Bold new looks are not just for show, as the SLK feels like a much better sports car than in previous generations.
In the metal 4/5
So yes, it does look like Mercedes-Benz has transplanted the front end of its SLS AMG supercar and when we first saw photographs of this we really weren't sure about it, because it all seemed a little bit contrived. However, in the metal the car now looks a lot better than before. Whether there was a deliberate attempt to make the new car more masculine, we are not sure, but that has been the effect it has really grown up in terms of design. But then again, it needed to to be if it's to be taken seriously by potential Porsche Boxster or BMW Z4 owners.
Along with the aggressive styling the new SLK has an improved interior, better seats and in addition to the really clever Airscarf (which wafts warm air around your neck when the roof is down) there is a new Airguide system, which features pivoting, transparent Perspex sections that prevent outside air from hitting you in the first place. But as well as that, the 'vario-roof' can now come in three different guises. The basic roof is painted in the car's colour, or you can have it in tinted glass. But you can also have it with Magic Sky Control, which allows you to switch the glass colour from light to dark at the touch of a button.
Driving it 4/5
We tried three engines at the launch and these are the models that will be offered initially. There are two 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol models, the 184hp SLK 200 and the 204hp SLK 250. A V6, the SLK 350 has a 3.5-litre and that for now is the most powerful version, although you can be certain of some AMG models down the line.
We would have predicted that the 200 would have been the big seller but the model we didn't try is the SLK 250 CDI diesel, which will follow at the end of the year. That will come with Band B emissions and 204hp. It might just end up being the most prudent choice in the range.
The more powerful SLK 250's engine suits the car better than the entry-level unit and that isn't just because it has more power. It's just a perfect balance between economy and performance, as, despite the extra oomph, it matches the 200's fuel economy and emissions yet makes up for its torque deficit. Naturally the enthusiast's choice will be the 302hp 350, but expect it to have a hefty price tag.
The SLK comes with a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or 7G-Tronic Plus automatic. On some tricky roads around Tenerife the SLK showed itself to be more competent as a sports car then before, with more feel and feedback from the steering. Yet it still remains immensely comfortable. Choose the Dynamic Handling Package as an optional extra and the car becomes a proper sports car as this adds a fully automatic adaptive damping system, more agile steering and 'torque vectoring' brakes.
What you get for your money 4/5
There is no official word from Mercedes-Benz Ireland yet on pricing or spec for the car so expect this to be released closer to the car's May arrival.
The diesel 250 CDI SLK will be the first time that Mercedes-Benz has offered an oil-burner in this car.
The new Mercedes-Benz SLK is a big improvement, but the fact is that few will sell here in Ireland because the market for the car has effectively died over the past few years. The Porsche Boxster is still a better driver's car, but obviously more expensive, though the new SLK is now much better than before - and we can't wait to try the diesel.