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The R170 SLK

by Marcus B. Fitzhugh

The Mercedes-Benz R170 SLK arrived in January, 1997 as one of the industry's most anticipated sports cars. That year, journalists named it North American Car of Year. The SLK was so successful that Mercedes-Benz had to double production to meet demand.

This is a thoroughly modern vehicle. The SLK's wedge shape is a timeless design, that's unmistakably a Mercedes-Benz. It has a folding metal roof and was introduced at a time when competing convertibles had cloth tops. To lower the top, a console-mounted button is pressed. No latches, no handles, and no wrestling with dirty canvas. Just a tap of the button and in 25 seconds, the SLK transforms from a coupe to an open air roadster.

The SLK received a facelift for the 2001 model year. Among the visual changes were new front and rear aprons, sculpted rocker panels, turn signal repeaters in side mirrors, body-color door handles, and two-color taillight glass (red/clear). All V6-powered SLK320 models received a then-new 5-spoke wheel design (7x16-inches in front, 8x16-inches in the rear), a unique air dam, metal plate door sills, power seats, telescoping steering column, wood interior trim with a combination leather/wood steering wheel and shift knob. Underneath, they received a new rear stabilizer bar, a larger fuel tank and a new trunk lid opening mechanism.

The interiors were upgraded as well. The seats were more ergonomically-designed, there was a new steering wheel, machined aluminum trim was used (in place of carbon fiber on SLK230), a Touch Shift gear indicator was added to the instrument panel, a new shift lever was used, a newly designed overhead console was added, the door panels were redesigned and had a more SL-like appearance, and a chromed hand brake button was used.

Three engines are available in the R170 SLK model line. The SLK230 has a supercharged and intercooled, 2.3-liter DOHC four. The four cylinder delivers an impressive 192 hp and 200 lbs.-ft. of torque. What's even more remarkable is how it's 200 lbs-ft of torque is available from 2,500 to 4,800 rpm. The second power plant is the 3.2-liter, 215 horsepower V6 of the SLK320. The standard transmission for both of these models was a close-ratio, six-speed manual. A five-speed automatic was also available.

At the top of the R170 food chain is the SLK32 AMG. This model is stuffed with a supercharged, intercooled V-6 that produces three-hundred and forty-nine horsepower. That much power in the SLK results in four point eight second zero-to-sixty sprints, and a top speed that has to be electronically limited to one hundred and fifty-five miles per hour. Backing this engine is an AMG SpeedShift equipped five-speed automatic. The SLK32 suspension has AMG specific spring rates, shock valving and stabilizer bars. This model also comes with the more powerful AMG braking package. Inside, the SLK32 is furnished with sport seats finished in two-tone Nappa leather upholstery. These seats feature integrated headrests and aggressive side bolsters. The SLK32 interior has matching two-tone leather trim on the door panels, steering wheel and gear lever. They have AMG specific instrumentation and dark bird's eye maple wood trim.

All the equipment expected of a Mercedes-Benz is available in each of the three models; the ESP Stability Program, Tele Aid telematics, Touch Shift, heated power seats, telescoping steering column, Xenons with headlight washers, ASR traction control, Brake Assist, rain sensing wipers, etc.

Technical Data

Model SLK230 Kompressor SLK320 SLK32 AMG
Vehicle type Two-seat coupe/roadster with powered-operated retractable hardtop
Engine In-line four-cylinder, Roots-type intercooled supercharger 90-degree V6 90-degree V6, screw-type intercooled supercharger
Engine material 90-degree iron block/aluminum head aluminum
Valvetrain Chain-driven double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, electronically controlled variable intake valve timing control Chain-driven single overhead camshaft per cylinder bank, two intake valves and one exhaust valve per cylinder
Valve arrangement 4-valves per cylinder 3-valve technology with two intake and one exhaust valve per cylinder
Displacement (cu. in./cc) 140 / 2,295 195 / 3,199
Bore (in./mm) 3.58 / 90.9 3.54 / 89.9
Stroke (in./mm) 3.48 / 88.4 3.31 / 84.0
Compression ratio 9.0:1 10.0:1 9.0:1
Horsepower @ rpm 192 / 5,500 215 @ 5,700 349 @ 6,10 0
Torque (lb-ft.) @ rpm 200 @ 2,500-4,800 221 @ 3,000-4,600 332 @ 3,000-4,600
Intake system Roots-type supercharger with intercooler Electronic throttle control, two-stage resonance intake manifold Screw-type supercharger with intercooler, electronic throttle control, two-stage resonance intake manifold
Engine management SIM 4 sequential fuel injection ME 2.8 engine control with phase-shifted twin spark ignition, two coils and spark plugs per cylinder, integrated sequential multi-point fuel injection
Max. engine speed (rpm) 6,200 6,000
Transmission Six-speed manual
(std. on SLK230 and SLK320)
Five-speed electronically controlled automatic with driver-adaptive shift logic, Touch Shift selectable manual control (optional on SLK230 and SLK320) AMG SpeedShift five-speed electronically controlled automatic with driver-adaptive shift logic, Touch Shift manual control, actrive braking downshift, optimum gear function performance modes
Gear ratios
R2 "winter" mode
Final drive 3.27:1 3.07:1
Stability control Electronic Stability Programming (ESP) integrating single brake application and throttle intervention for yaw control, plus ignition and throttle intervention for wheelspin control
Suspension Four-wheel independent
Front Double wishbone (upper and lower control arms), coil springs, gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar
Rear Five-link, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, stabilizer bar, anti-lift and anti-squat geometry
Steering Recirculating ball, hydraulic power assist
Overall ratio 15.53:1
Turns, lock-to-lock 3.1
Turning circle 32.9 feet / 10.03 meters
Front Wheels 7.0x16-in.,7-spoke
(7.5x17-in. AMG 5-spoke w/Sport Pkg.)
7.0x16-in., 5-spoke
(7.5x17-in. AMG 5-spoke w/Sport Pkg.)
7.5x17-in., 10-spoke
Rear wheels 8.0x16-in., 7-spoke
(8.5x17-in. AMG 5-spoke w/Sport Pkg.)
8.0x16-in., 5-spoke
(8.5x17-in. AMG 5-spoke w/Sport Pkg.)
8.5x17-in., 10-spoke
Front tires 205/55R16 V
(225/45ZR17 w/Sport Pkg.)
205/55R16 V
(225/45ZR17 w/Sport Pkg.)
Rear tires 225/50R16 V
(245/40ZR17 w/Sport Pkg.)
225/50R16 V
(245/40ZR17 w/Sport Pkg.)
Brakes Hydraulic power assisted 4-wheel discs with 4-channel ABS anti-lock; Brake Assist System
Front disc diameter (in./mm; type) 11.3 / 287; vented 11.8 / 300; vented 13.0 / 332; vented
Rear disc diameter (in./mm; type) 10.9 / 278; solid 10.9 / 278; solid 11.8 / 300; vented
Front disc thickness (in./mm) 0.98 / 25 1.1 / 28 1.26 / 32
Rear disc thickness (in./mm) 0.35 / 9 0.35 / 9 0.87 / 22
Exterior dimensions (in./mm)
Wheelbase 94.5 / 2,400
Length 157.9 / 4,010
Width (without mirrors) 67.5 / 1,715
Height 50.4 / 1,279
Front track 58.6 / 1,488
Rear track 58.5 / 1,485
Curb weight 3,055 (man.), 3,110 (auto.) 3,099 (man.), 3,154 (auto.) 3,220
Aerodynamic drag (Cd) 0.35 with the top up
Interior dimensions (in./mm)
Head room 37.4 / 950
Leg room 42.7 / 1,084
Shoulder room 51.7 / 1,313
Cabin volume (cu. ft.) 43.8
Fuel tank (gallons) 15.9
0-60 (seconds)



Top Speed MPH 130 - electronically limited 155 - electronically limited
Fuel economy (city/hwy)





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