The Mercedes SLK has always played the comfortable tourer role to the sportier Audi TT Roadster and BMW Z4 . It now offers a rival for the TT TDI with this, the new 250 CDI diesel.
It uses the twin-turbo 2.1-litre engine seen in every Mercedes-Benz from the C-Class to the CLS. This pumps out 201bhp and a huge 369lb ft of torque, which is twice as much torque as the rather weedy 200 CGI petrol.
What’s it like to drive? A mixed bag. It’s certainly quick; plant your foot and, no matter what the revs, the engine delivers a solid shove in your back. The standard automatic gearbox also shuffles its seven gears smoothly, although it’s not the most alert when you call for a burst of acceleration.
The biggest problem is the accompanying din. This engine is feeling increasingly old in terms of refinement and smoothness, and so feels even more out of place in a glamorous roadster. There’s no escape from the noise around town, but things settle down on the motorway, although when you hit a coarse surface excessive road noise spoils the calm.
In fact, the SLK is best viewed as a high-speed cruiser. The low-speed ride is supple enough to smooth out most small urban scars, although it doesn’t deal with bigger bumps nearly as well. There’s also too much body lean and not enough composure to make the SLK fun to drive on a country road, so you’re better off taking things sedately.
At least the steering is consistently responsive and weighted.
What’s it like inside? The SLK is a better car to sit in than it is to drive. The cabin is attractive and there’s lots of adjustment to the steering wheel and driver’s seat. Most of the materials look decently upmarket, although it doesn’t take long to find some that feel a little flimsy. Shame there are so many small, fiddly buttons, too.
You get a lot of toys to play with, including a digital radio and USB connection. There are also plenty of safety systems to stop you having a crash or minimise the effects if you do have an impact.
The boot is big with the roof up (you have to lower a protective cover in the boot to lower the roof, which cuts space and limits access) and there’s lots of storage space dotted around the cabin.
Should I buy one? It’s hard to recommend the SLK. Yes, it’s got the security and theatre of an electrically folding metal roof, and it’s a decent car to cruise along in. This diesel model is also just £750 more than the 200 CGI automatic, and offers far stronger performance along with lower fuel and tax bills. It’s also nearly £3500 less than the similarly quick 250 petrol auto, so the figures stack up.
The engine is simply too uncultured and the car isn’t sporty or comfortable enough to make it worth the £32k price, though.
If you’re after a diesel or a petrol roadster, you’d be far better off heading to your nearest Audi dealership.
Audi TT Roadster
What Car? says…
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