The 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK300 is one of those cars that does it all. First off it resembles the styling up front of the McLaren/Mercedes Formula 1 race car. It is powered by a 228hp 3.0 liter V6 engine mated to a seven-speed automatic with sequential shifting. A unique fully independent suspension keeps the SLK300 glued to the pavement while riding on big 18X7.5in. front and 18X8.5in. rear, AMG designed multi-spoke, two tone alloy wheels wrapped with Pirelli P-Zero performance tires. Secondly, it is a dual personality type of vehicle with a hardtop that folds into the rear in just 22-second enabling you to pilot the car with the top up during inclement weather and put the top down when the weather is warm to enjoy the sun in your face and the wind in your hair. Thirdly, the unique interior is sporty, luxurious and very safe.
I was a little tentative about testing the small SLK300 because I am 6-ft. 3in. tall and thought that I would have no headroom to spare and would feel tight on the hips and shoulders, boy, was I ever wrong.
New for the 2011 model year are deeper front and rear aprons, as well as lower door sills, and black inlays around the headlights. The SLK boasts a front design with a strong resemblance from the world of Formula 1 racing. You see the sloped nose in between the unique SLK grille which also features a wing similar to the front of Formula 1 race cars. Down below the grille is another air intake on each side with a centered triangular intake design that is true to the McLaren-Mercedes F1 car. At the sides are foglamps and down below is an airdam to enhance downforce. The beautifully formed HID headlamp clusters are cut deep into the flared front fenders. The powerdome hood features heat extractors to keep the high-revving engine cool.
The silhouette is a wedge shape, sleek and low with steeply raked A-pillars, flared front fenders, aerodynamic heated/power-remote side mirrors, lower side extensions, and a rising crease from the front fenders to the rear muscular fenders. The front and rear fenders are stuffed with 18in. AMG designed multi-spoke alloy wheels wrapped with staggered Pirelli P-Zero high-performance low-profile tires that give the car a more lowered stance. The rear apron incorporates a bold rear bumper, an air diffuser, trapezoidal dual exhaust tips and a lip spoiler on the top of the trunk lid enhancing downforce. Large wraparound lamp clusters finish off the rear styling.
Mercedes-Benz backs up the exotic looks with a 3.0 liter DOHC, VVT, all-aluminum V6 engine. The 3.0 liter twin-cam V6 develops more than 80% of its maximum torque at only 1,500rpm. While variable valve timing gets much of the credit for the SLK300’s broad torque curve, a two-stage intake manifold also plays a key role. Tumble flaps in the engine intake make passages to increase fuel mileage by creating more turbulence at part throttle. This potent engine generates 228hp at 6,000rpm and 221lb.ft. of torque at 2,500-5,000rpm. That is enough power and torque to propel the SLK300 to 60mph from a standstill in just 6-sec.
Mated to the engine is either a standard short-throw, 6-speed manual transmission or an optional, smooth shifting, 7-speed automatic with sequential shifting that enables you to hold the gear all the up to redline to really wring out the revs and quicken your pulse rate.
Underpinning the SLK300’s sports car handling capability is a sport-tuned, dual personality, four-wheel independent suspension system. Up front are MacPherson struts with 3-links, anti-dive geometry, coil springs, gas-charged shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar. The rear setup features five-links, anti-squat geometry, coil springs, gas-charged shocks and a stabilizer bar. You also have the ability to change the suspension setting to Comfort (C) or Sport (S) by pushing a button on the center console. This provides the best of both world’s for a conventional coil-spring suspension. A small piston is connected to a bypass port in the hydraulic flow of each shock absorber. Its design provides a softer, quieter ride during cruising time and full shock damping over dips and twisty roads when you want to drive the SLK like a sports car, fast and hard straight-ahead or when challenging curving roads. In either mode the car felt neutral and well balanced, even nimble, when cornering, and I could feel it tighten up when I pushed the S button. I knew when I was in either mode because a C or S appears next to the gear selection readout on the speedometer.
Guiding you on your chosen path of direction is the innovative Mercedes-Benz rack & pinion steering system with an integrated hydraulic damper and Direct Steer system. Pinpoint accuracy with super-sharp reaction of my inputs were readily apparent using the innovative Direct-Steer system Variable-ratio rack gearing provides an impressive on-center steering feel with even high responsiveness beyond the first 5-degrees of steering angle. Purely a mechanical system, Direct Steer minimizes steering input during cornering and in low-speed maneuvers such as parking. The SLK handles like a racecar with instant front directional change with the slightest turn of the wheel. That’s what I like, racecar response to match the looks.
Helping you maintain you chosen path are standard ESP Stability Control and Traction Control, a Mercedes-Benz innovation that can help prevent slides and spins, especially in slippery weather. ESP can detect an impeding spin or slide and prevent it by applying the brakes to individual wheels or reducing engine power. In addition, Traction Control helps to provide safer travel on slippery roads. You can of course shut down the ESP to let the rear slide out a bit as you exit a steep turn with sweat beading up on your forehead, and then quickly racing to the next steep turn as the excitement continues to build.
Excellent hydraulic power-assisted 4-wheel disc brakes quickly and safely slow the SLK300 down from speed. Up front are 11.8in. vented discs clamped by dual-piston calipers, while the rear setup features 10.9in. solid discs clamped with large, single-piston calipers. Enhancing braking control and power are standard ABS and BA.
As mentioned earlier, the SLK300 rides on special AMG designed multi-spoke wheels, 18X7.5in. up front and 18X8.5in. in the rear. These lightweight alloy wheels are wrapped with Pirelli 225/40R18in. front and 245/35R18in. P-Zero low-profile high-performance tires in the rear. They ensure excellent grip and traction during hard launching, during you fun times attacking curving roads, and when traveling over rough road surfaces.
With the first retractable hardtop in modern times, the SLK started an industry trend toward hardtop convertibles that’s still going strong. After shaking up the small roadster market when it was introduced more than decade ago, the second-generation SLK wowed the public again when it hit U.S. streets in 2004. It’s only competition in the small, two-seat power retractable hardtop roadster segment is the Mazda MX-5 hardtop but it really can’t compete with the SLK in looks, performance, interior comfort, design or safety.
With the top up, it’s a quiet, weather-proof coupe-push a button on the center console and the car goes topless in just 22-sec. The folded roof takes up surprisingly little trunk space-thanks to its pivoting rear window. Like the retractable hardtop of the larger SL model, the rear window of the latest SLK swivels to match the curvature of the top, providing nearly three more cubic inches of trunk room that its predecessor.
The interior features Mercedes-Benz’s excellent design, fit, finish and pride of workmanship. My test model features the Diamond White Edition with custom monochromic Designo Mystic White metallic paint, 18in. AMG multi-spoke two-tone wheels, an interior with baseball stitching, black headliner, white interior aluminum trim pieces on the dashboard, transparent glass windblocker, that can be easily removed, and aluminum foot pedals with rubber inserts. The large chronometer-type gauge cluster with aluminum accents are easy to and understand with a readouts in the middle to check on your system or safety features.
The heated/leather sport bucket seats feature 10-way power adjustment including dual lumbar power adjustments. The seats are ultra-comfortable for longer drives, and very supportive during spirited driving times. The power tilting/telescoping, leather wrapped, 3-spoke steering also features baseball stitching plus buttons for the audio system, Bluetooth telephone system and the driver information system with the readouts set between the gauges. It feels perfect in your hands. The center console holds the leather-wrapped stick shifter and controls for the power-remote/heated side mirrors and power hardtop. The leather padded storage bin is very deep holding many of your favorite items at your disposal. Dual cupholders pop-out from the center stack that also features your radio controls and dual climate controls that are easy to reach and operate. Each door has an expandable leather storage area and the lighted glove box is large. Standard features include AM-FM-WB stereo radio with in-dash 6-disc CD changer and 9-speakers, dust and pollen filters, self-dimming reaview mirror, electronic cruise-control, express power windows/power door locks, intermittent wipers/washers, rear glass with defogger, dual map lamps, lighted vanity mirrors, an extra storage box between the rear seats, aluminum door sill plates, thick cut-pile carpeting and signature Mercedes-Benz floor mats.
SLK is available with an optional multi-media package that includes a Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio system, HD radio, SIRIUS satellite radio, GPS navigation with a larger display, a choice control system, an SD memory card slot and a hard drive for storing music and GPS navigation maps.
An optional AIRSCARF system can extend the open-air driving season into the cooler months. Built into the seatbacks of the SLK, the neck-level heating system blows warm air from the driver and passenger-seat head restraints, allowing occupants to cruise comfortably with the retractable hardtop open in cooler weather. AIRSCARF even compensates automatically for changes in vehicle speed.
The SLK is considered one of the safest roadsters in the world. In addition to its integrated roll bars and two-stage front airbags, the SLK is also equipped with dual knee bags, and head-thorax airbags located in the seatbacks and can deploy above the top of the seatback to help provide better head and neck protection, similar to the curtain-type airbags on fixed-roof Mercedes-Benz models, steel impact beams in each door, 3-point safety belts with pretensioners/load limiters, front/rear crumple zones, tele-aid system, anti-theft alarm system with engine immobilizer, panic button remote key, clone proof remote key, keyless entry, night security illumination front/rear foglamps and emergency trunk release inside the cargo area. Also included is a strong unibody construction using an impressive amount of high-strength steel alloy-42% of the total structure-and the entire body shell is zinc-coated for long term corrosion protection.
The SLK is in a league all its own for great racecar looks, excellent power and high-performance capability, an interior that is sporty, roomy, comfortable, luxurious and safe all for a base price of $46,900.00. My Diamond White Edition was stickered at $54,000.00. Excellent!
Price: Base SLK 300 $46,900 As-Tested $54,000
Type: Compact Convertible
Where Built: Germany
EPA Class: Two Seaters
Length: 161.5 in.
Width: 70.4 in.
Height: 51.1 in.
Wheel Base: 95.7 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.7 in.
Curb Weight: 3208 lbs.
Front Head Room: 37.9 in.
Front Hip Room: 54.6 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 52.2 in.
Front Leg Room: 42.5 in.
Luggage Capacity: 9.8 cu. ft.
Maximum Cargo Capacity: 10 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 2
Number of Cylinders: 6
Engine Size: 3 liters
Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 228 hp
Max Horsepower: 6000 rpm
Torque: 221 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 2500 rpm
Drive Type: RWD
Turning Circle: 34.5 ft.
0-60mph: 6.0 seconds
Fuel Tank Capacity: 18.5 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Manual: 17 mpg / 26 mpg / 20 mpg
Range in Miles:
Manual: 314.5 mi. / 481 mi. / 370 mi.