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When enthusiasts of European automakers search for a manually-shifted, nimble sedan or convertible, a BMW of any vintage is the go-to. Even more modern Audis have become popular thanks to their tunability and VAG charm. Yet, similar Mercedes models don’t make shortlists because their existence is a mystery to most, leaving many unnoticed.

While Mercedes models were less commonly sold with a manual transmission than a BMW or Audi, they’ve slipped through the cracks in the enthusiast marketplace. As a result, any three-pedal-seeker can find engaging and exciting sedans, coupes, and roadsters at a near-zero premium versus their commonly-found automatic counterparts. All you need to source your perfect manually-shifted Merc is some knowledge and patience. If you don’t already have that, FCP Euro is here to help.

Table Of Contents


Mercedes Models With A Manual Transmission Spec Sheet

Chassis Code

Model Name

Engine Code

Engine Arrangement

Power Figures



190E 2.3

M102 8V

N/A 2.3L Inline-4

136hp/148 lb-ft tq

717.4 5-Speed

190E 2.3-16

M102 16V

NA 2.3L Inline-4

185hp/173 lb-ft tq

717.4 Dogleg 5-Speed

190E 2.6


N/A 2.6L Inline-6

164hp/168 lb-ft tq

717.4 5-Speed



N/A 2.5L I5 Diesel

75hp/93 lb-ft tq

717.4 5-Speed




N/A 2.6L Inline-6

177hp/188 lb-ft tq

717.4 5-Speed




N/A 3.0L Inline-6

228hp/201 lb-ft tq

717.4 5-Speed





Supercharged 2.3L Inline-4

185hp/200 lb-ft tq

717.4 5-Speed/




Supercharged 2.3L Inline-4

185hp/200 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed Post-Facelift



NA 3.2L V6

215hp/229 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed


C230 (2002)


Supercharged 2.3L


192hp/200 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed

C230 (03-05)


Supercharged 1.8L


189hp/192 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed

C230 (06-07)


N/A 2.5L V6

201hp/181 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed



N/A 2.6L V6

168hp/177 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed



N/A 3.2L V6

215hp/221 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed



N/A 3.5L V6

268hp/258 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed




N/A 3.0L V6

228hp/221 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed




N/A 3.0L V6

228hp/221 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed



N/A 3.0L V6

228hp/221 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed



N/A 3.5L V6

268hp/258 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed



M271 Evo

Turbocharged 1.8L Inline-4

201hp/229 lb-ft tq

716.6 6-Speed

Mercedes offered a manual transmission in their convertibles and small sedans with a handful of different engines and displacements. Unfortunately, the wildly popular and always charismatic Mercedes V8s weren’t privy to a three-pedal setup that the four and six-cylinder engines received. This being said, whether you are looking for a backroad tourer or a precision-targeted project, there’s a good option for you.


R172 SLK-Class (2013-2015)


The R172 SLK250 is the final Mercedes sold in the United States with a manual transmission. Fans of the newer Mercedes models will know this SLK as the pre-facelift model that evolved into the “SLC-Class” midway through production. All SLC models saw the manual transmission option shed in favor of the quick “9G-Tronic,” leaving early R172 vehicles with its turbocharged inline-four engine as the last of a generation. 


The M271 Evo engine isn’t exactly a powerhouse, offering 201 hp and 229 ft-lbs of torque. Yet it still provides Mercedes fans with a torquey, turbocharged, agile, and fuel-efficient drop-top paired with some of the latest Mercedes technology. The slick-shifting six-speed manual optionally stuck behind it allows owners to enjoy all the benefits of modern Mercedes open-top driving with the fun of three pedals.

The M271 Evo is Mercedes' first foray into gasoline direct injection in the US, so you'll want to be weary of some teething issues resulting from this; the high-pressure fueling system can result in oil leaks at the rear of the engine, the timing system is prone to issue as it's also required to drive the high-pressure fuel pump, and the camshaft adjusters will warrant replacement on an interval as their internal locking pin wears with time.

Mercedes offered the SLK250 between the ’13 and ’15 model years, so production was short, and not too many were ordered. The fact that few are even aware of the existence of these cars means they’re relatively affordable in contrast to their rarity. If you’re looking for the latest creature comforts in your manual-equipped Mercedes, you’ll only be looking for a pre-facelift R172 SLK250.


R171 SLK-Class (2005-2011)

SLK280, SLK300, SLK350

Preceding the R172 class, the R171 chassis offers a manual transmission across most engine options available for the car; only late-model M276 SLK350 models and the AMG-tuned V8 of the SLK55 were manual-free. The variety of trims features every M272 family member seen in the US, ranging from the 3.0L “E30” as seen in the SLK280 and SLK300 to the powerhouse 3.5L “E35” in the early SLK350. The M272 is a relatively rev-happy and reliable DOHC V6 with modernized architecture (including variable valve timing) and reasonable fuel economy, helping it serve as an excellent all-rounder. Power output ranged from 228 hp and 221 ft-lbs of torque in the SLK280 and SLK300 to 268 hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque in the “big-block” SLK350 (Good for a 0-60 sprint of around 5 seconds). Those seeking maximum performance may go for the SLK350, but the later-model sportpack on the SLK300 makes for a truly stunning appearance package in your row-your-own R171.


The R171 SLKs have been heralded for their comfortable ride and incredibly agile driving dynamics, making for a versatile dual-duty weekender and daily driver. With more of these out there than you might think, the R171 is arguably the best option for an engaging and sporty Mercedes driving experience. However, interested parties must be aware of M272 balance shaft issues, posing the largest threat to an otherwise reasonably-reliable engine experience.

Early M272 engines did have an issue with a faulty balance shaft design (updated after a specific engine serial to an improved one) which requires engine removal to update to the improved design, so you’ll want to keep this in mind as you search. 2005 models are highly likely to have balance shaft issues, while 2006 models can be a toss-up, and 2007 models are more likely to be safe (2008 and onwards should generally be a safe bet, but it never hurts to check). 

To determine if an M272 has the updated balance shaft, take the VIN and run it through a Mercedes VIN Decoder. Scroll down to the Engine Serial; any M272 after the number 272…30 468993 will have the updated balance shaft from the factory. Engines at or before 30 468992 will likely warrant a balance shaft replacement at some point (though codes may first pop up anywhere from 70,000 miles to 200,000 miles).

Although there are a few different trims, searching for an R171 is relatively easy as its models are separate from any other generation. Searching for an SLK280, SLK300, or SLK350 and filtering transmission options by “manual” will yield appropriate R171 offerings.


R170 SLK-Class (1997-2004)

SLK320 (2001-2004)

Pre-dating the models listed above and continuing with the fun drop-top, we have the R170-chassis Mercedes SLK320. This tiny hardtop convertible was frequently optioned with an early version of the Mercedes 6-speed manual transmission and paired with the highest-output 3.2L M112 V6. These are great-looking and performing convertibles that you can comfortably drive every day and are even capable of surprisingly efficient fuel economy. 

Mercedes R170 SLK320 (2)

Examples equipped with the optional sport package received a more aggressive front bumper, stocky side skirts, and a tasteful wheel upgrade, which nicely complemented the looks of the R170’s cutting-edge “Vario Top” hydraulic folding roof. They’re excellent to look at and properly quick, with 215 hp and 229 ft-lbs of torque on tap to shove only 2900 lbs of Merc down the road. While interior build quality may lack slightly in comparison to newer Mercedes models, these cars make for an excellent and reliable warm-weather driver. However, keep an eye on that unique hardtop, as it’s a common failure point and a pretty involved (and expensive) fix.

Benefitting the SLK320 is its later production date compared to the R170’s initial release. Because of that, they include a rear sway bar, the 716.6 six-speed manual, and decent aftermarket support in the US, thanks to its shared platform with the Chrysler Crossfire (also available with the 3.2L M112/716.6 6-speed combination).

A ton of the R170 cars were sold with manual transmissions, whether we’re discussing the M112 iterations or even the M111 cars featured below. Both are great cars and are generally around the same price, so driveline selection will ultimately come down to your individual wants and needs. Mercedes also offered the SLKs in a ton of fun colors, so more exotic examples can command a bit of a premium (and maybe what you’d want to target in your search). 

There are again no conflicts in trim, so to find an M112/716.6 R170, you’d simply search “SLK320” and select the filter by “manual transmission.”


SLK230 (1997-2002)

For those looking for roof-off fun paired with forced induction, the R170 SLK230 makes for an excellent budget-friendly target. The M111 2.3L four-cylinder made its way into all R170 SLK230s, sporting an intercooled supercharger and forged internals. The torquey engine is unrefined and buzzy compared to some of the more modern offerings on this list, but its reliability and tuner-friendly nature make it a quality choice.

Dannys Mercedes R170 SLK230

Depending on the year of production, the SLK230 has either a 5-speed (earlier “Pre-Facelift” cars) or 6-speed (later “Post-Facelift” cars) manual transmission. Pre-Facelift cars are model years before 2001 and are characterized by side markers on the front fender, a more streamlined front bumper, and a lack of a rear spoiler. In the driveline department, the Pre-Facelift cars have an Eaton M62 clutched supercharger that helps provide 185 hp and 200 ft-lbs of torque through a Getrag-built 5-speed manual. They lacked a rear sway bar, and while Post-Facelift cars added one, retrofitting the sway bar requires either custom bracketry or a full Post-Facelift subframe swap.

“Post Facelift” SLK230s use a smaller Eaton M45 supercharger with a solid-mounted pulley for a bit more reliability and a 5hp bump. The gearbox moved to a Mercedes-sourced 6-speed unit and added a rear sway bar to improve handling. Aesthetically, post-facelift cars have a slightly altered front bumper, a sport package, and a revised interior with marginally better build quality. 


All four-cylinder R170s offer a near-50/50 weight distribution (with the roof folded down, a perfect 50/50!), a reasonably light curb weight, and significant tuning capability via the M111. Those serious about performance from their SLK230 would likely want to target a late-model example, as the additional drive gear, rear sway bar, and slight power increase should make the car even more engaging to drive. 

You can easily target the SLK230 of your dreams with the information above. Simply search “SLK230” and filter by manual transmission. From there, it’s merely an exercise in selecting whether you want a pre- or post-facelift model and searching for the appropriate year range.


W204 C-Class (2008-2014)


The W204 C300 provides modern styling, utility, and comfort in an affordable package. Serving as the entry-level sedan for the brand until 2014, the W204 boasted a larger and more comfortable interior than the preceding C-Class, along with handsome exterior styling that holds up well today. With a bit of careful shopping, the W204 can make a viable alternative to an E90-chassis 328i BMW.

Under the hood of every 716.6 manual-equipped W204 is the reliable 3.0L “M272 E30” V6 producing 228 hp, 221 ft-lbs of torque. While it isn’t necessarily the fastest pairing in its class, the C300 is a unique and engaging option for a plush daily driver. They can also make for an interesting performance vehicle, thanks to a ton of part interchangeability with the W204 C63 AMG. We campaigned our manual W204 C300 in AER, praising its excellent handling, reliability, and stopping power with relatively light modification.

The C300 was the only W204-chassis car to be sold in the United States with a manual and the last manual Mercedes sedan offered on US soil. To find a W204 with a manual transmission, you’d be looking for any C300 that appears when filtering by “manual transmission.”


W203 C-Class (2001-2007)

C230, C350 (2006-2007)

Sticking with the M272 engine family, there’s the late W203-model C230 and C350. Introducing the M272 engine that would eventually find its way into the W204, as mentioned earlier, the smaller and lighter W203 vehicles can offer even more sporting potential than their successor with the same durable powertrain in a smaller wheelbase. 

2006 and 2007 C230 models sport a 201 hp, 181 ft-lbs of torque “E25” 2.5L variant of the M272 V6, and C350 models come equipped with a 268 hp, 258 ft-lbs of torque “E35” variant of the M272. Either option gives the driver the same slick 716.6 “C7 package” sport shift linkage.

C230 models optioned with the 716.6 manual are rare but can be found with a bit of persistence. The manual W203 C350 does exist but far less so than the C230. If you can find one, however, the C350 makes for an entertaining sports sedan with great power on tap. Both models also have significant parts interchangeability with the C55 AMG and most W209 CLK-Class vehicles. The sky can be the limit for an individual aiming to improve on an already excellent chassis.

The W203 is an excellent daily driver, promising reasonable fuel economy, reliability, and a surprising cornering grip. Across both model years, the 2007s are the best choice for any buyer; aside from the tasteful final-year sport package being more desirable both cosmetically and functionally, the 2007 cars are significantly less likely to have issues with early M272 balance shafts. Prospective buyers should again become familiar with avoiding the balance shaft issue prior to purchasing a car that may require a pricey fix. 

Unlike our previous suggestions, the W203 C230 runs into a nomenclature conflict. C230 models, manual or not, had a couple of different engine options throughout production. If you’re specifically looking for an M272-powered W203 C-Class, you’ll want to target the 2006 or 2007 C230 or C350. From there, you can filter your transmission type in the selected search engine to “manual.”


C230 Coupe/Sedan (2003-2005)

Likely the most fuel-efficient offering on this list is the W203 C230 sold between 2003 and 2005, in both a coupe and sedan body styles. The early C230s use the 1.8L M271 engine as it first entered the US market, sporting a clutched supercharger on the tiny inline-four culminating in 189 hp and 192 ft-lbs of torque. Manual-optioned vehicles received a similar 716.6 transmission as mentioned above—though this one is often noted as feeling a bit less pleasant to row than some of the M272 cars—and could see over 30 miles per gallon without much effort while cruising at freeway speeds. 


A bit less of a sporting offering than the late C230 and C350, most of the early C230s lacked the suspension and braking upgrades that Mercedes would introduce on those other models. However, if sporty dynamics are a must-have, the 2005 models received the same monoblock two-piston front caliper and sport suspension as the later cars. 

The M271 was marginally less robust than the M272 but offered increased fuel efficiency, a lighter front end, and significantly more manual-transmission examples sold in the American market. They’re much easier to find and generally cheaper to purchase, but you must scrutinize their timing systems on high-mileage examples. A weak timing assembly and an oil pump that can let go without warning make the M271 a bit more touch-and-go without proper maintenance.

To purchase an M271 powered, 716.6 manual-equipped W203, you’ll want to search for a 2003-2005 Mercedes C230. You can filter by body style to distinguish between the coupe or sedan, and you can also target a six-speed variant of either by filtering transmission type “manual.”


C230 Coupe (2002)

Only the 2002 W203 C230 Coupe models use the very same M111 four-cylinder available in the R170-chassis. The little four-cylinder, utilizing an early version of the 716.6 six-speed manual, offered reasonable fuel economy from 192 hp and 200 ft-lbs of torque. Thanks to forged pistons, a fairly-adaptive ECU, and an intercooled supercharger, they also make an excellent candidate for tuners and tinkerers. More boost is cheap with the addition of a reduced-diameter supercharger pulley or increased-diameter crank pulley. 


Cars equipped with the M111/716.6 driveline can stack hundreds of thousands of miles with little more than standard maintenance. These coupes were reasonably lightweight compared to the later W203 offerings. While suspension and braking hardware isn’t exactly cutting-edge, “OEM-plus” upgrades with Genuine Mercedes parts and the odd aftermarket offering can quickly turn the early W203 Coupe into a surprisingly fun and engaging platform. Their controversial looks also often result in low valuation and cheap entry to the chassis, a win for anyone looking to pick up a good one for cheap.

You’ll want to look out for rust on these, just like any other earlier-production W203 C-Class; the bottom of the doors and the gap between the rear bumper and quarter panel tend to rot as they collect salt and moisture. The M111 can also be a bit leaky as gaskets and seals fail.

To find an M111-powered C-Class that sports a manual, you’d simply search for a 2002 C230 and filter by transmission type “manual.”


C320 Coupe/Wagon/Sedan (2003-2005)

For those interested in the W203 C230 Coupe but seeking a bit more utility and rarity, the C320 is available as a coupe, wagon, or sedan with a 6-speed manual mated to the back of a naturally-aspirated 3.2L M112 V6.

Pumping out 215 hp and 221 ft-lbs of torque, the V6 increased power and refinement over the buzzy M111-powered Coupes and even built on the already-exceptional reliability of the four-cylinder. While opting for the M111 may still be the choice of those aiming to modify and increase power, the M112 will generally be more pleasant to live with.

C320 Coupes, especially with a manual transmission, are a lot less common to find on the used market than any C230 Coupe and are considered somewhat of a “unicorn” in Mercedes circles. The manual C320 Wagons are rumored to be in the single digits in the US, so scoop one up if you find one!

There aren’t any nomenclature conflicts here, so simply searching for a C320 and filtering the transmission type by “manual” will yield any body style. If you find a wagon (or even a coupe), you’ve stumbled across a bit of a unicorn.


C240 Wagon/Sedan (2001-2005)

Staying within the M112 engine family and the W203 chassis, there’s the C240. Roughly the same blueprint as the C320 sedan that would provide a manual option in the following years, the C240 is down slightly in displacement and output. A smaller, 2.6L M112 V6 sits under the hood, producing 168 hp and 177 ft-lbs of torque while returning an extra two mpg on the highway (27) over the C320. Due to its under-stressed nature, the “E26” M112 can essentially be considered a “workhorse” variant of an already-reliable engine.


Locating a C240 with a six-speed will be one of the cheapest manual Mercedes options. They’re softer and less well-optioned than a comparative C320 but are as good, if not better, where it matters most. You can shift these mile-eaters for years to come, and they’ll take anything you throw at them as long as you’re on time with maintenance. Wagons only exist in small quantities, but both will be tricky to locate as these are reasonably rust-prone.

No trim or model conflicts here, so just searching “C240” and filtering by manual transmission will do the job.


W201 C-Class (1984-1993)


Although not technically a C-Class by name, the W201-chassis is the predecessor of the C-Class we know today. The 190E and 190D introduced an affordable and plush small sedan that delivered longevity and durability regardless of the engine or transmission. The W201 chassis came in a few different trims for the US market, and as such, three engines across four different trims were available with a manual transmission. 

The four-cylinder 190Es either use a 2.3L M102 with an eight-valve head or the beloved 16-valve, Cosworth-altered 2.3L M102. Those looking for something different could also seek out the buttery M103 inline-6 in the 190E 2.6 or the durable-yet-anemic OM602 inline-5 diesel in the 190D. Each engine has merits, but the suitable W201 will ultimately depend on personal taste. 


The M102 eight-valve of the base 190E 2.3 remains an excellent little four-cylinder even by modern standards and can be modified to rev with a bit more fervor fairly easily. Stock, the M102 8V is good for a respectable 134 hp and 151 ft-lbs of torque, more than enough to shuffle the little sedan along at speed and to create an enjoyable driving experience. 

For those willing to pay a bit of a premium for sporting heritage and to maximize the cornering potential that the W201 chassis offers, the 190E 2.3-16 use a Cosworth-engineered 16-valve version of the 2.3L M102 good for 167 hp and 162 ft-lbs of torque. The race pedigree of these cars is still palpable in the driver’s seat today, as these cars served as a constant contender in the DTM series of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike their E30 BMW M3 counterpart, however, these cars have only appreciated slightly over the past decade, meaning they may be more attainable than expected.

The 190D and its naturally-aspirated diesel OM602 produces 89 hp and 113 ft-lbs of torque, making quick acceleration nearly impossible; the 190D is unlikely to withstand the freeway’s left lane. That being said, it serves as one of the only rear-driven, manually-shifted diesel sedans ever to hit US soil. The odd nature of these cars makes them a unique driving experience from nearly everything else.

For a slightly more plush experience, the M103 in the 190E 2.6 will provide the most torque and the least vibration in the W201 chassis, producing 158 hp and 162 ft-lbs of torque from the smooth inline-six. This excellent and durable engine can be genuinely enjoyable in the tiny 190E with little-to-no modification; those formerly in favor of the E30 BMW chassis will likely be surprised by an M103-paired W201, a result of the then-revolutionary rear suspension geometry.

The 2.3-16 Cosworth variant will, of course, include the most sporting equipment. However, the roots of the W201 chassis in all models allow for these cars to be enjoyable backroad blasters with light modification regardless of engine type. All of the W201 offerings remain a pleasant place to spend your time, with quality materials, excellent powertrains, and a comfortable ride.


R129 SL-Class


The R129-chassis SL-Class, in the mind of many Mercedes enthusiasts, is arguably the best convertible ever made by the manufacturer. Build quality for these cars was great for the period, and the design, output, and reliability still hold up today. While many commonly associate this body style with either the V8-powered SL500 or even the V12-powered SL600, the base-model 300SL (later renamed the SL320 following a facelift in 1994) could, shockingly, be had with a 5-speed manual transmission in the United States. 


 The dogleg 5-speed and optional limited-slip differential is a gorgeous and potent weekend cruiser paired with the DOHC M104 3.0L inline-6, making a healthy 228 hp and 201 ft-lbs. The M104 is widely regarded as one of the most robust Mercedes engines ever made, so sourcing an R129 300SL (sold as the “300SL-24” with the M104 in European markets) could be an easy way to find an incredibly unique vehicle that will stay on the road for years to come (and is likely to gain value as it ages). Patience will again be necessary, though; production numbers for manual 300SLs, as quoted by Mercedes USA, are 397 all-time, spanning from just the 1990 model year through 1992.

This is yet another model that you’re pretty unlikely to stumble upon on something like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, but of course, anything is possible. These are stout powertrains, but you’ll want to be weary of head gasket condition (M104 engines of higher displacement sometimes have issues with this in older age).


W124 E-Class 

300E & 260E (1986 & 1988)

The W124 chassis, effectively the origin of the E-Class we know today, promoted an incredibly durable and luxurious longer-wheelbase sedan at an affordable price bracket. The W124’s styling has held up to aging well over time, and its interior remains a nice place to be, even by modern standards. 

Mercedes-Benz W124 E-Class 260E

Although they can be tricky to find these days (only a few hundred were ever sold stateside by Mercedes), some W124s optioned with the 2.6L M103 inline-6 could use a Mercedes-built 5-speed manual transmission. These cars are known for being fairly unmotivated to move quickly, but the M103 is a resilient engine that has withstood the test of time (and mileage).

To locate a manual W124-chassis, you’d be looking for a 1986 300E, a 1988 300E, or a 1988 260E. From there, the task of finding one is a game of patience; other than enthusiast-specific auction sites, these models will rarely pop up for sale.


Selecting the Right Manual Mercedes for You

For the most part, this will round out our list of Mercedes models sold stateside. A few remain unmentioned (all classic models such as the 190SL, 300SL, some C107/R107 cars, and a handful of others), but each of the Mercedes mentioned in this list provide a fun, engaging, and reasonably-affordable driving experience across a good few decades of silver arrow engineering.

author image
Written by :
Danny Kruger

FCP Euro’s Mercedes Expert and longtime “Silver Arrow” tinkerer. Lover of oddball vehicles, and former owner of two 6-speed W203 C-Classes, a Kleemann-modified 5-speed R170 SLK, and a 1987 190E 2.3-16. The current owner of a daily-driven and AMG-swapped W208 CLK430, a 6-speed W203 C350, and a Honda Fit driven in GRIDLIFE’s “Sundae Cup.” ••• Instagram: @danny_playswithcars

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