SLK’s open-air thrills, coupe-like refinement

Iain Dooley checks out the second-generation SLK – a compact and sporty Mercedes-Benz offering affordable top-down convenience.

Engines – No diesel here, just a modest selection of willing and refined petrol motors. The modest four-cylinder unit will please those who wish to be seen, while the more powerful six-cylinder motors deliver brisk performance and an entertaining soundtrack to boot.

Exterior – With its sharper looks, this second-generation model hints at a more sporting and purposeful existence than its predecessor. Later models added an F1-style nose design to further enhance the SLK's shift away from being little more than a boulevard cruiser. Surprisingly, the car's stubby tail is big enough to accommodate the car's trademark folding metal roof.

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Interior – A strict two-seater, the SLK boasts a snug but accommodating cabin. Build quality is impressive, and you're pretty well insulated form the elements when the roof is retracted. With the roof up the cabin feels doubly cosy but refinement is coupe-like.

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Driving – A more rounded and willing performer than its predecessor, this SLK can be entertaining when driven hard – the engine range helps matters. If you want to take it easy the SLK will do that, too. Refinement levels are high, whether the roof is up or down, but being sat low down in the car can make parking a little challenging.

Ownership – As a premium compact roadster the SLK fits the bill. Storage space can't match that of a family hatch but, if you plan ahead, it's fine for two occupants. Everything else is pure Mercedes – build quality, ease of use, comfort.

What to look for – With ownership likely split between mature and more youthful custodians, there's no one pattern of usage to look out for. However, many will have been used in cities, which means there's potential for parking dents and kerbed wheels. Everything should work – especially the roof – and there's no excuse for a patchy service history on something this new.

Model history – 2004, Mercedes launches second-generation SLK roadster, complete with folding metal roof. Modest range of four and six-cylinder petrol motors offered, plus a good selection of optional equipment. Manual and automatic gearboxes also available depending on the variant plus a high-performance AMG model.

Reasons to buy – Coupe-like security, looks, brand image, decent performance, convertible convenience.

Reasons to beware – Folding roof complexity, limited storage space, V6 running costs.

Pick of the range – SLK 280 auto.

What to pay – 2005 05 �12,700; 2006 06 �14,225; 2007 07 �16,000; 2008 08 �18,325; 2009 09 �22,300. Showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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