A compact roadster by Mercedes Benz, the SLK has been produced and launched over three generations: R170 in 1996, R171 in 2004 and R172 in 2011. As one of the earliest modern retractable hardtop convertibles, this Merc model was preceded by a similar Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder in 1995. More brands followed the concept and so we got retractable hardtops in form of Peugeot 206cc, Lexus SC, Pontiac G6 and the Chrysler Sebring. The ‘vario roof’ of SLK helps in transforming the hard top coupe to open-top roadster in seconds and this was initially shown on the SLK II concept car at Paris Motor Show in 1994. The car came to European markets in 1996 and to the US in 1997. It is fabricated in Bremen, Germany. The term SLK is an acronym for Sportlich (sport), Leicht (light) und Kurz (short) hinting at the nature of this luxury car.
The new SLK (Edition 350) was launched in India in August 2011. It came with a choice between standard aluminium, fixed-tint glass and electro-magnetic variable-tint glass panel for the roof. It competes with BMW Z4, Audi TT and Porsche Boxster/Cayman. And then in 2013 the SLK 55 arrived with its AMG kit. So the buyers of these swanky, attention drawing sport cars now have a choice between two trims:
SLK 350 - Powered by 3498 cc V6 petrol mated to 7 speed automatic transmission. It churns out 305 bhp and has 37 kgm of peak torque
SLK 55 AMG – Powered by 5461 cc V8 petrol mated to 7 speed automatic transmission. It has 416 bhp on tap and comes with a torque of 55 kgm
The 0-100 km/hour dash is completed in 5.6 seconds by SLK 350 and in 4.6 seconds by the AMG trim. Top speed of this roadster is 250 km/hour.
A large, sweeping bonnet and the protruding, single louver front grille with a big three pointed star give those typical Merc looks to SLK. The set of back swept headlamps come with premium LED corona rings and daytime running lights. Fog lamps are integrated in form of LED strips lower down the bumper. SLK 55 AMG gets black finish on its alloy wheels. The diffuser for SLK 350 is twin tipped with rectangular outlets. And the one on 55 AMG variant has 4 outlets (a pair of rounded outlets on both sides) – more suitable for the bigger engine that it has under the hood. The large, wrap-around tail lamps with LEDs look perfectly integrated. With its roof cover the SLK sports a smart coupe like look and with the top down it comes into its aggressive and attention drawing avatar. While enjoying a ride in this sports car, the driver and co-driver need to be prepared for some passer-byes who will gaze or point at this German beauty. There could be some random clicks from mobile phones too.
The cabin displays the best of brand Mercedes and exudes a sporty feel with its brushed aluminium and leather components. The two seats are large and offer ample comfort. In the usual Merc style, the dashboard is uncluttered while the centre console has a bevy of buttons within easy reach of the driver. SLK 55 AMG comes with the usual AMK kit - red sport seats, carbon fire on doorpads and the centre console.
There is a 2 DIN integrated music system to make those top down rides on country roads more enjoyable. This comprises CD/MP3 player along with Aux input and USB Ports. Bluetooth connectivity and compatibility for plugging in your iPod is standard. Automatic climate control sets comfortable temperature for the two privileged occupants of the cabin. And the vario roof makes the SLK a weatherproof car. So when it starts drizzling on those winding roads, you can enjoy your ride securely within the pleasantly cooled/heated environment of your car. PARKTRONIC is a standard comfort attribute.
With regards to safety, six air bags have been fitted for the driver and co-driver. ABS, adaptive brake, ESP and traction control improve the safety of the ride. The PRE SAFE system activates crucial safety elements when danger is detected.
Mercedes SLK variants can be customised with a wide range of optional features and buyers can go for vibrant, sporty colours including Fire Opal, Metallic Obsidian Black, Calcite White, Tellur Silver and Jasper Blue.
The 2013 SLK Class was ranked at # 9 among the top 10 Luxury Sports Cars by the US News website. Earlier, Car and Driver magazine put the SLK-Class in its Ten Best List in 1997. The magazine also honoured it as 'the North American Car of the Year in 1998'. In 2004 this Mercedes roadster won Red Dot Award for product design and it was awarded for the PRESAFE crash protection system in 2012.
With its nice combination of style and substance, the SLK Class is a sports car that entertains with every dab on paddle. But of course it costs a fortune. The SLK 350 is priced at Rs 84.43 lakhs (ex showroom price Delhi) and the limited AMG edition comes for Rs 1.26 crore (ex showroom price Delhi). This high maintenance partner may not be very good on practical front but is pleasurable to take out for refreshing country drives.