Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

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Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 BlueEFFICIENCY (R 172) – Frontansicht (2), 11. März 2011, Teneriffa.jpg
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Also called Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class (from 2016)
Production 1996–present
Body and chassis
Class Sports car (S)
Compact executive car
Body style 2-door roadster
Layout FR layout
Related Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class
Predecessor Mercedes-Benz 190SL

The Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is a compact luxury roadster manufactured by Mercedes-Benz in three generations; R170 launched in 1996, the R171 in 2004 and R172 in 2011.

Mercedes-Benz presented the SLK II concept car at the 1994 Paris Motor Show, showing off the "vario-roof".[1] The car went on sale two years later in Europe, and in 1997 in the US. The SLK is built in Bremen, Germany.

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 (sporty), leicht (light) und kurz (short).[2]

From 2016, with the release of the fourth generation R173 model, the SLK-Class will be renamed to Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class as per the revised nomenclature adopted by the brand. Under this scheme, roadsters use the base name "SL", followed by the model's placement in Mercedes-Benz hierarchy. The "SL" is for sportlich leicht (German for sport light) and alludes the long-running SL-Class. This is followed by the letter "C"—the SLC being the roadster equivalent to the C-Class.[3][4]

About retractable hardtops and the SLK[edit]

Ben P. Ellerbeck created the first practical retractable hardtop prototype in 1922 — a manually operated system on a Hudson coupe that never went into production.[5] The first French version was the Georges Paulin designed 1934 Peugeot 601 Éclipse[6][7]

Mercedes-Benz took the initiative in the 1990s to present the automotive world with a re-newed retractable hardtop technology they called the "vario-roof".[1]The SLK Vario-roof was first shown on the SLK II concept car at the 1994 Paris Motor Show.[1] The car went on sale two years later in Europe, and in 1997 in the US.

As one of the first[citation needed] modern retractable hardtop convertibles, the SLK joined the ranks of hardtop convertibles of this era including the 1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder and other retractable hardtops such as the Peugeot 206cc, Lexus SC, Pontiac G6 and the Chrysler Sebring.

The vario-roof is a hard roof that can fold down into the car automatically using an electrohydraulic system, this changing the car from what can be known as coupe, to a convertible.[8] The cars of this style typically had either a "soft" fabric top (either manually or automatically open and shut), a fixed hard-top, or a hard-top that had to be removed with labor and be taken off the car. An older Mercedes with removable hardtop was the Mercedes-Benz 190 SL (1955-1963), and after that the "Mercedes-Benz W113" and so forth.

R170 (1996–2004)[edit]

1st Mercedes-Benz SLK.jpg
Production 1996–2004
Assembly Bremen, Germany
East London, South Africa
Designer Murat Gunak, Michael Mauer (1993)
Body and chassis
Platform Mercedes-Benz R170
Related Chrysler Crossfire
Mercedes-Benz R129
Mercedes-Benz W202
Mercedes-Benz C208
Engine 2.0 L I4
2.3 L I4 S/C
2.0 L I4 S/C
3.2 L V6

5-speed automatic
5-speed manual

6-speed manual
Wheelbase 94.5 in (2,400 mm)
Length 1996–2000: 157.3 in (3,995 mm)
2001–04: 157.9 in (4,011 mm)
Width 67.5 in (1,714 mm)
Height 1996–2000: 50.7 in (1,288 mm)
2001–04: 50.4 in (1,280 mm)
Curb weight 3,036 lb (1,377 kg)[9]
Main article: Mercedes-Benz R170

At start of the 1990s, after the introduction of their two-seater grand-tourer R129 SL and the Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz set out to create a new compact roadster, slotted below the SL. By late 1991 under Bruno Sacco, the first design sketches were drawn and 12 1:5 scale models being built in the first half of 1992. By the middle of the year, five of them were proposed again in full-scale. In early 1993, the final design was selected and approved by the board, with the German design patent being filed on September 30, 1993.[10] On April 22, 1996, the new production SLK-Class, based on the R170 platform was introduced at the Turin Motor Show. SLK 230 Kompressor launch model became a competitor to the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3. It was powered by a 193 hp 2.3 L supercharged straight-4 engine and a choice of automatic transmission or 5-speed manual transmission. The SLK was a modern incarnation of the 1950s Mercedes-Benz 190SL by returning to four cylinders and a 94-inch (2,400 mm) wheelbase. Worldwide sales hit 55,000, over double the entire nine-year production of 190SLs, and between 1996 and 2004, over 311,000 SLKs were sold.[citation needed] The very first U.S.-market R170 Mercedes SLK was completed on November 1, 1996 and went on sale in January 1997 for the 1998 model year. The last was completed on April 7, 2004.[citation needed]

Roof mechanism[edit]

The roof design, marketed as the Vario-roof, developed by Mercedes-Benz consists of a folding steel hard top divided in half along an axis at right angles to the direction of travel. Both halves are linked by a kinematic mechanism which is locked securely when the roof is closed. At the touch of a button on the centre console, a hydraulic system with five cylinders controls the fully automatic folding process in which the boot lid is also integrated. It opens by tipping to the rear so that the two roof halves have sufficient movement to pivot backwards as the roof opens; the roof sections then position themselves on top of each other and fold into the boot. If the roof is to be closed, the same sequence of movements is performed in reverse order. The hydraulic system stows the roof in the upper section of the boot. A plastic roller blind separates the roof from the luggage space below, an area with a capacity of 145 litres in the first-generation SLK. With the roof closed, the load volume increased to 348 litres (12.3 cu ft). Two fixed roll-over bars behind the seats worked with the A-pillars to form an integrated system offering a high degree of roll-over protection.

The steel roof provides added protection, which is normally found in a coupe, but with the flexibility of a convertible at the same time.

1998MY UK SLK230 Kompressor R170 model, with roof lowered (Wales, UK 2008)

R170 facelift (2000)[edit]

2000–2004 Mercedes-Benz SLK 320 (Australia)

In 1997, development on updates to the R170 began and by early 1998, design work on an updated SLK was completed and patented on February 2, 1998.[11] In February 2000, the SLK received a facelift which included new front and rear bumper designs, body-coloured side skirts and the introduction of new wing mirrors incorporating indicators. The range was expanded to include a new entry-level model SLK 200 Kompressor and a new V6 in the SLK 320. Technical improvements included the addition of Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and a new 6-speed manual transmission. A stabilizer bar was added to the rear and the front one was reinforced. A 3.46:1 axle was added for the manual shift SLK, and the fuel tank grew from 12 to 14 gallons.[clarification needed]

In 2001 a new AMG model was added, with a 349 hp (260 kW) supercharged version of the 3.2 L V6. This SLK 32 AMG was the most powerful R170 SLK, and was a direct rival of the BMW M Roadster and Porsche Boxster S. It was only offered with the newly engineered five-gear "SpeedShift" and boasted 35% quicker automatic shifts. All engines were hand built by AMG by an individual engineer. The SLK32 AMG's engine has two spark plugs per cylinder for maximum combustion and was fitted with an intercooled Lysholm-type twin-screw supercharger. Brakes became 13.15" diameter from 11.8" standard. AMG production ran between Aug 2000 and March 2004. Only 4,333 were built in total, of which 979 were retained for Germany, 2,056 exported to the USA and 263 to the UK.

In July 2004 a Special Edition was launched prior to the replacement with the new R171 SLK in 2005. The R170 lived on as the Chrysler Crossfire until 2008, sharing substantial elements of the SLK including engines and interiors.

R170 range summary[edit]

Not all models were exported to all markets.

  • SLK 200 (1996–2000) – 2.0 L (1998 cc) 136 bhp (101 kW; 138 PS) I4
  • SLK 200 Kompressor (1996–2000) – 2.0 L (1998 cc) 192 bhp (143 kW; 195 PS) I4 supercharged engine, 0–60 mph in 6.9 seconds, top speed of 240 km/h (148 mph).
  • SLK 200 Kompressor (2000–2004) – 2.0 L (1998 cc) 163 bhp (122 kW; 165 PS) I4 supercharged engine, 0–60 mph in 7.4 seconds, top speed of 223 km/h (138 mph).
  • SLK 230 Kompressor (1996–2000) – 2.3 L (2295 cc) 193 bhp (144 kW; 196 PS) I4 supercharged engine
  • SLK 230 Kompressor (2000–2004) – 2.3 L (2295 cc) 197 bhp (147 kW; 200 PS) I4 supercharged engine, 0–60 mph in 6.9 seconds, top speed of 240 km/h (148 mph).
  • SLK 320 (2000–2004) – 3.2 L (3199 cc) 218 bhp (163 kW; 221 PS) V6 engine, 0–60 mph in 6.5 seconds, top speed of 245 km/h (152 mph).
  • SLK 32 AMG (2001–2004) – 3.2 L (3199 cc) 349 bhp (260 kW; 354 PS) V6 engine, 0–62 mph in 4.4 seconds.[12]

The SLK in the USA[edit]

The SLK was announced to the USA market on Sept. 7, 1997 as a 1998 model. The SLK was on Car and Driver‍ '​s Ten Best list for 1997 and was named “North American Car of the Year” by CAR & DRIVER magazine for 1998. Only in the USA sale of the SL320 (6 cylinder) was ended when the SLK arrived to distance it from the senior SL.

R171 (2004–2010)[edit]

Mercedes-Benz R171 front 20080801.jpg
Production 2004–2010
Assembly Bremen, Germany
Body and chassis
Platform Mercedes-Benz R171
Engine 1.8 L I4
3.0 L V6
3.5 L V6
5.4 L V8
Transmission 5-speed (SLK 200)
7-speed automatic
6-speed manual
Wheelbase 95.7 in (2,431 mm)
Length 4,087 mm (160.9 in)
AMG: 4,093 mm (161.1 in)
2009–2011: 161.5 in (4,102 mm)
2009–present AMG: 161.4 in (4,100 mm)
Width 1,788 mm (70.4 in)
1,793 mm (70.6 in)
Height 1,298 mm (51.1 in)
2004–08 AMG: 1,270 mm (50.0 in)
2009–2011 AMG: 50.7 in (1,288 mm)
Curb weight 1,495 kg (3,296 lb)
Main article: Mercedes-Benz R171
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 pre-facelift
2004–2008 SLK 280 pre-facelift

The R171 features a number of revisions compared to its predecessor, the R170: a 30mm longer wheelbase, increased length (72mm) and width (65mm),[13] 40% increased use of high strength steel,[13] seven-speed automatic transmission, adaptive two-stage airbags, head/thorax sidebags and a revised roof mechanism (marketed as the Vario roof) deployable in 22 seconds (previously 25 seconds) with a rotary-pivoting rear window enabling a more compact folded roof stack and trunk storage increased by 63 litres with the roof retracted.[13] Optional features include remote operation of the retractable hardtop as well as a forced air, neck-level heating system integral to the headrests, marketed as Airscarf.[13]

The fully galvanized bodywork, which features 19 percent improvement in static bending and 46 percent improvement in torsional strength with the roof down, also features a 3% improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, with a Cd value of 0.32.[13] The design has been aerodynamically optimized to minimize interior draughts with the top retracted and includes a fabric windblocker which can be pulled up over the two roll-over bars.[13] Mercedes marketed the R171's tapering front end styling by designer Steve Mattin as "Formula One-inspired".[13]

Models of the new SLK include:

  • SLK 200 Kompressor – 1.8 L 120 kW (163 PS; 161 hp) I4 supercharged engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 7.9 seconds, top speed of 143 mph. (not available in Canada and the United States)
  • SLK 300 (known as SLK 280 in some markets) – 3.0 L (2996 cc) 170 kW (231 PS; 228 hp) 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 PS; 268 hp) double overhead cam V6 engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 5.4 seconds, top speed 155 mph ou 250 km/h(electronically limited).
  • SLK 55 AMG – 5.4 L (5439 cc) 265 kW (360 PS; 355 hp) V8 engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 4.9 seconds, top speed 155 mph (249 km/h). A modified version of this model was used in Formula One as its Safety Car during the 2004 and 2005 seasons.[14] The SLK55 AMG was also the first Mercedes tuned by AMG's Performance Studio to create the new "Black Series".

R171 facelift (2007)[edit]

In January 2008 at the Detroit Motor Show, the SLK-Class facelift was launched, following pre-show announcements in December 2007 with the first American owner being James Glass on Johnson City TN.[15] The R171 facelift included new engines, with a particular improvement to the SLK 200 and 350 with more power and better fuel efficiency. The exterior changes were subtle, with alterations limited to the front bumper design and new wing mirrors.[16]

  • SLK 200 Kompressor – 1.8 L 135 kW (184 PS; 181 hp) I4 supercharged engine
  • SLK 350 – 3.5 L (3498 cc) 224 kW (305 PS; 300 hp) DOHC V6 engine
  • SLK 300 and 55 AMG retained their existing engines

R172 (2011–present)[edit]

Mercedes-Benz R172[17]
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 BlueEFFICIENCY Sport-Paket AMG (R 172) – Frontansicht, 1. April 2011, Velbert.jpg
Manufacturer Daimler AG
Production 2011–
Assembly Bremen, Germany
Body and chassis
Class Sports car, Roadster
Body style 2-door retractable hardtop
Platform Mercedes-Benz R172
Engine 1.8 L I4
2.0 L I4
2.1 L I4 diesel
3.5 L V6
5.5 L V8
Transmission 9-speed automatic
7-speed automatic
6-speed manual
Wheelbase 95.7 in (2,431 mm)
Length 4,134 mm (162.8 in)
AMG: 4,146 mm (163.2 in)
Width 1,810 mm (71.3 in)
1,817 mm (71.5 in)
Height 1,301 mm (51.2 in)AMG: 1,300 mm (51.2 in)
Curb weight 1,435 kg (3,164 lb)
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 BlueEFFICIENCY (Europe)
Main article: Mercedes-Benz R172

Development on the R172 began in 2005, with the final design being selected in 2008. Mercedes-Benz announced the new SLK in the autumn of 2010, allowing car magazines to drive disguised test cars[18] several months prior to official announcement in January 2011[19] and formal public launch at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2011.[20] The company took the unusual step of issuing several press releases in October and November 2010 announcing new features such as "Magic Sky Control".[21]

R172 range[edit]

  • SLK 200 (2011-2015) – 1.8 L 135 kW (184 PS; 181 hp) I4 turbocharged engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 7.1 seconds, top speed of 149 mph. (not available in Canada and the United States)
  • SLK 200 (2.0) (2015-present) – 2.0 L 135 kW (184 PS; 181 hp) I4 turbocharged engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 6.8 seconds, top speed of 149 mph. (not available in Canada and the United States)
  • SLK 250 (2011-2015) – 1.8 L 150 kW (204 PS; 201 hp) I4 turbocharged engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 6.4 seconds, top speed of 152 mph.
  • SLK 250 CDI (2012-2015) – 2.1 L 150 kW (204 PS; 201 hp) I4 turbocharged diesel engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 6.5 seconds, top speed of 152 mph. (not available in Canada and the United States)
  • SLK 250d (2015-present) – 2.1 L 150 kW (204 PS; 201 hp) I4 turbocharged diesel engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 6.4 seconds, top speed of 152 mph. (not available in Canada and the United States)
  • SLK 300 (2015-present) – 2.0 L 180 kW (245 PS; 241 hp) I4 turbocharged engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 5.6 seconds, top speed of 155 mph.
  • SLK 350 (2011-2015) – 3.5 L 225 kW (306 PS; 302 hp) V6 engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 5.4 seconds, top speed of 155 mph (electronically limited).
  • SLK 55 AMG – 5.5 L 310 kW (421 PS; 415 hp) V8 engine, 0–100 km/h (62 mph) 4.1 seconds,[22] top speed of 155 mph (electronically limited). In the SLK55 AMG R172 Mercedes-AMG introduced the all-new naturally aspirated 5.5 L V8 engine. This engine is based on a naturally aspirated variant of the twin-turbocharged M157 V8 engine, the M152.[23]


Calendar year US sales European sales[24]
2001 11,268[25] 27,734
2002 7,784 19,039
2003 6,023[26] 14,629
2004 7,360 38,417
2005 11,278[27] 36,823
2006 10,410 27,128
2007 7,270[28] 20,834
2008 4,941 18,529
2009 2,566[29] 10,805
2010 1,980 8,779
2011 3,220[30] 17,729
2012 4,595[30] 17,731
2013 4,757[31]
2014 4,737[31]


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  11. ^ "DPMAregister - Designs - Registerauskunft zum Design". 
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  22. ^ "2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG". Car and Driver. 
  23. ^ Mercedes-Benz M278 engine
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  26. ^ "2004 Highest Year on Record for Mercedes-Benz USA". Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  27. ^ "Mercedes-Benz Rings in the New Year with Record 2006 Sales". Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  28. ^ "Mercedes-Benz USA's Sales Drop 32.1 Percent In December 2008 | eMercedesBenz – The Unofficial Mercedes-Benz Weblog". eMercedesBenz. 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  29. ^ "Highest Sales Month for the Year at 21,469 Brings Mercedes-Benz to an... – MONTVALE, N.J., Jan. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/". New Jersey: 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
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  31. ^ a b "Mercedes-Benz Delivers Record-Breaking 2014 Sales Volume Of 330,391, Up 5.7%". PR Newswire. 5 January 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2015. 

External links[edit]