New Mercedes makes an attractive value proposition
by Mark Atkinson
This era of engine downsizing has offered up some interesting results. Who would’ve thought six-cylinder F-150s would dominate the sales chart and BMW would offer a four-cylinder 5 Series? Madness!
The latest comes from Mercedes-Benz, which is following the trend in various C-Class models, but also now with the 2013 SLK. This is more than a little karmic because the original SLK 230 used a supercharged 2.3-liter with 193 horsepower and on paper, the new car isn’t that far ahead of the original.
TINY 4-CYLINDER UNDER THAT BIG HOOD
The current SLK adopts a smaller turbocharged four-cylinder for its new ‘base’ model in North America, the 250. In this case, a 1.8-liter direct-injection unit that produces a healthy 202 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque.
Amazingly, our press car came with the extremely rare six-speed manual transmission; something we believe only existed in theory since no one ever orders them.
The company claims the littlest SLK will run from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds with a human handling the shift duties (6.6 sec. with the seven-speed automatic). Top speed is limited to 130 mph in every SLK except the crazy 415-horse AMG model.
Compared with the carryover V6-powered SLK 350, the four-banger weighs 140 pounds less and gets better gas mileage, only using 22 mpg in the city and 32 on the highway (23/33 with the automatic.)
Mercedes-Benz’ manual transmissions are much improved since the original SLK of nearly 20 years ago. The shift action is no longer notchy and balky while clutch take-up is smoother too. However, there were a few instances when the electronic throttle and some turbo lag at low revs made changing gears under light throttle a tad challenging. When giving it the boot, these issues mainly disappeared.