SLK side

Guilt-Free Pleasures: 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK320

By: Anthony Fongaro | July 2015

The first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK took the world by storm! Here was a petite roadster with a hardtop convertible roof that was actually “affordable” (for a Mercedes). Out of the three models that were available, the best of the bunch was the SLK320. It had just enough power mixed with luxury to make it desirable.

I was 11 when the 2001 SLK320 came out (how old were you when the 2001 SLK320 came out?), so I never had a chance to properly drive one. To this day, I’ve had a soft spot for the SLK. It was just so radical and modern with the folding top and its long hood. Thankfully on a total fluke, I was able to try one out and was quite excited.

SLK rear

When I approached the SLK320, I was slightly…confused. I didn’t know what it wanted to be. Is it a sports car? Is it a long-distance cruising machine? Will I be too embarrassed to drive it?

Simple answer: long-distance cruising machine. That isn’t a bad thing. Not every car has to make a ton of power and handle like a racecar every time you’re on the move. There is a sense of occasion when you get into an SLK and start to drive.

SLK front

Though the engine makes good power, the steering and suspension aren’t tuned for taking Youtube-inspiring late night off-ramp videos. This is a car that has a little bit of sport, but was created more to cruise along, top down, listening to who cares because everyone else will hear your music anyways.  The only embarrassing part for the SLK would be if you buy one in yellow. Then you look like a bee and people will look at you.

SLK interior

If you are the type of person that likes to save rainforests, you’ll hate the interior. I wasn’t a big fan of the wood on the steering wheel, but the wood on the center console seemed like it should be there. The one feature that did stand out were the heated seats. Next time someone tells you that you couldn’t get a car in the year 2000 with heated seats, you have my permission to laugh in their face and prove them wrong.

So it’s a good looking 14 year old car with enough performance to keep up with modern cars and that nifty folding metal roof. But there is a flaw. A huge flaw.

SLK convt

I feel like every small roadster has the same image problem. When you look at something like the SLK320, you probably don’t say to yourself “I bet you a construction worker from Chicago drives this.” You think to yourself “she must be pretty hot to drive an SLK320!” Then a middle-aged man gets into the car and you just walk away. Judgments will happen. Be prepared.

Other than that, I really do like the SLK320. It’s a car that you could live with year around, provided you own winter tires (we recommend Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tires).

The best part? You can pick one of these up for around $7,000-$11,000, making this is a guilt-free pleasure for two. 

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