From £29,170
Makes sense if you can forgive the noise, unexceptional dynamics and standard kit

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz SLK
Evolutionary looks shroud new underpinnings. Is it a good mix?

The Mercedes-Benz SLK has the right image, a posh cabin and it's easy to live with

21 February 2012

What is it?

The diesel cabriolet shouldn’t still be a conundrum. Well over half of new car sales are diesel and ever-improving refinement has made oil burners acceptable, even desirable, in a performance-oriented installation.

That Mercedes has decided to fit its popular baby roadster with its 201bhp twin-turbodiesel four-pot is testament to the demand for sporting image without the associated high running costs. The SLK 250 CDI gets the company’s single-clutch '7G’ seven-speed automatic as standard, and here we’re testing the Sport model, which gets 10mm lowered ride height and 18-inch alloys as standard.

What’s it like?

Pretty good, if a little underwhelming if you’re hoping for an enthusiastic drive.

In normal use the powertrain is actually more cohesive than some of the petrol counterparts. The ratios are well chosen, and whilst this is not the quickest gearbox around it’s rare to find it picking an awkward gear. Simply put, it’s a great car for sticking in ‘economy’ and cruising around without having to think about it.

And if you want more vigorous progress, with 369lb ft of torque there’s gobs of acceleration in the mid-range and this makes the diesel SLK a rapid and relaxing thing to drive quickly.

But it’s not all good news. Refinement is not what you might expect, roof up or down, with engine noise intruding even under normal or light load. It settles at a cruise, but this does seem to be a particularly noisy motor in this installation by any small diesel standard – not simply because a diesel soundtrack remains at odds with a style-led convertible.

The ride is also hit-and-miss. Most would find the results acceptable given the nature of the SLK, but it’s quite jittery and firm around town, and there is never any real precision or subtlety to the damping.

Nor to the handling in general. Even with optional direct steering (£215), providing speed-variable steering response, the diesel SLK never feels light on its feet. It’s a pleasant way to travel but not an engaging one.

Should I buy one?

If the combination of style, open top and economy appeals, then yes. The SLK is unlikely to disappoint. The diesel racket and uninspiring dynamics are frustrating, but the desirability, high-end finish and folding hard top put it ahead of the cheaper but less powerful Audi TT, plus headline figures of 56.5mpg combined economy and 132g/km are seriously impressive.

However, if you are in the market for the SLK 250 CDI, think hard before opting for the £36k Sport model tested here. It’s not as well specced as you might hope - you’ll still have to pay extra for cup holders, parking sensors, auto wipers and heated seats – and the standard BlueEfficiency model loses the lowered ride and comes in at £4k less.

Mercedes SLK 250 CDI AMG Sport

Price: £36,250; Price as tested: £47,605; 0-62mph: 6.7sec; Top speed: 151mph; Kerb weight: 1590kg; Economy: 56.5mpg (combined); CO2: 132g/km; Engine: 4 cyls in line, 2143cc, twin-turbodiesel; Max power: 201bhp at 4200rpm; Max torque: 369lb ft at 1600-2500rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd auto

Join the debate

Comments
21

21 February 2012

[quote Autocar] It’s not as well specced as you might hope - you’ll still have to pay extra for cup holders, parking sensors, auto wipers and heated seats [/quote]

[quote Autocar] Price: £36,250; Price as tested: £47,605 [/quote]

Whoa! I know it's been a good few years since I bought my last car, but that seems pretty expensive... with or without cup holders!

21 February 2012

This engine seems to perform very well in this car - I wonder when BMW will offer a diesel Z4...

21 February 2012

[quote Fidji]

This engine seems to perform very well in this car - I wonder when BMW will offer a diesel Z4...

[/quote]

With a M badge, 4WD and an automatic gearbox...

21 February 2012

A fair and just way to introduce diesel users to the 'diesel clatter' noise that pedestians have to put up with

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

21 February 2012

Oh dear, that doesn't look good. Perhaps its that dreadful murky colour, but no - looking at it again - it is definitely misshapen and discordant. Topped with the droning clattery lump under the bonnet, dear oh dear. And furthermore: [quote Autocar] If the combination of style, open top and economy appeals.[/quote] Sorry, but where exactly is the economy in: [quote Autocar]Price as tested: £47,605[/quote]

  • If you want to know about a car, read a forum dedicated to it; that's a real 'long term test' . No manufacturer's warranty, no fleet managers servicing deals, no journalist's name to oil the wheels...

DKW

21 February 2012

[quote BriMarsh]Sorry, but where exactly is the economy in: [quote Autocar]Price as tested: £47,605[/quote][/quote] Agree. SLKs are not used as sales reps' cars - annual mileage is typically too moderate to get it for the fuel savings. Get it for the torque and/or range if you want, but at 47 'kin large specced up this ain't economy motoring.

21 February 2012

I am not a fan of this new SLK at all, out of all the new mercs that have come out ( I like all of them) this is the worst looking and runt of the litter in terms of design and looks !

It just does not look right and looks so akward from every angle, might be better looking in the flesh but from the pics its not very good. Its a shame as the new SL looks really nice and elegent and the new pics about the SL AMG 63 make it look even better.

Shame I cant say the same about this SLK, interior looks nice like a mini SLS, i dont mind the diesel engine as its got a lot of power and will be nice for everyday driving and motorway miles, this car is more like a mini gt car.

My money would go on either a BMW Z4 or Audi TT.

21 February 2012

For the past few years, petrols outsell diesels Vicky! Finally some sense? I hope so!

21 February 2012

This SLK does not have the appeal of the previous model.I would rather have the C or E Class coupe.

21 February 2012

Went to have a look at one of these a few weeks ago as a potential replacement for the Zed, looks better in the flesh and agree the extra £4k for the AMG is a tad steep and wouldn't be my choice.. Doing 25,000 miles a year an oil burner makes sense, but you just can't beat a 3.0l six for putting a smile on your face.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka