The SLK 230 R170
At start of the 1990s, after the introduction of their two-seater grand-tourer R129 SL and the Mazda MX-5, Mercedes-Benz set out to create a new compact roadster, slotted below the SL. By late 1991 under Bruno Sacco, the first design sketches were drawn and 12 1:5 scale models being built in the first half of 1992. By the middle of the year, five of them were proposed again in full-scale. In early 1993, the final design was selected and approved by the board, with the German design patent being filed on September 30, 1993. On April 22, 1996, the new production SLK-Class, based on the R170 platform was introduced at the Turin Motor Show. SLK 230 Kompressor launch model became a competitor to the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3. It was powered by a 193 hp 2.3 L supercharged straight-4 engine and a choice of automatic transmission or 5-speed manual transmission. The SLK was a modern incarnation of the 1950s Mercedes-Benz 190SL by returning to four cylinders and a 94-inch (2,400 mm) wheelbase. Worldwide sales hit 55,000, over double the entire nine-year production of 190SLs, and between 1996 and 2004, over 311,000 SLKs were sold. The very first U.S.-market R170 Mercedes SLK was completed on November 1, 1996 and went on sale in January 1997 for the 1998 model year. The last was completed on April 7, 2004.
R170 facelift (2000)
In 1997, development on updates to the R170 began and by early 1998, design work on an updated SLK was completed and patented on February 2, 1998. In February 2000, the SLK received a facelift which included new front and rear bumper designs, body-coloured side skirts and the introduction of new wing mirrors incorporating indicators. The range was expanded to include a new entry-level model SLK 200 Kompressor and a new V6 in the SLK 320. Technical improvements included the addition of Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and a new 6-speed manual transmission. A stabilizer bar was added to the rear and the front one was reinforced. A 3.46:1 axle was added for the manual shift SLK, and the fuel tank grew from 12 to 14 gallons.