2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class 2-door Roadster SLK250 Angular Front Exterior ViewEnlarge Photo
Mercedes-Benz first launched its compact SLK roadster in 1996, in an effort to give buyers a more affordable alternative to the more luxurious (and better equipped) Mercedes-Benz SL Class. The car was also supposed to combat sales lost to the Porsche Boxster and the BMW Z3, even though both were more narrowly focused than the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none SLK.
Through two generations of SLK models, our biggest complaint was that the car lacked focus; in trying to appeal to as many buyers as possible, Mercedes-Benz managed to build a car without an audience. All that changed when Mercedes-Benz introduced the third-generation SLK for the 2012 model year, and for 2013 the power-retractable hardtop roadster remains one of our favorite personal luxury cars. Sure, the Porsche Boxster is more nimble and the BMW Z4 is a better grand tourer, but the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK carries itself with a certain grace (and increased performance) that earlier versions simply lacked.
Buyers can choose from three SLK models for 2013, each with a noticeably distinct personality. The least expensive is the SLK 250, which is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, rated at 201 horsepower and mated to the buyer’s choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission. If you prefer to row your own gears, the SLK 250 is your sole option, since all other variants rely on a seven-speed automatic equipped with paddle shifters.
The best-selling version is the midpoint SLK 350, which gets a 3.5-liter V-6, rated at 302 horsepower, beneath its stylish hood. If only the fastest version will do, however, you’ll need to check the option box for the SLK 55 AMG, which benefits from a 5.5-liter V-8 good for 415 horsepower, mated to an AMG-tuned seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Opt for the SLK 350, and you’ll get a German roadster that delivers a pleasing blend of performance and ride quality. While previous SLK models weren’t known for their handling prowess, the latest generation takes advantage of an electronic stability control that includes torque vectoring to up the car’s ability to tackle corners. If that’s your only concern, the Porsche Boxster will still be a better choice, but the Boxster simply doesn’t deal from the same luxury deck as the SLK.
A major selling point is the SLK’s power-retractable hardtop, which transforms the car into a coupe at the press of a button. Top up, the SLK’s cabin is quiet and comfortable, though taller or wider drivers may find it a bit too snug. Outward visibility with the top in place is reduced, too, and Mercedes (oddly) doesn’t offer a rearview camera system on SLK models.
Amenities abound, including standard HD radio, Bluetooth phone integration, automatic climate control and eight-way power adjustable front seats with lumbar support. Options include Mercedes’ Magic Sky photochromic glass roof, leather upholstery, heated seats and Airscarf, a feature that blows warm air on occupants’ necks for cold-weather topless motoring.
For a full review of 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class models, see our comprehensive review on The Car Connection