Used 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Review

A new base engine for 2016 makes the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class range more appealing from top to bottom. Sporty and refined, it's a smart choice for a luxury roadster.




what's new

For 2016, the Mercedes-Benz SLK gets a more powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a different model name to go with it: SLK300. A nine-speed automatic is standard with that engine and there's no longer a manual transmission available. Option packages have been reorganized, the blind-spot warning system is now available as a stand-alone option and the SLK 55 gets a new AMG Carbon Styling package. That model also gets a minor name change to Mercedes-AMG SLK 55.

vehicle overview

While the SL-Class sets the standard in Mercedes' lineup for convertibles, the SLK-Class isn't far behind. They have the same general proportions (with a similarly blunt nose and large grille), nifty folding hardtop roofs and high-class interiors. When you really get down to it, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class embodies much of its ritzier sibling, albeit in a package that's 7/8ths in scale.

The SLK also delivers a similar driving character, which skews toward the more comfortable, cruising end of the drop-top persuasion. Because of its smaller proportions, however, it's more agile and nimble. Its abilities are still short of what the iconic Porsche Boxster delivers, but going around turns in an SLK will easily put a smile on the faces of most drivers.

Those smiles in the base model SLK should grow larger for 2016. For the new SLK300, Mercedes-Benz has installed a 241-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which replaces the old SLK250 and its 201-hp 1.8-liter engine. It's a much-needed lift, and it brings the base SLK's acceleration in line with the base Boxster and BMW Z4. A new nine-speed automatic is also standard, removing the rarely ordered manual transmission from the SLK's powertrain menu once and for all.

As noted, the Boxster is still the best choice if you wanted a focused sports car. Comparing the SLK to the Z4 is more of a toss-up, as both take a similar grand-touring approach. Other options are few and far between. Much less expensive is the new and massively improved Mazda MX-5 Miata. For an American take, the Chevrolet Corvette convertible gives up some refinement but gains plenty of V8-powered thunder. You could also consider some bigger, more useful four-seat convertibles, such as the BMW 4 Series.

In this small convertible segment, though, character, style and general emotional connection count for a lot. And if those elements of the grand Mercedes SL have always appealed to you, but you can't swing that type of payment, the 2016 SLK-Class is a superb, 7/8ths-scale alternative.

trim levels & features

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is a two-seat convertible roadster available in three trim levels that each correspond to a different engine: SLK300, SLK350 and AMG SLK 55.

The SLK300 comes standard with 17-inch wheels, a fully powered retractable hardtop with a fixed glass roof panel, LED running lights, automatic wipers, an auto-hold brake feature, cruise control, power-folding heated mirrors, eight-way power seats with memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, "MB-Tex" premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, the COMAND electronics interface (includes a 5.8-inch display) and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB audio input and HD radio.

The Premium 1 package adds remote roof operation, keyless ignition and entry, the "AirScarf" neck heater, heated seats, satellite radio, an iPod/media player interface, preparation for Becker navigation software (which can be dealer-installed) and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system.

Besides its larger engine, the SLK350 adds 18-inch wheels, different exterior styling elements, a color gauge cluster display and the Premium 1 package.

The AMG SLK 55 is equipped similarly but gets a V8 engine, a special AMG transmission, a sport suspension and exhaust, 18-inch AMG wheels, a torque-vectoring brake system (improves handling), bi-xenon headlights (with automatic high beam control), a sport steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery and an analog clock.

The Premium 2 package available on all three models includes a blind-spot warning system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system, voice controls and a CD/DVD player. The SLK300 and SLK350 version also includes the bi-xenon headlights and analog clock. The Premium 3 package adds an adaptive suspension, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, front and rear parking sensors and an automatic parallel parking system.

The SLK300 and SLK350 are available with a Sport Appearance package, which includes special exterior styling elements, 18-inch AMG wheels and red ambient lighting.

The AMG SLK 55 is available with the AMG Handling package, which adds more aggressive suspension tuning, a limited-slip differential, different 18-inch AMG wheels and a performance steering wheel. The AMG Carbon Styling package adds special exterior and interior styling elements.

Also available is Mercedes-Benz Apps, which outfits COMAND with smartphone app integration (including Google, Yelp, Facebook and others). A stand-alone option is Magic Sky Control, which darkens the roof's glass panel.

performance & mpg

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK300 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 241 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a nine-speed automatic transmission are standard. Mercedes estimates that it will go from zero to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg combined (25 city/32 highway).

The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 gets a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic transmission are standard. In Edmunds testing, an SLK350 went from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which is more than a half-second slower than the rival BMW Z4 sDrive35i. EPA fuel economy is 24 mpg combined (21/29).

The 2016 Mercedes-AMG SLK 55 has a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 415 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel drive and an AMG-tuned seven-speed automatic transmission are standard. Mercedes estimates it will go from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, making it the quickest car in the segment apart from the hard-core, lightweight Porsche Boxster Spyder. Despite its power, fuel economy isn't that bad at 22 mpg combined (19/28).

safety

The Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes standard with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, special side airbags that extend upward to provide head protection and front knee airbags. Also standard are roll bars, Attention Assist (a driver drowsiness monitor) and Mercedes' mbrace telematics system, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and teen driver geo-fencing and speed monitoring.

The Premium 2 package includes a blind-spot warning system. The Premium 3 package includes lane-keeping assist.

In Edmunds brake testing, the SLK350 stopped from 60 mph in 113 feet, which is unremarkable for a car with summer tires. We anticipate that the SLK300 will stop in a similar distance.

driving

The 2016 SLK-Class is reasonably athletic when going around turns, and most drivers will find it quite enjoyable. It also provides the smooth, composed ride that Mercedes drivers expect. It's a deft two-step that most other roadsters can't pull off, though it's very much in keeping with SL family values.

The SLK300 and its new, larger turbocharged four-cylinder is now fully competitive with the base models of its primary competitors: the Z4 and Boxster. The SLK350 trails the BMW Z4 sDrive35i's acceleration numbers, but in the real world the midrange SLK has plenty of get-up when you give it the spurs, and the exhaust note verges on thrilling. Meanwhile, the 415-hp AMG SLK 55 is a blast to drive, providing the power of a muscle car in a compact, German roadster.

interior

The SLK interior bears a strong family resemblance to the layouts of both the SL and the now defunct, but fondly remembered, SLS AMG. Although the SLK is by far the least expensive car of the three, you'll be hard-pressed to see where Mercedes cut costs. The buttons, switchgear and COMAND interface are virtually identical to what's offered throughout much of the Mercedes lineup, so SLK drivers will never feel like second-class Benz buyers.

One element shared with the SL is the distinctive glass roof panel that provides sunshine even when outside temperatures keep the roof up. Unfortunately, there's no retractable sunshade, and the only protection you get from a glaring sun is a light tint. In lieu of perpetually wearing a hat, we strongly recommend springing for the optional Magic Sky Control feature, which darkens the glass at the press of a button. It seems silly to get a retractable-roof roadster if the roof isn't able to block the sun.

Retracting the roof into the trunk (an entertaining sideshow in itself) uncovers a cabin that remains pleasantly calm at speed, aided by the standard fixed-glass deflector. Another feature that Mercedes pioneered is the AirScarf system, which blows warm air at neck level from clever seat-mounted vents. In the summer, meanwhile, the available sun-reflective leather guards against scorched skin, and it also slows the leather's aging process.

The main interior drawback for the SLK is that it's quite snug, even by compact roadster standards. The Z4, for example, gives larger drivers more room. On the bright side, the trunk is surprisingly accommodating for a two-door car whether the roof is up (10.1 cubic feet) or down (a still useful 6.4 cubic feet).

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.