The SLK arrived with a choice of two engines: a 159bhp supercharged 1.8 in the SLK 200 and a 264bhp 3.5-litre V6 in the SLK 350. A year later, a 225bhp 3.0-litre V6 sneaked in to make the SLK 280. Six-speedmanual gearboxes were standard but most SLKs were ordered in automatic form, the four-pot 1.8’s a five-speed ’box and the V6s’ a seven-speeder.
For the full-fat experience, go for the 350 or save your licence and buy a younger, lower-mileage 200. Because it arrived a touch later, there are fewer 280s to choose from and, in any case, they’re little cheaper than the 350.
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Fast-forward to 2008 and the SLK received a facelift (new nose and tail) and some 650 new components, including a new instrument cluster. Power increased, with the SLK 200’s rising to 179bhp and the 350’s to 297bhp. The 280’s engine remained at 225bhp but became a tad cleaner and more economical. But Mercedes wasn’t finished with it yet. A year later, it renamed it the SLK 300; same power and economy but even cleaner.
That same year (2009) saw the arrival of the SLK 2LOOK Edition with special finishes and details. It also got the SLK’s Airscarf neck-level heating system, an option on other versions and worth seeking out today. Other notable editions in the R171’s life are the higher-spec Sport on the 200 and 280, and Edition 10 (special paint and alloy wheels) on the 200, 280 and 350. As a last hurrah, the SLK 200 Grand Edition, complete with bonnet fins, landed in 2010 before the rug was pulled in 2011.
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As autumn heaves into view and drivers’ thoughts turn to rain and fog, now could be the right time to buy a good used SLK R171 for an even better price.
HOW TO GET ONE IN YOUR GARAGE
An expert’s view: Peter Bristow, Hampshire Service Centre
“As a specialist technician, I give the SLK R171 seven out of 10 for reliability, drivability and looks. The engines aren’t as tough as those in the old R170 SLK. Neither is the 171’s seven-speed auto ’box on more expensive versions as trouble-free as the standard five-speed. Incidentally, whatever Mercedes says, those auto ’boxesdo like an oil and filter change every 35,000 miles. I can’t fault the 171’s galvanised body, superior suspension and sharper handling. On those measures, it’s a great car. ”
ENGINE - On early 280 and 350 V6s, beware balancer shaft gear failure. Early signs are misfiring, and the ‘check engine’ light – followed by terminal timing chain failure. Early 200s can suffer premature timing chain and camshaft sprocket failure. Check the V6 cam cover sealing discs for leaks.