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Mercedes-Benz SLK Roadster engines, drive and performance

2004 - 2011 (change model)
Performance rating: 4 out of 54.0

Written by David Ross Published: 6 June 2019 Updated: 6 June 2019

The supercharged 200K 2.0-litre may be the entry-level engine, but it’s a cracker. Original cars launched in 2004 had 160bhp and were capable of 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds with a top speed of 143mph. The 280 is a shade quicker, hitting 62mph in 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 155mph. The 350 offers smooth performance and a thrilling exhaust note. As expected it’s blisteringly quick, with 62mph achievable in 5.4 seconds.

It’s a shame then that the standard manual gearbox lacks the precision and slickness you’d expect in a sports car. There’s an optional automatic which suits the larger engines well (for a more relaxed drive) but the five-speed in the 200K model is sluggish to kick down and seems to sap power from the engine. The range-topping SLK55 AMG version is covered in a separate review but unlike the Audi TT, there’s no diesel available.

When it comes to driving, the SLK is very easy and smooth, whether in town or on country roads. It’s agile and quick – although never quite as much fun to drive as the Porsche Boxster and is hampered by steering that lacks feel. However it does offer something for everyone. Drivers who prefer to take things easy will appreciate that it cruises with ease, is unruffled with the roof down and is a doddle to drive around town.

Those who prefer to push a bit harder will find that the SLK corners flatly, has a precise gearchange and has plenty of grip. You can even choose between ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ modes at the push of a button. Select ‘Sport’ and the throttle is sharpened.