What's the used Mercedes SLK sports like?
Before the present Mercedes-Benz SLC, there was the SLK. Like the newer car, it was a two-seater drop-top premium sports car of diminutive size, first launched in 1996 and designed to sit beneath the larger and more expensive SL convertible model in the Mercedes’ range. Its winning looks won it many fans, and it was replaced in 2004 by an updated second-generation model with even edgier styling.
This one was the third generation car, introduced in 2011 and all new from the ground up. Like the first two, it was compact and luxurious, with a folding hard-top roof. It offered a choice of not only petrol but, for the first time in the SLK, a diesel engine, and you could also choose from four cylinders or six and you could even have a manual six-speed gearbox on the basic models, the more usual option being a seven-speed automatic. For those who desired speed above all else, there was the super-sporting SLK 55, which could whisk from 0 to 60mph in just 4.6 seconds and run up to a limited 155mph top speed.
On the road, the SLK has never been known as an out-and-out sports car, more a lightweight grand tourer with the ability to provide some wind-in-the-hair fun at the same time. Within that definition, it’s good to drive, whichever engine you opt for, although the diesels are distinctly gruff. The performance of the bottom-line SLK 200 petrol engine is adequate rather than scintillating, but the larger-engined SLKs 250 and 350 don’t lack for outright puff. The SLK 55, meanwhile, will set fire to Tarmac and make your undergarments tingle.
In corners, the chassis provides the car with plenty of grip, but the steering is a little unexciting, despite being quite quick, and its handling is not the sort to please an enthusiast. It doesn’t ride particularly well, either, whether you find a car equipped with the optional adaptive dampers or not. However, you might think that a price worth paying for owning a relatively heavy and nicely trimmed convertible car. Sharp bumps and potholes can catch it out, though, making it feel less the able grand tourer, while still not quite a sports car.
Inside, the driving position is good, with reasonable adjustment built into the steering wheel and seat, although taller drivers will find it cramped. Sit in the snug cockpit and you are met with brushed aluminium switches and vents, and leather on every surface that isn’t metal or a colour screen. It’s an interior that leaves you thoroughly convinced of the Mercedes’ premium status. The optional ‘vario-roof’, a clear glass panel set into the folding electric roof, sounds like an underwhelming detail but it adds a lot to the ambience of the cabin and is something no other direct rival offered at the time.