Mercedes SLK 280 | Auto Express

19 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Mercedes SLK 280 | Auto Express
Mercedes SLK 280

Mercedes SLK 280

29 May, 2009 1:01pm Comments

Roadster set the template for the folding hard-top two-seater

The Mercedes SLK started the folding hard-top revolution. When it arrived in 1997, the two-seater turned the traditional roadster market on its head, as it served up a compelling mix of wind-in-the-hair thrills and cosseting coupé refinement.

When the evolutionary second-generation car arrived in 2004, it was clear that Mercedes didn’t want to mess with a successful formula. A subtle mid-life facelift last year concentrated on the mechanicals, adding more powerful engines and tweaked suspension.

Externally, the SLK has classic roadster proportions, with a long, elegant nose and short tail. Design highlights include the large wraparound Headlamps, bold grille dominated by the firm’s familiar three-pointed star and the wedge-shaped profile. Visually, the only disappointment is the standard 16-inch alloy wheels of our test car.

Their tiny dimensions make the Mercedes appear plain next to the BMW and Porsche.

It’s a similar story when you climb aboard. While there’s nothing wrong with the cabin layout or the space available, some of the materials look and feel a little cheap. The three-spoke steering wheel is also a letdown, as it’s far too large for a sporty model.

The low-slung driving position is very comfortable, however, and refinement with the metal roof in place is excellent.

Hit a button on the transmission tunnel, and the hood folds gracefully out of sight in only 21 seconds – although it also reduces luggage capacity from 300 litres to a still useful 208 litres in the process. With the top stowed, occupants are able to fully enjoy the 3.0-litre V6 powerplant’s growling exhaust note. At the test track, though, the 227bhp SLK failed to live up to the promise of the soundtrack.

Despite having the largest engine here, the Mercedes was matched in all of our performance tests by the less powerful BMW.

Even more disappointing were the SLK’s brakes. Not only does the pedal have a long travel, but the Mercedes needed 49.9 metres to come to a standstill from 70mph.

The Porsche stopped in only 43.1 metres!

Get out on the road, and it’s immediately apparent that the SLK can’t match the sharp driving dynamics of its rivals. A softer suspension set-up means it quickly loses composure over bumpy back roads, while the steering lacks precision and feedback. Matters are made worse by the clunky action of

Mercedes SLK 280

the standard six-speed manual gearbox.

However, the SLK’s more laid back nature and comfortable ride mean it’s a great long-distance cruiser, and it can easily match the refinement offered by the new BMW Z4.

At £32,290, the Mercedes isn’t the most expensive car here – that honour goes to the Boxster – but it costs £3,500 more than the equally fast and well equipped BMW. The SLK is the original folding hard-top roadster, yet on this evidence, it’s going to struggle to hold on to its claim to be the best.


Chart position: 3

WHY: The model that started the fashion for folding metal roofs combines desirability, refinement and topless thrills.

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