From £29,170
Third-generation SLK’S abilities broadened but at the expense of inherent sportiness
22 February 2011

What is it?

Mercedes-Benz is making some big promises about its new SLK. This third-iteration two-seater, they say, represents a much larger evolutionary step forward than the second, and possesses greater sporting appeal than its predecessor.

What’s it like?

Dimensionally, the new roadster has grown: length is up by 31mm, width by 33mm and height by 5mm. Its rear-wheel drive chassis is a development of that used by the outgoing model, with the same 2430mm wheelbase but wider tracks.

Inside, the new SLK feels roomier than its predecessor, largely thanks to its added width, which frees up shoulder room. The design of the dashboard, instruments, controls, air vents and centre console borrows various aeronautical themes from the SLS. It’s nicely laid out and an improvement on the old car, if a little heavy on hard plastics.

One of the most impressive things about the new SLK remains its folding hard-top roof. Now it has a lightweight magnesium frame and a new electronic mechanism for faster operation, taking less than 20 seconds to open up.

Mercedes plans to introduce three SLKs to the UK in June: the SLK 200 with a 181bhp turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine, the SLK 250 packing a more highly tuned 201bhp version of the same four-cylinder unit, and the SLK 350 running Merc’s new normally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 with 302bhp. Later in the year there will also be an SLK 250 CDI with a 201bhp 2.2-litre diesel – the first oil-burner in an SLK – as well as the SLK 55 AMG, which gets a new 422bhp normally aspirated version of AMG’s new 5.5-litre V8.

The engine in the SLK 250 we’re testing, which will account for a significant chunk of UK sales, seems well suited to the car, providing gutsy performance across a wide range of revs and greater levels of top-end smoothness than you’d expect from a four-pot.

With 228lb ft of torque at 2000rpm, the new powerplant pulls heartily from low revs and reaches its 6200rpm cut-out without strain. Its best work, however, is done through the mid-range, where a combination of forced induction and direct injection technology provide impressive flexibility.


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The new engine comes mated to a standard six-speed manual gearbox, although most buyers will opt for the seven-speed automatic – as fitted to our test car. Despite the inclusion of all the fuel-saving technology seen on other new Mercedes-Benz models – standard stop-start, brake energy recuperation and a disengaging alternator – the SLK’s steering retains electro-hydraulic assistance, and at just 2.2 turns lock to lock it’s a good deal quicker than before.

But despite all the hype, the new SLK really doesn’t deliver the leap in sportiness Mercedes led us to expect. It’s well balanced with good body control, but it just doesn’t engage or reward the driver in quite the same way as some of its rivals.

In a broader sense, though, it still feels very accomplished. At a steady high-speed cruise the SLK 250 has impressive refinement, and ride quality is excellent. The new model receives variable damping control, and in comfort mode it is surprisingly supple. A stiff body structure, which incorporates a new cross-member located behind the seats, provides the basis for the smooth progress.

Should I buy one?

So while there are more overtly sporting roadsters, few can claim to match the new SLK’s impressive breadth of dynamic abilities. Which means that if the idea of a junior SL takes your fancy, you’re going to like the new SLK a lot.

Mercedes SLK 250 CGI

Price: £36,000 (est); Top speed: 151mph; 0-62mph: 6.6sec; Economy: 45.6mpg; CO2: 144g/km; Kerb weight: 1425kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1796cc, turbo, petrol; Installation: Front, longitudinal, RWD; Power: 201bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 228lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic

Join the debate


2 March 2011

A gorgeous car which looks more muscular than the mark 2 version.not keen on the retro air vents and old fashioned center console .I still want one though!!

2 March 2011

Rather too butch for my taste, but I can see its appeal. The seating position is excellent. It's the first sports car I can think of that doesn't include the normally mandatory element of being near impossible to get in and out of, top up.

2 March 2011

Nice enough and will appeal to a certain sector of the market, as it always has. Unfortunately though, the formula they use will never take the fight to the Porsche Boxster (which is what I suspect some were hoping for), although I am not sure that is where Mercedes want to be with this car.

2 March 2011

Very good looking car. 422bhp! Merc just minced the Boxster! Winner!

3 March 2011

[quote Autocar]

his third-iteration two-seater, they say, represents a much larger evolutionary step forward than the second, and possesses greater sporting appeal than its predecessor.

[/quote] As near as you can get to an appealing Merc, I'd be tempted - except the local Merc Retailer never shows any interest when I visit the showroom. As for it mincing a Boxster I'm reminded of the old tyre ad "Power is nothing without control", the Porsche will run rings around this.

3 March 2011

[quote The Special One]Very good looking car. 422bhp! Merc just minced the Boxster! Winner![/quote]

A predictable comment from this poster. Translation: the most powerful engine in this car is more powerful than the most powerful engine in the Boxster. So? I don't think the two are rivals. The Boxster is an out and out sports car, the SLK is a 21st century Pagoda, which is no bad thing at all (I like them), but this SLK will never be a style icon like its forebear.

6 March 2011

I still prefer the looks of thel first SLK...the Boxter is another league, but over this I will choose even a Z4 35i

7 March 2011

[quote The Special One]422bhp! Merc just minced the Boxster! Winner![/quote]The Special One! Trash talking Porsche! Again!

7 March 2011

[quote The Special One]422bhp! Merc just minced the Boxster! Winner![/quote]

Are you on drugs?

31 May 2013

lovely model. i love it. i cant decide between this and z4. 

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