Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: Elizabeth, CO (SE Denver)
Vehicle: 2002 SLK230
Other Toys: '13 LR2, '11 z71 Suburban, '09 Yamaha R6S
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Did you ever get your ride sorted out? I was curious if you had installed all of your bushing kit parts yet and if that made a difference. Also, are they OEM style/quality or sportier polyurethane or similar? And where did you get them from?
Ride quality is usually either for comfort or for sport handling...unless you go real high dollar to get the best of both worlds. Springs can certainly deteriorate over time. The constant weight of the car and changes from hot to cold and such will affect them...but over a long period of time from my experience. The most common thing i have seen is they will settle, and by that i mean compress permanently a little bit. Bad struts will leave you bouncing on the springs, which is truly awful and I have had happen on a car before. My 02 slk230 still had original springs/shocks, and the shocks were pretty decent considering the age and now over 150k miles, but I know they weren't as good as they once were. My father bought the car new (and I bought it from him a few years ago), but it had been so long ago, I can't really remember what it originally felt like. That and many other factors play into ride than springs and shocks too...like the bushing kit you bought, which is why i was curious as to how that worked for you. I have not yet looked at spring options for the car, but I will. I can't help but wonder what switching to a coil over setup does to handling/ride as the car was not designed for it. It may be fine, but it would be for sure a point of consideration for me that I would have to research. I think it could end up being very different feeling. They also make progressive coil springs, which you should look up some pictures of if you are unfamiliar. Part of the spring is softer and more closely/tightly coiled, while the other part is more firm and the coil is spaced further apart. This is supposed to give you reasonable comfort for daily driving, but when you corner hard, the soft part compresses fully and then you are riding on the more firm portion of the spring for better handling. I installed a set on my old mini cooper, and I loved them. They were Tein S-tech i believe, and were green. Its something else to consider if they are available for the SLK.
I just installed a set of the KYB gas adjust shocks, and wanted to throw in my 2 cents. I know they will not ride as comfortable as OEM, and they are not marked that way. They are supposed to be a performance upgrade, and I think they are. Keep in mind it has been a long time since i drove the car in new condition, but I am overall happy with them. The turn-in responsiveness is really good and noticeably improved, which is their main marketing claim. If you are not familiar with the terms, this means that if I turn to the right, the car turns quickly without compressing the front left as much. It just turns. At a high enough speed with a hard enough turn, it still will, just not as much as stock. I am extremely happy with this and I have been hammering turns every chance I get because it is a lot of fun now. I do not remember the car being this responsive new, and it felt a bit more spongy. Ride quality seems somewhat reduced, but it is not horrible. It is slightly bumpy at times, but still quiet and smooth. It has a slight and firm bouncy quality to it, which I do not remember it having new/stock. I feel like I am using the word "slight/ly" a lot, and that is because, compared to other cars I have setup to be sporty, the loss in comfort is minimal on my SLK. I have to attribute some of the diminished ride quality to other aging suspension components, but it is not as pleasant as stock in that regard. If you have ever had a car that handles extremely well, you know it could never ride like a S-class.
Suspension has improved dramatically over the last 13 years, and even big 3 ton SUVs like a Range Rover Sport (which I owned recently) can handle like a car and turn in so well it is amazing. I feel like some people forget this in their analysis, but make no mistake, the newer SLKs will feel very different than a 2002 did new. You really can get the best of both worlds these days, but those parts also cost a lot more. Those magnetic damper systems are pretty impressive if you have ever driven or ridden in a car with it.
If you do not want to compromise comfort, go OEM/style all the way. If you have the funds, you can look into a fully electronic adjustable damper system so you can have both (assuming its available for the SLK). I have seen those kits for other cars around the 12-1500 price point. They let you dial it in and find your perfect sweet spot, which is very cool. But performance upgrades will pretty much always sacrifice some comfort for cornering ability...you have to to transfer weight faster. Unless you have rattles, the shocks probably are the biggest factor in ride. Wheels/tires can make a very big difference too if they are not stock. Even among the same size low profile tires, there can be a big difference. Run flats ride like garbage and are hard so they don't grab as well. Just something else to consider. Reading reviews is crucial for me when buying tires.
I also would recommend doing the install yourself if you can and have the tools. It is not that difficult to do, and you will get a better understanding of how it all works when you are in there looking around and doing the swap. Plus it saves you money on the labor.