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Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2011 Review

EXPERT RATING
8
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SEEING stars for as little as $82,900 is an offer few lovers of topless German cars can refuse. That's the entry price for Mercedes-Benz's new SLK200 - the two-seater, steel-roofed roadster that compared with its predecessor is a distinct step forward in terms of equipment and performance, yet at a yesteryear price.

Four models will wear the SLK badge before the end of the first quarter of 2012. But for now, there's two - the SLK200 and SLK350 - separated by power, features and a wide $36,000 gap.

VALUE

This is in the eye of the beholder and yet even the "cheap" SLK200 is well kitted out. Standard is a seven-speed automatic attached to a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine. The electric steel roof goes down (and up) in less than 20 seconds, there are 17-inch alloy wheels, iPod/USB friendly audio, heated seats, solar-reflective leather seats and a 147mm colour screen. It's only when you factor in the extras in the SLK350 ($118,900) such as HDD sat-nav, multi-media Comand system, bi-xenon headlights and that big engine that you recognise the reason for the price difference.

DESIGN

The SLK is basically the previous model with some heavy styling changes to the nose. It picks up the SLS design for the grille and the aluminium bonnet. From behind it looks a lot wider than the outgoing model, yet appearances deceive because the difference is only 33mm.

The single-bar grille looks more masculine - an image Mercedes admits was the aim, yet was coy about putting that in words - and the use of LED running lights literally sparkles up the front. The cabin also takes hints from the SLS - big, round air vents, for example - and while it looks good straight out of the box, looks a whole lot better with the optional AMG kit.

TECHNOLOGY

The supercharger in the Kompressor models of the previous SLK has been given the flick. Now it's a turbocharger doing all the blowing. And the whole car is better for it, particularly the reduction in engine noise. The Magic Sky roof - which changes from clear to heavily tinted at the switch of a button - is a $4550 option. Perhaps it's worth it for cities with extreme climates.

The Airscarf, which blows warm air on your neck, gets approval for its value, as does the flip-out acrylic panels behind the head restraints that dramatically reduce cabin turbulence. The seven-speed auto - there's no manual unless you make a specific order - is an important inclusion . Same applies to the AMG package option which is $5900 for the SLK200 and $3200 for the SLK350.

SAFETY

Five star crash rating, six airbags (including a proper head-protecting curtain bag that rises from the top of the door) and all the best electronic aids for the chassis and brakes are standard Mercedes fare.

DRIVING

The package of a front engined, rear driven two seater pretty much indicates how the car will drive. The SLK and BMW Z4, for example, are similarly balanced. But the detail splits them apart. The SLK200 impresses with its strong little engine and impressive power spread from around 3000rpm to 6500rpm. The seven cogs in the auto play a big part in getting the best from the engine, but it won't disguise engine noise - which can get raspy despite a special acoustic box that introduces a more dramatic sound into the cabin.

Ride and handling are designed for smooth roads - something lacking on the test route around Ballarat - so rutted bitumen really shakes the body (YOUR  body). Roof down in the SLK200 without the deflector is too breezy to hold a conversation. Steering is very good and, road surface dependent, the little car hangs on really well through fast corners. But though there's a huge financial yawn between the SLK200 and the SLK350, the later is a completely different car. It's fast, sounds like a sports car, has wind deflectors that allow comfortable roof-down touring and has a (slightly) better ride. Slightly, probably because of the weightier V6 eng ine up front.

VERDICT

An improvement on the outgoing model but still a specialised purchase which puts it in the same league as the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z4. But its powertrain offering - four cylinder, V6 and from early 2012, a 5.5-litre normally-aspirated V8 - widens its market and creates a convertible for nearly all needs.

MERCEDES-BENZ SLK

Price: $82,900 (SLK200), $118,900 (SLK350)
Warranty: 3-years/100,00km, roadside assist
Resale: 56% (est.)
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety: 5-star
Engine: (SLK350) 3.5-litre V6, 225kW/370Nm
Body: 2-door 2-seat convertible
Weight: 1540kg
Transmission: 7-speed auto, rear drive
Thirst: 8.3L/100km, 95 RON, CO2 194g/km
"Family nose is only part of the evolution of this desirable roadster"

Pricing guides

$32,988
Based on 15 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,777
Highest Price
$39,800

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
SLK300 3.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $17,500 – 24,420 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2011 SLK300 Pricing and Specs
SLK55 AMG 5.4L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $33,000 – 43,230 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2011 SLK55 AMG Pricing and Specs
SLK350 BE 3.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $29,000 – 38,390 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2011 SLK350 BE Pricing and Specs
SLK200 Kompressor 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $16,000 – 22,330 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2011 SLK200 Kompressor Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$28,777

Lowest price, based on 8 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.