1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Review

Pros & Cons

  • 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.
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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

When Mercedes-Benz sets its sights on something, it is not usually 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 feel 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 changes with the introduction of the SLK-Class this year. While it is a Mercedes-Benz through and through, 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, and that 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.

Let's face it, though, there is more to a roadster than the top. Fortunately, Mercedes seems to have gotten the recipe right with the steering, engine and suspension. The steering is precise, the suspension is wonderfully damped, and the engine is eager and willing. Our main complaint stems from the fact that the SLK-Class is not available with a manual transmission; all of its competitors are. Mercedes argues that most of their buyers would have selected the automatic transmission anyway, and that it would have been prohibitively expensive to develop two transmissions for the SLK-Class. Nonetheless, 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.

One thing that most roadsters are not noted for is their safety features. Mercedes broke the mold in this regard and laid all of their current safety technology on this relatively inexpensive car. Dual airbags are standard, as are side-impact airbags. 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 drivers 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 introduce their toddlers to the thrills of open air driving safely.)

The SLK-Class has been in short supply, but you may be able to find a dealer who is willing to let one go for a special price. Although Mercedes-Benz is discouraging dealers from price gouging, don't expect to get five percent over invoice deal on this car.

1998 Highlights

Mercedes-Benz releases an all-new retractable-hardtop roadster. Powered by a supercharged 2.3-liter engine, which is hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission, the SLK-Class races to 60 mph in just over seven seconds.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

98 mercedes slk
SLK230 Kompressor 2dr Convertible
Have never had any mechanical issues. Drove it in east coast city traffic and the mountains in colorado- handled roads great and heated seats with convert top down were a luxury. Bought it because of the retractable roof- the SLK was the first convertible to do this and I never had a problem with it. have owned several other Mercedes from sedans to SUVs and this was definitely the most fun to drive, body style looked great ten years latter, paint held up- silver, but the interior was starting to wear- florida heat may have been a factor- the red paint on the dash and console was starting to melt and peel. So, with regrets I just traded it in. Other than routine maintenance no major repairs.
Fun Drive
SLK230 Kompressor 2dr Convertible
This car is a lot of fun to drive...in just about any weather. You get all the advantadges of a convertible with much less hassle than comparable models. Still, the car can ride a little rough now and then, and the road noise is not insignificant.
Great Car
Noel Hill,05/28/2005
SLK230 Kompressor 2dr Convertible
The dependability and performance of the car is nothing less than perfect. It looks good and the auto-top is wonderful with no rattles or problems
Fun Fun Fun
SLK230 Kompressor 2dr Convertible
I got this car for my high school graduation. It is so much fun to drive. It accelerates great especially when in the 4th mode. Mine is bright yellow and it turns heads both when the top is up and down. The power hard top keeps the car cooler and warmer and takes only 30 seconds to come up/down. The sound system is superb and the heated seats are nice. Everything is great about it. It is far better than any other roadster. A must!


IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
More About This Model

This has not been the best decade for sports car enthusiasts. One by one, the nineties have seen the discontinuation of some of the world's fastest, performance-oriented, fun-to-drive cars. Since 1995 alone, we've lost the Toyota MR2, Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX-7, and Dodge Stealth. Even America's favorite home-grown sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, had an uncertain future during the middle of this decade. (The rumors are that the C5 project, the fifth-generation Corvette, was canceled and that there was a span of about two weeks when GM brass had planned to quit building Corvettes. Thankfully, level-headed Chevrolet project planners convinced the big-wigs that canceling the Corvette would summon the four horseman of the apocalypse.) It's as if the country as a whole has been serving penance for the free-wheeling excess of the eighties; denying themselves the right to drive fun vehicles, and demonstrating their newfound moral righteousness behind the steering wheels of leather-clad minivans and sport-utilities. Tiring of this self-inflicted bourgeoisie nonsense, a few domestic and foreign manufacturers are introducing cars that are designed to put the fun back into our daily commute. These cars aren't going to haul a trailer, or navigate a two-track road (industry studies show that most SUV buyers don't actually do those things anyhow), nor will they haul a month's worth of groceries and the children of every family on the block to and from soccer practice. They will, however, serve as a wonderful companion on a beautiful spring day, and they do a fine job arranging for better-than-average service at swanky downtown eateries. (More importantly, the Surgeon General has assured us that owning a fun-to-drive car won't drive us into a dreadful drug addiction, or force into making bad decisions about our investment portfolios.)

One of the newest entries into the revitalized sports car segment is the Mercedes-Benz SLK. We had the opportunity to test the SLK at a short-lead introduction earlier this winter in Tucson, Arizona. The setting was wonderful, the weather was beautiful, and the conditions were near-perfect for checking out the capabilities of this youthful roadster from the company that many thought was too stodgy to build such a fun car.

At the press conference preceding the ride-and-drive portion of the program, Mercedes-Benz North America CEO Michael Bassermann stated that the SLK is the perfect sports car for all seasons and for all reasons. The primary rationale for this statement stems from the fact that the SLK is the only roadster available with a retractable hardtop; giving the car true four-seasons driveability. An added benefit of this retractable hardtop is that makes the SLK nearly as much fun to drive enclosed as it is alfresco.

The SLK has a host of safety equipment that is typical of all the cars Mercedes builds. Standard anti-lock brakes and traction control lead the list, and there are the usual Mercedes-Benz crumple zones as well. The feature that impressed us the most, however, was the airbag system. Dual front airbags and side-impact airbags protect occupants from frontal or side-impact collisions. What makes this system unique is Mercedes' smart airbag system, which will not deploy the passenger airbag if there is less than 25 pounds in the passenger seat. To protect infants and small children, Mercedes' has also introduced a Baby Smart system which will keep the passenger airbag from deploying if there is a Baby Smart child seat mounted in the passenger seat. Other safety features include a super-reinforced A-pillar and standard roll bars that are nicely integrated behind the car's headrests. Mercedes says that the roll bars are critical to ensuring the safety of roadster occupants since rollover crashes are more likely to occur in a roadster. (This is due to how roadsters are driven and is not reflective of an inherent design flaw in all roadsters.)

The SLK's styling cues are representative of Mercedes' heritage without pandering to snobby traditionalists. The twin power bulges on the hood pay homage to supercharged Mercedes of yesteryear, as does the wreath and crest which again surrounds the M-B star on all of the SLK's badges. Headlight and taillamp treatments, however, are quite modern, as are the car's short overhangs and wide stance. The grille design of the SLK is new as well. Designed to maximize engine cooling without sacrificing aerodynamics, the grille features rows of intake portals that decrease in diameter from the center of the grille to the sides, allowing the maximum amount of cool air to enter where it is needed most.

As the press conference was ending, it was obvious that the SLK was a technological marvel that featured all of the Germany's latest gee-whiz gadgetry. That didn't mean, however, that it was going to live up to the hype. As a result of some of the early reports that we had read in the car buff magazines, we weren't expecting the SLK to behave like a true sports car; offering potential buyers the cachet of the Mercedes name, a high standard equipment list, and the legendary solidity of Mercedes construction in the place of true performance. This assumption proved once again that you can't always believe what you read.

Upon settling into the seat of the SLK it became obvious that Mercedes designers pulled out all of the stops to make sure that this was a car that drivers would feel comfortable in. The steering wheel is thick and meaty, inspiring confidence when driving sweaty-palmed on two-lane highways. The gauges are an exquisite black-on-white design, and are perfectly positioned just below the driver's line of sight. The 5-speed automatic transmission, standard because market research indicated that fewer than twenty-percent of the SLK's potential buyers wanted a manual transmission, features a no-nonsense aluminum shift gate and lever topped by a nicely-contoured knob. Our few complaints centered around the SLK's overly flat seats, which offered little thigh support for this tall driver, and the confusing pictographic buttons which control the stereo. Creature comforts in the SLK are many, and include such features as dual zone temperature controls, dual cup holders, multiple storage compartments, cruise control, a well-positioned dead pedal, and thick arm rests. Faux carbon fiber trim and a whimsical two-toned leather interior keep the car from feeling stuffy. The best part about the SLK's interior is that it is distinctly Mercedes; solid, refined, and highly functional.

The real test of this Mercedes' sporting nature came on a long route that took us from the flatlands of the Arizona desert to the top of Kit Peak, home of the largest collection of telescopes in the world, and back down again. The roads along this stretch of desert alternate between glass-smooth sections of freeway and pock-marked and rutted access roads. Throughout the course this little Mercedes maintained a high degree of composure while allowing us to have a great deal of fun. One of our favorite features of the SLK is its willing powerplant. The 3.2-liter supercharged engine produces 185-horsepower at 5,300 rpm and an impressive 200 lb.-ft. of torque between 2,500 and 4,800 rpm. This results in an amazing amount of flexibility that keeps the SLK from being caught flat-footed regardless of speed. Of course, we would have liked to see a manual transmission offered in this car, but the adaptive 5-speed automatic did a fine job anticipating which gear was required for the various driving challenges we threw at it. The SLK is surprisingly rigid, exhibiting minimal cowl shake while providing a stable ride. The tires and suspension execute their duties admirably, keeping the car glued to the road through twisty switchbacks and soaking up pavement irregularities all the way up to a hair-raising top speed of 142 mph. The SLK has nearly perfect pedal and steering wheel feel, we just wish that the steering were a bit less assisted. At high speeds, the light touch required to change the SLK's direction is a bit unnerving.

We put the top up on the SLK for 50 miles of driving over rough pavement and think that this is the reason that the SLK will be such a big hit with people outside of the sunbelt. When the top is up, there is no way to tell that the SLK wasn't built as a coupe. The steel roof locks into place using a hydraulic actuator which means that there are no clamps or levers to pull the top shut. The window is glass, and actually offers good visibility. The headliner is made out of a nice cloth material that imparts a feeling of luxury, and there are no ugly exposed cross-members like those found in the BMW Z3. Other than the aesthetic appeal, the benefit of this steel-roof design is that it gives the car as much rigidity as a coupe when the top is up. Additionally, it blocks out nearly as much of the wind and road noise as a C-Class sedan. Furthermore, the trunk space of the SLK jumps to an impressive 9.1 cubic feet when the top is raised. (When the top is lowered the SLK has less cargo area than the diminutive Miata.)

When asked about who will buy the SLK, Mercedes says that they are looking for a younger, more gender-balanced audience with this car. Mercedes-Benz thinks that the average age of the SLK buyer will be between the ages of 30 and 39 and that at least half of them will be women. Mercedes also expects there to be a significant number of new Mercedes buyers interested in the SLK; buyers that Mercedes may have lost to BMW in the past due to that company's younger image and sportier personality.

We have no doubt that the SLK will be a success. In fact, the car already is a success, having been named North American Car of the Year by a panel of industry experts. We are afraid, however, that some enthusiasts may write this car off their list because they've read that it isn't sporting enough, or that it is meant to appeal to women. In our opinion, those assertions are unfounded. The SLK offers easy livability, but it also offers more performance than most people can handle when pushed to the limit. It has a beautiful shape, classic lines, and enough style to appeal to buyers of any gender. Do yourself a favor and check out the SLK; it has all of the solidity and features that we would expect of a Mercedes in a package that will appeal to the kid in all of us.

Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Overview

The Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is offered in the following submodels: SLK-Class Convertible. Available styles include SLK230 Kompressor 2dr Convertible. The Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes with rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed automatic.

What's a good price on a Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class?

Price comparisons for Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class trim styles:

  • The Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class SLK230 Kompressor is priced between $8,450 and$8,450 with odometer readings between 61277 and61277 miles.

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Which used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Classes are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class for sale near. There are currently 1 used and CPO 1998 SLK-Classes listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $8,450 and mileage as low as 61277 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.

Can't find a used 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Classs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class for sale - 11 great deals out of 23 listings starting at $20,200.

Find a used Mercedes-Benz for sale - 9 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $14,479.

Find a used certified pre-owned Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class for sale - 11 great deals out of 12 listings starting at $19,630.

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Should I lease or buy a 1998 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Mercedes-Benz lease specials
Check out Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class lease specials