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Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class road test report

Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Mercedes SLK now enters its third generation and it gains a bit more attitude than before courtesy of some SLS-alike styling. The cabin also borrows some of its style from Merc’s gullwinged supercar, but the SLK still remains one of the most friendly, usable and likeable roadsters on the market. It may not rival a Porsche Boxster for outright pace or handling, but it has it taped when it comes to looking good with the top down.

Road Test Reports Says4 star rating
A front-facing image of the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Image number 2 of the Mercedes-Benz SLK-ClassImage number 3 of the Mercedes-Benz SLK-ClassImage number 4 of the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

Performance Performance - 4 stars

There are three engines that form the backbone of the SLK range. A pair of 1.8-litre petrols in 184- and 204bhp forms for the 200 and 250 models respectively and a 3.5-litre V6 with 306bhp for the SLK 350. The 350 is everything you’d expect of a powerful roadster, with the noise and acceleration to back up the performance promise. It cracks 0-62mph in just 5.6 seconds and has a top speed of 155mph. Only transmission choice for the 350 is a seven-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for when you’re feeling sporty. Combined with Mercedes variable ESP system that offers normal, Sport and Sport+ settings, the SLK 350 can go from boulevard cruiser to back road bruiser at the twiddle of a dial. In Sport+ mode, there’s a little more freedom for the back wheels to spin before the ESP comes into play, which is ideal for tight and twisty roads, and the gearbox hangs on to gears for longer to make full use of the engine’s broad spread of power. However, it’s the smaller 1.8-litre versions of the new SLK that feel the more lively and engaging. The 200 needs its 184bhp revved hard to give its best, yet it’s flexible and has just enough low down oomph to be forceful out of corners and when overtaking. If you want the best balance, though, the 250 is the engine to go for. It offers 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, compared to the 200’s 7.3 seconds. For the time being the 250 only comes with a seven-speed auto but will be offered with the same six-speed manual as the 200 by the end of 2011. At the same time, Mercedes will also offer a 250 turbodiesel SLK for the very first time. All new SLKs come with an ECO function that works the stop/start to switch the engine off when the car is at a standstill.

Ride & Handling Ride & Handling - 4 stars

If you’re looking for a hardcore handling alternative to a Porsche Boxster, carry on walking past the Mercedes showroom as the SLK is not it. Instead, the SLK is a sharper, better handling version of its previous incarnations but with comfort still to the fore. Front end bite in the new SLK is impressive, with ideally weighted steering that has even more feel and accuracy to its actions than Merc’s SLS AMG supercar. No matter how hard you try, the nose of the SLK simply refuses to run wide and instead just follows a faithful path round any bend in the road. The rear end is equally well behaved and makes the SLK a fine car for those who like to press on but without the drama of a Porsche or BMW Z4. Even so, the SLK feels more alert than an Audi TT Roadster thanks to its rear-drive chassis. The SLK also manages to be the most comfortable car in its class thanks to a plush ride at all speeds and no shimmy from the open bodywork when the roof is lowered. Raise the scissor action metal roof and the SLK is transformed into a snug two-seat coupe with excellent high speed refinement.

Build Quality & Reliability Build Quality & Reliability - 5 stars

No complaints here and the new SLK is every inch the classy convertible you’d expect from Mercedes. In fact, the latest SLK feels more substantial and better made then previous generations, a fact underlined by the simpler and more solid feel to the cabin design. As for the engines and mechanical parts, they are all proven bits from other Mercedes models, and Merc assures us any problems with the folding mechanism of the roof are long since cured.

Safety & Security Safety & Security - 5 stars

A folding metal roof is always going to offer so much more security than a fabric hood. Even with Mercedes’ optional Magic Sky roof that uses a glass panel in place of the standard steel roof section, the SLK is a more thief-proof car than its rivals fitted with canvas hoods. An alarm, immobiliser and deadlocks help further with security, while a locking glovebox is an essential in a roadster. As for safety, the latest SLK benefits from most of the safety developments seen in the current E-Class, such as Attention Assist to warn if the driver is becoming drowsy. There’s also Merc’s Pre-Safe system that anticipates an accident and primes the car to cope with it by tightening seatbelts. There’s also an active bonnet to help with pedestrian protection, along with the expected ESP and ABS brakes as standard on all models.

Space & Practicality Space & Practicality - 4 stars

For a two-seater, the SLK is good but not outstanding for driver and passenger space. We found the seat back too upright when the seat was moved to its rear-most position, so those with long legs may find the SLK’s driving position compromised. Otherwise, the steering wheel moves for angle and reach and the seat has a wide range of movement. All-round vision is good with the roof up or down and we had no problems judging the extremities of the SLK when parking. A simple dash design looks classy in the SLK and is simple to read, even with the glare of the sun coming from behind. With the roof up, there’s plenty of space for luggage in the boot, but this is reduced when the roof is stowed away and accessing larger bags in the boot can be a struggle when the roof is lowered.

Ownership & Value Ownership & Value - 4 stars

You’ll need a few sheckles to buy an SLK, but then it does float gently down the depreciation curve to make this a more palatable purchase than, say, a Nissan 370Z Roadster. Running costs are very reasonable for the four-cylinder 1.8-litre models, with the 200 turning in 43.5mpg average economy when fitted with an automatic gearbox as so many of its buyers will choose. In this form, it also offers 151g/km carbon dioxide emissions to the manual’s 158g/km. Go for the 250 and you have 42.8mpg and 153g/km, while the V6 350 model is far from crippling at 39.8mpg and 167g/km. Standard specification for all SLKs includes LED daytime running lights, stereo with colour screen, Bluetooth connection, CD autochanger, climate control and heated seats. Choose the AMG Sport model and you get an AMG body styling kit, larger alloy wheels, sports suspension and leather upholstery.

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