Mercedes SLK (2011-2016) review
The Mercedes SLK was the first car to feature a folding-metal roof and the latest model has aggressive looks and a sharper drive
The latest installment of the famed Mercedes SLK luxury roadster is aiming to broaden its appeal having long been the favoured choice of well-heeled female buyers. That means muscular styling borrowed from the SLS supercar, more focused driving dynamics and an improvement in quality. Offered with a range of four and six-cylinder engines, this generation also introduces a diesel model for the first time, with the promise of over 50mpg economy and over 500Nm of torque. Other highlights include a hi-tech sunroof and the obligatory AMG version – which gets a clever V8 engine and delivers an impressive 415bhp.
Our choice: Mercedes SLK 250 CDI auto
Engines, performance and drive
There are four petrols and a single diesel to choose from. The petrol range kicks off with the four-cylinder 184bhp SLK 200 which comes with either a six-speed manual or smooth 7G Tronic automatic gearbox. It’s eager enough but doesn’t sound or feel especially sporty. The six-cylinder option is the charismatic and refined 350 that produces 306bhp and feels really quick, but those seeking even greater thrills can opt for the 5.5-litre 415bhp SLK 55 AMG. The SLK grips well and is better to drive than its predecessors, but numb steering and a crashy ride stop it challenging the class leading Porsche Boxster.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Equipped with the new four-cylinder 250CDI diesel engine the SLK will return a remarkable 56.5mpg and emits just 132g/km of C02. However thanks to engine start/stop technology and long gearing even the 350 V6 will manage 39mpg when driven carefully. The optional automatics are cleaner than manual versions, but the difference is marginal. Insurance, parts and servicing are all as high as you would expect from a premium brand, but get carried away with the options list and the SLK can start to look expensive compared to its close rivals.
Interior, design and technology
The SLK’s dramatic styling is definitely the equal of rivals like the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster. Taking its cues from the gullwing SLS supercar, the gaping grille, swept back headlights and long bonnet give it a low, aggressive stance. LED lights on the bumper come standard on all models, as do alloys wheels and the folding metal roof, which stows neatly into the boot. AMG sport models add side skirts, bigger alloy wheels and tinted front a rear lights and leather sports seats.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
How much space there is for luggage depends on whether you choose to have the roof up or down, but the SLK is capable of carrying more baggage than most of its rivals. With the roof in place there’s 335-litres of space – more than a Ford Focus - but with the roof open this shrinks to 225-litres. Inside, there’s plenty of space and it’s easy to get comfortable quickly, and neat extras like the optional Airscarf heater vents in the seats and the lack of turbulence in the cabin make the SLK an excellent top-down cruiser.
Reliability and Safety
The SLK is one of the safest cars in its class thanks to a variety of active systems that first appeared on the flagship S-Class. Attention Assist monitors the drivers to ensure you don’t nod off at the wheel, while Pre-Safe senses if a collision is imminent and activates the pre-tension seatbelts. Optional kit also includes Lane Keep Assist and DISTRONIC plus, a cruise control that matches the SLK’s speed to the car in front, which makes for a relaxing drive on the motorway.