How to improve R171 handling - Mercedes Benz SLK Forum

Performance MODS for the R171 Tuning and Performance modifications for your SLK

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#1 Old 12-15-2014
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How to improve R171 handling

Hello I recently bought a second hand 05 r171 200 kompressor, standard suspensions

I like the look and the engine, generous for its horsies...but totally dislike the handling

I know "the slk is not intended to be an S2000 but is a car to enjoy life and blabla" and I'm not expecting to have a go-kart like car but beeing a 2 seater, in line engine and RWD...cannot handle that bad!

It understeer a lot, if pushed a bit switch from undeersteering to oversteering in no time and offer little control. The steering wheel feels like a big sedan and the car rolls like a stone

What do you guys suggest me to work on first? I'm on a budget and considering to start with a Bilstein b12 kit, but I also have the feeling that a front strut bar and some alignment job (front and rear camber) could also improve stiffness and feeling
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#2 Old 12-15-2014
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Last edited by jbanks15; 12-15-2014 at 12:47 PM.
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#3 Old 12-15-2014
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I'd check all the bushes and shocks are in good condition and maybe get a 4 wheel alignment done as the car should handle nicely - the chassis is good and the steering well weighted in our car. Granted the steering isn't as communicative as our last Porsche but its nowhere near as bad as an Audi for example.
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#4 Old 12-15-2014
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Welcome from France....

Did you take this car for a test-drive before buying... ?? Perhaps you should talk with the folk who sold it to you...

Definitely suggest you get it checked out as the R171 performs very well when it is properly set up...

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#5 Old 12-15-2014
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+1 on ensuring that the suspension bushings and shocks are in good condition. If they're worn, it makes a huge difference in handling and feel. I had the front A-arm bushings done on my '00 C230K a couple of years ago and it transformed the car. I've owned it since new, so the deterioration crept up gradually and unnoticed. But once done, the car felt new.

Beyond this, alignment for more negative camber will help at the cost of tire wear, but Mercedes-Benz typically doesn't allow for much camber adjustment. You will probably need crash bolts for that. If you feel the spring rates are too soft, there are factory and aftermarket options with appropriate shocks. A strut tower brace would also help stiffen the front end; Weichers Sport in Germany makes aluminum and carbon-fiber versions. So would stiffenng the front and rear roll bars; the SLK55AMG bars are probably the way to go

In order of stiffness, the various spring options probably stack up like this:

Factory Base
Factory Sport package
Factory '55 AMG
Eibach
H&R

Brabus and Rennntech will be up with Eibach and H&R. Factory Black Series as well, but I have no idea if mere mortals can acquire those.
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#6 Old 12-15-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikken View Post
Hello I recently bought a second hand 05 r171 200 kompressor, standard suspensions

I like the look and the engine, generous for its horsies...but totally dislike the handling

I know "the slk is not intended to be an S2000 but is a car to enjoy life and blabla" and I'm not expecting to have a go-kart like car but beeing a 2 seater, in line engine and RWD...cannot handle that bad!

It understeer a lot, if pushed a bit switch from undeersteering to oversteering in no time and offer little control. The steering wheel feels like a big sedan and the car rolls like a stone

What do you guys suggest me to work on first? I'm on a budget and considering to start with a Bilstein b12 kit, but I also have the feeling that a front strut bar and some alignment job (front and rear camber) could also improve stiffness and feeling
I come from S2000 back ground and this time I was looking for something easier down the road. Its good you have the open mind of what to expect from your SLK.

I think you are on the right track, get the steering and suspension pieces checked out first, replace worn parts, maybe use aftermarket bushing, then look at an aftermarket coil over set up and maybe some bigger sway bars. Your car is 10 years old and even if low miles, the suspension has held that weight for 10 years, so I am sure it is a little tired.

What size and type of tires are on the car? Are they the same make?
My 2008 Honda S2000CR had understeer and it was cause by too small of tire in the front. Honda wanted the car to understeer, so they put 215/40/17 in the front and 245/35/17 in the rear, the front tires couldn't handle the extra load. My 2002 Honda S2000, I had 235/40/17 in front and 245/35/17 in rear and it was perfectly balanced for me.


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#7 Old 12-15-2014
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Bruce is right about tires; mismatched brands front/rear or mismatched performance ratings can also cause some squirrelly handling characteristics. Make sure the tires are matched up well and deal with the suspension/steering items he mentions and re-evaluate the situation; after that I would start with a strut bar to stiffen the front end. The decide if springs or shocks or roll bars need to be changed.

I find that the car understeers; virtually all cars do straight from the factory. But snap oversteer isn't something that these cars do, at least not the smaller-engined varieties. Gear selection influences that, of course, but I've found my 280 doesn't want to snap around. Mid-corner understeer can usually be eliminated with a little throttle to shift weight off the front tires and allow them to work better. Give it too much and I can hear/feel a little wheelspin behind me and the ESP triangle lights up (I never drive on public roads with it switched off). A limited-slip diff would fix that, but that is way outside my budget. You have to deal with this as a suspension engineer would: Make incremental changes and see how that changes the behavior of the car. Use the same stretch of road and similar climate conditions to do your seat-of-the-pants evaluation. Unless you have access to a track and the equipment to record lap times, peak lateral G, throttle and brake application, and so on then the seat-of-the-pants is about the best you can do for determining if the changes are making the car faster or handle better. Autocrossing will help that evaluation as well.
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#8 Old 12-15-2014
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thank you all guys for the usefull hints, I'll first check bushes wear

bruce...correct I have different tyres on front and rear axles. front 225 17 inches continental sport contact and rear 245 advan yoko

I plan to move to 18inches (for look mainly) but with the same size in front and rear axles...225
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rims are staggered for a reason


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#10 Old 12-15-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikken View Post
thank you all guys for the usefull hints, I'll first check bushes wear

bruce...correct I have different tyres on front and rear axles. front 225 17 inches continental sport contact and rear 245 advan yoko

I plan to move to 18inches (for look mainly) but with the same size in front and rear axles...225
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbanks15 View Post
rims are staggered for a reason
Jbanks is correct, stay with the staggered rims/tires, the car is designed that way. I would start with 225/40/18 & 245/35/18 and matching tires makes all the way around.

Most cars are designed to have build in understeer, its safer for the avg driver. Now some people do like match fronts and rears and how it affects the handling, can make it more neutral or maybe more oversteer, that will be a person choice. BUT first get things straighten out and then play with the tires and other stuff to match what you want.

Different makes of tires have different grips, even if they are rated the same, a 280 rating from Continental might be different from a 280 Yoko rating, but they are getting closer. Those ratings are really only good within each company and why we should stay with one make at a time.


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#11 Old 12-15-2014
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I am surprised by your complaint of handling when you say you knew this when buying the car!
No, the SLK200 was, as you rightly state, not designed to be thrown around corners and stick like glue. And, I am afraid that there will be little you can do to get to this stage.
As said, correct geometry is the number one, solid bushes number two and good tyres number three. Front and rear strut bars will hold it all together and worth the money, especially the front.
Many might recommend fancy springs and shocks that will look good and make the ride harder, but not improve handling much. But you say you are on a budget, so you can forget getting very far.
For all your talk, you bought the wrong car. Should have gone Porsche...
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#12 Old 12-16-2014
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I have a '13 BMW 135i Coupe and a '10 SLK 350. Of the two cars, the BMW is the most entertaining to drive. In fact, the most satisfying car I have owned. However, the SLK has its own virtues being it's a pleasant ride on a warm summer's night.

My SLK is pristine in every respect, but no amount of modifications would give it the performance of the BMW. Although this may seem a little cruel or harsh it makes the point, you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

Save your money and enjoy what you have.
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If you start down the road of stiffer bars and stiffer shocks you have a potential to ruin the ride of your car. I would seriously consider what you use that car for before you start down this road as if its your daily then a nice ride should be a high priority but if its only a weekend toy and you live in an area with smooth roads then sports suspension and strut braces may be entirely appropriate.
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#14 Old 12-16-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michiganstar View Post
If you start down the road of stiffer bars and stiffer shocks you have a potential to ruin the ride of your car. I would seriously consider what you use that car for before you start down this road as if its your daily then a nice ride should be a high priority but if its only a weekend toy and you live in an area with smooth roads then sports suspension and strut braces may be entirely appropriate.
Correct. The strut bar won't do much to degrade ride quality but will improve the way the suspension works up front since it's one more solid component to transfer cornering forces side to side. Everything else--springs, shocks, and roll bars--will improve the cornering ability to various degrees but ride quality will suffer in equal measure. If you want to show the M-B flag for competitive autocross with SCCA, then going stiffer will get you there...but you'll have to petition your local section to put you into Street Touring Roadster since the SLK isn't listed as eligible.
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#15 Old 12-16-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikken View Post
Hello I recently bought a second hand 05 r171 200 kompressor, standard suspensions

I like the look and the engine, generous for its horsies...but totally dislike the handling

I know "the slk is not intended to be an S2000 but is a car to enjoy life and blabla" and I'm not expecting to have a go-kart like car but beeing a 2 seater, in line engine and RWD...cannot handle that bad!

It understeer a lot, if pushed a bit switch from undeersteering to oversteering in no time and offer little control. The steering wheel feels like a big sedan and the car rolls like a stone

What do you guys suggest me to work on first? I'm on a budget and considering to start with a Bilstein b12 kit, but I also have the feeling that a front strut bar and some alignment job (front and rear camber) could also improve stiffness and feeling
Alignment is a good idea but I don't think it will achieve the sporty characteristic that you are looking for. At least check to see if the alignment numbers are bad. If you are on a budget, sort the modification list from cheapest to most expensive. Do you plan on keeping the factory wheels or changing them out to a different size? After the front strut bar (and alignment check), I'd look into better tires/wheels that suit your handling goals and daily driving. If that doesn't satisfy you, then look into the B12 kit for your model and get an aftermarket rear camber kit at the same time.


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#16 Old 12-16-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nikken View Post
Hello I recently bought a second hand 05 r171 200 kompressor, standard suspensions

I like the look and the engine, generous for its horsies...but totally dislike the handling

I know "the slk is not intended to be an S2000 but is a car to enjoy life and blabla" and I'm not expecting to have a go-kart like car but beeing a 2 seater, in line engine and RWD...cannot handle that bad!

It understeer a lot, if pushed a bit switch from undeersteering to oversteering in no time and offer little control. The steering wheel feels like a big sedan and the car rolls like a stone

What do you guys suggest me to work on first? I'm on a budget and considering to start with a Bilstein b12 kit, but I also have the feeling that a front strut bar and some alignment job (front and rear camber) could also improve stiffness and feeling
he already states that he doesn't expect the handle fantastic, but I think he expected it to handle better than it does, which I take as there is something that is broken or worn out.

As an HSDE instructor for many years, I have seen some SLK on track, and they handle very well and I think that you can get others to handle that well too. If they didn't handle that well, there wouldn't be people taking them to the track and AMG would not have track days for their members.

Nikken, I will say again, just start with the basic and work from there. See if you can find a few other people who have the car and go for a ride and compare their cars to yours.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSSG View Post
My SLK is pristine in every respect, but no amount of modifications would give it the performance of the BMW. Although this may seem a little cruel or harsh it makes the point, you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

Save your money and enjoy what you have.
Hey there... DSSG.... are you calling my car a sow's ear.....????

Cars are a personal choice... and as with so many things in life.... research and planning are the key to success...

We reviewed and tested the R171 and loads of other cars (including BMW) before making the decision to buy.. and we have not been disappointed !!

We've done quite a few thousand miles since getting it in July and it has been a pleasure to drive....

The starter to this thread obviously missed out something in his research and is now landed with a car that is not to his liking... but that is no excuse for you to insult my car...

Stella
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#18 Old 12-17-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSSG View Post
I have a '13 BMW 135i Coupe and a '10 SLK 350. Of the two cars, the BMW is the most entertaining to drive. In fact, the most satisfying car I have owned. However, the SLK has its own virtues being it's a pleasant ride on a warm summer's night.

My SLK is pristine in every respect, but no amount of modifications would give it the performance of the BMW. Although this may seem a little cruel or harsh it makes the point, you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

Save your money and enjoy what you have.
you know what dssg? my previous car (a sort of benchmark to compare the slk with in my case) was a 2006 bmw 120, msport suspension, sway bars and front camber plates (camber set -1,5 degrees)...again I'm not expecting that kind of feeling but this car is lighter, shorter and with better weights balance (I suppose) so I think that something wrong is going on

as most the members suggested me I'll start from checking bushes and changing tires, then move to suspensions and strut bar
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#19 Old 12-17-2014
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If you had wanted a Sports Car, the SLK is a poor choice. MB just doesn't build sports cars. They build comfortable generally smooth riding luxury cruisers; although, the SLK comes up a little short in that department.

MB has only made two cars in its entire history that I wanted. The first was the SL 280 with the Pagoda roof and the 2nd generation SLK. In short, my only reason for purchasing it was it was a pretty face. In a world full of hideous automobiles, that's enough.

Many people can't accept the inherent DNA of a car, and thus they think they can change it with after market modifications. They can't. In most cases, they ruin whatever goodness the vehicle had. About the best they can do is make sure it's in good repair.
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Throw my two cents worth my car came with sports suspension pack on a 09 car with 17 alloys and i can feel the diff in handling compared to basic etc
But the roads my way are sh it !

And you do notice hitting a pot hole or ??
Which i avoid like the plague .

Go for the sport susp pack ie shocks and springs all round but going 18s will be a much much harsher ride but will look good

You will notice a diff in handling its a much firmer ride and more fun .
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