German Miata? 1999 Mercedes Benz SLK230 Kompressor R170
Tip and Words by DT tipper/contributor Andy L.
Remember when Mercedes Benz was synonymous with blue-chip
reliability and unmatched quality? Me neither. Well, it has been a
while, anyway. Something happened right around the year 1999 that
sullied the reputation of this storied car maker. As an example, find this 1999 Mercedes-Benz SLK230 Kompressor offered for $7,200 in Eagle, NE via craigslist.
For the first part of the millennium, [Mercedes-Benz’s] cars were cross-pollinated with bad genes from the other side of the pond and build quality plummeted. Buying a Benz would still set you back an arm and a leg, but costly repairs would come a lot more often. The immaculate fit and finish once found in each MB was absent. The purchase of a Benz became less about acquiring an heirloom-quality piece of motoring machinery and more about conspicuous consumption. Post-warranty used Mercedes’ of this period were, and still are, tossed from owner to owner like hot potatoes. Each new owner was and is trying to avoid getting burnt by the next depreciation and repair hit.
Luckily, MB has gone to lengths to redeem its reputation for quality in recent years. Initial build quality is back near the top of the heap again and range-topping models hearken back to the era of gullwing doors and bulletproof, heavy-oil luxury cruisers. Anyhow, this little Kompressor was manufactured right when it all started going wrong for MB. It is hard to say if it has any Dodge Stratus blood in its veins. You can, however, be sure that it is a retractable hard-top with a supercharged engine, RWD, a manual transmission, a clean title and only 56K miles. Those are certainly a lot of cool traits to have in a car for a mere $7200. For what it’s worth, it also happens to be a Mercedes Benz.
See another folding hardtop equipped 2-seater for less? firstname.lastname@example.org
I remember driving one of these at a comparison event at an autocross course. It was Z3 vs Boxster (base) vs this car. Of the three, the Boxster was hands down the most dynamic and enjoyable, and the BMW was fun, but I could not wait to get out of the Benz. Strange, wallowly handling, the most dissatisfying powertrain I've ever felt in a roadster, and more rattles than any new car had a right to have.
It is a little known fact that AMG actually is short for "ArM and a leG". Seriously, you can look it up…..
Funny, the Mopar guys tend to blame Mercedes for ruining things at Chrysler during the merger, although usually for financial rather than QC issues. Given that Mercedes had given us garbage like the biodegradable wiring a couple years before the merger (and that I own a Dodge Dart :D), I'm firmly in that camp.
Yad, Yada, Yada, you're all talking out of left field. There was ZERO cross-pollination from Chrysler to Mercedes, it was the other way around, you're confused. This was the platform gifted to Chrysler to birth the Crossfire.
These cars good and as reliable as a Camry. Part's are readily available and cheap when you don't go through the MB dealer. The only real weirdness they have is a steering box rather than rack&pinion. Any dynamic handling issues would easily be solved with a good set of Bilsteins or Konis.
The price is right.
The Daimler-Chrysler merger is a case study in culture clash and management styles harming both sides. Mercedes was on a downward trajectory in build quality before the merger and improved dramatically before it was dissolved. I was wrong to imply that the build quality dip in MB that loosely correlated with the merger was caused by it.
Daimler paid 37 billion for Chrysler in '98 and sold it for 7.4 billion in '07. Bad deal for MB. I would not buy a Benz built during this this time frame because it, too, would be a bad deal.
Well I did, made in that time period anyway. A 2005 Crossfire, a dirt cheap original owner car with 12500 miles it is honestly one of the funnest cars I've ever owned.
Interestingly, in 2005 Chrysler had an initial build quality better than the industry standard, while MB was ranked in the 20's. Crossfires are among my favorite cars in terms of looks alone, but I never drove one. I have heard they have a fit and finish that is superior to other cars for sale by Chrysler. They seem to have depreciated quickly, and I am not sure why.
The only real issue is that you will be seen in it.
$7200 meh no bargain here !
My take is still as follows: Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler in the deluded belief that the Chrysler nameplate was, or at least could easily be, a premium brand. They were seeing the 1950s Chrysler of the original 300, not the 1990s Chrysler of rebadged rentacar Plymouths, a company still borrowing product from Mitsubishi that'd actually gotten most of their competitive engineering (LH platform) and product (Jeep) by buying AMC from Renault.
So they quickly cooked up the Crossfire and the Pacifica and stuck them in Chrysler showrooms with $50K pricetags and they went NOWHERE. They suddenly realized the Chrysler brand would not pull Honda margins, much less BMW/Merc, and they weren't interested in a product family that pulled Dodge margins, so the DB management shut off the product-development funding and started looking for a way out.
The LX-platform 300/Charger and a couple new Jeeps were already in production-engineering by this point, and they got into the showrooms in reasonably good shape. But everything that followed, the Caliber, the Patriot, the second-gen Stratus, on and on, were pure junk, obviously done on the cheap and often not even as good as the products they replaced.
This little SLK had nothing to do with Chrysler, other than it became the basis for the Crossfire, but it was hardly an inspired vehicle. Coarse motor (as with Ford and Mopar fours > 2 liters w/o balance shafts are usually nasty), only adequate chassis, by modern blob-car standards I guess it's attractive but at the time it looked like a bad TR7 rehash.