UNTIL comparatively recent times diesel sports cars tended to be experimental rather than real world creations.
Manufacturers would create a concept to prove a point – unveiling it at some motor show or other accompanied by the boast that it could travel from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a single tank of fuel.
They might subsequently attempt to gain as much publicity as possible from the project before binning the idea altogether on the basis no one would really want to buy a diesel sports car –especially a roadster.
Or would they?
There’s a long held belief diesel engines and sports cars generally - though open top motoring in particular – just don’t go together.
But as diesel engines have developed – becoming quieter, smoother and more refined – there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t.
That said my own preconceptions of a diesel-powered SLK were somewhat dismissive – at best I regarded it as an unusual entity.
But any doubts were soon dispelled when I got behind the wheel. The 250 CDI has enough going for it to persuade even the most die-hard diesel doubters and petrol-heads in the true sense of the word to take a closer look.
Refined to the point of barely even noticing it’s a diesel it’s pretty much a win win combination in every respect.
Looking at the SLK overall the second generation model is far classier than the original, characterized by design lines that give it more of the look of a mini SL.
It also manages to look good with its folding metal roof up or down. The easy and swiftly operating roof which was its big selling point when the original version was launched remains a great feature that really does make for the best of both worlds.
What more could you ask for than a hardtop two-seater that can fully insulate you against the worst the elements can throw at you in the depths of winter yet whose roof also folds away conveniently at the height of summer (whenever that might happen next) to create an ultimate convertible experience.
In terms of fit, finish and equipment it boasts the hallmarks of Mercedes excellence in every respect. Stiff and solid build with precision prevalent throughout – from the top quality switchgear to electronic aids and accessories that are wonderfully intuitive and easy to use.
The only thing I didn’t like was a speed limiter that felt just a little too close to the indicator stalk for my liking and many times I mistook it for such.
Given it’s a relatively small car the SLK’s cabin feels surprisingly roomy and the designers have done a good job of creating an eminently pleasant cocooned comfort zone.
Like all roadsters you sit low – almost at go-kart height – and being close to the ground heightens the sensation of speed. Though adding to the fun of driving it there’s also a certain vulnerability and even BMW X5s take on the appearance of mighty juggernauts from such a low view of the world.
Out on the road the SLK makes for both a decent and pleasant drive, its rear wheel drive adding much to its overall composure and excellent dynamics.
And, as one would expect when it comes to economy it has no equal.
So, would it get from Land’s End to John O’Groats on a single tank?
I don’t know to be honest but it managed a journey from Milton Keynes to Birmingham on less than a gallon of fuel - so performing such a feat might not be beyond the realms of possibility.
Mercedes-Benz SLK 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY AMG Sport
Mechanical: 201bhp, 2,143cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving rear wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 151mph
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Combined mpg: 56.5
Insurance group: 43
CO2 emissions: 132g/km
BIK rating: 20%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles