Opinion

At $5,200, Is Buying This 2001 Mercedes SLK230 An Open and Shut Case?

The vast majority of car buyers may prefer transmissions that shift themselves, but today’s Nice Price or No Dice SLK230 is for that small minority that likes to take matters — and shifting — into their own hands. Let’s see what so limited a market might do to its worth.

It’s safe to say that all car enthusiasts should be eternally grateful for the Porsche Cayenne. Were it not for the gobs of money that SUV has brought into Porsche, today we might not have the automaker’s additional lineup of pure sports cars. The Cayenne’s — and later Macan’s — success also emboldened other sports car and sporty car makers to follow a similar path which makes for a bold market for other enthusiast fare.

Unfortunately, that enthusiasm didn’t extend to yesterday’s 2005 Porsche Cayenne Turbo. At least not at its $23,900 asking. Unlike Porsche’s sports cars, the Cayenne has been built in substantial numbers and actually does seem to depreciate, an unfamiliar and perplexing situation for many Porsche-philes. Low mileage and pristine condition couldn’t overcome that premium price, and the Cayenne fell in a daunting 65 percent No Dice loss.

Mercedes-Benz is one of those companies that wanted to get on the SUV and Crossover gravy train. Counting the ungainly “coupe” models individually, Mercedes now sells nine such models in the U.S., including the Geländewagen which is the longest-running model in the company’s history. All the money those vehicles bring in has allowed Mercedes to fund fun cars like the AMG GT and the SL Roadster.

At one time, Mercedes offered yet a third variant, the diminutive SLK. Of those, most had transmissions that were akin to their articulating roofs — automatic. This 2001 SLK230, however, eschews one of those labor-saving features, offering a six-speed manual and three-pedal layout to contrast with its fancy folding roof.

The car carries 150,198 miles which apparently have been accumulated solely by a single family that has owned it since new. The ad claims the car to have been regularly serviced, and garage kept its whole life. Records for the service history are claimed available, and I’m sure the seller would let you inspect the garage.

According to the ad, the manual gearbox isn’t the only interesting option this SLK carries. It also sports a red and black leather interior with engine-turned trim on the console and doors. The upholstery looks remarkably nice for a car of this age, and there’s not even any appreciable wear on the steering wheel or shift knob. A factory head unit still occupies the dash, right below the climate controls.

Outside, things look just as tidy. As one might want of any German car, the paint is silver metallic. That’s matched with factory alloy wheels that look to be free of any major curb encounters. As to the bodywork, there are a few scuffs in the paint on the bumper caps, both front, and rear, but none of those is too egregious.

Mechanically, the car seems solid. At least the seller calls it “Super reliable.” The drivetrain is made up of the 2.3-liter M111 DOHC four and the aforementioned six-speed manual. The former offers up 194 horsepower from its supercharged status while the latter comes from Getrag so it should be stout enough to handle those ponies.

One of the SLK’s most notable — and potentially most vexing — features is the automatic retractable roof. That has numerous motors and sensors all of which must work synchronously for it to go up and down. The seller doesn’t say that there are any issues with any of that, but then they don’t provide any pictures of the car with the top down either. It would be a good idea to give that a test drive along with the rest of the car. Also to be considered is the life of the clutch after 150,000 miles as that’s another big-ticket item unless you’re prepared to take on the mantle of being an un-certified Mercedes tech and do it yourself.

Of course, these are all hypotheticals since we haven’t even discussed the car’s price yet. That’s $5,200 and that gets you a car that’s interesting and probably fairly fun, albeit a far cry from its closest competitor, the contemporary Porsche 986 Boxster. Take a look, though, at Boxster prices. You will find them in the same range as this Mercedes, but they won’t be in as nice of shape as this SLK appears to be. The same thing will happen if you compare it to BMW’s Z3. That car offers less performance in four-cylinder form than the Benz, and it’s typically 50 percent more to purchase.

That all seems to make a case for this Mercedes as a weekend fun car, especially with its fairly unique options. What do you think, could those make a compelling case for this car being worth that $5,200 asking? Or, is that just too much for a car that never really was all that?

You decide!

Santa Barbara, California, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Patty Devine for the hookup!

Help me out with NPOND. Hit me up at [email protected] and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.


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