- Looks like the bigger SL
- Swift acceleration (SLK350, SLK55)
- Controlled ride, especially for a roadster
- Supportive seats
- Well-designed folding hardtop
- Not as light and agile as shape implies
- Half-sized trunk space, thanks to hardtop
- Turbulence in the cabin, with the top down
- Confusing array of stylish radio buttons
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has the poise and performance of a sports car and the soul of a sunny roadster.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class blends sports car and classic roadster in a two-seat body that's appealingly styled and charming to drive. The power-folding hardtop encloses one of the best interior spaces in its class, and its larger-displacement powertrains are swift performers. With prices ranging from $48,000 to $68,000, the 2010 SLK-Class matches up against the Infiniti G37 Convertible, the BMW Z4, and the Porsche Boxster.
The current Mercedes-Benz SLK saw a redesign in 2005 and was refreshed last year with restyled front and rear ends. The look is wedgy and purposeful, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the heftier SL-Class grand tourer. The arrow-like nose is capped by a big three-pointed star, and side strakes and dramatic details elevate the look far above the first-generation SLK's effete softness. The interior is a high-class, low-key affair with lots of dark leather and low-gloss plastic putting a priority on driver controls. For better or worse, lots of secondary controls-particularly on the radio-have been uniformly designed and grouped in squadrons of matching buttons. It's visual unity, but operational chaos at times. The SLK55 AMG performance edition wears its own distinct details: bigger wheels, aerodynamic body add-ons, and a flat-bottom steering wheel. The same details can be applied to non-AMG cars by ordering a Sport Package.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes in three models, each now with a very different driving personality. The SLK300's engine remains a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6-it's strictly for sun-worshipping folks with lower expectations for performance, though conversely, it's the only SLK that offers a six-speed manual transmission. Its 0-60 time is estimated at 6.1 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph and 17/26 mpg fuel economy for the manual car, 19/26 mpg with the automatic. The SLK350 runs around a 3.5-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower teamed to a seven-speed automatic. It's the mainstay of the lineup, with ample acceleration and a light snarl as it rises through its powerband. Benz pegs its 0-60 mph time at 5.3 seconds, top speed at 155 mph, and fuel economy at 18/26 mpg. The engine takes good advantage of the SLK's quick handling response and good dynamic balance in tight corners. The fangs come out with the exclusive SLK55 AMG, with 355 horsepower shot out through its rear wheels via a seven-speed automatic, larger wheels and tires, a tightly controlled ride and handling, and breathtaking acceleration. While the seven-speed automatic can feel slow in the lesser SLKs, it's cured in the SLK55 AMG with the addition of paddle shifters and a SpeedShift transmission program. The estimated 0-60 mph time is 4.9 seconds, with a top speed of 155 mph and 14/22 mpg gas mileage. All SLKs benefit from a mechanical variable-steering gear that quickens the steering ratio in tighter corners and helps improve on-center tracking. And though the suspension is tuned for little roll, the 2010 SLK roadsters each have a relatively smooth, composed ride.
Inside the SLK, most drivers will be pleasantly surrounded by ample leg- and headroom. The interior is one of the most comfortable and luxurious in its class, and the seats are proportioned generously, with sporty bolsters and plenty of lumbar support for advanced maneuvers. There's enough small-item storage in the cabin for short trips, but the trunk space is severely limited when the top is folded away, with only 6.5 cubic feet of space, just enough room for a couple of soft-sided bags. This SLK is far better finished inside than the previous car, and various trim options give it even more of a custom look.
Neither NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) nor the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) has crash-tested the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK, but its list of safety features is unparalleled among roadsters. Head-and-thorax side-impact airbags and a knee airbag are standard, as are anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. The seating position is quite low, so visibility can be an issue; when the top is raised, it's particularly difficult to see to the rear quarters.
The standard features list on the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has been expanded to include a Bluetooth hands-free interface and an upgraded audio system. Leather upholstery, an in-dash CD changer, and cruise control all are standard. The options list is extensive, including a SmartKey system that allows raising or lowering the top remotely, a Harman Kardon sound system, a navigation system, the latest version of the company's COMAND screen-based interface, bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, and an attractive burl walnut trim. An iPod interface is newly available, and the optional sound system comes with an SD memory card slot, as well as HD and satellite radio. The single best feature available on the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK that's not offered on a rival vehicle in its class is AIRSCARF, which gently blows hot air around your neck from behind the headrest area, making cold, sunny days so much more enjoyable with the top down.