Mercedes SLK 200 K

A raft of improvements mean the sporty SLK is ready to challenge for class honours.

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The sharper look of the SLK is only one part of the mix that makes it a more credible contender in the roadster race. While prices have increased by around £1,000 across the range, it’s money well spent. Drivers not only get a higher quality cabin and a host of clever extras, but a revised engine range that offers increased performance, improved fuel economy and reduced carbon emissions

TOP marks to Mercedes. The current SLK may seem hard to beat, but the firm has lifted the lid on the revised version. And it has a few more tricks up its sleeve than looks alone.

The SLK’s price tag has risen by £1,000, but with a punchier engine line-up and much improved economy, cabrio fans should find the latest model hard to resist.

Its Formula One-inspired facelift helps to give it a more edgy appeal, as the newcomer aims to meet the challenge of key rivals, including the BMW Z4, Porsche Boxster and Audi TT Roadster head on.

But how does the two-seater perform on the road? To find out, we tried the entry-level 200 K version.

With prices starting at £29,705, there’s no cheaper way of owning an SLK. The four-cylinder version misses out on the lightweight alloys of more powerful models, but you still get the reworked rear end, with updated tail-lights and new exhaust tips.

The wing mirrors are larger, too, and now come with LED indicator repeaters. New colours, including special silver and green tints, are also available. Inside, the cockpit is snug and well constructed. The centre console remains cluttered, but there are smart dials with brushed aluminium highlights and red needles. The three-spoke steering wheel includes multifunction controls as standard.

When the roof is in place, the cabin is light and airy, and visibility is excellent. With the top down, an optional transparent windshield can be fitted between the headrests to boost rearward vision.

Dropping the three-piece metal top takes a somewhat lengthy 22 seconds, although the operation can be performed while the car is travelling at speeds up to 5mph. Once down, occupants are well insulated from buffeting.

However, Mercedes still hasn’t solved the problem of what to do with the stowed top. The folded panels are stored in the boot, which reduces space from a useful 300 litres to a less practical 208 litres.

As with its predecessor, the options list on the SLK is vast. Voice-activated commands are now possible via the firm’s Linguatronic system, and you can also opt for a Harman/Kardon surround-sound stereo. To keep your neck and shoulders warm, there’s Mercedes’ Airscarf system, which blows warm air from the head restraints. And manoeuvring the car is made easier with the help of a new direct steering feature, which was fitted to the model we drove.

An evolution of the firm’s speed-assist system, and likely to set you back an extra £220, this impressive gadget not only takes into account the car’s speed, but also the steering angle. In town, it makes parking and quick U-turns astonishingly easy. But on the motorway, the wheel weights up, which makes for more relaxed long-distance driving.

With such a potent engine line-up on offer, including the vocal new 3.5-litre V6, our entry-level 200 may not appear to be the best choice at first glance. But the supercharged unit is not short on thrills, and drivers certainly won’t be disappointed by its improved performance. Power has risen from 161bhp to 181bhp, and after a slightly sluggish start in the low gears, the unit perks up at around 3,000rpm.

The six-speed manual gearbox isn’t as slick as we’d have liked, but for an extra £1,480, buyers can opt for the firm’s five-speed automatic. As well as more power, economy has been boosted by 4.2mpg to an impressive 36.7mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 output has dropped from 209g/km to 182g/km. But the real changes to the Merc are not in the detail, but its overall appeal. The newcomer’s carefully judged upgrades don’t simply keep the SLK up to date, but ensure that the three-pointed star has lost none of its shine.

Most Popular

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time
Vauxhall Astra teaser 1
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra teased for the first time

The new Vauxhall Astra will get electrified powertrains and a more premium image
8 Jun 2021
‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'
Gearknob
Opinion

‘Our switch to electric will soon make driving manual cars a lost art'

Want to drive a manual car? You need to take your test in a manual car. So what happens once all driving-school cars are automatic EVs?
8 Jun 2021
New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp
Tesla Model S facelift - front
Tesla Model S

New 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid launched with 1,006bhp

Range-topping version of the Tesla Model S officially unveiled, with a sprint time of 0-60mph in less than two seconds
10 Jun 2021
'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'
Toyota Mirai opinion
Opinion

'The hydrogen underdog disruptor is back in town'

Mike Rutherford says hydrogen-powered cars could still be a frequent sight on UK roads
13 Jun 2021
New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle
Volkswagen T7 Multivan - front
Volkswagen Caravelle

New 2021 Volkswagen T7 Multivan replaces Caravelle

The Volkswagen T7 Multivan MPV switches to the MQB platform and adds plug-in hybrid technology
10 Jun 2021
'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'
Car manufacturing
Opinion

'Factories are at a standstill because they can’t get the parts to finish cars'

Steve Fowler points out the fresh issues facing global car manufacturing
9 Jun 2021
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain
Lexus NX - front action
Lexus NX SUV

New 2021 Lexus NX arrives with firm’s first plug-in hybrid drivetrain

The new Lexus NX 350h features a standard hybrid set-up, while the NX 450h+ gets a plug-in hybrid powertrain capable of 40 miles of pure electric powe…
12 Jun 2021
LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini
LEC MINI Electric
MINI

LEC launches affordable EV conversion for classic Mini

The conversion sees the Mini’s A-Series engine replaced with a dinky electric motor and a 20kWh battery for a range of 70 miles in the city
10 Jun 2021
Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features
Audi S5
Audi

Audi updates line-up for 2022 with new tech and trim features

Almost every car in Audi’s line-up has received a tweak, with major updates including Amazon Alexa integration and a Sonos stereo
11 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021
'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'
Honda opinion
Opinion

'GM taking over Honda would be a disaster'

Mike Rutherford is worried about Honda's future, despite its recent motorsport success
6 Jun 2021
Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?
A red Ford Mustang Mach-E parked
Advertisement Feature

Mustang Mach-E: your next company car?

Thinking of getting a new company car? Here’s why you should consider putting the Mustang Mach-E on your shortlist
11 Jun 2021
New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review
Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition - front
Volkswagen T-Cross

New Volkswagen T-Cross Black Edition 2021 review

The small Volkswagen T-Cross SUV turns on the style in new Black Edition trim
11 Jun 2021