By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.5
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has the best kind of split personality. At first it's a secure, cozy coupe, but with the push of a button, it's a fun-loving open-air roadster thanks to the hardtop convertible top. Like the BMW Z4, its transformer-like ability isn't just a neat parlor trick, it actually adds a dose of practicality to the SLK. This year, the 2016 SLK300 takes the place of last year's SLK250, with a more powerful engine and new 9-speed automatic transmission. But unless you're choosing the 415-horsepower AMG SLK55, the Mercedes-Benz SLK skews more toward plusher ride compared to rivals like the Z4, the Audi TT and the Porsche Boxster. And of course, fundamental to SLK luxury roadsters are the prestige and pampering inherent in Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK combines the dual pleasures of a hardtop 2-seat coupe and a premium luxury roadster. Either way, it coddles you around town, offers a premium driving experience you expect from Mercedes-Benz, and looks great doing it.
If you're tall enough for people to assume you're great at basketball, you're going to find the Mercedes-Benz SLK a tight fit. A 4-seat convertible may suit you better, like the Audi A5/S5 or the new C-Class convertible. Enthusiast drivers will gravitate to the BMW Z4 or the Porsche Boxster.
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The 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class gets a new engine and model designation to go with it. A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder backed by a new 9-speed automatic transmission now anchors the bottom of the line in the new SLK300. Option packages are simplified, and the manual transmission for the now-defunct SLK250 disappears.
We're fans of the new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder now available in the 2016 SLK300, having sampled it in vehicles like the new C-Class sedan and GLC-Class luxury SUV. Smooth and...
... powerful, with excellent power delivery, you'll swear it puts out more than its rated 241 horsepower, and it's a fitting choice for the SLK-Class. However, the V6 in the SLK350 and of course the V8 in the AMG SLK55 both hold a significant edge in acceleration, especially the 5.5-liter V8 in the AMG version. Around town the SLK is commendable, offering up a comfortable but appropriately sporty ride. Head to your favorite canyon road and you might find the SLK lacking, especially if you've driven a BMW Z4 or Porsche Boxster. However, put the top down, turn the music up, and cruise down the coast, and you'll find the SLK a more than admirable companion.
The SLK-Class didn't invent the retractable hardtop, but it made it mainstream when the roadster debuted in 1998. It's easy to see why the technology became commonplace: In less than 20 seconds, the SLK can transform from buttoned-down coupe to sun-seeking convertible.
AIRSCARF & AIR GUIDES
Even convertible die-hards get cold, so to make the SLK-Class as all-weather as possible, Mercedes-Benz engineers developed adjustable Air Guide draft deflectors on each rollbar and the Airscarf system, which delivers warm air to your neck from an outlet in the headrest.
The emphasis on luxury instead of sport in the 2016 SLK pays off in comfort and convenience. The seats are a pleasurable place to be, whether they're covered in MB-Tex faux leather or the real thing. The audio and climate controls are easily accessed and easy to use, and they operate with the satisfying tactile quality you expect in a premium car. The top features a panorama roof, so even when it's up you have a view of the sky. Opt for the very cool (but goofy-sounding) Magic Sky Control feature and you can adjust the depth of tint.
The 2016 SLK-Class boasts the classic long-hood/short-trunk profile that defines a roadster. Top up, it looks like a luxurious coupe, and you might even be hard-pressed to tell that the top goes down at all. Yet press the button and it retracts in 20 seconds, giving you the open-air thrills you long for. It's small too, just a few inches longer than a Mazda Miata, making it easy to maneuver around town and in tight parking places. The AMG SLK55 model uses tinted headlight housings, quad exhaust outlets and a small rear spoiler to up the visual adrenaline.
Along with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and 9-speed automatic transmission, the base 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK300 also comes with a 5.8-inch infotainment display, an 8-speaker audio system with a USB port and Bluetooth streaming, auto-dimming mirrors and 8-way-power seats. That retractable roof also features a standard panoramic glass panel. There's an Eco mode that includes automatic start/stop to help save a few drops of fuel at stoplights, and an attention-assist feature that monitors the driver for drowsiness. Other safety features include active head restraints, along with plenty of airbags and stability control.
Beyond opting for V6 or V8 engines, options are mostly divided into groups, and even those are simplified for the 2016 model year. The Premium 1 package adds the Airscarf, heated seats, keyless ignition and entry, and remote hardtop operation, plus an upgraded audio system. A Premium 2 package adds active high beams, brighter headlights, navigation, dual-zone climate control, and more. The Premium 3 package includes active cruise control and lane-keeping assist, parking assist and an adaptive suspension. Stand-alone options include the Magic Sky Control roof, and if you want extreme customization, there's the Designo exterior and interior trim.
The new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder in the new SLK300 puts out 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, routing it to the rear wheels through a new 9-speed automatic transmission. That puts it on par with the base powerplant in the BMW Z4, which makes 240 horsepower. The V6-powered SLK350 has 302 horsepower, netting it a solid 0-60-mph time of about 5.4 seconds. Not enough? Then check out the AMG SLK55, with its 5.5-liter V8 engine putting out 415 horsepower, enough to get it to 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. Both the SLK350 and AMG SLK55 use a 7-speed automatic, and all SLK models feature an Eco start/stop to save a little fuel at stoplights. All SLK roadsters are rear-wheel drive and drink 91-octane gasoline.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
241 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 1,300-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/32 mpg
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
For 2016, the Mercedes-Benz SLK300 comes with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $48,000, including the $925 destination charge. That's not bad, but options quickly up the price. For example, if you want any color besides black, white or red, you're paying at least an extra $720 for the privilege. The SLK 350 starts at a little more than $60,000, while the AMG SLK55 is more than $73,500. Despite this, at the low end the SLK actually undercuts the more powerful BMW Z4 by a couple thousand dollars, with the margin even wider between the Benz and Porsche Boxster. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others are paying for their new Mercedes roadster. The 2016 SLK's resale value is expected to be good. Four-cylinder variants are predicted to best hold their value but still match the Porsche Boxster.