2015 Mercedes-Benz SLK250 Quick Spin [w/video]
Driving Into The Sunset With A Basic Benz Convertible
EngineTurbo 1.8L I4
Power201 HP / 229 LB-FT
0-60 Time6.5 Seconds
Top Speed150 MPH
Curb Weight3,241 LBS
MPG22 City / 32 HWY
As Tested Price$60,570
But the wonderful fact is that every car sold today will have a rich/interesting/heroic/tragic life for years to come. And, occasionally, even obsolete makes and models stay interesting. That was my thinking when this 2015 Mercedes-Benz SLK250 came into our fleet. Set to be replaced with the SLK300, with that car's 2.0-liter turbo'd engine, the 250 is already running out the clock in Mercedes dealerships. What's more, my test car came complete with – are you ready for this? – a six-speed manual transmission. I can't tell you the last exact model of Benz that I'd driven with a stick shift, but I can assure you that its engine was carbureted.
Considering the odd spec and replacement timeline, my question, as I drove the SLK for a week: was this a unicorn destined to be a driver's dearest find?
- Let me not bury the lede any more: the six-speed isn't a game changer for the SLK. Yeah, over the course of a few days I came to be comfortable with the slightly vague clutch and notchy shifter, but I didn't love it. I went blasting on a few back roads, and found the hand-shaker more involving to use than the standard auto, but it was long to throw and not overly precise when I moved up and down between second, third, and fourth.
- On the other hand, the old 1.8T under the SLK250's bonnet still felt well matched with the base SLK's boulevardier mission. Output of 201 horsepower and 229 pound-feet of torque doesn't give enough gumption to move the hardtop German lump with authority, but it was still enough to be quick off the line and offer easy highway passing. The turbo four didn't sound bad under full throttle, either, but it did rattle like old plumbing when idling in the driveway.
- Speaking of rattling: the adjustable and Airscarf-equipped seats did a lot of it. (Airscarf, you'll recall, is M-B's brand name for an in-seat fan that blows hot air on your neck; it's nice on a cold day.) Though comfortable and mildly bolstered, the driver's chair made all kinds of funny noises when I got in, got out, or cornered over 20 miles per hour. That's rough for a luxury car with 6,000 (or so) miles on it.
- Moving back to the positive side of the ledger, I was happily reminded that this SLK chassis feels great in a kind of "Sunday drive" mode. Find a good road, click on the midly stiffer sport suspension setting, and drive quickly but not crazily, and the car will reward with pleasing maneuverability without sacrificing much ride quality. Compared with other sports coupes in the $50-60k range it may only be about as sharp as your backup steak knife, but it'll still cut meat.
- Are we still interested in mechanical hardtops? Really? If you insist then. The SLK's tin top is quick enough, I suppose, but it does feel like a weight/complexity penalty I'd rather not have to pay. My impressions are no doubt colored by the fact that the machine got 'stuck' three times when I was trying to put it up (each time I restarted the process and it worked as normal). Or it could be that I drove the soft-top-equipped '16 Miata right after the Mercedes, in which I could open and close the top in about 15 seconds, round trip.
- The folding top does have Mercedes' Magic Sky Control roof panel. That's a cool party trick, but at $2,500, an expensive one. The Short Cut video below shows it in action.
Forget about the "as-tested" price you see in the Vital Stats box at the top there; sixty grand is nutty for this car, considering you can have your pick of a Porsche Boxster, Audi TT Roadster, or BMW 228i Convertible for far less. If you're that interested in the Mercedes badge at least find and updated SLK300 with the fine 2.0T engine, which better competes with the list above.
But, a quick search reveals 2013 model 250s in the mid-$30k range. Even with a not-amazing manual and the annoying seats, that's a far more reasonable buy to my way of thinking. It may not be the driver's car dream convertible, but a gently used SLK250 is at least worth checking out if you're looking to fill the "weekend roadster" roster spot in your dream garage.
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