With a retractable hardtop and Mercedes-Benz's innately high comfort level, the 2014 SLK roadster is satisfying to drive regardless of weather or road conditions. While quick, this 2-seater favors more relaxed cruising vs. corner-carving like a Porsche Boxster.
You'll Like The 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class If...
If you want a well-appointed 2-seat convertible with a hardtop roof that protects against the elements and a supple ride quality that coddles on your daily commute, it's hard to beat the 2014 Mercedes SLK.
You May Not Like The 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class If...
If you play basketball (or even first base) for a living, you probably need more stretch-out room than the SLK offers. In that case, the 4-seat Audi A5/S5 might appeal. If you crave an open-top plaything to slice mountain roads on weekends, you'll probably be happier in a Porsche Boxster.
Still fresh from its redesign two years ago, the SLK only brings a pair of different exterior colors to the table for the 2014 model year.
The 2014 SLK might not be as pure a sports car as some of its competitors, but that’s a benefit in terms of everyday comfort and convenience. Whether outfitted in the leather-like MB-Tex or the real thing, the SLK's seats are a pleasure to be in. Controls to operate functions such as audio and climate are right where you want them and have a satisfying tactile quality that affirms you're piloting a premium car. Key to the SLK's glorious top-down driving experience are features like the Airscarf neck-heating system and Airguide wind-deflector that create a comfortable and surprisingly turbulent-free cabin.
Think of the 2014 SLK as two cars in one: With the hardtop up, it's a sleek coupe. Fold the power-operated roof, and it becomes its proper roadster self. In either form, the SLK shares character lines with its bigger, 6-figure brother, the SL-Class roadster. At around just 163 inches in length, the SLK is compact and very easy to park. Yet its long hood and low, wide stance give this little roadster a look of substance. Top-line SLK55 AMG versions up the performance aesthetics with tinted headlight housings in front and a small spoiler at the rear.
Mercedes-Benz has worked hard to build sports-car credibility into its latest SLK, the third generation of the car. Each edition of the retractable hardtop roadster has upped the performance ante. For the most part, they have succeeded with the latest edition, which boasts confident road-holding and taut, responsive steering while still returning a plush highway ride. Even a base model with the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is quick (0-60 mph is pegged at 6.5 seconds), but Sport mode should be engaged to wring the most out of it. In Normal mode, that base engine is nagged by turbo lag. V6 models are noticeably quicker (0-60 mph in 5.4 seconds), while the V8-powered SLK AMG model blazes (0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds). The SLK still isn't as naturally light on its feet as a Boxster, but it's extremely satisfying to drive, especially in proper top-down form.
Starting at $44,450, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLK is nothing if not tempting. But like most of its rivals, options on this Mercedes are equally tempting and they don't come cheap. Check enough boxes, and even a base SLK250 can broach $60,000. The top-line SLK55 AMG, starts just under $70,000, and can reach into the mid-$80,000 range. At its starting price, the SLK undercuts the more powerful BMW Z4 by a few thousand dollars, and the even more powerful Porsche Boxster by a few thousand more. The SLK starts, however, a few hundred above that of an Audi TT convertible. Before buying, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new Mercedes. Resale value of the 2014 SLK is expected to vary from decent to good, with the 4-cylinder variants faring the best, but still not able to match the Porsche Boxster.
The 2014 SLK-Class is available in three trims: the 4-cylinder SLK250, the V6 SLK350, and the V*-powered SLK55 AMG. Not surprisingly, moving up trims brings additional amenities. Spend the least on a base model and your roadster will come with a 6-speed manual transmission, 5.8-inch color display, 8-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD Radio audio with a USB port and Bluetooth streaming, auto-dimming mirrors, and power seats. SLK350 additions include heated leather seats, the Airscarf heating system, and harman/kardon sound system. The SLK55 features performance enhancements like larger brakes, upgraded 18-inch tires, and an AMG. Among all models' safety features is Attention Assist, to monitor driver drowsiness.
Quite a few options are available to expand the 2014 SLK's comfort and overall enjoyment. Among them are a Multimedia Package with navigation, a 7-inch LCD screen and a 10-gig music bank, and the Driver Assistance Package offering blind-spot monitoring and Mercedes' Distronic Plus cruise control with automatic braking. The Magic Sky Control roof is a trick feature that turns the panorama roof from transparent to tinted to block the sun's ray during the day and let in the moon's glow at night while the top is up. Mercedes-Benz's Designo line offer ultra-high-end exterior paint, interior upholstery options and more.
The SLK-Class brought retractable hardtops into the mainstream when the roadster debuted in 1998, and it's still setting the pace. Such a setup delivers a delicious automotive duality: In less than 20 seconds, the SLK can transform from buttoned-down coupe to sun-splashed convertible.
AIRSCARF & AIR GUIDES
In a bid to make top-down motoring a more pleasant experience in cooler weather, Mercedes engineers have provided adjustable Air Guide deflectors on each roll bar and the Airscarf system, which delivers warm air to your neck from an outlet in the headrest.
Under the Hood
In base form, the SLK's turbocharged 4-cylinder engine makes 201 horsepower and is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission or optional 7-speed automatic. Except for the aforementioned turbo lag, the engine should suffice for most drivers, though we must point out that the base powerplant in the BMW Z4 makes 240 horsepower. Moving up to the V6 in the SLK350 nets 302 horsepower, making it a capable performer. Speed freaks can get plenty of it in the topline SLK55, which stuffs a 5.5-liter V8 under the hood that offers 415 horsepower. Those latter two engines are exclusively mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission and feature an ECO start/stop to save a little fuel at stoplights. All SLK roadsters are rear-wheel drive and drink 91-octane gasoline.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder
201 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
229 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2,000-4,300 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 mpg (manual), 23/33 mpg (automatic)
302 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
273 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,500-5,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29 mpg
415 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm
398 lb-ft of torque @ 4,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg
With a retractable hardtop and Mercedes-Benz's innately high comfort level, the 2014 SLK roadster is satisfying to drive regardless of weather or road conditions. The latest generation of Mercedes' 2-seater is larger and roomier than past models, and its exterior design has matured into something truly elegant yet aggressive. A variety of engines – from a small and efficient 4-cylinder to a mighty AMG V8 – enable the 2014 SLK's performance to range from competent to blistering. Dynamically it still feels softer than the corner-carving Porsche Boxster, but the SLK's emphasis on comfort and prestige should come as no surprise for any car wearing the vaunted 3-Pointed Star, and those traits only add to this roadster's overall appeal.