Mercedes SLK 350
The original folding hard-top is back - but does the all new Mercedes SLK have the dynamics to match the aggressive looks?
It’s easy to be seduced by the 350’s muscular power and that dramatic noise. There’s no question that the SLK is now a serious contender in this class – and a highly polished all-rounder. Yet currently the majority of UK cars sold are 200s, and the new 350 is unlikely to change that. The 250 looks almost exactly the same, costs significantly less to buy and run, and, thanks to its lighter weight, is better to drive too.
Meet Mercedes' mini SLS! The all-new SLK looks more aggressive thanks to AMG supercar-inspired styling – but does it drive like one too? Auto Express got behind the wheel to find out.
We’ve already tested the mid-range four-cylinder petrol, but with a revised 3.5-litre V6 offering more power and better fuel efficiency than the previous car, can the flagship SLK 350 finally deliver the thrilling drive promised by the sharp new looks?
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Mercedes SLK
The new engine is significantly cleaner than the one it replaces, using clean burn technology and direct injection to increase fuel economy to nearly 40mpg - not bad for a car that goes from 0-62mph in just 5.6 seconds. Power delivery is linear and smooth, and the tuned exhausts provide an exhilarating soundtrack, particularly with the folding roof stowed.
However 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.
Yet the most powerful car in the line-up (until a V8-powered AMG version arrives next year) can’t quite match the handling poise of the lesser models in the range. The electrically assisted steering is a little lighter, and there’s noticeably more body roll due to the weight of the extra two cylinders. The 7G-Tronic automatic gearbox also lacks the immediacy of the latest dual-clutch systems, and it struggles to make crisp changes when you really up the pace.
The new interior is a revelation though, the jet turbine air vents and aluminium switches are lifted straight from the SLS, and build quality is superb. But at £44,115, the 350 is more expensive than both the Boxster S and BMW Z4, and less sharp to drive than either.