Steve reviews whether the current Mercedes SLK is a perfect car for summer.
The Mercedes SLK is now into its third generation and was first shown at the 2011 Geneva Motor show in preparation for its release later that year and designated by Mercedes as R172. This SLK model aimed to improve on the quality and equipment from the previous R171 model and adopted various options from its predecessor such as Mercedes airscrarf system and also gained the front engine, rear wheel drive set up. The third generation SLK was a stark contrast in appearance compared to its predecessor which had based its looks on Mercedes Formula one cars and the SLR Mclaran supercar. The current SLK has adapted a more of a conservative look in my opinion by having less of a raked/pointed nose, but this has also made the current model look more grown up as well as bringing the design in line with the SLK’s bigger sibling the SL.
As Mercedes has had over 20 years to perfect its baby roadster you can expect the quality of the product to be top class. Needless to say the SLK does not fail to disappoint thanks to its wide track with wheels at the edge of all four corners, as well as having a large bonnet gives the car real road presence and should please style savvy customers. On top of this the car benefits from having a hard top folding roof which only increases its desirability in a very competitive sector as road and wind noise is reduced over a conventional folding soft top. Obviously there is a price to pay for a metal folding roof which is increased weight compared to fabric roofed competitors, but I feel this is a small price to pay for the added benefits of a hard top.
It’s worth noting that in 2016 the SLK range was revised and renamed the SLC to bring the model marketing on par with the rest of Mercedes products. The SLC is in effect a facelifted version of the SLK with revised engine options but may easily cause confusion amongst used car buyers. However for this article we are only focusing on the SLK spec and drivetrain options as these are more plentiful on the used car market.
The SLK range is a available with four petrol engines and for the first time ever, a diesel engine. The engines on offer are:
SLK 200 which is the entry level engine - a 1.8 four cylinder turbo charged engine producing 181bhp.
SLK 250 has the same 1.8 four cylinder turbo charged engine from the 200 but with increased power to 201bhp.
SLK 350 is a 3.5 V6 turbo charged engine producing 301bhp and as fitted to the previous SLK.
SLK 55 is the AMG derived 5.5 litre naturally aspirated V8 producing a whopping 416bhp and 398lb ft of torque.
SLK 250CDI is as mentioned earlier the first ever diesel engine fitted to the SLK and should please the fuel conscious. It produces 201bhp/ 369lb ft of torque from the four cylinder twin turbo unit, but benefits from a combined manufacture stated figure of 56.5mpg and 132g/km. What’s more, the diesel version is available with the 7 speed automatic gearbox as standard.
It must be noted that both the SLK200 and SLK250 are available with a six speed manual gearbox as standard but the 7 speed auto is available as a £1500 extra as on our test car. All the other models in the range come with the automatic gearbox as standard.
Driving the Mercedes SLK
The SLK I have on test is a 2015 SLK 200 AMG sport which is fitted with a 1.8 litre turbo charged petrol engine which produces 181hp (184ps) and mated to a 7 speed automatic gearbox.
Sliding into the black leather bucket driving seat I found it to be very supportive, with very good side bolsters as well as being electrically controlled and fitted with lumbar support. I felt the SLK cabin oozes with quality, thanks to soft touch plastics, leather trim and nicely positioned switch gear makes the SLK a nice place to sit. Naturally there is a good level of equipment fitted to SLK models and our test car was no exception. This particular car had the niceties such as heated electric seats, sat nav, parking sensors and the airscarf system for keeping your neck warm whilst driving with the roof down.
Turning the key the 1.8 engine bursts into life with a nice rumble and selecting drive on the tunnel shifter the car pulls away effortlessly. Out on the open road I found the 1.8 turbo engine refined and 7 speed automatic a nice duo as the engine had plenty of torque united with smooth and quick gear changes, combined with a good kick down. I found the 1.8 lump more than adequate for all driving conditions and would please most buyers. Obviously the more powerful SLK250 may be a nice compromise for those wanting a balance of economy and more power but it had a £4,000 premium when new and this will reflect in the used car market. If outright power is what you’re after then you would be better off with either the SLK 350 or the range topping SLK55, both of which will provide the extra power and sweeter engine note which will make the SLK more enjoyable.
As one would expect from a sports car the handling of the SLK was also impressive as it ironed out the bumps well despite being naturally firm and yet surprisingly this still allowed the handling to be composed, comfortable and obviously agile. This is due to the SLK being fitted with Mercedes Multilink suspension setup and further improved with passive dampers and a stiff chassis. In addition the steering matches the cars sporting credentials by being nicely weighted, allowing it to be light relatively precise. I will admit that the steering could be slightly more direct to improve response and feel for the driver. However, overall I found the steering helped build confidence to push the car hard into the bends and thoroughly enjoy the SLK on country roads. The handling characteristics are finished off with large perforated brake discs front and rear which stop the SLK on a six pence, and partly due to Pirelli tyres as fitted on this car. The brakes have an added purpose as the SLK can active any of the brakes individually to improve cornering.
The Motorists Guide View:
The third generation SLK is a vast improvement on its predecessor which is thanks to both mechanical improvements and enhanced styling which make the SLK a good sports car purchase thanks to an all-round package making the current SLK worthy successor. This is further supported by superb build quality, with nice materials and a quality fit and finish that consumers have come to expect from Mercedes. Let’s also not forget a key feature of the SLK is a car to be enjoyed for country drives and one where the SLK does not fail to disappoint, thanks to being comfortable, fun but also a relaxing place to be behind the wheel, which most owners will happily drive for long distances.
Length: 4,134 mm
Width: 1,817 mm
Height: 1,303 mm
Curb weight: 1,475 kg