2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Performance
This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.
If you’re looking for a hardcore sports car, reviewers say the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK isn’t it. However, critics do say that the SLK has pleasing performance that can handle back road curves with aplomb and still be comfortable enough for daily commuting.
- "It's sportier than before, but it remains a comfortable cruiser if you want it to be." -- Car and Driver
- "The SLK has always been more about touring than outright sport, but thanks to its new suspension tuning and well-sorted steering, this is the best-handling SLK to date and delivers quite a few grins around the corners. Of course, the pinnacle of classic, razor-sharp roadster handling remains the Porsche Boxster, but falling short of that standard isn't something to be ashamed of." -- Edmunds
Acceleration and Power
The base 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK250 comes with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine making 201 horsepower. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual transmission or a seven speed automatic transmission. The SLK350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 302 horsepower. The seven speed automatic is the only available transmission on the SLK350. The SLK55 AMG has a 5.5-liter V8 that makes 415 horsepower. The same seven-speed automatic transmission from the SLK250 and SLK350 is in the SLK55 AMG, but it’s been modified for enhanced performance in the SLK55 AMG.
All models require premium gasoline. The SLK 250 gets an EPA-estimated 23/33 mpg city/highway with the automatic and the SLK350 get 20/29 mpg. The SLK55 AMG gets 19/28 mpg. The SLK does offer drivers a choice between Eco and Sport driving modes, with the Eco mode biasing engine responses toward fuel economy. However, reviewers recommend leaving the car in Sport mode because they found Eco mode irritating.
The powertrain is one area where reviewers have a few complaints about the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK. Few reviewers tested the SLK250, but those who did said the power is adequate for someone who wants the SLK more for its looks than performance. The SLK350 gets good marks for power, but reviewers complain about a touchy throttle, delayed responses from the automatic transmission and turbo lag.
- "Only SLK350 models have been made available for evaluation so far. They don't pin you to your seat. Rather, power builds in a linear fashion. It's smooth and strong across all engine speeds. Mercedes-Benz claims the 350 will do 0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds, which seems accurate to us. The automatic transmission provides generally timely shifts, but it can dither between gears when traversing hilly roads. Using the manual override via steering-wheel paddles or the floor shifter helps." -- Consumer Guide
- "Upsetting the balanced controls and attitude of the SLK is the seven-speed transmission. Paddle shifters behind the wheel allow the driver to request upshifts and downshifts, but the car takes them as mere requests and doesn't always comply right away. It's frustrating to ask for a second downshift and not receive it until somewhere midcorner. The transmission also has a tendency to stumble from third into fourth at part throttle." -- Car and Driver
- "Our only real dynamic complaint with the SLK350 is its abrupt throttle action, as if it's trying too hard to persuade you that it's a performance car. It's easy to give the SLK more power than you intended, so you find yourself wrestling with the consequences. This is most pronounced in the SLK's Sport setting, and only slightly mitigated in Manual mode when you are shifting for yourself. The Economy setting might seem slightly lazy in comparison, but it actually suits the nature of the car much better." -- Edmunds
- "Tap the accelerator. Power flows smoothly to the rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually via shift paddles on the steering wheel." -- Washington Post
- "Driven hard in Sport, the SLK350 moves out well, kicking down three or four gears at once to barrel up to speed. Curiously, the transmission's steering-wheel paddle shifters effect a slower response: Request a few downshifts and the gearbox ticks through the intermediary gears en route to what you want. It's best to leave the SLK in Sport mode, mash the pedal and let the gearbox do its thing." -- Cars.com
Handling and Braking
Though its handling capabilities aren’t as raw and aggressive as class leaders like the Porsche Cayman, reviewers say the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK can hold its own. Several say that the SLK’s ride is more comfortable than other luxury sports cars’. If you’re looking for a fun Sunday driver, not a track car, the SLK may be a better choice than more hard-core performers.
- "The SLK steers confidently, with good midcorner feedback, albeit less precision than the laser-like Boxster. The Mercedes holds course well enough, though, allowing controlled slides if you deactivate the electronic stability system." -- Cars.com
- ”SLK strikes a better balance between handling prowess and ride comfort than most similar premium-class 2-seat convertibles. This Mercedes carves corners with excellent grip and minimal body lean. Solid steering feel is marred by a small on-center dead spot (an area where turning the steering wheel slightly results in no movement of the front wheels). The brakes erase speed quickly with excellent pedal feel.” -- Consumer Guide
- ”The SLK is an easy car to drive quickly. Strong brakes, plenty of grip, tight roll control, and a supportive seat take the surprise out of unfamiliar mountain roads. Turn the thick-rimmed and flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the SLK surprises with predictable turn-in and a high level of front-end grip.” -- Car and Driver