worn, as replacing them is expensive
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Mercedes-Benz SLK Open full review with expert trade views

Prepare to be the centre of attention when driving an SLK, as even now its balletically folding metal roof draws a crowd. The clever scissor action turns the SLK from snug, sleek coupe into svelte roadster in less than half a minute. The only downside is that the boot capacity is seriously reduced when the roof is folded.

The interior was a major step forward for Mercedes and it mirrors the exterior’s attractive lines. Comfort is high on the agenda and there’s little wind buffeting when the roof is lowered. However, taller drivers may find the cabin a little tight for headroom when the roof is up.

The SLK is definitely a roadster rather than a sports car. The ride is firm enough to keep roll in check but sufficiently supple for long journeys to be enjoyed. However, the handling and steering don’t match the class best.

Trade view

James Ruppert

A lot more in circulation so values down, 230K has most retail appeal

James Ruppert
Used car guru

All of the standard models make sound buys, but as the SLK is more of a cruiser we’d err towards the 161bhp 2.0-litre supercharged model. It has more than enough power to keep up with most hot hatches, yet is cheaper to insure and more frugal than other SLKs.

A face-lift in early 2000 brought better-looking bumpers, an upgraded interior and indicator repeaters in the door mirrors. At the same time, the 3.2-litre V6 and the supercharged 2.0-litre were introduced alongside the 230K with its 2.3-litre supercharged motor. But, whichever model you choose, go for an automatic gearbox, as the manual has a notchy, reluctant action.

Fastest of the bunch is the SLK32 AMG with its supercharged 3.2 V6 producing 354bhp and capable of 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds. It’s rare and never really looked – or drove – much better than the lesser models, so there's no point in tracking one down.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but high bills - watch for electrical and suspension faults

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

SLK prices may be dropping into very affordable territory nowadays, but they still require careful specialist attention.

Franchised Mercedes dealers have some of the highest labour charges of any manufacturer, but they're worth paying for, as a fully stamped service book will help protect residual values. That said, there are plenty of independent specialists who can do just as good a job at notably cheaper prices, but any repair on an SLK is likely to set you back more than on most other convertibles.

Insurance and fuel economy follow the same rule: no SLK is cheap, but the smaller the engine, the more affordable it is. The 320 returns 26mpg and the 200K 29mpg, for example. However, all SLKs need high-quality, pricey, tyres to maintain their handling and comfort.

Trade view

James Ruppert

A lot more in circulation so values down, 230K has most retail appeal

James Ruppert
Used car guru

There are some essentials when buying an SLK that will help you sell the car easily later in its life. For starters, insist on a leather interior and seek out a more traditional Mercedes colour – yellow might sound good when you buy, but others may not think so when you try to sell.

An automatic gearbox is also desirable because the SLK's manual gearboxes were nowhere near as slick as those in BMW rivals. A full service history from franchised or specialists is also a must, as neglecting the 9000-mile service intervals can wreak havoc with superchargers that need clean oil to work efficiently.

Otherwise, reliability is generally very good on SLKs, but check the roof works quickly and smoothly, as its electrics can play up.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Low failure rates but high bills - watch for electrical and suspension faults

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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