With the sun blazing and temperatures that the UK barely experiences, what a better way to enjoy the heat than with one of the best selling convertibles on the market. A convertible that is nearing sales of 1 million units since it was first revealed in 1996, the SLK has forever been a 'cult' car for Mercedes. Now, with improved styling, engines and features, the SLK has never looked better.
With the whole Merc range having a facelift and new cars like the E Class Coupe being introduced into the line up, the SLK was in need of an update and Mercedes have certainly done it justice. With the new front bumper taking elements from the SLR, pronouncing a sporty V shape, dropping effortlessly down to a beefy grille and front wing. Add some twin-spoke alloys and you have yourself a beauty even the Beast would be jealous of. The rear reflects the car's new muscular stance with a diffuser look styling, finished off nicely with angular, trapezoidal exhaust pipes, making the overall appearance of the SLK butch yet stunning.
Interior styling has not been left alone either. Mercedes have updated the dashboard with fierce red needles surrounded by chrome bezels, complimented by a choice of black ash, light burr walnut, carbon or sliver trims. Combine all this with a sporty three-spoke steering wheel, bucket seats and the sexy purr from the high-revving engine, and the new SLK is an experience all in itself.
Moving onto power, I tested the 200K, a 1.8 supercharged engine that kicks out a whopping 184bhp, which will be sure to leave your stomach in the boot, when you put your foot down on the motorway. Although a muscle power to the engine can sometimes affect handling, Mercedes have introduced their 'Direct-steer' system into the SLK range, incorporating agility and manoeuvrability on sweeping country lanes, light steering ability when parking and assuring characteristics at high speeds. A fantastic drive, and one that will never fail to excite and invoke the demon within, but will react to cruising down the M4 on those long summer evenings as you head towards the burnt orange sunset.
The SLK starts from £29,445 OTR for the 200K model that I tested. Personally, I think it's a fair price to pay for what you get, although it's worth buying the AIRSCARF neck-level heating system (£343) for those winter months and the faultless COMAND system (£1,953), including satellite navigation and a hi-res 6.5" display. A final 'must have' for visibility, is the clear wind deflector, as with the hood up, rear visibility is reduced a fair amount. Other options include limited edition 'gullwing red' or 'natural beige' leather upholstery, heated seats and steering wheel, rain sensing wipers and even remote operation for the hood using the key.
So why do I sound like a Mercedes dealer? Because there really is not a lot that I can fault the SLK for. It handles superbly (hood up or down), when converted there is little wind inside the cabin and it looks better than Mark Foster in his Speedos. Saying that, it wouldn't be fair if I didn't point out the handbrake and the lack of grip it has when hill-starting. For all the SLK's brilliance, I cant help but feel that this is a little unsafe, but it's certainly something I would deal with from time to time to be able to drive this fantastic car.
The SLK has set very high standards and really come into it's own. Gone is the reputation of being a hairdresser's car of choice, in perfect timing to revel in the true sports car driver status it was built to be. Overall, an icon reborn with an impeccable class and elegance that Mercedes deliver so beautifully through attention to detail, that it's most definitely a triumph for Mercedes, and has everything to boast about. I would buy one tomorrow and not think twice.