Mercedes SLK 350 Short Review
The second chapter of the story not only allowed one to enjoy benefits from both worlds, but also brought touches of refinement to multiple areas. However, it still didn't offer the dynamic feeling you'd want from a true sportscar.
As you probably know, Mercedes-Benz is celebrating 125 years of playing the automotive game and the company isn’t going to just sit around and eat its birthday cake, so one of the many anniversary presents they are making themselves is the third generation of the SLK.
We recently had the first contact with SLK The Third, getting to experience the car on a perfect summer day. We short-tested the SLK 350, the top of the range for the moment.
As you approach the car, you’ll notice that it’s grown in all dimensions. Don’t worry, it’s still a compact package, which makes it suitable for city traffic. Actually, the chassis is an evolution of that used by its predecessor, bringing wider tracks that should give it superior handling. So, how does it go through the bends? Wait, wait, we haven’t gotten to that part yet.
The SLK has clearly stolen a few visual tricks from its big brothers, the SL and the SLS AMG, and the front fascia is the area that gives this away the most. Merc has used aluminum to keep the weight down, allowing the car to tip the scales at around one and a half tons.
The car has a more masculine appearance. Actually, it looks like a robot built to give you motorized fun.
As we said "hello" to the Designo leather-covered seats of our test car, we were hit by the multitude of cabin elements inspired by those of the SLS AMG. The interior is roomy enough to accommodate you and your passenger, but entering and exiting the car can be less than gracious as things are pretty tight.
Before we set off, we hear Mercedes’ words in our minds, with the company saying something about a high level of efficiency and mentioning some that the new SLK is a driver’s car.
Under the long hood (we're talking about proportions here), we have Merc’s new 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated 60 degree V6 unit, which delivers 306 hp at 6,500 rpm and a peak torque of 273 lb-ft (370 Nm) at 3,500 rpm.
It’s nice to get to play with a new generation naturally aspirated unit, as most fresh engine use forced induction these days, scoring less points in the linear power delivery and response area. The mill pulls well across the rev range - it’s like a little devil that couldn’t really turn the world around but likes to play with you, always inviting you to push it harder.
The vehicle we tested was fitted with the 7G-TRONIC automatic gearbox, which is a true opinion splitter. If you want refinement and are looking to use the vehicle for cruising, with a few pedal abuses from time to time, you’ll be happy with it. However, if you’re willing to make the most of the engine and focus on the driving dynamics, you’ll be disappointed. Yes, you do get paddles behind the wheel, but the gear changes aren’t as fast as you’d like them to be and the computer sometimes thinks it knows better then you when you want to downshift.
In case it hasn’t become obvious by now, we’ll make it clear: the vehicle we tested was fitted with a lot of goodies, belonging to both the dynamic and comfort sides. One of the features we enjoyed were the adaptive dampers, with a little button on the center console allowing you to choose between the “comfort” and “sport” mode.
This, together with the 18-inch AMG rims and the quick ratio steering, allowed us to change direction swiftly whenever we wanted too, without any negative effects on the vehicle’s balance. The vehicle felt nimble, pleasing us, but only up to a point, as you don’t feel all that involved in the experience.
Actually, this is the overall feeling of the new SLK. You get agility, smart looks and good ergonomics, but you can’t become one with the car. All this comes in a package that doesn’t need to be taken outside the city to become efficient - in fact, the SLK feels extremely nice on urban roads.
Are we talking about buying here? Yes, but with a “*”. The car is intelligent, efficient and nimble, but, just like a human being, it also comes with personality flaws, like the lack of a pure, sporting character and a price that will give your wallet goosebumps.
❐ Check out the Mercedes SLK 350 Short Review photo gallery