What is it?
When Mercedes started promising a more manly SLK this time around, the legitimate risk of manliness in the form of a ‘tache and leather trousers was a worrying possibility. But no, the SLK is an intriguing proposition for the average Porsche Boxster owner now. It’s bigger than ever, but sporty looking in a predictably SLS sort of way, and it drives with enough vigour to give a BMW Z4 the heebie-jeebies. It’s still slightly foppish, but altogether more complete. Queue here, fellas.
It isn’t in Porsche Boxster territory (what is?), but the extent of the latest SLK’s dynamism exposes its predecessors for the lazy-sunbed bunnies they were. The suspension is a minefield: steel springs are standard, sport suspension an option, an adaptable set-up another. It means you can spec your SLK with a slant on sportiness or comfort, but it does both well. Torque vectoring brakes nip the inside rear wheel during corners, swinging the car around quickly and lending a feel of agility hitherto lost on the SLK. Only the seven-speed automatic – which the vast majority of SLK’s will be sold with – sullies the dynamic renaissance. Fine at lazy shuffling, the seven-speeder shifts down at stupid times in Sport – like mid-corner.
Four-cylinder 1.8-litre engines with 182bhp or 201bhp underpin the range, then there’s a jump to the 3.5-litre V6 of the 350 BlueEfficiency. It’s the stronger four-cylinder of the SLK 250 we prefer, for its throaty sound, negligible pace deficit (a second slower to 62mph, at 6.6 seconds) and reasonable 42.8mpg drinking habit. There’s now a four-cylinder diesel too, with AMG-nudging torque levels for a unique new driving experience. It doesn’t sound as nice as a V8, of course, but the drone is subdued enough once you’re on the move.
On the inside
Room for the fattest pair of heads, an SLS-inspired interior aesthetic, top-notch switch and knob work, and more gizmos than a Gadget Show prizedraw make the SLK quite the alluring proposition. A particular highlight is the £2,000 Magic Sky Control roof that works like transition glasses, turning from clear to opaque.
The Airguide system reduces buffeting – and works – though infuriatingly it’s an option. In fact, the main interior criticism is that the SLK feels threadbare unless it’s furnished with costly options. The boot is tangibly bigger than a Z4’s – a whole packet of crisps-worth, we’d say.
Model-for-model the SLK is broadly on a par with the BMW Z4 for buying price and running costs: just watch the options. All models bar the SLK 350 and AMG top 40mpg, the V6 itself only just short at 39.8mpg, and auto is more economical than manual – which is a bonus as 90 per cent of SLKs sold in the UK are autos. The CDI is auto-only, and averages 56.5mpg. Not bad for 204bhp, aye.