Review: Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016)
High quality interior. Three roof options. Offered with 250 CDI diesel engine. Also available with 5.5 litre V8.
Not as good to drive as competition. Optional automatic isn't quick or decisive enough. High list prices. Avoid 18-inch wheels.
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Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016): At A Glance
The Mercedes-Benz SLK has carved out a very clear niche within a niche for itself as the classy grand tourer among the more compact and affordable roadsters from premium manufacturers. Where the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z4 are more about driving thrills and the Audi TT Roadster is design-led, the SLK provides comfort and quality as its keynote benefits.
Much of this is down to the folding metal roof, which Mercedes pioneered with its first SLK back in the mid-1990s. This model, which is the third generation of SLK, continues this idea but improves on it with the options of a panoramic glass roof and even one with glass that can be dimmed to screen its occupants from the sun.
With the roof up, the SLK is very much a closed coupe and offers much greater refinement than its fabric-roofed rivals. At the touch of a button, the roof folds away, with some considerable theatre, under the rear boot deck to leave a classy convertible to enjoy.
The SLK may be more about cruising and enjoying the journey, but it can still offer keener drivers some fun when the road ahead clears. It’s not as honed as the BMW or Porsche, but the SLK is swift enough for most needs.
Power comes from a pair of 1.8-litre petrol engines with 184PS or 204PS in the SLK200 and SLK250 respectively. There’s also an SLK350 with 3.5-litre V6 petrol motor and a turbodiesel SLK250 CDI. The two smaller petrol engines can be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox, but most SLK customers opt for the seven-speed auto that is standard with all of the other models.
For those who want more power, speed and noise from their small Merc roadster, the SLK55 AMG packs a 421PS 5.5-litre V8 engine. It’s sufficient to see the AMG model from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph.
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Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 225–335 litres
Mercedes really upped its game with the third generation of SLK. Where its predecessors could feel a little low rent in some places, this model takes its inspiration from none other than the SLS AMG coupe and roadster. This is obvious in the details such as the round air vents, that in turn are a nod to Merc’s history. There are also the deeply cowled main dials that are both clear to read and classy to look at.
Between the main dials sits a digital display for a variety of information, including the many safety features that come as standard or as options with the SLK. They include Attention Assist to warn the driver if he is feeling tired, lane keeping warning and Distronic active cruise control.
SLK buyers can also order Pre-Safe Brake and Brake Assist Plus to minimise the possibility of a collision or its effects should the worst happen. Mercedes equips the SLK with six airbags and a pop-up bonnet to help protect pedestrians in an impact.
A folding metal roof makes the SLK more secure when it’s parked up than its fabric-topped rivals as there’s no risk of it being slashed by thieves in an attempt to reach into the cabin. With the roof down, the boot is par for the class at 225 litres in capacity and this can expand to 335 litres with the roof up.
Back inside the cockpit, the centre console of the SLK is more cluttered than some due to the number of small buttons for the stereo and various other functions such as heated seats and the Sport button. However, the ventilation control use large rotary knobs and a couple of buttons for the fan speed, so they are easy to use when driving.
Another small rotary control works the dash display and is as intuitive as any we’ve tried. It’s just a shame the display screen itself looks a little like an afterthought in the way it’s incorporated into the dash.
No such criticism can be levelled at the lever that operates the electrically folding roof. It’s tucked under small leather pad so it cannot be knocked by accident. The roof folds or raises quickly with no other intervention from the driver.
When up, visibility is among the best in class, while SLK occupants experience very little ruffle from the wind when the roof is lowered. Merc’s optional Airscarf system gently blows warm air on to the necks of its occupants so you can use the car al fresco in even the coldest climates.
There is the option of a panoramic glass sunroof and also the Magic Sky Control that turns the glass roof panel dark or light at the flick of a switch let in as much sunlight as the occupants want. Underneath the panel, the SLK’s seats are well padded and offer good comfort. Some drivers might find the foot pedals offset to the centre of the car, but most will just enjoy the generous space.
Child seats that fit a Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016) like to drive?
- Engines range from SLK200 BlueEfficiency to SLK55 AMG
- Readers report Real MPG to be between 25–57 mpg
There are two very distinct sides to the Mercedes SLK - one with the roof up and the other with it stowed away. Keep the metal roof up and the SLK is very much a sleek coupe and very quiet, refined and capable of long journeys. Drop the roof and the SLK turns into a svelte roadster with just enough sportiness to live with its rivals while offering more comfort than most.
It’s true the SLK is not as invigorating to drive as a Porsche Boxster or BMW Z4, or some of the more idiosyncratic roadsters available for similar money. Even the mightily swift SLK55 AMG is more of a dragster for straight line speed than cutting exact lines through corners. Use the power of the AMG model to its full and you will also be very glad of the sophisticated ESP traction control system keeping the car in check and pointing in the right direction.
Much of the SLK’s GT feel comes from the steering. It’s an electrically assisted set-up that errs more towards making the driver’s life easy when slotting through town traffic. Head on to more curvesome country roads and there is not the same exactitude found in the Boxster. It’s something of a moot point, in reality, as few buy an SLK for this kind of sensation and it still enjoys steering that offers more than sufficient feel in all but the most extreme driving conditions.
The SLK underlines its comfort bias with a ride quality that does a fine job of isolating its occupants from the worst that British roads can throw at the suspension. It’s no roly-poly galleon in a storm, but you also notice the SLK leans a little more in corners than its rivals. Choose the optional sports suspension and the ride quality becomes compromised, offering neither the standard model’s suppleness nor any great step up in handling ability.
What’s not in doubt is the appeal of the engines. The entry-point SLK200 with its 184PS 1.8-litre petrol engine may not be an obvious star of the range but it offers 0-62mph in 7.0 seconds flat with the optional seven-speed automatic gearbox, which betters the six-speed manual’s 7.3 second time.
It heads on to 149mph and is an engine that is happy to rev, albeit with some gruffness at higher rpm. A Sport button sharpens up the throttle response in all SLKs if the driver feels so inclined.
The SLK250 offers more of the same, knocking off 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds as an auto and 6.5 seconds in manual transmission form. If the auto is a fraction slower over this sprint, it more than makes up for it with improved economy and carbon dioxide emissions than the manual gearbox-equipped model.
If you want more power and refinement, the SLK350 with its 306PS V6 petrol engine is available. It sounds great when pressed hard and dishes up loads of power from tickover to its redline. It can even deliver 39.8mpg combined fuel consumption.
For those seeking more economy from the SLK, Mercedes offers the 250 CDI model with 56.5mpg average consumption coupled to 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds. The noise from the diesel is hardly the most inspiring on a dream drive through open countryside, but it’s financial argument is compelling for company drivers.
Few fleet drivers will find the 421PS SLK55 AMG on their car list, but for those who can afford its hefty price tag they will enjoy a compact roadster with the performance to match most of its sports car rivals. Granted, the handling is not as sublime as a Porsche Cayman’s, but the SLK55 delivers its own unique brand of entertainment thanks to a great big V8 in a small roadster recipe.
|SLK200 BlueEfficiency||42–44 mpg||7.0–7.3 s||150–158 g/km|
|SLK200 BlueEfficiency Automatic||44–48 mpg||6.9–7.0 s||137–151 g/km|
|SLK250 BlueEfficiency||39 mpg||6.5 s||169 g/km|
|SLK250 BlueEfficiency Automatic||43 mpg||6.6 s||153 g/km|
|SLK250 CDI Automatic||57 mpg||6.7 s||132 g/km|
|SLK250 CDI BlueEfficiency||71 mpg||6.6 s||114 g/km|
|SLK300 BlueEfficiency||47 mpg||5.8 s||138 g/km|
|SLK350 BlueEfficency Automatic||40 mpg||5.6 s||167 g/km|
|SLK55 AMG||34 mpg||4.6 s||195 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the Mercedes-Benz SLK (2011 – 2016)?
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Could blocked drain vents be causing door lock problems on my SLK?
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