The Mercedes SLK. Perhaps an SL for the masses as it shares many of the same design cues as it much bigger brother, but in a more manageable size and much more manageable price tag. Introduced in 1997 to compete in the small roadster segment, it was originally less competent as a sports car than its looks promised. It did have the honor of being the first modern car to utilize a power folding hard top and it was beloved by customers. After a redesign in 2004 and a small refresh in 2009, the current SLK is the small sports roadster it has always intended to be.

There are several available levels of trim in the SLK class. The SLK300 makes a 228 HP from its 3.0 liter V-6. And can be mated to a 6 speed manual or a seven speed automatic. The SLK350 is only available with the automatic, but makes 300 HP from its 3.5 liter V-6 engine. The top model in this line is the SLK55 AMG that pairs the automatic transmission with a 5.4 liter V-8, good for 355 HP.

Body styles: Convertible
Engines: 3.0L V-6, 3.5L V-6
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 7-speed automatic
Models: SLK300, SLK350

So far, there’s no word of an AMG version of the SLK for 2011. That leaves two V-6 models, the 300 and 350, and the manual is only offered with the smaller engine. The SLK350 receives new 18-inch split five-spoke wheels. Both models get sport body styling and black inlays in the headlights for no charge.

Its redesign in 2004 gave the SLK a body that put it more in line with the current SL. Front- and rear-end styling is sculpted, and is much more aggressive and mature than the first generation model.

As a less-expensive member of the Mercedes family, fewer features come standard on the SLK-Class. The leather two-seat cabin includes a nine-speaker audio system, dual-zone climate control, and manual sport seats; harman/kardon surround sound and digital climate control are available.

This is not the sportiest car in its class; that honor goes to the Porsche Boxster. What the SLK does offer, though, is comfortable cruising and elegant style in a compact package. In 2009, steering was changed to a mechanical system that improves feel and response. In the SLK, the 3.5-liter V-6 has more horsepower than in other Mercedes, at 300 instead of 268.

Stability control, traction control, and four-wheel discs with ABS with brake assist come standard. There are dual stage airbags and knee airbags, plus head-thorax airbags, which are integrated into the backrests of the seats.

SLK300: 17-19 mpg city/26 mpg highway
SLK350: 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway

  • Direct steering feel
  • SL looks
  • Cozy, lux interior
  • Excellent manual transmission
  • Limited engine options
  • Lack of sports car handling
  • Weight saps smaller V-6

Big-car style, big-car handling


  • BMW Z4
  • Porsche Boxster
  • Audi TT
  • Volvo C70

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