Mercedes SLK CDI: Can a diesel still be a sports car?

Mercedes has been making a diesel version of the SLK for some time now, so I set about finding out whether a diesel sports car can actually be entertaining.

Mercedes-Benz has form when it comes to automotive innovation. Karl Benz himself innovated the motorcar. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen is widely regarded as the first proper car, but between its inception and now quite a bit has changed.

Now cars have roofs, decent tyres, stereos, more than 1 bhp, and very different fuels to power them. Petrol, the motion lotion of choice, offers a lovely noise, plenty of power, and some pretty decent economy; diesel was, for a long time, seen as smelly, slow, and for penny pinchers, however after hefty advances in engineering it's become almost just as quick as petrol, clean, and hypereconomical. Ideal, then, for a saloon (sedan) or SUV. But what about for a sports car?

A sports car is supposed to exude elegance and cool while emitting a smooth, slinky noise. Now, diesel still isn't associated with aural joy, is it? So you'll have to excuse my confusion as to why Mercedes has put a diesel motor in its SLK sports car...

The specs show that it's got a fair bit of shove, Mercedes' engineering prowess means it's a really good steer, and, while I'll fully concede beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think it's a bit of a looker.

The SLK's evolution is an interesting one. It started off as a blocky wee thing, then evolved into a far smoother affair. Now it's far more purposeful, aggressive even.

SLK, in case you're wondering, stands for Sportlich, Leight, and Kurtz -- sporty, light, and short. It was supposed to be Merc's small sports car, sitting beneath the SL. It's not all that "kurtz" anymore though.

Anyway, marrying a diesel engine and a sports car together...will it work? It's something I really can't get my head around. I don't see how the rumbly, penny-pinching nature of a diesel can possibly complement something as entertaining as a sports car. So I set about finding out...

Specs
Engine 2.1-litre diesel
Power 201 bhp
Torque 368 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 6.7 seconds
Top speed    151 mph
Tags:
XCAR
Car Tech
Read the full CNET Review

2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

The Bottom Line: With solid cabin tech, the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Diesel competes well with compact sedans and gets stellar fuel economy, but high initial cost and the price of diesel eat into the savings. / Read full review

About the author

Alex Goy is XCAR's Cars Editor. He loves all things on four wheels and has a penchant for British sports cars - the more impractical the better. He also likes tea.

 

ARTICLE DISCUSSION

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

Hot on CNET

Saving your life at speed and in style

Volvo have been responsible for some of the greatest advancements in car safety. We list off the top ways they've kept you safe today, even if you don't drive one.