• Looks, engine, transmission, interior, safety, technology, road-presence, more comfortable than Z4
  • Roof operation only when completely stationary, not as sporty as Z4

OUR RATING
8 / 10



Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review

The new third-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK is anything but a ‘chick’s car’. Prices start from $82,900 for the SLK 200 and that’s an $8500 reduction on the previous model.

Having been on the market for 15 years, the SLK badge has generally been associated with female buyers. The new one however, is about as feminine as Julia Gillard.

Mercedes-Benz is in a great position; it has launched its halo car (the SLS AMG) and is now leveraging the model’s enormous credibility with cars like the SLK. The use of harder lines and more aggressive styling has really helped bring the SLK into a whole new category. I suspect it now appeals equally to both men and women.

From the outside the SLK’s long contoured bonnet shares an uncanny family resemblance with the SL. Furthermore, the proportion of headlights to the grille are modelled on the original 190 SL, so it looks the business.

In true two-seater sports car fashion, the SLK sports a long bonnet with a short rear end. Photos don’t do the SLK justice, but it’s undoubtedly a head-turner as it screams past you. The Germans have moved its side mirrors from the corners of its doors down further along to give it a more aerodynamic shape and help it look like it’s moving even when standing still.

The rear lights are more stretched along the curvy rear end and V-shaped boot lid. Each light assembly comprises 60 LEDs, so it’s bound to catch your attention at night. The new R172 model is 33mm wider, 33mm longer and 5mm taller than the R171 SLK it replaces.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review

To start the range, Mercedes-Benz Australia will bring the SLK 200 and SLK 350 ($118,900) to market, while the range-topping SLK 55 AMG and mid-spec SLK 250 won’t be here until early next year.

Some of the new interesting features include Magic Sky Control ($4550 option), which despite sounding like something the Japanese would’ve come up with, is actually a useful system.

Using a suspended particle device layer, the press of a button sends electric charge to make the glass roof go instantly clear, another press will have it gradually darken. When light, it’s pretty much transparent (even when cold), but when dark, it can help keep the car cool in those hot summer days. This is the sort of stuff you’d expect to get in a $1 million-plus Maybach (which is also engineered by Mercedes).

Being a roadster, the roof operation is paramount to the everyday running of the SLK. The all-new ‘vario-roof’ is constructed from a magnesium frame (saving 6kg as a result) and is now much quieter but also two seconds faster to operate (20 seconds to open/close). Its clever design allows for another 35L of boot space as well, unfortunately it doesn’t operate when the vehicle is moving (even at slow speeds). This can be frustrating if you’re planning on opening or closing the roof in slow traffic.

At $82,900, the entry price of the seven-speed automatic SLK 200 is a healthy $3300 cheaper than the entry model BMW Z4 manual (sDrive23i) but still about $2000 more than the AUDI TT 2.0 TFSI roadster.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review

In saying that, it’s rather hard to compare the base model SLK to the TT, as the TT is all-wheel drive and the SLK and Z4 are driven via the rear wheels. Year to date, the TT (coupe/roadster) has outsold the SLK and Z4 combined.

In which case it’s best to compare the SLK with the Z4 roadster, its closest rival. Last year the Z4 and SLK were pretty much equal in sales volume (188 and 181 respectively), however the Z has slowed down a little this year and the introduction of the new SLK is not going to help its cause.

The SLK and Z4 do tend to target a different demographic, you just have to stare at them to realise. Mercedes-Benz is pitching the updated and more aggressive SLK at both females and males and it’s likely that the new design will allow the company to do that successfully. Meanwhile, the Z4’s peculiar styling tends to draw more attention from the gentlemen.

To begin the launch program, Mercedes-Benz Australia handed over keys to an SLK 350 for a drive out of Torquay (south of Melbourne) through parts of the Great Ocean Road and heading inland on a series of twisty mountain roads on our way back to Melbourne.

Powered by a 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6 petrol that pumps out 225kW and 370Nm of torque, the SLK 350 is anything but slow. It rushes from 0-100km/h in just 5.6 seconds. In comparison, the similarly priced ($120,400) turbocharged Z4 sDrive35i has an extra 30Nm of torque, weighs 15kg less and does the same 0-100km/h dash 0.5 seconds quicker. Its metal roof also operates while the Z4 is moving (up to 7km/h). The SLK does use 0.7L/100km less fuel though, with official combined cycle coming in at 8.3L/100km. So should you buy a Z4 instead? Not necessarily.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review

The BMW Z4 sDrive35i is a great car, but it’s not for everyone. Much like the comparison between C-Class Coupe and BMW 3 Series Coupe, the SLK outdoes its German rival on the interior. Mercedes-Benz says the SLK’s interior is similar in design to the SLS AMG and when you sit inside, it shows.

Despite a plastic surround for the central instrument cluster, the SLK provides a nicer and more uplifting cabin ambience than the Z4. It’s subtle yet elegant and has a classier feel to it.

The SLK 200 gets a 14.7cm display with full Bluetooth and multimedia support and the SLK 350 gets Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND system, displayed in a 17.8cm screen with navigation and Internet. It can do some really fancy things (read more about it: C Class Review).

Driving the SLK 350 is akin to being in a proper sports coupe; it’s edgy and full of character. Having no turbochargers means power delivery is smooth and without hesitation. The V6 emits a meaty bark that is much louder than in the C 350 Coupe. The seven-speed automatic transmission can be smooth in economy mode or provide rapid gear changes when sports mode is selected. The steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters are also implemented more intuitively (left is down, right is up) than the Z4’s.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review

Around the twisty mountain roads, I found the rear end more than willing to come unstuck, but in a controlled and predictable manner. It doesn’t ride the poor conditions of Australian roads all that well but that’s because its hard suspension setup allows for improved cornering feel.

It weighs a good 70kg more than the SLK 200 and most of that weight is concentrated in the front part of the car, so it’s more likely to misbehave when pushed to its limits.

The real surprise in the lineup is indeed the entry model. The Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 is powered by a 1.8-litre direct injection turbo four-cylinder that is good for 135kW and 270Nm (same engine found in C 200). It’s not as quick as an SLK 350, with a 0-100km/h time of 7.3 seconds (consuming 6.9L/100kms), but it feels just as fun.

Best of all, its weight advantage in the front helps for a smoother entry into corners and it feels far more balanced when driven on the edge. So if you can spare an extra 1.7 seconds in acceleration, the SLK 200 is a pretty good choice. That’s not to take anything away from the SLK 350, as that’s going for an entirely different buyer. If you want something in the middle or just the absolute best, the wait is on for SLK 250 and SLK 55 AMG.

For those who demand more from the driving experience, Mercedes-Benz offers a dynamic handling package as an option with electronically adjustable dampers and torque vectoring brake ($3000, or $1500 if you’ve already ticked the AMG sports pack). This was not tested.

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review

Steering feel is superb with heaps of feedback and since both models use a variable-ratio steering system, turning at low speed is much easier than before (hence parking is simple).

One of the rather interesting standard features in the new SLK is attention assist. The system engages from 80-180km/h and monitors around 70 inputs from the driver. From that it can work out if you’re paying attention and suggest you take a break if it thinks you’re getting tired. I did notice that it was suggesting I take a break when driving flat-out across the mountainous roads.

The bonnet is equipped with pyrotechnic actuators in the hinges, so it can pop up by 85mm in the unlikely event you hit a pedestrian (helps stop them being thrown over the car). The SLK carries six airbags and, being a Mercedes-Benz, is built to the highest safety standards.

Overall, the Mercedes-Benz SLK is a huge step forward for the German brand. In the competitive world of luxury roadsters, the SLK is a standout performer thanks to its good looks, high-end technology and low starting price. Test drive against BMW Z4 and Audi TT.


  Submit an Owner Car Review

MERCEDES-BENZ SLK BREAKDOWN

Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 & 350 Review
  • 8
  • 7
  • 8
  • 8
  • 8
  Submit an Owner Car Review


  • Phil

    Certainly more macho in appearance but I’d rather a Z4 over this.

  • MrZ64

    I’ve always been a BMW fan, but god damn thats one hot car. Will have to have a look when the SC450 gets thrown in the bin

  • Dane

    Leave the political commentary out, Alborz

    • Dan

      I laughed, it was funny! Keep it there!

  • Deane

    The sleight on the elected leader of our country is totally unnecessary, and shows the poor journalistic standards you guys let slip occasionally. I would expect this of some of the more junior or obviously inexperienced CA writers, but not you Alborz.

    And this is a staunchly swinging voter who’s gone both ways over the past few decades :)

    Oh, I realised before submitting this someone else said much the same, but screw it I’ll post it anyway.

    • MrZ64

      Are you kidding me? Nanny state has got you too..

    • Neil M

      Maybe he meant redhead and powerful?

      • Tim M.

        Or maybe drop dead gorgeous??

    • Tim Johnston

      I think you meant Penny Wong.

    • nickdl

      So it’s unforgivable to add a slight joke about a politician, despite no attack on the actual Labor Party, not any support for another party. I suppose you should go and live in North Korea then, if you want media outlets that don’t make light of the political situation, or indeed keep our leaders to account. North Korea is great apparently, they have plenty to eat and people don’t even want to leave when they get there…

    • She’s Toast

      Chill out Deane. It’s just a joke.

      I don’t go both ways, but I can tell you that Julia reminds me at the moment of the Bruce Willis character in The 6th Sense. She’s a dead woman walking [politically speaking] but she is the only one who doesn’t realise it yet.

      PS: She’s not our “elected leader” either. We don’t get to elect leaders and, besides, she got less votes than the other guy!

    • Dan

      Booo!! It was a funny joke! If you want media censorship where you cannot criticise or make joke of a politician, move to China or North Korea! Besides, like someone mentioned previously, she is NOT our elected leader.

  • MattP

    Great review, looks like another winner from Mercedes-Benz, can’t wait to look at one at the dealer.

  • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

    No offence meant, folks. Just a light hearted comments

    • Thrillhouse

      I suggest leaving the vaguely offensive/misogynistic comments to your resident master, John Cadogan. You’re better than that, Alborz.

      • Neil M

        Totally agree Thrillhouse

    • Tom R

      I had a giggle to myself… Cant see why cartoonists and other media outlets can have a little poke at politicians and you can’t.

      Was in good taste. Dont sweat it.

    • Dan

      It was funny. Nothing wrong with a bit of humour at a pollie’s expense… Carry on Alborz!

  • http://Porsche MB

    Thanks for the write up CA & Alborz

    Just traded R171 350 in for a R172 350 CGI with magic sky, AMG pack, dynamic handling, keyless go, sum guard analog clock, bengal red leather and diamond bright white paint….now the wait begins expected delivery late Jan early Feb….pity you did not test a car with the Dynamic Hanlding would have liked to read your opinion.

    I love upgraded transmission it is much quicker and smooter and the new steering rack is awesome.

    I think the 250 is going to be the big seller in Oz

    • Camski

      Sounds like an awesome package you got coming :D

      Two things I would like to see would be a more aggressive shift time when set to sport or when taen over using the paddles. I found the shifts to lack a certain urgency (probably used to the tune of the C63′s ‘box).

      The other thing I think the car deserves is an automatic blip on downshifts. The 350′s six cylinder sounds the goods with the top down and a nice throttle blip on downshifts would be the icing on the cake, especially matched with a more aggressive downchange.

      One minor gripe with that neck warming air thing (forgot the name) is that for me, it’s a tad too loud even on the lowest setting. It’s audible even with the roof down however not intrusive once you’re moving.

      • http://Porsche MB

        Camski

        When I was driving the demo car I found no such problems but I was driving it like I stole it…I certainly will not be driving that forceful once the car arrives…thats what demos are for.

        Still cant get over how rifle quick the up changes are, as for airscarf it was fine.

        Down change blip would be a nice touch.

        • Camski

          Yeah I suspect maybe my expectations/benchmark is too high :P The dealer specifically said “remember, no speed, this isn’t an AMG” LOL

          It’s a very very capable car, light and chuckable is my best description, while providing a ride the C63 can only dream of (C63 is bloody hard).

          I just felt like there was a very mild pause between hitting the left paddle and when the power was transfered, but I also think that’s part of learning how the car works over the longer term and being able to properly settle in and get used to the quirks/shortfalls.

          Benz have got the gearbox pretty right ever since their 7 Speed line (both regular auto and their dual clutch setup).

          Maybe I was paying too much attention to the airscarf and it “sounded” like it was loud. Works very well though.

          Hope you have fun once you get your car :)

          • MB

            Camski

            Being a C63 driver too I understand how you would feel that the SLK is down on power but back to back with a R171 it was like a go kart and the R171 is very good IMO

            the car I drove had Dynamic Handling and you could tell the difference when on and off as too with the traction/stability

            We did have a warranty issue with the R171 the transmission sensor or something but it was a minor fix

            Cant wait

        • Camski

          Oh and by the way, I know how painful the wait is, 11 months on the C63!

  • Zzzzzzz

    Think the Z4 looks more muscularline than it. Perhaps the AMG option will make it look meaner. But overall a very good effort from Mer. However the Z4 Sdrive 3.0 to be replace by the Sdrive 2.8 using a twin scroll turbo 4… hmmmm. The inline 6 is much better IMO.

  • Steve

    It’s a shame some guys won’t even go near these for fear of their sexuality being questioned. I used to be the same myself until I realised I was denying myself the opportunity of driving some great cars because of what some stranger might think.
    I’ve driven the 1st two generations of SLKs and Z3 and theyre awesome little cars to drive. Especially around winding coastal roads. Ive yet to sample an MX5 but if somebody offered me a drive I would hesitate to take one for a spin

  • GTI

    Fair shake of the sauce bottle, guys. Lighten up and take Alborz’ comment with the humour that was intended!

    Good piece, Alborz.

  • Tom R

    I can feel myself leaking where it feels good…. I’m a BMW man through and through, but I think they’re really starting to lose the plot. Mercedes-Benz on the other hand has absolutely gotten its act together after twenty years of -in my opinion- crap. The interior’s on these look ridiculously good and the rear end is PURE sex, the front is growing on me too! I want the new SL!!!! This, but BIGGER.

  • MattP

    I drove one of these SLK350′s yesterday at Eastern Creek, it was stunning, great sound from the engine, airscarf keeping me warm at 130km/h, it was a real treat.

    If I had the money I would have written them a cheque on the spot and driven off into the sunset.

    They will sell every one of these without any effort.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sahabatpeterpan123 Hendrii Sahabatnoah Depoktimur

    i like it

LATEST REVIEWS