Cruise control


I’ve been toying with the idea for a while now – to upgrade my 1997 SLK, first for the second generation, and then since 2011 for the third generation SLK. In both cases I returned from the Mercedes-Benz showroom unconvinced.

Basically the previous model, in my humble opinion, lacked the uniqueness of its predecessor. And the latest generation somehow did not ooze the sex appeal (which I’ve become accustomed to over the years) and something was just a miss – at least until now, I thought.

Although the new SLK 250 AMG is by no means an all-new model (it is a new offering in the existing range), the invitation to the launch drive of the 2013 SLK 250 AMG Sport Line at Kayalami was met with great enthusiasm.

From the onset it is clear; the re-launch of the SLK with the AMG Sport kit (which is now standard across the range) was a clever move from Mercedes-Benz, to reposition the car strongly above its rivals (BMW Z4 Audi TT and the Porsche Boxter), at least as far as looks go.

This includes a muscular front apron, prominent side skirts and a new rear apron that suggests sheer power. Headlamps with dark surrounds and dark-tinted tail lights provide further visual distinctions.

Just like the exterior, the design of the luxurious high-class interior of the car tends to lean more towards that of its older brother, the SL, which is a big plus. The seats with their specific vertical fluting and colour-coded topstitching emphasises its sporty nature. As a no charge option, all contrast stitching, red seat-belts and perforated leather on the steering wheel are also available. In general, the SLK 250 AMG has by far one of the smartest cockpits in its class. If I can coin the term ‘elegantly sporty’ – consider it done.

Another nice-to-have is the choice between three variants of the much-imitated vario-roof. The transparent panoramic vario-roof with Magic Sky Control, can be switched to light or dark. It therefore offers a choice of an open-top feeling even when the roof is closed, or provides shade in strong sunshine and prevents the interior from heating up.

On the race track the car, which boasts a number of new amazing technical features, did remarkably well, but I cannot say that pure driving dynamics would be the reason for getting this car and it would not be my first choice, should I had to compete against Schumi or even the Stigg in a ‘reasonably priced car’. Considering the car is positioned between the entry level 200 and racy 350 models, driving a 200 myself, I really would have expected quite a bit more oomph from the 250 AMG. 

Despite Merc’s marketing: “Sport, Light and Compact”, it feels like a solid, heavy’ vehicle. Taking the car on the open road, the four-cylinder 1,8 litre petrol engine develops 150 kW respectively from a displacement of 1796 cc. As for fuel consumption, the car excels with a considerably lower fuel consumption than its predecessors—which probably explains why the engine has very little urgency. 

Although on the open road, at times it just about appears to want to break free, it just does not get there. As a comfortable cruiser that is neither too sporty nor too soft, it scores full marks and compares well to the previous models, yet it is much more comfortable to drive – until the top comes down. 

Driving with the top down, the cabin is considerably noisier and windier than its predecessors (it’s a job to hear the sound system unless you really turn the volume up) and the fancy perspex draft stoppers were of little help on the slightly windy day in Pretoria. I would hate to think what it would be like back home in Cape Town. Then again you might want to argue, why drive with the top down when it’s blowing? 

Still, the new SLK 250 AMG remains a pleasure to drive— providing that you stick to the speed limit, and you keep the top up when it's blowing. 

The entry level 200 model will set you back about R579 238, the 250 costs R635 811 and the 350 is retailing at R763 673. 

Lindsay King

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