It seems like every time a first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK catches my eye I look inside to see what seems like the inevitable. The paint on the center console is all worn away leaving a disaster of flaking paint and a total eyesore. Blame it on poor materials or careless owners, but these SLKs just don’t seem to be holding up as well as you might have expected. Once you realize that these were not just a mini-SL and built with more of the spirit of the C-Class in mind, you start to understand why they are aging like they are. It is possible to keep these nice in ideal conditions by ideal owners, but now that these cars are old enough to buy cigarettes, they are few and far between. Much to my surprise, this SLK230 up for sale in California is one of the better ones I’ve seen for sale in a long time. The best part? This price almost seems too good to be true.
The first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK was all about fun. When the SLK was launched, Mercedes said it was ”driving in a new dimension.” I kind of get what they were after but I’ll just chalk it up to some marketing-speak. While the R129 was the serious roadster with a serious price tag, the R170 was the light-hearted option that checked in at $40,000 as opposed to the $80,000 and up if you went with SL500. There was a finally an option for people who didn’t want to spend starter home money for a Mercedes convertible. The best part about it was that the normally ultra-conservative styling you were used to seeing was moved towards something that still could be recognized as a Mercedes, but a breath of fresh air and a look into the new millennium. You want a crazy color? Sure. Matching seats? You got it. And how about something those stuffy R129 buyers don’t have, an automatic, retractable hardtop? Yep, that will make Morty and Barb from the club jealous. How about one more thing, a supercharger. Now we are going crazy!
All this was really great in the late 1990s. Times were good, money was flowing and there was no reason to believe that you when you bought a SLK, you weren’t getting that same standard of quality that you were used to from every Mercedes convertible of past. All the way from the 300SL and 190SL to the R129 and C124 and everything in between, those were really special cars. There is a reason why the W111/112 Cabriolet is still a six-figure car and Pagodas even in the roughest of condition are starting at $50,000. The thing with the SLK was that all of a sudden the generous amount of leather and wood you were accustomed to in your top-down Mercedes was suddenly replaced with vinyl and plastic. Lots and lots of plastic. It’s tough to blame Mercedes as they needed to directly compete with the BWM Z3 that was well into production and buyers didn’t care all that much because they got a convertible with that giant three-pointed in the grille for half the price they usually are. Everyone wins.
It was around my second year in college that the chance arose for me to finally get behind the wheel of the (then) newly introduced Mercedes SLK230. My first impression is that for such a small car, it drove just like a regular Mercedes. Except it was smaller. Up until around 15 years ago, I maintained that you could blindfold me and I could tell you if I was riding in a Mercedes or not. The SLK was no different. Steering with a bit of heft to it, a firm but compliant ride and a smooth automatic gearbox were the order of the day. Some complained about the agricultural nature of the supercharged inline-4, but it offered plenty of power to scoot you around in a hurry.
Mercedes upped the enthusiast ante shortly after the SLK debuted and offered a 5-speed manual gearbox. Not since the 190E had US customers been able to spec a Mercedes with three pedals. To this day, you can still order a new SLK250 with a 6-speed manual, but who knows how long that will last. I tend to think someone at Mercedes-Benz USA forgot this was on the menu. If you don’t want to plunk down the coin for a new SLK, this SLK230 for sale in Pennsylvania gives you the chance to enjoy a lot of fresh air and the freedom to row your own.
The first Mercedes-Benz SLK I drove was a 1999 SLK230 with the AMG package, similar to the roadster we see here for sale outside of Philadelphia. The car really surprised me, but it didn’t have anything to do with the speed or handling dynamics. I was baffled how Mercedes could build a sporty looking two seat convertible that felt and handled almost exactly like the 1998 C230 sedan I owned at the time. I shrugged it off at the time and reminded myself that I wasn’t in a BMW and instead focused on the positive, such as the car’s relatively rattle free ride, decent low end torque from the supercharged 2.3 liter four cylinder engine and electrically folding steel roof. Fifteen years has passed since these small cruisers first went on sale in the US, meaning they have turned into quite the bargain for people who want a bit of style at a discounted rate.
SUPER CLEAN 2001 SLK230. Clean Carfax, low mileage. This vehicle has been very well maintained. Completely detailed inside and out. Vehicle runs and handles great. Comes equipped with: 17″ alloy wheels, fully automatic power hard top, auto-dimming rear view mirror, home-link universal garage door opener remote keyless entry, and more.
The asking price of $15,995 is a bit much, even considering the mileage is on the low side and the car has the AMG package. Realistically, this is a $12,000 to $13,000 car all day long. Also, a manual transmission Mercedes appeals to fewer people in the US than Europe, even if it’s a sportier model. One more big obstacle for this SLK is that you could easily procure a late model R129 SL500 for similar money. I think we all know which drop top Benz most of us would rather have.