The 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is a compact roadster that was launched in 1996, and it enters the North American market this year. It is one of the first modern retractable hardtop convertibles as the Mitsubishi 3000 GT Spyder was launched in 1995. Other retractable hardtops like the Lexus SC and Chrysler Sebring followed suit and launched later. The SLK designation is derived from the company’s design mission to make a roadster that is sport, light, and short all at once. In German, it's called the ""Sportlich, Leich und Kurz.""
Body Styles: convertible
Engines: 2.3-liter I-4
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Mercedes-Benz SLK-230 Kompressor
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class makes its debut this year as one of the few retractable hardtop roadsters in the market.
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is clearly designed to attract younger customers with its sleek and bold exterior design. The signature aspect of the exterior of this roadster is undoubtedly its retractable hardtop roof. Unlike its competitor from Porsche, Mazda, and BMW, the car has a retractable steel roof that can be raised and lowered with just a single push of a button.
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is as snug as an E-Class sedan with its top up. Entry and exit is a little difficult because of the low-slung posture of the roadster. Despite the snugness of the car’s interior, even tall occupants are not likely to complain because the seats themselves are firm, comfortable, and built for long drives. The controls have been laid out quite conveniently, so that is not a problem either. However, the pop-out cup holder from the dashboard seems very rickety, which is a sore sight to see in an interior that is so well made. Radio reception can also be surprisingly mediocre for a car of this quality. Strangely, the door windows do not quite lower all the way down. This is not much of a complaint, but it does seem a little odd to see half an inch of glass sticking out of the doors. The trunk space is limited to 9.5 cubic feet, which is just about enough to make it useful for a weekend trip for two. However, the hardtop compromises on a lot of this space when it is lowered, and the trunk space itself is rather oddly shaped.
Performance & Handling
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has a supercharged, dual-overhead cam 2.3-liter straight-four engine that delivers 185 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. The roadster accelerates in a rather leisurely manner from standstill, but it does pick up speed very quickly once the supercharger gets kicking at 3000 rpm. The roadster can go from standstill to 60 mph in around seven seconds. The roadster offers lots of power at midrange speeds, but there is a bit of lag between flooring the throttle and feeling that thrust of power. This delay, unfortunately, can be very frustrating when driving the SLK around the city. The automatic transmission works well in most cases and offers smooth and generally responsive gearshifts. The engine under the hood of the 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is quite smooth for a straight-four engine, but it still delivers a rather unrefined and coarse growl when it is pushed hard. Exhaust sound is also audible, but it lowers to a nice little hum at cruising speeds. Wind noise is only modest with the top raised and the windows closed, but road rumble is prominent because of the roadster’s aggressive tires.
The 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers safety features that are otherwise rarely found in a roadster. These features include standard dual airbags and side-impact airbags, along with anti-lock brakes and automatic slip control. The vehicle uses a super-reinforced A-pillar construction and integrated roll bars behind the seats to prevent rollovers, which most roadsters are prone to do. Unfortunately, there is no crash safety information available for the 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class at present.
EPA Fuel Economy
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class: 21/29 mpg city/highway
- Good looks and spunky design
- Only convertible with a retractable hardtop
- Good steering and handling
- Solid build quality
- Lots of safety features
You Won't Like
- Lack of cargo room
- Performance lags behind the Boxster and BMW Z3
One of a kind convertible for the time of your life.
If You Like This Vehicle
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