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Reviews Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 roadster 2011

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With the inclusion of an improved engine range, this SLK follows other recent Mercedes products in delivering greater savings but, impressively, not at the expense of outright performance.

The SLK line-up consists of a turbo four-cylinder in 184 and 204 horsepower guise in SLK 200 and 250 trim respectively.

There’s also a six-cylinder unit boasting 306 horsepower. Four-pot models come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, with the 350 getting a seven-speed auto – optional on the other cars. For those watching their pennies, the SLK 200 returns an impressive 43.5mpg in auto trim (41.5mpg manual) and CO2 emissions are 151 and 158g/km respectively.

The 250 variant isn’t far behind, while the 350 ducks under 40mpg and posts a creditable 167g/km CO2 figure.

With BMW and Mercedes, buyers seeking a compact, premium-level roadster have been well catered for in recent years.

The latter has historically approached the market from the comfort end of the scale, with BMW only recently choosing to tone down a previously more overtly sporting proposition.

The SLK has done a sterling job for Mercedes. When it first launched in 1996 the car debuted a folding metal roof, offering owners the best of both worlds – tin-top refinement and security when you wanted it and open-air convenience when it took your fancy.

By the second generation, the car boasted sharper handling to please those seeking a sportier premium compact roadster experience.

With this third generation SLK, Mercedes has further refined the driving experience and added a few welcome extra bits of technology.

Style-wise the car offers buyers two choices. The basic SLK shape remains intact, albeit a little sharper and better defined.

Opting for the “sport” model results in the addition of a tastefully subtle but visually appealing AMG-branded bodykit and wheels, plus a more focused sports suspension set-up.

Even in the world of sports cars it’s hard to escape talk of cutting fuel consumption and emissions.

There’s even an engine stop-start function for good measure plus an eco driving mode that softens the throttle and auto gearbox response.

As you can see, there’s no longer a downside to downsizing. And on the road the 200 is a keen and willing companion. Even in non Sport guise the car feels poised on challenging, twisty roads.

The manual gearshift is slick and accurate, while the car’s steering is direct and weights up in a predictable manner.

Sport models take this a step further, but thankfully there’s no real compromise in ride quality. You can switch between suspension and (where fitted) auto gearbox modes, and the car’s tuned ride and 18-inch AMG wheels help, not hinder, the experience.

With each step up in engine output the experience takes another positive leap forward, with the 350 predictably offering the most thrills.

In a testament to the rounded nature of the 200, it’s a car-engine combination you dismiss at your peril.

No modern Mercedes would be complete without a raft of safety kit and this third-gen SLK doesn’t disappoint. Inheriting technology from more expensive cars such as the S-Class and CLS, the usual stability control systems have been enhanced with the (sometimes optional) inclusion of auto braking, lane departure warning, speed road sign detection and auto dipping headlights.

On the fun side there’s a new infotainment system offering internet access, an active wind deflector plus changes to the car’s trademark folding metal roof.

The basic version remains, offering coupe-like refinement and security when raised.

There’s now the option of a glass panoramic roof plus a new ’magic Sky Control’ feature. Fancy name aside, occupants can switch electronically between a light and dark mode, thanks to the clever technology in the glass.

There’s little doubt that, with this third-gen SLK, Mercedes has hit the sweet spot when it comes to compact, premium convertibles.

The car’s styling strikes the right balance between elegance and a hint of performance, while mechanically it’s economical, enjoyable and refined in equal measure.

Factor in the improved safety and comfort technology – not forgetting the car’s trademark roof – and it’s likely that prospective customers will need little persuasion to sign on the dotted line.

But if that isn’t enough for some, the promise of a diesel version just around the corner should open up the market to a whole new buyer profile.

Keywords: , , , , Mercedes Benz July 14, 2011

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