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Old 02-08-2012, 07:25 PM   #1
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2012 slk350 vs. 2002 boxster s

I just got the privilege of driving a new merc slk350 for 4 days in south Florida. I thought I’d post some comparisons just for the heck of it.

02 boxster s vs. 12 slk 350.

Steering on the slk is ok. Reminds me of the electric assisted bmw. Nothing to write home about. Definitely not as communicative as the boxster.
Radio in the slk was the Harmon kardon upgrade and while good, I’ve learned that no roadster has a particularly great radio.
Seats in the slk were amazing. Neck warmers, good side bolsters without causing difficulty with ingress and egress. Seats were comfortable after 3+hours. They are much better than the boxster.

Gauges in the slk are water and fuel just like the boxster. I don’t get it, but oh well.
Legroom in the slk was phenomenal. I had more legroom than in my 05 gmc 3/4ton crew cab long-bed!!! I am 6’2” and just barely fit in the boxster. I had room to spare in the slk.

Best most intuitive radio and navigation system I have ever used. Since I have none in the boxster there is nothing to compare, but merc hit a home run as far as I am concerned. Even my wife was amazed at how easy it was to master.

The engine in the slk was o.k., but nothing special. It had power, but you had to work for it. It was a dog below 3k rpms and there was constant multiple gear downshifts to get to the meat of the power to accelerate. Once the motor spooled up to 4k it pulled strongly and had a lovely sound, but it was a bit peaky, with a very short window. Low revving too with a 7k redline. It didn’t leave you a lot of room to play. It needs all of its 7 speeds to keep it entertaining. The boxster motor pulls strongly and more linearly with less fuss. Oh, one last note. And, this is a big one, at normal throttle and pulling away from traffic lights, etc. it sounds like crap!!! Honestly it reminded me of a 1984 v6 camaro with that raspberry exhaust crap that they tried in the 80’s. Just horrible. Bad enough that it would make me consider not buying it were I in the market for one.

The slk folding hardtop was sweet. Of course it takes up a lot of trunk space, but we were still able to fit a medium to large suitcase, a briefcase and satchel into the trunk and open the top as well. With 2 trunks it seems that the boxster would really shine with the folding hardtop. Of course it would add quite a bit of weight and that is where the trade-offs come into play.

The handling of the slk was ok, but nothing spectacular. It’s a little more show than go. It had a pretty good amount of under steer and the chassis had some odd transitions when trail-braking and throttle lift. It was never really consistent. I’m not Michael Schumacher, but I found it hard to develop confidence to push the car. The one time I turned off the traction control and power slid the car yielded a bit of “tank-slapper” recovery which was not very inspiring.

Lastly, I have to address the 7 speed auto-slush box. I now know why Jeremy Clarkson on top gear loathes “flappy paddle gearboxes.” The shifts in manual were slow and you had to tap the up shift or downshift before you needed it otherwise it would end up shifting as you were mid-transition and unsettle the whole chassis. Not just weird, but scary for high-speed driving. Forget any hard driving if you had it in auto-mode. It was always a gear too high (sometimes two) and would take far too long to drop down to the “right” gear. Most of the time I was already mid-apex and would suddenly find it coming on the cams. It would transition from lots of under steer to more neutral, but would do it so abruptly that it was disconcerting. I absolutely hated that tranny. In sport mode things were a little crisper, but it was still uninspiring.

As it stands there is really no comparing the two cars. The boxster I have is 10 years older, but had an msrp that was only 5-8k less than the msrp on the new merc. That’s certainly something to consider. The navigation, seats and cabin were head and shoulders above what my boxster offers. The slk also had a bottomless gas tank and gave us 400 miles of hard driving before needing a refill.
The slk seems to be more of a gt car. And that it does very well. 80mph on the highway was bliss. For the aging boxster driver that is tired of the pretzel shape and contortions needed to get in/out will find welcome relief in the slk.

Overall I was very impressed. But, hey I think I should have been impressed by a car with a 65-70k sticker price. The newer front and rear fascias give the slk a look much closer to the bigger mercs and it no longer is the hairdresser’s car. The exhaust note and crap tranny would be the only things that would really make me question purchasing one if I were comparing it to the non-s boxster nowadays. Fwiw my wife absolutely loved it. She’d have one tomorrow. While she really likes my boxster, she’d be much happier with a slk.

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Old 02-08-2012, 09:06 PM   #2
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Great review and comparison! Yeah, I have found all Merc's to be a bit more show than go - even the AMG's don't handle as well as you'd think they should. Its all understeer unless you throw it into a corner and stomp on the go pedal.
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Old 02-09-2012, 06:18 PM   #3
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@sgt brad: Good review on the SLK350. I've had my 2012 model since June and absolutely love it.

Your review really highlights the decision a buyer has to make in choosing between a Boxster and a R172, which is a bit better performance (Boxster) or a bit more luxury/comfort (R172). Ultimately, as a 54 year old, I decided butt and leg comfort was more important to me than track speed performance. I can enjoy the luxury and comfort 100% of the time, but I can only enjoy the slightly faster take-offs and curve handling superiority of the Boxster a small percentage of the time. Bottom line was, and is, a 5.4 sec 0-60, 13.9 sec 0-100 gets me to where I want to go as fast as I care to get there. And, I'm going to get there with a lot more comfort than the Boxster driver.

I also liked the ability to change from coupe to convertible. I find the hard top gives a quieter ride when in coupe mode. Maybe it's my imagination. But, it seemed to be the case.

One last thing, I rarely have a day go by that someone doesn't comment on how much they love my car. And, that's every age and both genders. I've had people shout out to me as I'm driving by, "Love your car." Park a R172 next to a Boxster, and I'll bet you more people stop and admire the R172. And, I'm not just saying that to tweak you Boxster owners. I've frequently parked my car by new Boxsters, Audis, and Lexus, and it's my car that gets the gawkers.

Don't get me wrong. Love the Porsche, but it's not for me. For the Porsche to give me the cabin comfort I want, it would probably cease looking like a Porsche.

Btw, this is a "chick car" in that it takes a bit more time to learn how to get it to perform the way you want it to. Once you get used to its idiosyncrasies, some of the "sloppiness" you refer to goes away. So, in that way, yes, it's like a chick. You have to find its "G" spot.

Ron

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Old 02-10-2012, 02:32 AM   #4
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The boxster is a driver's car, the SLK is a "boulevardier" .
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Old 02-10-2012, 07:35 AM   #5
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the biggest difference for me were the brakes. At first I thought they were broken on the Merc.
Until I realized that's how they actually made them.
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Old 02-10-2012, 08:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thstone View Post
Great review and comparison! Yeah, I have found all Merc's to be a bit more show than go - even the AMG's don't handle as well as you'd think they should. Its all understeer unless you throw it into a corner and stomp on the go pedal.
Well not ALL Merc's.
Try the CLK Black Series.
It's unlike any MB built until that time (MY 2008).
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Old 02-10-2012, 10:49 AM   #7
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the biggest difference for me were the brakes. At first I thought they were broken on the Merc.
Until I realized that's how they actually made them.
I've never experienced that. In fact, both vehicles are rated similar in 60-0 braking distance. Motor Trend lists the 2012 Boxster S with a 60-0 braking distance of 112 feet, and the 2012 SLK350 at 109 feet.
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Old 02-10-2012, 01:08 PM   #8
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i think ron summarizes it pretty well. it all comes down to what you want to do. you will sacrifice some comfort to have the porsche, but you'll gain an equal ratio of performance. the opposite is true of the merc imho. i do agree that the slk is a looker. ours was bright red with the biscuit interior. it was stunning. it only had 200 miles on it so it was brand new. even the valet at the hyatt commented on it and they always fought over the keys on who would go fetch it for us.

i'm a little less convinced of it's performance. it's well known that porsche usually under-rates figures while the japanese makers fudge well to the high side. i am wondering if some of the figures for the merc are off. it certainly didn't seem as fast as my boxster and i am an 02 3.2. the brakes seemed fine though. i had no complaints there.

oh yeah, i want to state on the record that i don't think the 2012 slk350 looks like a "chic" car. earlier renditions did absolutely. but, i for one think they hit a homerun with the shape and fascias of the new one.

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Old 02-24-2016, 06:35 PM   #9
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As a 4 year blast from the past I thought o would note that the slk must have made some impact on my wife because we bought her a left over 2015 tonight. She is all smiles
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Old 02-24-2016, 07:09 PM   #10
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I'd make the same comment I might have offered 4 years ago: a major difference in the two cars is that the newer one is much more strongly biased toward achieving best fuel economy. Lots of new regulations since early 2000s. I suspect even compared to a current Boxster as well. This would explain why the gearbox wants to be always in a higher gear than you might prefer. It's the reason there are now 7, 8, and 9-speed autoboxes--that's not a "sporty" thing, it's an economy thing, keeping rpms low and matched to best torque.

I've the same 7-speed in my monster GL SUV, and I only ever use manual shifting in mountain driving to moderate downhill speed. It's mostly silly otherwise. Mine doesn't have a "sport" mode like maybe the SLK does, as it's so heavy it needs to start in first every time anyway.

And, of course comparing mid engine to front engine is virtually apples/oranges when looking for best handling and steering. I like my 986 better than the '06 SLK I previously owned, but it's frankly shocking how chintzy the interior is in comparison. But then, the Porsche has an aluminum jack and the Merc has a steel jack, too.
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Old 02-25-2016, 07:15 AM   #11
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I think zee German luxury brands are tired of spending great amounts of Euros on building powerful engines that will also be reliable while meeting the now much higher expectation by the public of greater fuel performance. The easiest way for them to check all those boxes is to get off naturally aspirated engines, and make all of them more docile in every day driving. Those who want a car that drives as sporty as it looks are a shrinking minority. Those who insist on NA, manual transmissions, short wheel base, etc. are becoming a blip on the radar.

SGT Brad, the rule is when you buy your wife unit a Merc she can not yell at you until the first oil change.
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Old 02-25-2016, 07:57 AM   #12
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A fairer comparison is with the R171 (2004-2010). They come with a range of engines and also a rare 6 speed manual.
Two huge problems if you are 5'10"+ regardless of body weight:
1.The seats are instruments of torture on a journey over 1 hour.Because of the airbags they cannot be reupholstered.
2.The rear-view mirror on the windshield includes the telematics and is huge.It blocks forward vision at road junctions.It is a major issue unless you are short and can look beneath it. It can not be moved.
For theses reasons I sold my wonderful R171 to a short ,heavy person and bought a Boxster.Perfect swap for us.
Yes the R171 SLK is attractive but check these two issues first
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Old 02-25-2016, 11:15 AM   #13
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I've had 2 SLKs and several Boxsters......While I liked them all, there is one inescapable conclusion: the Boxster is clearly a sports car and the SLK isn't - it's more of a cruiser/GT.

That's not a criticism of the SLK, as both cars provide a rewarding two-seater ownership experience, just in different ways.
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Old 02-26-2016, 08:23 PM   #14
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I wasn't sure anyone would even notice the update. I was really glad to see the replies. Buying the car was a fluke really. Getting a new car wasn't on the radar. We still have another year on her vw cc rline lease through our business. We were just looking at future options and she kept coming back to the Slk. But, she was very particular. She only liked the red with tan interior. I happened to be driving past the mb dealer and swung in to see what they had. lo and behold on the back of the lot next to the dumpster was a bright red left over 2015 250. It has weird options so I guess that's why it was still there. It's got the automatic which she wanted. It's got the amg wheels and body kit, which she likes. It's got the super duper full leather package, I mean leather everywhere, which she likes. And it's got the air scarf neck warmer which she absolutely loves. Lastly it's got a great Harmon kardon stereo. The bad is it doesn't have navigation or push button start, so like I said, weird option choices. I actually like the small turbo motor in it. Better gas mileage and plenty of power. The wife couldn't care les what motor is in it so all is good. It's a beautiful,car and personally I find it incredibly comfy. Fwiw I am 6'2" and 270lbs so if I fit in it any one can fit in it.
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Old 02-26-2016, 08:50 PM   #15
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Congratulations! Like the Boxster, the SLK has evolved into a much more capable and desirable car with each new iteration. Good luck with it.
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Old 02-27-2016, 02:16 PM   #16
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Great to hear things are going well Brad!!!!!

Guys and Families don't get much better than you and yours, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE.............
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Old 03-12-2016, 07:22 PM   #17
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Good to hear from you mark. Thanks for the kind words. We are really enjoying the996 and new Slk. I really do miss the boxster. As the years add up I find comfort is rising to the top of the list of importance

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