Monday, May 7, 2012

Used Car Review - Mercedes Benz SLK-Class (1997-2002)

As the summer season continues on, Myk Belmonte invites you to have the fun by going top down. You can't do it inside the city because the truck in front of you would belch out black smoke which ruins the experience and include the heat - which can cause skin cancer and dehydration. Bring that experience in Baguio or Tagaytay without the requisite trips to the hospital for treatments.

1997-2002 Mercedes Benz SLK-Class 

Convertibles come in different top styles and materials; these are the foldable ones that use cloth, and the retractable type that does not utilize a cloth top. Cloth tops are popular in the early ages of motoring, seeing usage from mass-market brands to the ones only seen in history books and museums. Folding textile roofs are easy to use and flexible, however, safety issues arise with this type (and you'll know why during a rollover). The retractable type ones are becoming the norm, with many a convertible having this one on top. These are usually made of steel, plastic, or aluminum.

The Benz SLK was launched in 1996 utilizing the R170 platform (the Chrysler Crossfire also shared the platform) and capture the hearts and wallets of young affluent buyers who wanted more roadster with the capability of its Japanese counterpart. The SLK is an acronym which meant what Mercedes wanted the car to be: Sportlich (sporty), Leicht (light), and Kurz (short). It followed the trend started by the Mitsubishi 300GT Spyder and other vehicles - such as the Peugeot 206cc, Lexus SC, Pontiac G6, and Chrysler Sebring - followed suit.

Commercial Motors Corporation offered the SLK-Class in a by-order basis from 1997-2002. Two engines were brought in by the local assembler/distributor: a 2.0 pot and 2.3 liter engines which are both supercharged. It served as an alternative to the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster in the local context.

Value and Costs
Despite its age, used SLK's (that are locally sold) sell above a million pesos. This is because of the fact convertibles are such rarities in the Philippines. There exist SLK's below a million bucks but these are second-hand grey imports from Cagayan and Subic. Without saying and reminder, stay away from these units, this could be potential disasters.

Save some funds for the maintenance of this beauty, and use some specific types of oils to keep it running. During oil changes, M111 series engine would require 5.5 liters of either 10W/40, 20W/40 synthetic or alternatively 20W/50 semi-synthetic motor oil that has an API oil rating of SG. Also check the cabin charcoal/pollen filter, which is better to replace them during intervals; and other inexpensive replacement parts such as the rubber elements, radiator hoses, bypass hoses, and the drive belts.

Exterior and Interior
You will see classic Benz cues even without the emblems. Notice the front punched grille, this one looks clean and up-to-date among competitors, with the fluted headlight lenses being a bummer - which does not look modern. The lines and edges are not awkward looking, it goes with the flow of the vehicle lines. With the famed retractable hardtop, it looks damn gorgeous whether with the top up or down. But prepare to lose some trunk space with the top placed down.

The Benz feeling and style continues inside - with the stitching's, chrome accents, and presentable carbon fiber inserts. If you are a Chedeng-lover or a loyal owner, you will notice that the gated shifter is still found on modern day Benzes. And the magic button present on the SLK would lead to the activation of the powered hardtop. Situated behind the transmission shifter, just one flick and let the top down fun begin - but plan your trips accordingly and avoid trucks and buses in front of you (you know what I mean).

Two supercharged engines from the M111 engine family are the engine options. These include an M111.958 1,998cc which has 163hp at 5,300rpm and 230Nm at 2,500-4,800rpm and an M111.970 2,295cc with 197hp at 5,500rpm and 280Nm at 2,500-5,000rpm on tap. Both engines have the pull and purr of a Benz but refinement is not in its dictionary. With both supercharged, you'll be having no problems overtaking smoke belching trucks and buses (did I overuse this line in this article?)

Driving Impressions
It may not possess sports car handling but handling is agile and the ride is smooth - which befits it's no top nature. Drive this one at Baguio's Kennon Road or in the Bitukang Manok in Quezon (top down, of course), and you get a supple chassis and a stable ride thanks to the suspension settings. Noise is non-existent even at high speeds unless road debris gets your way. Braking distances are decent but be careful with frequent-braking, with the vehicle having the largest brake rotors that comes standard.

Summer comes only once a year, and riding on a convertible (better yet if driving one) is an experience not to be missed. If you don't want to miss this thing (as what Steve Tyler would say) with a luxurious feeling, the SLK is a good choice. It comes balanced especially its competitors had a crashy ride, or too much flash. Have patience when finding one, since the efforts are worth it.

The Good:
  • The looks
  • Handling is crisp
  • Engine has the grunt
The Bad:
  • Practicality not on it's vocabulary with the top down
  • Engine lacks refinement
  • Nicely made but dull interior
The Pick: SLK 200

Engines: 1,998cc M111.958 and 2,295cc M111.970 supercharged I4 gasoline
Power: 163hp @ 5,300rpm (2.0), 197hp @ 5,500rpm (2.3)
Torque: 230Nm @ 2,500-4,800rpm (2.0), 280Nm @ 2,500-5,000rpm (2.3)
Fuel Consumption: 5-7km/L (city), 8-11km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Suspension: Front double independent wishbone, rear multilink

Price (New): P2,400,000-P2,700,000 (range from 1997-2002)
Price (Now): P1,100,000-P1,500,000
Rivals: BMW Z3, Porsche Boxster
On Sale: 1997-2002

CATS Greenhills - 784-5005
CATS Global City - 815-7777

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