There are geeks who want a 17-inch MacBook Pro with the works when what they really need for school is an 11-inch MacBook Air. Then there are executives who desire an SL500 when they can live it up in an SLK200 – and “save” almost enough for another in a different colour.
Ideally, said colour should not be the unflattering Tenorite Grey of our test car. The latest SLK looks good in red (complete with red seat belts, if you wish), which is rare for a modern Mercedes-Benz. Most importantly, its “junior SL” styling is more successful than the “F1 juvenile” theme of its forerunner, and the standard of construction appears to have been improved at the same time.
If the exterior is a big improvement over the previous model, the interior is nothing less than a quantum leap. Inspired by the SLS supercar, the new SLK cockpit is roomier, classier and more user-friendly than before.
The vario-roof controller, for instance, resides under a palm-sized leather pad and feels 10 times more expensive than the tacky knob that does the job in the superseded SLK.
The retractable hard-top, too, has been made even better – its folding/unfolding action is now quicker (by two seconds), smoother and quieter, and can be activated by remote control, although the key needs to be aimed at either door handle for the duration of the “vario-roofing”.
With that clever canopy deployed, the SLK200 makes a comfortable cruiser for the couple-about-town. Fold the top down, and their glam factor will be upped twofold.
But the driver will hear the engine more clearly and be reminded that he bought the 1.8-litre version, with its accompanying 4-cylinder cacophony. There is plenty of power and a proper 7-speed gearbox to access it, but the drivetrain is not the sweetest around.
As for handling, the SLK is definitely more agile than the SL (except perhaps the crazy AMG variant), but its cornering behaviour is efficient rather than effervescent. Enthusiasts will probably enjoy the Z4 more.
Still, nobody will complain about the SLK200’s impressive fuel efficiency, claimed to be over 15 kilometres per litre.
Maybe you do need that SL500 after all.
Mercedes-Benz SLK200 1.8 (A)
ENGINE 1796cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged
MAX POWER 184bhp at 5250rpm
MAX TORQUE 270Nm at 1800-4600rpm
GEARBOX 7-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 7 seconds
TOP SPEED 237km/h
CONSUMPTION 15.4km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $244,888 (as of October 2011)
Check out the latest Mercedes-Benz SLC