Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Performance
The Mercedes-Benz SLK is lauded by most reviewers as a well-rounded roadster. Most say that the SLK250 and 350 offer ample power and handling that strikes a balance between athleticism and comfort. One reviewer bills the V8-powered SLK55 AMG as a much sportier and athletic car. Generally, reviewers say the SLK is a fun car to drive, but rivals like the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster are more exciting.
- "Of course, the V8-engined SLK55 AMG with its 415 horsepower and sports-tuned suspension is an altogether different animal. A performance beast, really." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "As a bonus, this performance doesn't come at the expense of ride quality or fuel economy." -- Edmunds
- "It's sportier than before, but it remains a comfortable cruiser if you want it to be." -- Car and Driver (2012)
Acceleration and Power
The Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is offered with three engines. The SLK250 comes with a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard with this engine, while a seven-speed automatic is optional. The SLK350 has a 3.5-liter V6 with 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. The seven-speed automatic is the only transmission available with this engine. The most powerful choice is the SLK55 AMG, which has a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 415 horsepower and 398 pound-feet of torque, and is mated with a more performance-oriented seven-speed automatic. According to the EPA, an SLK250 with the automatic transmission achieves 23/33 mpg city/highway, which is comparable to the BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster and good for the class overall. The SLK350 achieves 21/29 mpg city/highway, and the SLK55 AMG nets 19/28 mpg city/highway, which is better than the 430-horsepower V8 Chevrolet Corvette.
In general, reviewers are satisfied with the SLK’s engines and powertrain performance, though not necessarily as blown away as they are by some rivals. Most reviewers tested the SLK250 and 350, and of those models, the SLK350 is preferred for its added power and faster acceleration. While one publication isn’t especially impressed with the four-cylinder engine in the SLK250, it says the transmissions work to make the most of the engine. Still, several reviewers find that the automatic transmission has room for improvement, noting slow shifts and some poorly-timed shifts.
- "When you're going up against established players like the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z4, 201 horsepower seems a little underwhelming, but the base 2013 SLK250 makes the most of it with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed automatic transmission." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "The SLK350's powerful V6 provides the satisfying grunt we expect from luxury roadsters, and the exhaust note is intoxicating. This is the engine to get if you can swing the extra cost and don't mind the automatic transmission." -- Edmunds
- "The automatic transmission is generally responsive, but it can dither between gears, and it isn't as lightning quick as the dual-clutch automated manuals offered by the competition. Shifting manually via the steering-wheel paddles helps, but the shifts still aren't that quick." -- 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 (2012)
Handling and Braking
Many reviewers say that the SLK-Class strikes a good balance between ride comfort/refinement and handling. While most admit it isn’t the deft handler the Porsche Boxster is, they remain pleased with the SLK’s neutral handling through turns and overall ride comfort that is easy to live with on a daily basis. Reviewers are happy with the SLK’s brakes, and give its steering mostly positive reviews. One reviewer says that the steering makes tight-quarter maneuvering somewhat difficult, but most are satisfied with the steering and note that it complements the car’s overall handling and cornering abilities. The SLK55 AMG comes with a sport-tuned suspension for greater handling capability.
- "The SLK strikes a better balance between ride comfort and handling prowess than most competitors. It carves through corners with excellent grip and minimal body roll. Steering's substantial feel at speed is marred by slow, clunky response when maneuvering in tight quarters. The brakes offer excellent pedal feel and strong stopping power." -- Consumer Guide
- "[T]he SLK has always emphasized touring over outright sport, but thanks to its new suspension tuning and improved steering, this is the best-handling SLK to date and delivers plenty of grins around the corners." -- Edmunds
- "Thanks to a well-tuned suspension and substantial tires on 18-inch wheels, the SLK's cornering grip and stability are impressive. It's maybe still not as naturally light on its feet as a Porsche Boxster, but very satisfying to drive." -- Kelley Blue Book
- "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 (2012)
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