2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
January 7, 2010

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has the poise and performance of a sports car and the soul of a sunny roadster.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove and reviewed the latest Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class for this road test. Editors compared the SLK to other two-seat ragtops and hardtop convertibles, and compiled a full review of quotes from other sources to help you decide which roadster is best for you.

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.

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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.

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2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Styling

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK puts on an SL-like sporty face that matches its purposeful cockpit.

The current Mercedes-Benz SLK saw a redesign in 2005 and was refreshed last year with restyled front and rear ends. 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. Motor Trend says it includes a "larger mesh in the grille and redesigned foglamps" up front, as well as a "nose job-trimmed back a bit, with the wings fleshed out for a more Formula 1 look." Motor Trend notes the "taillamps are now tinted" and "exhaust tips are squared off," while Car and Driver observes "the rear bumper is more sculpted and adds a mock diffuser." The look is wedgy and purposeful, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the heftier SL-Class grand tourer. The SLK55 AMG got similar updates, but "the changes are less evident because of its larger grille," according to Car and Driver. The SLK55 AMG performance edition also wears 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 interior is a high-class, low-key affair with lots of dark leather and low-gloss plastic putting a priority on driver controls. Edmunds adds that the Mercedes-Benz's 2010 design for the SLK-Class is "beyond reproach," and Kelley Blue Book is impressed that "Mercedes has done a wonderful job of organizing the SLK's interior without losing the look and feel common to all Mercedes products." TheCarConnection.com's editors agree, though we observe that, 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. For 2009, the SLK received some updates inside; Car and Driver reports "new gauge faces and a new three-spoke steering wheel" among the most notable changes, along with "an updated navigation system" that Edmunds says will display along an "expanded 6.5-inch LCD screen."

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9

2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Performance

In its latest generation, the Mercedes-Benz SLK has evolved into a truly satisfying driver's car.

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. Edmunds claims even this base SLK300 "provides sprightly acceleration." Popular Mechanics thinks it's a "bummer" that the manual can only be had in the low-powered SLK, though.

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 advantage of the SLK's quick handling response and good dynamic balance in tight corners. Car and Driver tested the prior version and "ran from 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds"; they note the additional 32 horsepower "should knock a few 10ths off that time." Cars.com performed a road test of "about 150 miles of mostly highway driving," and they found that "the SLK350 averaged 29 mpg."

The fangs come out with the exclusive SLK55 AMG, with what Edmunds calls "a beastly 5.4-liter V8 that cranks out 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque." The power's 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. Car and Driver calls the seven-speed simply "excellent," while Cars.com also gives high marks for the "smooth shifts that can't be felt most of the time."

All SLKs benefit from a mechanical variable-steering gear that quickens the steering ratio in tighter corners and helps improve on-center tracking. Popular Mechanics says that "a new, all-mechanical direct-steer system tightens the steering ratio when the wheel is turned a mere 5 degrees off-center," which improves overall handling significantly when combined with the "speed-sensitive power assist." And though the suspension is tuned for little roll, the 2010 SLK roadsters each have a relatively smooth, composed ride. Kelley Blue Book contends that the "ride has definitely been improved," and Edmunds reports the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is "comfortable and compliant enough to appeal to the average driver." Cars.com declares with the improvements, the SLK "proves to be a decent touring car."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class pampers most drivers with ample space and comfort, though the folding top cuts into cargo room.

The 2010 Benz SLK has one of the most comfortable and luxurious cabins in its class. Most drivers will be pleasantly surrounded by ample leg- and headroom, though Cars.com notes that the "cabin is definitely cozy if you're around 6 feet tall," and that "even though [they] were able to get relatively comfortable, [they were] never able to put the seat exactly" where they wanted to.

The SLK's seats are proportioned generously, with sporty bolsters and plenty of lumbar support for advanced maneuvers. Kelley Blue Book reviewers love the "supportive bucket seats" on the Mercedes-Benz 2010 SLK-Class, while Edmunds mentions the "power heated sport seats."

Cargo space suffers when the retractable hardtop is lowered, though. Edmunds says "the folded top naturally eats up trunk space" and leaves just "6.5 cubic feet" for luggage and carry-ons. While the "retractable hardtop still eats up trunk space," Kelley Blue Book asserts "the design responsibly leaves some usable room for storing small luggage and valuables."

This SLK is far better finished inside than the previous car, and various trim options give it even more of a custom look. Kelley Blue Book observes "the perfectly aligned side bodylines appear as though carved from a single block of steel," while Edmunds says that the interior "materials are generally beyond reproach," with "soft, high-quality plastics" throughout. Cars.com reviewers find "a little bit of wind noise can penetrate the cabin on the highway with the top up," but Popular Mechanics reports "top-up motoring is appropriately insulated thanks to the folding hardtop."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Safety

Though no crash-test data exists, drivers can have confidence in the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK's safety performance-save for top-up visibility.

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. Cars.com confirms all SLKs include "antilock brakes, side-impact airbags, knee airbags and an electronic stability system." Edmunds adds a "brake assist" feature is included, along with Mercedes-Benz's "TeleAid emergency call system" that contacts authorities in case of an accident. ConsumerGuide reminds drivers that all 2010 SLK-Class convertibles come with "daytime running lights" and a "tire-pressure monitor." J.D. Power points out "all 2010 SLKs will carry integrated roll bars," which pop up in case of a rollover to protect passengers.

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. Edmunds reports this major "drawback involves the SLK's inferior sight lines, as the intricately constructed roof unavoidably creates significant blind spots."

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2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Features

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class gives buyers some personal-touch options, while giving all owners a full list of entertainment and convenience features.

Base models have a leaner equipment list, but as of last year, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has seen its standard-features list upgraded to include Bluetooth and a premium audio system. Leather upholstery, an in-dash CD changer, and cruise control also are standard. ConsumerGuide adds the SLK roadsters include "air conditioning w/dual-zone automatic climate controls" and a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls," along with "height-adjustable bucket seats" and a "six-disc CD changer." Edmunds reports "a premium audio system with a five-inch LCD screen" is also standard on all three versions of the 2010 SLK, while J.D. Power notes the audio system "includes [a] hands-free phone link."

The 2010 SLK-Class 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. Kelley Blue Book notes other options include "dual eight-way power seats with memory" and "heated seats." The optional Multimedia Package includes a "navigation system w/voice recognition," ConsumerGuide observes, and the "COMAND control screen," along with an upgraded "Harman/kardon sound system" and "hard drive." Other minor options on the Mercedes-Benz 2010 SLK-Class roadster include "HID headlamps and several different designo designer trim packages," according to Kelley Blue Book.

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. Edmunds explains it "channels warm air to your neck and shoulders via dedicated ducts in the headrests" and "makes the SLK a true four-season convertible."

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