Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz SLK 250 car test drives reviews mercedes benz luxury cars
Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz SLK 250 car test drives reviews mercedes benz luxury cars
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 250. Click image to enlarge

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Manufacturer’s web site
Mercedes-Benz Canada

Review and photos by Mike Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

In late July I fell head-over-heels in love with the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG. Besides the amazing V8 engine and accompanying sounds, I appreciated the comfort, luxury, style, and usability of this little roadster. So, when Mercedes-Benz offered the chance to review the base model SLK 250, I jumped at the chance. Would an SLK that is 33 percent cheaper than my beloved 55 AMG still keep me interested with half the power and less luxury? Time to find out.

Being that this is the starting point for the SLK, the 250 comes with the smallest engine, smallest wheels, and fewest luxury amenities. But, like any good Mercedes-Benz, there is the ability to option it up however you see fit. My test vehicle came equipped with the Bi-Xenon Headlamp Package, Sport Package, and Premium Package. The premium package adds items like heated seats, Mercedes AIRSCARF and the Harman/Kardon stereo with SIRIUS Satellite radio. What is notably absent from a package dubbed ‘premium’ are power seats, any form of rear park assist, or navigation. The Bi-Xenon headlamp package is pretty self-explanatory and adds the active headlamps that bend their arc in the direction of the vehicle’s intended path. Turn right and the lights bend their aim to the right. To ensure they are working properly, every time the headlamps are turned on in the SLK, the active headlights do their dance: out, down, together and back up.

Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz SLK 250 car test drives reviews mercedes benz luxury cars
Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz SLK 250 car test drives reviews mercedes benz luxury cars
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 250. Click image to enlarge

The nicest upgrade for a sports car nut like myself is the Sport Package. Not only does it upgrade the wheels from 17 to 18 inches, it also brings dynamic handling and AMG-style exterior enhancements. In fact, the SLK 250 is very hard to distinguish from the SLK 55 AMG from the front because of the Sport package. It is only in the rear, where the SLK 250 lacks the trademark AMG quad-oval exhaust tips that it is apparent this is a lesser SLK. Well, that and the badging. Still, kudos to Mercedes-Benz for making the SLK 250 such a stunner, with LED taillights that look oh so cool and modern at night.

Okay, so the SLK still looks the part. But how does replacing a 5.5L V8 with a 1.8L turbocharged-four affect the character of the car? Well, besides the obvious decrease in power, it really doesn’t hamper the vehicle that much. It turns the SLK from a surprisingly sharp track tool back into the brisk boulevard cruiser the original SLK always was. Remember, this isn’t the first time the SLK has had a boosted four-cylinder under its bonnet, but rather a return of the four-banger. That said, the 1.8L four-cylinder is new to the SLK as of 2011 and is the first time the base engine is turbocharged instead of supercharged. It produces 201 hp and 229 lb-ft of torque but is deceivingly quick once boost builds up after some brief turbo lag. And, like every recently developed German-made turbocharged car, it will let out a hearty snarl during high-rpm upshifts.

Test Drive: 2013 Mercedes Benz SLK 250 car test drives reviews mercedes benz luxury cars
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 250. Click image to enlarge

Sadly though, those upshifts were performed for me through Mercedes-Benz’s 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission and not the standard six-speed manual transmission—the only manual in Mercedes’ entire Canadian lineup. In virtually every Mercedes-Benz vehicle I have driven this year, the 7G-TRONIC has been a great unit, one of the better automatics. However, in this vehicle it is a let-down. The usually smooth, quick reacting operation is slow, delayed and jerky. In ‘E’ mode, I actually encountered times when it took upwards of two seconds from rapid throttle tip-in to when a downshift finally occurred. But select ‘S’ mode and the transmission reacts much more quickly—like a regular 7G-TRONIC. The downside is that Sport mode holds gears too long and at too high an rpm for everyday driving. Plus, it will not go past sixth gear on the highway so fuel consumption ultimately suffers. The only real solution is to drive in manual mode, which reacts to your inputs acceptably quickly, but may become tiresome for those who opted for the automatic transmission because they didn’t want to change their own gears in the first place.

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