Mercedes SLK cabriolet
Price: £32,615 - £55,335
- Stylish design
- High quality cabin
- Lightweight folding roof with adjustable transparency
- Quite expensive
- Poor rear visibility
- Not as fun to drive as some rivals
"The Mercedes SLK is a stunning looking roadster that offers open-top driving thrills and a luxurious interior."
The Mercedes SLK is a premium roadster and a slightly more exclusive rival to cars like the BMW Z4 and Audi TT. It features a sleek, sporty design that gives it plenty of head-turning appeal, while the interior is luxurious and high quality. Thanks to a driving mode system that lets you switch between the standard suspension and a more sporty setting, the SLK excels as both a comfortable cruiser and as a racier performance car.
There's a wide range of powerful engines, including – for the first time ever on an SLK – a diesel engine that offers economy of over 50mpg. The folding metal roof is superbly designed and can be fitted with Magic Sky Control, which lets you adjust the level of transparency depending on the conditions. So you can have it darker in the summer to keep the interior cooler, and lighter in the winter so it feels a little airier. Overall, the SLK is an extremely desirable and capable roadster.
MPG, running costs & CO2
Diesel engine returns very impressive fuel economy
All versions of the SLK get stop-start technology and efficient gearboxes to boost economy. The engine with the lowest running costs is the four-cylinder 2.1-litre diesel in the 250 CDI, which will do 56.5mpg and 132g/km CO2 – which is seriously impressive for a luxury roadster.
The petrol engines perform pretty well, too, though. The most efficient is the 182bhp four-cylinder engine in the SLK 200, which will do 41.5mpg and 158g/km CO2. Running costs increase dramatically further up the range, with the SLK 55 AMG managing just 33.6mpg and 195g/km CO2 from its 419bhp V8.
Interior & comfort
Built for comfort, so SLK is a great cruiser
The SLK has not been designed to be an all-out sports car like the Porsche Boxster. Yes, there's plenty of performance available for those who want it, but the SLK is more about style and comfort.
The interior is roomy (for a car of this class), well made and luxurious. The seats are comfortable and the standard suspension setting will see you glide across the road. Sure, if you select the Sports suspension setting it will firm up for improved cornering and you’ll start to feel some judders through your spine – but you can always switch it back to standard mode when you just want a comfortable cruise.
The optional Magic Sky Control system is brilliant – you’ll wonder how you ever did without it when you’re able to dim the transparency setting on hot days when the sun is beating down. There's hardly any wind or road noise with the roof up and surprisingly little when it's folded down. The Airscarf is another neat optional extra that Mercedes offers on the SLK, which includes little heating vents built into the seats to warm your neck and combat wind chill.
Practicality & boot space
The SLK has not been designed to be a practical car
Buyers in the market for a two-seater convertible are not likely to be overly troubled by a car's practicality. As it happens, though, the SLK offers a reasonably decent 335 litres of luggage capacity with the roof up – which is 25 litres more than the BMW Z4. In fact, it's more than a Ford Focus, so the SLK is by no means useless at carrying loads. Boot space is cut to 225 litres with the roof folded, which is still better than most rivals. The boot also has a useful twin-height floor, which is useful for squeezing in bulky items.
Reliability & safety
Build quality you can depend on and a range of safety equipment
The current version of the SLK hasn’t been crash tested by Euro NCAP, so it doesn’t have a safety rating. We’d expect it to pick up five stars though, as it comes with a range of safety systems. These include standard systems like airbags, electronic stability control and ABS, but also advanced technology like attention assist, which monitors the driver's alertness for signs of drowsiness. There's an active bonnet system that helps protect pedestrians in the vent of a crash. There's even a crash anticipation system that can detect if a collision is likely and pre-tenses the seat belts.
Reliability should be guaranteed, too, as Mercedes has one of the best reputations in the business. It came fifth in the 2013 Driver Power manufacturer chart – ahead of BMW and Audi.
Engines, drive & performance
Engines are powerful and responsive and suspension is adjustable for performance
The SLK has not been engineered for maximum performance, so it's not a match for the Porsche Boxster on a winding country road. It's still enjoyable to drive though and the best SLK Mercedes has ever produced in this respect.
There are four powerful petrol engines and a lower-powered diesel to choose from. Even the entry-level diesel feels fast thanks to its high level of torque, but the petrol engines offer the best performance. The 204bhp four-cylinder SLK 250 probably offers the best mix of performance and economy, but our favourite is the charismatic 306bhp 3.5-litre V6 engine in the SLK 350, it's seriously quick and a whole lot of fun. Those who are serious about their driving thrills and have the purchasing power to back it up should may like the look of the 5.5-litre 415bhp SLK 55 – it's breathtakingly fast, although not as good to drive as the equivalent Porsche Boxster.
Price, value for money & options
Very pricey but relatively competitive compared to rival models
The SLK is a luxury two-seater car, so it's not cheap. Entry-level models are a little bit more expensive than base spec BMW Z4s and Audi TTs, but then the Mercedes is more exclusive, so that's justified to a certain extent.
The entry-level diesel SLK 250 CDI comes with LED bumper lights, alloy wheels, a tyre pressure monitoring system, air-con and folding metal roof as standard.
Higher spec models don’t get a huge amount of extra kit – just bigger engines – so you’ll have to fork out extra if you want sat-nav, for example. And watch out, because the options are pricey. AMG models do get a sportier body kit, larger alloys and leather sports seats, though. All versions should have a decent resale value in the future.
What the others say
"The SLK is still far from a raw sports car. Roof up or down, it's more comfortable and spacious then before, with road and wind noise well suppressed, and even with the suspension in the firmer ‘sport’ setting, it rarely loses composure, which means there's plenty of grip through corners."
"This latest model brings us Magic Sky Control that switches the roof to light or dark at the flick of a switch. Can this new gizmo and new driving dynamics of the SLK be enough to worry Porsche's Boxster and BMW's Z4?"
"Third generation SLK sportier than second generation SLK."
"The first issue to address with this new third-generation SLK: is it actually a new car or just a re-skin of the previous one? No fashion-conscious roadster buyer wants last year's cast-offs after all. Prove us wrong Mercedes!"
Last updated: 5 Mar 2014