The four petrol engines – two turbocharged 1.8s, a 3.5 V6 and a 5.5 V8 – are a wildly different bunch. The 416bhp V8 and 302bhp V6 are very strong, and come mated to a slick seven-speed automatic gearbox. The entry-level 1.8 is disappointingly short of performance, so you’re better off with the higher-powered version. There are no complaints about the diesel’s pace; it’s punchy from any revs and, unlike the 1.8 petrols, it gets the auto ’box as standard.
The SLK doesn’t do either of these things well enough. It can’t match a BMW Z4 for comfort, and if you choose a model with sports suspension, the ride gets even worse. It can’t get anywhere near its best rivals for fun, either, due to its somewhat sloppy handling in corners.
The SLK has always been one of the more refined open cars. Sure enough, wind and road noise are generally well contained, but models with large wheels generate too much road noise on coarse surfaces. The diesel and smaller petrol engines ruin things, though, because they’re gruff and sound harsh when you rev them. The vague manual gearshift isn’t ideal, either.
The SLK isn’t cheap to buy, especially when compared with superior rivals. However, you can expect strong resale values to help protect your investment. Your day-to-day running costs will be modest, thanks to low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, helped by standard engine stop-start across the range.
The SLK looks like a class act at first glance, with appealing metal air vents and soft-touch materials on the dashboard. However, some of the materials in other parts of the cabin let the side down, as do some flimsy switches, so it doesn’t feel quite as substantial or as swanky as some rivals. The SLK shouldn’t cause you too many headaches; the previous version was rated ‘average’ for mechanical reliability in the most recent JD Power survey.
The SLK has Mercedes’ Attention Assist system to alert tired drivers, the Pre-Safe anticipatory crash-protection system and a pop-up bonnet to reduce the risk to any pedestrian you may hit. That’s not to mention the six airbags and stability control you also get. The folding hard top makes it more secure than drop-tops that have just a few layers of canvas over your head, too.
It’s easy to tweak the SLK’s driving position, because there’s loads of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel. You may wish your seat went lower, though, and the offset pedals could hurt your long-distance comfort. The dashboard has too many small, poorly marked buttons, and the menus used to control most functions are complicated.
The SLK’s two-seater cabin is spacious and accommodating. Really tall occupants might find the tops of their heads in the airstream with the roof down, but that’s true of any roadster. The boot is a respectable size with the top up, but space and access are limited when the roof is folded down. There’s plenty of storage space in the cabin.
Every SLK comes with most of the goodies you’ll want in a luxury roadster – and more than you get with key rivals. Air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a DAB radio and powered operation for the roof and windows are all standard; we’d expect climate control to be standard on all models, though. There are all sorts of exotic and interesting options.
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