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...

Engine 2.1-litre diesel
Power 201 bhp
Torque 368 lb. ft.
0-62 mph 6.7 seconds
Top speed    151 mph

Discuss Mercedes SLK CDI: Can a diesel still be a...

Conversation powered by Livefyre

This week on CNET News
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

CNET Forums

Looking for tech help?

Whether you’re looking for dependable tech advice or offering helpful tricks, join the conversation in our forums.