By: Krisiti Bannen
Now I remember why I love convertibles so much, especially fast, red ones! The 2001 Mercedes SLK 320 coupe roadster was sporty and sophisticated - the perfect combination of fun and refinement.
The overall look of this SLK 320 was distinctive, as you’d expect from a Mercedes Benz. The Magna Red exterior and black interior was a nice contrast and very attractive. The door handles are painted the same color as the body and the turn signal indicators were integrated into the backside of the side mirrors. I thought that was unique and nice looking. And, the SLK 320 had five-spoke, low profile tires that added to its fast, sporty look.
The SP1 Sport Package, which included a sculpted lower body with aerodynamic enhancements (bumpers, side sills, projector beam front fog lamps) and monoblock alloy wheels and performance tires, was about a $4,000 option on this Mercedes SLK 320.
I was very impressed with the one-touch, retractable hard top that went up or down in about 25 seconds. What was even better was that I didn’t have to do anything to prep the car for the top to go down (or up) except to press one button. No hooking or unhooking latches and no getting in and out of the car to help fold the convertible top into the trunk area.
I was also surprised at the quietness of the SLK 320. I enjoyed not being constantly reminded by the wind and road noise that I was in a convertible. This is most certainly a benefit of this Mercedes coupe’s hardtop feature.
The 2001 SLK 320 comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission that felt quite powerful and had some definite kick to it as you shifted into higher gears. However, it was difficult at first to find the perfect balance shifting between gears and getting used to the clutch – it was a bit touchy.
The SLK 320 is powered by a 3.2 liter V-6 engine with 215-horsepower. It accelerated fast and smooth and handled extremely well around corners, even while driving in the rain. The car was easy to control and maneuver.
As for comfort and style, the 2001 Mercedes SLK 320’s bucket seats felt like they wrapped right around me like a race car seat. The SLK 320 we test drove was adorned with charcoal leather and was finished off with wood trim throughout. The telescoping steering wheel and the center gearshift were covered with a leather and wood combination that was very classy. Our test car also came with the heated seats option.
The instrument panel actually reminded me of one found in a racecar or airplane. The controls had white backgrounds instead of the standard black that really made them standout. The interior was quite clean and streamlined looking, very finished.
Another standard feature on the Mercedes SLK 320 was the AM/FM Weatherband cassette radio with a six-speaker Bose sound system. I was disappointed it didn’t have a CD player included yet it was CD changer ready. I did try out the radio and it sounded great with the top up or down.
Pretty much everything was automatic or power on the car too. The SLK 320 had six-way power seats and power (tinted) windows with express down. It automatically comes with heated side mirrors and auto dim rearview and driver exterior mirrors.
As for safety, the SLK 320 is equipped with dual integrated roll bars that helped give this roadster its sporty look with the top down. An attachable wind deflector worked well to cut down on the wind flow in the cab of the car too. It easily attached to the backside of the roll bars.
The SLK 320 also has front and side airbags and seat belts with emergency tension retractors. It comes with power four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and the Brake Assist System that provides maximum power boost as soon as possible during certain emergency stops. The SLK 320 also has the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) for better handling and stability and it does make the car drive and feel secure.
All Mercedes SLK-Class cars also come with a three-button Tele Aid system. Tele Aid would permit the driver to connect with Roadside Assistance, a Mercedes Client Assistance Center, and has an SOS button for emergency response.
Some noticeable downfalls included limited storage space. I know it’s a two-seat convertible yet having a hardtop does have a bad tradeoff since it takes up most of the trunk space. I could barely fit two medium sized duffle bags in the trunk with the top down. And forget storage on the inside except for the small cargo net storage areas behind the seats that really couldn’t hold much anyhow.
I also confused the cruise control stick a few times for the turn indicator signals due to it being located above the turn signals. It was in an awkward spot; one most are not used to.
Overall, I rated the 2001 Mercedes SLK 320 with 3 tires and a spare (out of four tires) for a well above average rating. If you were looking for something based solely on practicality, this wouldn’t necessarily be the car for you.
But if you’re looking for a powerful, yet easy to control, classy and sporty convertible, this is worth kicking the tires.
Krisit’s Fun Facts:
In 1886, Karl Benz, one of Mercedes’ founders, received a patent for the world’s first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. It was a three-wheeler.
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