Mercedes de­feats the rain of Spain

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FEATURES - Fred­eric Manby

THE epoch-mak­ing SLK moves into its third ver­sion this sum­mer with the most evoca­tive shape so far.

The orig­i­nal, 15 years ago, was a wedge-shaped twoseater which re­vived the fold-away metal roof. The ad­van­tage over a fab­ric roof was in bet­ter heat and noise iso­la­tion, all-year weather proof­ing and the fact that it was less likely to be dam­aged in street crime.

A core model was the SLK 200K in 2001 with a su­per­charged en­gine. A more cur­va­ceous re­place­ment came in 2004, along with a su­per-quick SLK 55 AMG ver­sion in 2005.

In June, the Mk3 ar­rives, a bit big­ger, look­ing hot with its hun­gry face, and light­ened us­ing alu­minium for the bon­net and front wings.

The new en­gines and trans­mis­sions, in­clud­ing a seven-speed au­to­matic gear­box, im­prove per­for­mance and re­duce fuel con­sump­tion and emis­sions.

The su­per­charged (com­pres­sor) en­gine is his­tory, re­placed by a tur­bocharger, and diesel comes to the SLK for the first time – al­ready adopted in sports cars from Audi and BMW.

The Mk2 model in­tro­duced head­rests that had a hot-air vent for those chillier days when it is so en­rich­ing to have the roof down. Its suc­ces­sor has flip-out vanes that cover the gap be­tween the rollover bars to re­duce wind buf­fet­ing – a very small step in au­to­mo­bile his­tory.

Op­tions for the roof are a see-through panel and a panel that has a darker set­ting to re­duce sun glare.

The car was pre­viewed in Tener­ife in what could have been per­fect spring weather but snow spoilt the show and part of the route into the high peaks had to be aban­doned. Rain was pro­lific and gave a chance to pop the roof up and down when nec­es­sary. There was plenty of sun, too, to sam­ple the two-tone roof panel, plus enough wind to can­cel a beach-side check-in at the lux­u­ri­ant Abama ho­tel.

So, there were lots of hid­den and not-so-hid­den per­suaders to like the new SLK. What’s not to like, you may think, on a car that looks this good.

Other mo­tor­ing com­men­ta­tors are al­ready dis­miss­ing the Mk2 as a car for the girls. I dis­agree. It has plenty of curves and clout to suit any gen­der – and the first model still looks ex­cel­lent, too, a tribute to its styling.

This year’s new SLK is of­fered as the SLK 200 with 184ps, at £29,970 in stan­dard trim, or as a Sport, at £33,970, with six-speed man­ual gear­boxes. The seven-speed au­to­matic gear­box adds £1,520 and re­duced CO2 emis­sions from 158g/km to 151g/km.

The SLK 250 has a tweaked ver­sion of the same 1796cc four-cylin­der mo­tor, giv­ing 204ps. Au­to­matic gears are oblig­a­tory for the mo­ment (153g/km) and it costs £35,710 or £39,710 for the Sport.

The fifth model at launch is the SLK 350 Sport au­to­matic with a 3498cc V6 giv­ing 306ps (301.7bhp). CO2 is 167g/km and it costs £44,115. All carry the BlueEFFICIENCY (sic) eco-tag. Econ­omy ranges from a best of 43.5mpg for the SLK 200 auto to 39.8mpg for the SLK 350. On the way later this year is a diesel.

The stan­dard SLK comes with 17-inch wheels, LED day­time lights, stop-start, a colour in­for­ma­tion screen, wiring for the Becker af­ter-

The roads were a real-world test for the han­dling and sus­pen­sion com­fort of the SLK.

mar­ket nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem, the ex­pected safety de­vices. Sport adds AMG body styling, 18-inch AMG wheels, sterner sus­pen­sion, AMG mats and leather seats.

This was my first time on Tener­ife. I’d go again for the va­ri­ety of scenery and take a bi­cy­cle for the chal­leng­ing climbs. The roads were a re­al­world test for the han­dling and sus­pen­sion com­fort of the SLK. I can’t say it felt any bet­ter than the old model but we all came through un­scathed af­ter a del­uge of nar­row blind curves and some ran­dom sur­faces.

Our gal­lant Rear Ad­mi­ral Ho­ra­tio Nel­son was less for­tu­nate. He had his right arm am­pu­tated in the battle to cap­ture the is­land from the Span­ish in July, 1797. He gave a bar­rel of ale and cheese to the vic­tors in thanks for their ci­vil­ity in vic­tory. They gave him a bar­rel of the finest wine.

The SLK has some fake alu­minium on the steer­ing wheel, a bit of trick­ery also found on the new C-Class. It looks up-mar­ket South Korean, if such a thing ex­ists.

The 180-odd horse power is enough for most of us, giv­ing 0-62mph in 7.3 sec­onds and a max of 150mph, which is

STYLE: Mercedes-Benz’s lat­est SLK.

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