Used Mercedes-Benz SLK 1996 - 2004 review

Category: Sports car

The Mercedes SLK offers solid build quality in a sleek roadster

Mercedes-Benz SLK Open (96 - 04)
  • Mercedes-Benz SLK Open (96 - 04)
  • Mercedes-Benz SLK Open (96 - 04)
Used Mercedes-Benz SLK 1996 - 2004 review
Star rating

What's the used Mercedes SLK sports like?

Prepare to be the centre of attention when driving a Mercedes 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 Mercedes SLK offers solid build quality in a sleek roadster package, but rust can be a bit of an issue on early examples

  • That fabulous folding metal roof
  • Boot space shrinks when the roof is folded

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.

Ownership cost

What used Mercedes SLK sports will I get for my budget?

How much does it cost to run a Mercedes SLK sports?

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.

Our recommendations

Which used Mercedes SLK sports should I buy?

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.

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What alternatives should I consider to a used Mercedes SLK sports?