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Mercedes Benz SLK Class Design and Technical Evolution Through the Years 1997 – 2011 with Market Value Analysis

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The original Mercedes Benz SLK Prototype.

R170: 1997-2003
Dieter Zetsche has bigger claims to fame that the SLK, but it was conceived in the early 1990s while Dr. Z was Chief Engineer for Passenger Car Business Development. Much occurred during this time; the V12, was launched, Mercedes International incarnated the unprecedented ML and its American factory. The SLK further affirmed brave engineering during Zetsche’s watch. The first commercial retractable hardtop appeared before 1940, but it had long disappeared from everyone’s radar… until the SLK made it mandatory for all self-respecting car builders. The SLK resumed M-B’s junior & senior SL concept of the 1950s. As then, sales multiplied; 311,000 SLK were sold during this 1st generation. Other cues taken from 1950s; SLK size: wheelbase and weight are nearly identical to 190SL and 300SL.


“Wheelbase and weight are nearly identical to 190SL and 300SL”


The Mercedes Benz SLK for 1998.

2000 Brings Improvements…
2000 brought a larger than normal package of improvements. ESP and cruise control with “Speedtronic” became standard. A/C became standard on the V6 in Europe. The automatic transmission added one-touch shifting, which, in “D,” just needs a touch to the left or right to select 35% faster shifting. Xenon headlights, power seats and wood trim became available as an option. The gas tank grew from 12 to 14 gallons. A stabilizer bar was added to the rear axle, and the front one reinforced. The V6 had larger front brakes. The exhaust system became stainless steel. New, quieter bearing technology eliminated the need for an electromagnetic clutch on the supercharger. Also in 2000, the arrival of the 3.2 liter V6 engine brought the SLK two sparkplugs and three valves per cylinder, plus the variable-length intake manifold. At low engine speeds, air enters through a short route to the cylinders, for quiet acceleration without down shifting. Above 3,700 RPM, two butterfly valves open, forcing air to take a longer route, for better high-RPM power.


The “designo” options in 2000 introduced new metallic paints, 12 leather colors and the wood grain called Cinnamora.

2000 also brought the first AMG SLK, though it didn’t reach the USA until 2001. Without increasing the 202 cu. in. V6’s size AMG found 349 HP. Mating the supercharged V6 to a 5 speed paddle shifting, it upstaged many V8s using 20% less fuel. Only 4,333 were built; 2,056 for the USA. Definitely a collector’s target.

Mercedes SLK Market Values


Click graph to enlarge.

Market Reflections… Limited edition and AMG variants are terrific values, depreciating way faster than they wear out! Finding top models in top condition, no accidents, original paint, all records, makes horse sense.

2004 – 2010: R171


The Second generation Mercedes SLK, the R171.

2004-2010: Each SLK generation has been a legitimately “new” vehicle from unibody structure and styling to the retractable roofs. Each series have grown wider and heavier with no sacrifice in speed or economy. AMG & SLK customers decided it was time for a V8, which delivered much the same result as the C-43 following the C-32. Infectious low-RPM power. Other specials, AMG Black Series (’06-’08 @ $92,500), and Edition10 (’07) commemorating 10th Anniversary of the SLK. A minor face-lift occurred in 2008; as SLKs age, condition can outweigh changes.


A 100 year history of open-top cars would feature M-B innovations in every decade. In the 1930s M-B sold removable hardtops & “hidden” soft tops. Never resting, the 2nd generation mechanism improved trunk space by reversing the rear window.

2011-2013: R172:
R172: 2011-2013 A 3rd generation “R 172″began arriving at dealerships in the Spring of 2010 as a 2011  model.


The new SLK Roadster was voted as the overall winner of AUTO BILD magazine’s design competition beauty contest by around 90,000 readers of the popular German car magazine. As a result, the SLK can now proudly carry the title of “Germany’s most beautiful car”.

If any parts are interchangeable they are few. A new four-valve, 60º V6 has automatic stop/restart function when waiting for lights and the many proactive safety systems introduced last year in the new E-Class. Spray-guided direct-fuel injection optimizes pressure up to 2,900 psi. with “piezo-electric” injectors allowing up to five multi-sparked injections per intake stroke. Variable cam shaft adjusters now have a very large 40º range. Combined result is 20+% better MPG with no power loss. An R172 SKL AMG 63 with Mercedes’ newest 5.5 liter Twin-Turbo is the top of the SLK line.


Latest retractable roof option has voltage sensing glass that switches to light or dark by pressing a button, dubbed ‘Magic Sky Control’ by Mercedes Benz.


Dimensions of the R172 SLK.



Trunk Space (cu ft) With Top Up/Down R 170: 12.3 / 5.0′ – R 171: 9.8 / 6.5′ – R 172: 10.1/ 6.4′


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