Used 2001 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Review

Now available with a V6 and a six-speed, the already likeable SLK becomes downright loveable.




what's new

A new V6-powered SLK320 joins the lineup while the SLK230 gets more power and a $2,100 price reduction. Both versions get a new six-speed manual tranny in addition to the five-speed automatic that's been available since the car's introduction, and all models benefit from a revised interior and exterior.

vehicle overview

The SLK's big selling point is its exclusive retractable steel roof that, when raised, makes the car seem as tight and insulated as a Benz sedan. In less than 30 seconds, you can convert the SLK from a closed coupe to a cool convertible without leaving the driver's seat.

The original was available only with an automatic transmission and a 185-horsepower, 2.3-liter four cylinder that had an anemic exhaust note. In 1999, Mercedes equipped the car with a five-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, making the slushbox optional. While not appreciably quicker, the manual offered buyers the option of selecting their own gears. When combined with the SLK's precise steering, rev-happy supercharged powerplant, and wonderfully damped suspension, the car was entertaining, though not particularly exhilarating.

This year the company has again raised the SLK's sporting potential by offering a V6-powered model, the SLK320. This version uses a 3.2-liter engine and a new standard six-speed manual transmission to send 215 horsepower to the rear wheels. The four-cylinder engine is also enhanced for 2001 and now makes 190 horsepower. While the six-speed manual is standard on both models, a five-speed automatic is still offered.

An optional sport package for the SLK230 doesn't cure the lame exhaust blat, but does include a muscular-looking body kit and thick 17-inch treads mounted to AMG Monoblock wheels. All SLK320s come standard with new 17-inch, five-spoke wheels, a unique air dam, metal plate door sills, power seats, a telescoping steering column and a wood and leather trimmed interior. Designo editions with special paint and trim are also available and, thankfully, the previous SLK230's carbon fiber inserts are gone. All models get front and side airbags as standard equipment, along with ABS, the ESP Stability Program, and the Tele Aid emergency call system.

The SLK also has a super-reinforced A-pillar, integrated roll bars behind each seat and emergency tensioning seatbelt retractors for enhanced rollover protection. Brake Assist applies full braking force before you can. A BabySmart system allows owners to use a special car seat sold by Benz dealers that keeps the passenger airbag from deploying in an accident. Here's our question: Why no cutoff switch like Mazda and other manufacturers offer? Inside, the 2001 SLK features a new shift lever, a new overhead console, SL-style door panels and a chrome handbrake button. Options like a CD changer, headlight washers, heated seats and, for the first time in SLK history, Xenon headlights can further spruce up this "poor man's" SL.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.