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Buyers Guide to:

Mercedes-Benz SLK (R170)

Useful Info


1996 to 2004

Fuel Type


Engine Sizes

2000cc, 2300cc, 3200cc

Engine Type


Drive Configuration


Mercedes-Benz Owners

The Mercedes-Benz Club

Just Kampers

01256 862288,


Folding hard tops weren’t a new innovation, but the Mercedes-Benz SLK re-ignited interest in a big way and the design was soon copied by a number of mainstream car makers. Code-named the R170 model, the new two seater was launched at the 1994 Paris Motor Show and went on sale in the UK and Europe two years later. Launch models were fitted with a supercharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine producing 193bhp, but what really captured the imagination of buyers was the clever two-piece roof that folded away at the push of a button thanks to a complex arrangement of electronics and hydraulics. Various engines were added during production, with the 349bhp SLK32 AMG model a particular highlight, and the first model would stay on sale until 2004 when it was replaced by the R171 version.

  1. 1. Front edge of the bonnet
  2. 2. Front wings
  3. 3. Sills
  4. 4. Wheel arches
  5. 5. Boot lid

The Checklist

  • Carefully for rust as it can nibble away at the edges of panels. It may just be surface corrosion, but bubbling is likely to be something worse beneath and the cost of rectification will soon add up
  • That the folding roof is working correctly. Diagnosis and parts costs can be high, and it could prove uneconomic to repair on a cheap car
  • For evidence of regular servicing. With the oldest examples now twenty years old, maintenance could have become patchy. There are no real issues with the chain drive for the camshafts, but lack of oil changes could have caused wear
  • That supercharged models aren’t exhibiting any issues with the blower. Replacement can result in a four- gure bill, so be wary of any odd noises or lack of performance
  • For oil or coolant leaks. The water pump can leak so check for signs of overheating, and ensure there are no dashboard warning lights indicating problems with the catalytic convertors
  • That cars with the automatic transmission change gear smoothly. Replacing the gearbox is hugely expensive, and won’t be worth doing on a cheap car. Also, check for uid leaks from the differential
  • For rattles from the exhaust system as it could point to catalytic convertors that are breaking up internally; replacing them with original parts isn’t cheap so haggle accordingly
  • The suspension and braking systems for wear and neglect. Uneven tyre wear indicates bushes and joints that are past their best, and make sure that the warning lights for the anti-lock brakes/ traction control system illuminate and extinguish correctly on start up
  • The alloy wheels for scuffs and corrosion. They can be refurbished at a reasonable cost, but haggle on the asking price accordingly
  • That there are no signs of water leaks in the cabin. And check the interior trim for damage as repairs won’t be cheap – leather was optional on early cars and is worth having
  • Whether air-conditioning is tted as it was optional on early models. If so, ensure it blows cold; the cost of repairing a failed system means it may have been ignored by a previous owner
  • All of the cabin electrics as problems aren’t uncommon and will be costly to x

Everything Check Out?

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