The SLK is a compact roadster manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in two generations, R170 and R171, since 1997.
As one of the first modern retractable hardtop convertibles, the SLK followed the 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder and preceded other retractable hardtops such as the Peugeot 206cc, Lexus SC, Mercedes-Benz SL-Class and the Chrysler Sebring.
The designation SLK derives from the company's design mission to create a roadster that was at once sporty, light and short — ''in German: Sportlich, Leicht und Kurz.
The term SLK-Class is a Mercedes marketing term referring to the vehicle in all its engine configurations across both design generations.
R170 (1997- 2004)
The R170-platform SLK 230 Kompressor was introduced in 1997 for model year 1998 to compete with the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3. Setting it apart was its folding hardtop, though its additional weight compromised the performance of the 185 hp 2.3 L supercharged I4 engine and automatic transmission. The SLK was on Car and Driver's Ten Best list for 1997.
A 5-speed manual transmission was added for 1999 along with the 215 hp 3.2 L V6 and 6-speed manual transmission in the 2001 SLK 320.
An AMG model was added in 2001, with a supercharged version of the 3.2 L V6. This SLK 32 AMG was the best-performing R170 SLK, and was a direct rival of the BMW M Roadster and Porsche Boxster S. It was only offered with automatic transmission. The SLK AMG engine was also hand built.
Not all Mercedes SLKs were built in Bremen, Germany, the SLK 320 being built in South Africa and Mexico. The very first R170 Mercedes SLK was completed on January 29, 1997 and last on April 7, 2004.
Summary of all versions and engine specifications:
- SLK 200 - 2.0 L (1998 cc) 136 hp I4 engine, 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 9.3 seconds, top speed of 208 km/h (129 mph).
- SLK 200 Kompressor - 2.0 L (1998 cc) 192 hp I4 supercharged engine, 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 7.7 seconds, top speed of 236 km/h (147 mph). NB Exported only to Portugal, Italy and Greece.
- SLK 230 Kompressor - 2.3 L (2295 cc) 193 hp I4 supercharged engine, 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 7.4 seconds, top speed of 231 km/h (143 mph).
R170 With Facelift
- SLK 200 Kompressor - 2.0 L (1998 cc) 163 hp I4 supercharged engine, 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds, top speed of 223 km/h (138 mph). NB Not exported to North American markets.
- SLK 230 Kompressor - 2.3 L (2295 cc) 197 hp I4 supercharged engine, 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, top speed of 240 km/h (148 mph).
- SLK 320 - 3.2 L (3199 cc) 218 hp V6 engine, 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, top speed of 245 km/h (152 mph).
- SLK 32 AMG - 3.2 L (3199 cc) 354 hp V6 engines were hand-built by AMG by an individual engineers. The engine came with an intercooled Lysholm-type "twin-screw" supercharger. Production commenced in August 2001 and ended in March 2004. 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Only 4,333 were produced of which the bulk were exported to the USA and only 270 in RHD form to the UK.
R171 (2004- 2008)
The SLK was substantially revised in 2004 with a revised body and enhanced performance. For 2005 the new R171-platform SLK was named one of Car and Driver's Car and Driver Ten Best and won the Canadian Car of the Year's Best New Convertible award. The current SLK's are built in Bremen, Germany and Mexico city, Mexico.
Models of the new SLK include:
- SLK 200 Kompressor - 1.8 L 120 kW (163 hp DIN) I4 supercharged engine, 0-100 km/h (62 mph) 7.9 seconds, top speed of 143 mph. (not available in Canada and the US)
- SLK 280 - 3.0 L (2996 cc) 170 kW (231 hp DIN) double overhead cam V6 engine, 0-100 km/h (62 mph) 6.3 seconds, top speed 155 mph. (starting in 2006 model year)
- SLK 350 - new 3.5 L (3498 cc) 200 kW (272 hp DIN) double overhead cam V6 engine, 0-100 km/h (62 mph) 5.4 seconds, top speed 155 mph (electronically limited).
- SLK 55 AMG - 5.4 L (5439 cc) 265 kW (360 hp DIN) V8 engine, 0-100 km/h (62 mph) 4.9 seconds, top speed 155 mph (electronically limited). A tuned version of this was used as the Formula One safety car, replaced by CLK 63 AMG at the beginning of 2006 Season.
A lifting of the R171, with more powerful engines, has been presented at the end of 2007.