Mercedes SLK roadster: from Brooklands to Birdworld
A misunderstood classic has just been given the revamp that should help it garner the plaudits it's always deserved, says Ade Holder who takes the brand new Mercedes SLK for a spin round Surrey's roads
A misunderstood classic has just been given the revamp that should help it garner the plaudits it’s always deserved, says Ade Holder who takes the brand new Mercedes SLK for a spin round Surrey’s roads
CAR REVIEW: The letters SLK mean different things to different people. Previous incarnations of Mercedes' two seater drop top have often been pigeon holed as ladies cars or even worse put into the nonsensical bracket of hairdressers’ cars. This has often been simply because they were small roadsters, but perhaps it had more to do with the electric roof.
Mercedes pioneered this perfect balance between canvas soft top and a hardtop roof. At the touch of a button you could turn you sturdy hard roof into a classic convertible, which was a real game changer as it meant you did not have to get out of the car a mess around with reams of canvas and plastic in the middle of a classic British summer “shower”.
But this came at a price and perhaps the purists just did not like the idea. For whatever reason, the SLK has possibly not been given a fair crack of the whip in the past. Well, times have just changed and with the new SLK things just got serious.
On the roadThe first thing I noticed when I picked up the car from the lovely people at Mercedes-Benz Brooklands was the looks. It is simply a fantastic looking car, but there is something else going on. All the SLKs of the past looked nice but this new model looks meaner, more purposeful, and also quite aeronautic.
If any of you have had the pleasure of seeing the Mercedes SLS AMG you will notice some similarities in the front and back end, and this is a very, very good thing indeed.
The SLK has not turned into an enormous bulky muscle car, but it ha grown up. Instead of appealing to one sex or perhaps a certain type of person, it will now appeal to anyone and everyone. Judging by the looks we got as we drove through Surrey's towns, the new SLK is a big hit about to happen.
There are three variations of the SLK at the moment, the 200, 250 petrol or diesel and the 350 and there is rumour of an AMG version on the way for those who rather a lot of power.
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Working wondersWe were given the 250 to review and initially I was not expecting much: it’s four cylinder, two litre turbo charged engine is quite common – occasionally minus the turbo charger - in cars like the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Insignia etc). In this case, however, Mercedes have managed to squeeze 200 brake horse power from this little unit and a rather nippy 0-60mph in just 6.4 seconds.
Once you are on the road, you really start to fall in love with the SLK; the interior is stunning, plush leather seats really show sports seats can be comfortable, a sporty but functional steering wheel, aluminium perfectly placed around the cockpit and some frankly beautiful dial surrounds and air vents.
Again, this car has borrowed a few styling tips from the SLS but that can only be a good thing. You feel like you are in a mini super car but without the fear of crashing, breaking down or going bankrupt.
The electric roof is fantastic, having not used one before I don't have a lot to compare it to, but I found myself hoping for a change of conditions just so I could press the button again.
When the sun shone on the way to Birdworld in Farnham, we pulled over for a few seconds and the roof slid away into the boot leaving us basking in the afternoon light and the joy of open top driving. When a shower started, we simply did the reverse, it was no trouble, and took just seconds.
A versatile performerTo drive the SLK can be all things to all men (and women). It has a paddle shift, seven-speed gearbox which can be fully automatic or fully manual and a few things in-between.
You have a sports mode to sharpen the throttle response and gear changes if you come over all Jackie Stewart, but in full auto you can drive this car in a totally normal and comfortable way.
You have all the handling and safety features you would expect from our German friends. Short of driving for you, this car will look after you an awful lot. With everything turned on you won’t skid round corners, you can't lock the wheels by stamping on the brakes, you can’t wheel spin and you can’t even speed!
In saying all that, you can turn a lot of the computer help off and, when you do, you will find yourself in a classic roadster.
It adores corners, moving round them with all the lithe confidence of a python on stage with Frank Sinatra, the engine will propel you onto the straights with just enough fuss to be fun but none of the breathlessness you seem to find with lesser engines, and even with all that said you still get a whopping 42 MPG.
The SLK has one of Mercedes Blue Efficiency engines and it's nothing short of brilliant, low emissions and low fuel costs with sacrificing any of the fun. Well done Mercedes.
Hitting Surrey’s roads: a day in the Mercedes SLK
As part of a road test I always like to take a car on a day out, including stopping off at the supermarket to get picnic supplies and the like. It is important to know what a car is like to live with; it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget the practicalities.
The first thing we liked is that you pull into a car park with the roof down and you don't have to make a choice between leaving your car unsecured or messing around trying to get the roof up - the electric roof takes care of that in seconds.
The SLK is also quite a small car, and as such is a breeze to park and manoeuvre, but if that is not enough it is surrounded with very helpful sensors that tell you exactly how close you are to damaging your new pride and joy.
As we pulled into the car park at Birdworld we did get some appreciative looks, before proceeding to have a wonderful few hours looking at all sorts of feathered friends, from a rather romantic pair of Ravens to a genuine talking parrot. The highlight for us, however, was the brand new Penguin Beach exhibit.
It was enchanting to be able to walk around in this big enclosure without glass between you and these amazing creatures, though the smell was a little to close for comfort at one stage. If, after such a close encounter you are still craving a close up experience you can walk down to the farm section and stroke, feed and interact with a gallery of farm animals and frankly, some of the oddest looking chickens I have ever seen.
We had a fantastic day out, Birdworld is a must visit attraction in Surrey if you are in a brilliant new SLK or not and if I had my way I would certainly chose to be in one.
, Holt Pound, Farnham, Surrey GU10 4LD: 01420 22838