Mercedes Benz SLK 230 (1999)

 

 

Infiniti Q45This is a fun little car. If Mercedes set out to build its own Mazda Miata, this is what they'd end up with. The SLK 230 is a fun-to-drive, sporty convertible that's about the same size as a Miata. Of course, it's several steps up in quality in just about every respect--which had better be the case if you're going to be shelling out an additional $22,000.

We were pleasantly surprised to see that this car comes with a manualtransmission--the first manual transmission Mercedes we've ever driven. The shifting is a little unusual, with reverse located down and to the left ofsecond gear. We liked that, though, if for no other reason than it wassomething a little different.

Driving Experience

The SLK shifts really well and is quite powerful. It drives like a really-well-put-together sports car. Which is exactly what it is. It doesnt have the heavy feel of most Mercedes models. It feels light, nimble and quick. Definitely thumbs up on the driving experience!

Don't expect the SLK 230 to be stellar in the snow. Even with traction control, we found that the SLK 230's rear-wheel drive made it difficult to get out of snow-covered parking places. (Mercedes was thoughtful enough tomake sure we had an opportunity to test-drive this convertible in thewinter. Thanks, guys.) But, hey, if you're spending $42,000 for a Mercedesconvertible, chances are pretty good you'll be driving something elseduring the cold months.

Interior

Infiniti Q45We found it a little difficult to get completely comfortable in this car. There's not quite enough up-and-down seat travel, plus the roof is a little low, due to the styling and shape of the car. By adding another inch of height and allowing a little more seat travel, Mercedes could make the SLK230 a whole lot more comfortable. But styling is obviously a big factor here. The SLK does not have a back seat. There is, however, a commodious trunk for a car of this size (at least when the top is up--when its down, that trunk space virtually disappears). The rear window is glass--a big step up from the typical sheet of plastic found in the rear window of most convertibles. As a result, rear visibility is not too bad.

Ergonomics

The gauge packages in the SLK 230 are thoughtfully laid out and easy toread. The controls are all good, though we found the radio to be slightlyByzantine. The fan and ventilation switches are excellent, with "0" to "5"settings and additional increments between the numbers. Thankfully, theSLK 230 does not have the annoying cruise-control design of some of the other '99 Mercedes, in which the cruise stalk is located in a place where it was likely to be hit accidentally. One cute addition? The SLK has a button that, when pressed, washes the headlights.

The SLK 230 has a foldable hard top that automatically lowers the windows,folds up, opens the trunk, puts itself into the trunk, and clamps itselfdown. It's absolutely the coolest convertible top that we've ever seen!Because it's a hardtop, the SLK 230 will also be very secure in the off-season.

Overall comments

The SLK 230 is a rich man's Miata. In fact, for the price of an SLK 230, youcould buy two Miatas...and have nearly $2,000 left over to pay your annualdues at the country club. But, heck, if you've got the money, why not buyan SLK 230? Life is short.

View cars.com model report on this vehicle.


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