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Good looking and spunky, this is the only convertible on the market to feature the all-weather protection of a retractable hardtop.
Performance lags behind the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster. Cabin is uncomfortable for exceptionally tall people.
Available SLK-Class Convertible Models
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This year, Mercedes gives the SLK-Class a standard five-speed manual transmission, optional Sport Package, a new-generation stereo with cassette that uses fiber-optic technology and integrated controls for a cellular phone.
When Mercedes-Benz sets its sights on something, it is usually not denied. A few years ago, the gang at the three-pointed star decided that it was time to ditch their dowdy image and begin attracting younger buyers. The result of that decision brought us the fabulous C- and E-Class cars, which made the company and its offerings seem less stuffy. Nevertheless, Mercedes-Benz was still not the marque that young professionals looking for a good time were likely to think of first.
All of that changed with the introduction of the SLK-Class last year. The SLK-Class has a decidedly playful countenance that will undoubtedly charm some buyers out of the BMW showrooms that those looking for a fun, sporty car have been frequenting for so long. The SLK-Class is a roadster, which means that it has two seats and a top that folds down. Unlike its competitors from BMW, Porsche and Mazda, however, the little Mercedes has a retractable steel roof that, when up, makes the car seem as tight as an E-Class sedan. Raising and lowering consists of pressing one button on the center console.
For 1999, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is equipped with a manual transmission as standard equipment. Of course, an automatic transmission is still available, but it's now listed as a $900 option (an option which also costs the car 61 pounds of added curb weight). While Mercedes-Benz product planners still expect automatics to account for a full 80 percent of North American SLK-Class sales, at least one-in-five buyers still appreciate the old-fashioned approach to driving enthusiasm.
Mercedes got the recipe right the first time with excellent steering, a powerful engine and a smooth suspension. The steering is precise, the engine is eager and willing, and the suspension is wonderfully damped. Overall, the SLK-Class is a hoot to drive and its 200 pound-feet of torque, available across an incredibly wide rpm range, make it a choice vehicle for carving through traffic or up a spiraling mountain road. The SLK-Class races to 60 mph in just over seven seconds this year, but some think the exhaust note doesn't sound baaaad enough on start from a standstill, so Mercedes is working on putting a bit more roar into it.
The '99 SLK-Class also receives a facelift, or rather, some AMG-certified steroids. The new Sport Package includes additional beef around the car's lower extremities, providing a muscular and more aerodynamic appearance. Also added are beefier 17-inch treads: 225/45ZR-17 front tires and 245/40ZR-17 rear tires. Now maybe the demure SLK-Class can be taken seriously when parked next to the ferocious visages of the Z3 2.8 or Boxster. Other than the heavy-duty lower enhancements, the Sport Package replaces the side-mounted "Kompressor" badge with "Sport" (don't worry, German-language buffs, the "Kompressor" badge now appears on the decklid).
One thing that most roadsters are not noted for is their safety features. Mercedes broke the mold in this regard and laid all of its current safety technology on this relatively inexpensive car. Dual airbags and side-impact airbags are standard. The SLK-Class features standard antilock brakes and automatic slip control as well.
Since roadsters are more likely to be involved in a rollover accident, the SLK-Class also has a super-reinforced A-pillar and integrated roll bars behind each seat. We think the most interesting feature, however, is the SLK-Class’s BabySmart system. The BabySmart system allows owners to use a Mercedes-Benz BabySmart car seat which will keep the passenger airbag from deploying while it is occupying that seat. (Thus allowing parents to safely introduce their toddlers to the thrills of open air driving.)
Mercedes claims that for 1999, the SLK-Class has "only four factory options." Heated seats are $595, metallic paint is $600, a cell phone/CD changer option comes in at $1,595, and the AMG appearance/17-inch wheels and tires (a.k.a. Sport Package) option costs $3,990. We demand a recount: the automatic transmission is a $900 option. Then again, maybe Mercedes only counted the important options.
Laura's old car was costing her a small fortune every month for gas and repairs. She didn't even want to drive her kids to the park any more. But buying a new Kia Soul changed all that.