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.