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XCAR: Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 CDI: A diesel sports car? Really?!

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XCAR: Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 CDI: A diesel sports car? Really?!

6:19 /

Can a sports car with a diesel engine still be called a sports car? We nabbed the keys to Mercedes' diesel SLK and found out.

In 1885, a chap called Karl Benz revealed what is often seen as the grandfather of the modern car, the Benz Patent-Motorwagen. It has 3 wheels, a lever to steer, and a 4-stroke engine. The Benz's design tucked away at the rear. It was tricky to control and couldn't get up a hill without a push, but it was in no small part thanks to Mrs. Benz's undertaking what is now considered the first ever road trip, a hit. Not long after another chap called Rudolf Diesel came up with an engine of his own. It was heavy and not quite suitable for using cars. It did well in more industrial applications though. Petrol became the fuel of choice for many, many years. It made a nice noise, allowed cars to go very quickly and is still the petrolhead's choice of fuel. Diesel is seen as the [unk] fuel for people who say over a bit cheap, which is why this Mercedes Benz SLK 250 CDI makes little to no sense to me. Why would you have a sports car with a diesel engine? Okay, I'll admit it the idea of a diesel sports car isn't entirely new. I mean Audis have diesel lump in the TT for ages, and well this isn't exactly brand spanking new itself. But I want to understand what the appeal is with having a diesel sports car. On paper, it's quite rapid. [unk] to 62 takes 6.7 seconds. It's got a top speed of 151 miles an hours, 201 brake horsepower, and 368 pound per feet of torque- almost sporty. Well, quite sporty actually, but then you put your foot down and all of a sudden you find yourself inside an elderly smoker from the north. You get this kind of [unk] diesel noise. Just have a listen. Handling-wise, it's just fine. It feels as you'd expect a Mercedes sports car to feel: planted, pleasant and easy to drive. This diesel isn't the kind of car that'll take its owner by the scruff of the neck and threaten to bulk flush them if they step out of line. This is the car you woofed in. This is a car you just put it into gear, let its amazing 7-speed [unk] do its thing- seamless shift. It feels really, really good. This isn't a drag car. That's for the AMG to do. So its engine makes no sense and it's very lovely to drive. However, the main reason this car will find its way onto driveways is because of its looks. It's a bit pretty, isn't it? And I really like the look. This is third generation [unk]. The first generation- well, that was designed almost entirely using a ruler. The second generation was supposed to be a facsimile of the SLR Hypercar, but it wasn't all that much and looked as though it was designed exclusively for Barbie. Apart from the AMG version, that had an angry glint in its eye. But this, it's really, really good. The lines are really strong, which is always a bonus, 'cause it gives it sort of muscular look. But also it's very wide and it looks a little bit, just a little bit, like the SLS supercar, which is always a bonus. SLK, by the way, stands for Sportlich, Leight, and Kurtz, which is sporty, light and short. While the first one was certainly that, this one looks quite big. It's not exactly short, isn't it? Now what's good is the design of everything in here. It's so pretty. It's so beautifully put together and there's lots of swoopiness. And these vents, these are straight off of the SLS AMG. I know they're now a Mercedes standard but still they're pretty cool. I've also got Airscarf back here. So if I do decide to get the roof down in the winter, I've got my seat heater on to keep my bum from going cold and then the Airscarf, which blows warm air over your neck to make you feel warm and so you don't get all chilly. As far as, I've got to say it's a wonderful, wonderful car. It's very smooth. The steering is amazing. It's in decently weighted and it feels really nice. You get a decent amount of [unk]. It brakes well. It corners incredibly well and if you turn the trudge control off, it can get a little bit slippery. As a sports car as something to drive, it's really, really good but the only sticking point to this car is its engine. And it feels quite quick and you get all the torque in one big lump, but the one thing that really sells cars for me at least is the noise and that's the one thing that the SLK can't deliver. It's noise. You just get this diesel noise and you think, "Oh my god, I'm trapped inside a bus." If you get a petrol engine, get the SLK 200, 250, 350, or even if you're mad, the 55 AMG- you got yourself a cracking car 'cause it will have the sound to match the looks and it will be- you can't go wrong, I don't think. Diesel and a sport car, those are two things that really shouldn't go together like chocolate and cheese. But it's one of those things that, you know, you really want to like and you really should like but you just can't quite get your head around. With a petrol engine, the SLK is truly brilliant because as well as the amazing drive, you get the noise and the power curve that goes with a sports car. You feel like you're driving a little race car and you feel a little bit like a hero. But with the diesel, it just doesn't make sense. It doesn't quite gel. Something is just not quite right and that's not really ideal.

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