Full 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Review
What's New for 2010
The Mercedes-Benz SLK carries over mostly unchanged for 2010. A very-low-production Diamond White Edition SLK300 is now available.
Since being introduced in the 1990s, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has been best known for one thing: its retractable hardtop convertible roof. A revolutionary piece of automotive engineering at the time, it has since spread to other convertibles. Yet the 2010 Mercedes SLK-Class remains an appealing luxury roadster, especially given how much emotion plays on this sort of vehicle purchase. The current (second-generation) SLK may be getting on in years, but it's still an attractive little convertible that looks fresh.
The SLK has an impressive dynamic résumé as well. Unlike past Mercedes convertibles and roadsters, this SLK is actually quite fun to drive, with adept handling that doesn't impose on ride comfort. While it will never match the handling thrills of the superb Porsche Boxster, the SLK stays true to what a roadster should be like to drive. Backing up the driving enjoyment are your choice of two V6 engines or a mighty V8 that adds a whole new level to the car's character.
However, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the fully redesigned BMW Z4, which now utilizes the same grand-touring formula. The new Z4 has not only a retractable hardtop that provides better top-up visibility than the SLK, but also a better-sorted ride, more interior space, a more modern electronics interface and -- in twin-turbocharged trim -- more muscle than the SLK300 and SLK350 can muster.
But the BMW has nothing to match the mighty SLK55's hand-built V8, and there's always the matter of what tugs at your emotional heartstrings. Overall, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class remains an excellent choice for those looking for a premium roadster with grand-touring leanings.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is a two-seat retractable-hardtop roadster offered in three versions: SLK300, SLK350 and SLK55 AMG, each of which comes with a different engine.
Standard equipment on the SLK300 includes a fully automatic retractable hardtop, 17-inch wheels, front and rear foglamps, cruise control, dual-zone manual climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way manual front seats, leather upholstery, Bluetooth and a nine-speaker stereo with six-CD changer. The SLK350 adds a bigger V6, a standard automatic transmission and upgraded brakes.
The Premium I package adds remote roof operation, auto-dimming mirrors, automatic wipers, eight-way power front seats (including lumbar adjustment), driver memory functions, a power steering column and an iPod interface. The Sport package adds 18-inch wheels, a sport suspension and various body kit items. The Diamond White Edition SLK300 (about 100 units only) will include 18-inch AMG wheels, a sport suspension, steering wheel shift paddles, metallic white paint, a two-tone interior and baseball glove-style leather upholstery stitching.
The SLK55 AMG adds a beastly V8 and the usual array of AMG-tuned items (V8 engine, brakes, suspension, exhaust, transmission, styling) plus a sport steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, heated seats and the Premium I package. The AMG Performance package adds upgraded brakes, a track-calibrated suspension, light-alloy 18-inch wheels, a higher top speed, a performance steering wheel and carbon-fiber interior trim.
The Multimedia package available on all SLK models includes the COMAND electronics interface, a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic updates, digital music storage, satellite radio and HD radio. The Lighting package adds bi-xenon headlamps, corner-illuminating foglights and headlamp washers. The Heating package adds a cloth wind deflector, the Airscarf neck-level heating system and heated seats. Stand-alone options include dual-zone automatic climate control and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK300 is powered by a 3.0-liter V6 that produces 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a seven-speed automatic is optional. Mercedes estimates a 0-60-mph time of 6.1 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with the automatic, and 18/26/20 with the manual.
The SLK350 gets a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 300 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic is the only available transmission. Mercedes estimates a 5.4-second 0-60 time. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 18/25/20 mpg.
The SLK55 AMG features a 5.4-liter V8 that pumps out 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. An AMG-tuned seven-speed automatic is standard. In Edmunds testing, the SLK55 went from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. Fuel economy estimates are 14/22/17 mpg.
Safety equipment includes antilock brakes, stability and traction control, knee airbags and side airbags that cover the head and thorax. The "mbrace" emergency telematics system is also standard. In Edmunds brake testing, the SLK55 came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 115 feet.
Interior Design and Special Features
With its retractable hardtop in place, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is virtually indistinguishable from a conventional two-seat coupe. Leg- and headroom are acceptable even for tall drivers, though the new Z4 is still roomier inside. The only notable drawback involves the SLK's inferior sight lines, as the intricately constructed roof creates significant blind spots. Press the button to lower the top, though, and all will be forgiven, as al fresco motoring is just 22 seconds away. When lowered, the folded top naturally eats up trunk space, but a modest 6.5 cubic feet is still available.
Interior construction isn't quite up to the level of Benz's latest models, but still, you're unlikely to feel cheated by the SLK. The seats don't look like much, but they somehow manage to provide exemplary support and adequate long distance comfort. We highly recommend opting for the Airscarf system, which breathes warm air on your neck -- it sounds weird but it works. Add to that heated seats, a smart heating system and perhaps a warm hat, and all-season top-down motoring is easily accomplished.
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class's acceleration is strong even in the base V6 model, which is the only SLK to offer a manual transmission; the SLK350 is stronger still but automatic-only. The SLK's handling capabilities will put a smile on just about any driving enthusiast's face, while the ride quality remains comfortable and compliant enough to appeal to the average driver. Only in direct comparison with pure sports cars like the Boxster do the SLK's relatively uncommunicative steering and less tossable nature become apparent.
Even so, the SLK55 AMG will be hard for car lovers to pass up -- it's almost a modern-day Shelby Cobra, albeit with a thick layer of luxury slathered on top. The formula is virtually the same: Start with a capable compact roadster, stuff it to the gills with a giant V8, sharpen the suspension and proceed to stun people at traffic lights when you tear off down the road in a cloud of tire smoke. Handling is also improved thanks to its myriad AMG upgrades. The aging automatic transmission leaves much to be desired, however, as it is slow to respond and doesn't blip the throttle on manual downshifts. Indeed, this is an issue with lesser SLKs as well.