Niche model o’ the day! Throwback! Rare gem!
Amid crowds of Cs, Xes, 3s, ISes, and ESes at the Greenwise parking lot, it’s nice to focus on the less popular models from luxury brands – both current and past. Why people choose to buy vanilla and generic is a mystery to me – if not because they’re usually the most practical, utilitarian, and comfortable options. And…soulless.
Every so often you come across a lesser desired line that serves a specific purpose or meets a specialized need. I wrote about the BMW 5-series GT in October, itself a model that is practical, useful, comfortable (and more) – but is nonetheless rarely seen on the street. This weekend, and many times previously, I have enjoyed riding in and driving a friend’s 2003 Mercedes SLK32 AMG, a 2-seat roadster that was Mercedes’ first application of the folding hardtop roof. In other words, an instant and collectible classic.
Even ten years on, it still has the quiet of a coupe top-up, and a solidity that befits a ‘cedes. Because it’s AMG, it’s got weightier steering and an amped engine – which makes for quick acceleration and joyful cornering. Its supercharged V6 came before the 400 and 500 horsepower AMG engines of late, so it doesn’t gulp gas too bad either. To boot, it was also top-of-the-line in 2003, so it’s got xenon headlamps and heated seats. Really all you need…
This particular example is low mileage for its age, and because it was developed at the tail end of the 90s, has Mercedes’ historically distinctive dim amber backlighting and cryptic stereo unit. Some parts are going though – evidenced by the rattle somewhere toward the back of the cabin, and a sticky change drawer in the dash. Minor squabbles.
All thisÂ character, mixed with rarity, makes this model a used purchase worthy of careful searching, examination, and willingness to travel to find the right example.
The SLK-class is now in its third iteration, slowly shaking its feminine, soft image. Generally, the line is still niche; within it the base level SLK250 is the volume unit, followed by the SLK350, and SLK55 AMG, the spiritual successor to the 32 AMG. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a 55 AMG in person – though 250s are here and there.
I’ve told my friend several times I’d be interested in his car – KBB puts it at about $17,500 retail. Not bad for a piece of German automotive history.
Doing a bit of national online searching, I found a number of seemingly strong contenders, should I find myself in the market.
2003, 60k miles, $18,000 – Pensacola, FL
2003, 75k miles, $14,000 – North Palm Beach, FL
2003, 32k miles, $17,000 – Stoughton, MA
2004, 70k miles, $17,000 – Greenville, SC
Of course, with any aging model, it goes without saying that regular maintenance and care are critical. No car runs bulletproof without the proper armor. But, given those details, your SLK32 AMG should purr happily, and if my impressions are accurate, it will be an enjoyable drive.
I hope to one day own, as my daily driver, a niche, impractical model that just screams style and flair – that is, before joining the ranks of gay dads in Range Rovers, carting and hauling a family…