Over the fourth of July weekend, I rented a car from LAX to drive down to Orange County and head into San Diego for dinner and fireworks. Originally picked the cheapest thing Hertz had but they gave me an upgrade for only $25 a night! The upgrade was for a “Mercedes convertible”. Walked out to the car and it was the 2013 SLK250 (automatic, hardtop, gps installed no charge).

Pretty exciting to drive off and enjoy my Socal trip with my girlfriend, top down the entire way. Very nice rental and honestly a decent car for the price it retails at (~$42k). Car had 31k miles on it, paddle shifters, and is very comfortable inside. Surely worth what I paid! Now I will give a bit more in depth review.

Miles driven with the top up: 0 (not an exaggeration)

Miles driven with the top down: ~600

Performance

This car has a 1.8L turbo i4 in it that should be good for around 200hp at the crank. I originally thought it was a 6 in there but there was a bit of a turbo whoosh and I confirmed it just now looking it up. With a curb weight of around 3200 pounds, this 2 seat roadster is heavier than I’m used to in my miata but you definitely notice the extra power. Going in a straight line very fast is crazy easy. Around turns, it does pretty well too since it is RWD and it’s not too heavy. Crusing down the freeway was as simple as can be and canyon carving was great.

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Gearbox

All rental cars are unfortunately automatics. However, this automatic is a 7 speed paddle shifted gearbox with three different modes (Economy, Sport, and Manual)

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Those modes were selected with the small button below the D on the shifter. When the car restarted, it would change back to “E” everything. In any mode, you could use the paddles behind the steering wheel to shift the car. Both E and S modes would shift for you the majority of the times, taking your paddle inputs as suggestions instead of commands. S mode was considerably more fun than E but M was the mode to be in. During M, you could nearly hit redline without the car interfering. The car just functioned much better in this mode. Still would prefer a clutch operated manual but this was certainly a much more fun alternative than any other autobox that I have used.

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Handling

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To truly test out the handling of this car, I took it up Angles Crest Highway and then headed up the road to Mount Wilson. This is a tight and winding road that travels up to the 5k foot peak. The car handled this supremely and really took turns very flat and composed. Not as fun as a Miata but certainly better than an economy car.

Exterior

Pictures can detail this best. I liked the red color, it was obnoxiously good. Solid looks although a bit too blingy for my tastes. Solid construction though and of course I enjoyed the top down. Hard top does look nice in the car though.

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I drove literally zero miles with the top up so the only picture I have of the top is the leading image lol.

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Interior

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Sorry the wheel is off center for you OCD people. Seats were incredibly comfortable and well bolstered, radio sounded pretty good with the premium system, steering wheel feels great, and soft touch materials are plentiful. That Hertz GPS is an eyesore and went unused but obviously that is only rental spec. Lighting was nice and calm in the car but a bit much for my tastes. Sure brightness was adjustable but it was just a lot of light sources I guess. Top down and windows up actually made it very calm inside with little wind. This was perfect for the freeway at night. But windows down made for a lovely breeze during the hot day. Much more leg room than in my miata. The seats also had plenty more room to move back.

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Overall Impression

I enjoyed driving the car as a rental for sure. 2 seater convertible is the perfect format for a vacation for two on a weekend in Socal. However, the car is not something I personally would really want to buy. The power retractable hard top takes about 15-20 seconds to raise/lower and it takes up half the trunk space when down. This is not too terrible but it makes the car slightly less practical than my miata. The trunk was fine for a weekend but normally I would carry tools and like going on longer trips. More importantly though, the top made it pretty difficult to access what you actually could fit in there.

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Gas mileage was much better than I expected though. We saw around 24-26 doing mostly highway and accelerating as fast as possible at most traffic lights. Exhaust note was pretty great, especially in the highest revs so I definitely enjoyed that. Overall, it feels kinda like a stereotypical “trophy wife” car and while I don’t generally support car stereotypes, I think this one would get to me. Sure I drive a Miata so I’m used to the chick car thing but this one really has a different vibe to me. Anyways, it’s an enjoyable car but for $42k there are a lot of less premium options I would rather go for. I do highly recommend renting one though for a PCH trip! Would be perfect for that.

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