Mercedes-Benz SLK 200 Blue Efficency - iDrive

The Merc SLK 200 - a blend of dainty style and raw power

Price: £29,970

Engine capacity: 1.8 (4 cylinders, 16 valves, turbocharged)

Power output (PS @ rpm): 184 @ 5250

Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 270 @ 1800-4600

Top speed (mph): 150

0-62 mph (seconds): 7.3

Fuel economy (mpg): 41.5

CO2 emissions (g/km): 149-158

Mercedes’ first small roadster, the 1955 190 SL, had a reputation for being a bit of a ladies’ car. Thankfully, by the time the 190SL was reinvented in the form of the first SLK in 1996, we’d left that sort of crass gender stereotyping far behind, and a good thing too – not least because this latest version of the SLK would otherwise have had your average Mercedes-Benz showroom looking like a poor imitation of a Little Britain’s Emily and Florence sketch, full of car-mad chaps in unconvincing drag, clamouring to have a go. It’s that appealing.

Mercedes’ first small roadster, the 1955 190 SL, had a reputation for being a bit of a ladies’ car. Thankfully, by the time the 190SL was reinvented in the form of the first SLK in 1996, we’d left that sort of crass gender stereotyping far behind, and a good thing too – not least because this latest version of the SLK would otherwise have had your average Mercedes-Benz showroom looking like a poor imitation of a Little Britain’s Emily and Florence sketch, full of car-mad chaps in unconvincing drag, clamouring to have a go. It’s that appealing.And just to make things even better, it appears that the cheapest version, the SLK 200, will be the pick of the range, rather than just making up the numbers. The SLK 200’s badge suggests a capacity of two litres – it’s actually 1.8 but turbocharging and direct injection make it feel like almost three. Mercedes’ engineers have been doing a bit of acoustic tuning to make it sound nicely gravelly in the mid range without affecting top-end smoothness, too. The 250 and 350 versions provide even more shove if you need it but I think the 200 will more than do the job on British roads.

The SLK’s styling has been improved as well – gone is the almost dainty appearance, in favour of a square-jawed, muscular look shared with the more expensive CLS and SLS. The folding hard-top is retained, but with a twist. As an alternative to the metal roof, a glass version is available with something called Magic Sky Control; flick a switch and particles in the glass reposition themselves either to block the light or to let it pass through. Clever stuff.

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering what the BlueEFFICIENCY bit is all about, it’s Mercedes’ eco brand and signifies the SLK has a host of fuelsaving measures, including a stop-start system of the sort that used to be found only on a few miserly economy models. There’s even going to be a diesel later in the year, so if you get an SLK, you’ll be able to burn rubber without burning too much fuel.

THE COMPETITION

Britain invented the roadster but Triumph, MG and TVR have faded away, leaving the field to the Germans. The main threat to the SLK comes from Mercedes’ arch-rival, BMW, with the Z4, but Porsche’s Boxster is an alternative to the top-of-the-range SLK 350.

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