If ever there was an automotive rivalry, it is that which rages between BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Both companies claim to offer the very best that’s available in high-end motoring, and both have a long history of evidence to back up their claims. When it comes to luxury roadsters, BMW’s Z models compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class automobiles. Considering that both lines offer some of the best automobiles currently on the market, which is truly the better buy for consumers?
The most recent competitors to take their respective places in this year’s bout of the fight are the 2013 BMW Z4 sDrive28i, sDrive35i and sDrive35is, which compete against the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK250, SLK350 and SLK55 AMG. All of the competitors are rear-wheel drive two-seater convertibles with retractable hardtops and elegantly sleek lines that, while contemporary themselves, form the classic, small roadster look that has been appealing consumers for decades.
In this class, the entry-level models offered by BMW and Mercedes-Benz are the sDrive28i and the SLK250, respectively. The BMW Z4 sDrive28i comes equipped with a turbocharged 2.0L inline-four engine that produces 240hp @ 5,000rpm and is capable of going from 0-60mph in just 7 seconds. In addition, it gets a comfortable fuel economy of 22 city / 34 highway. The Mercedes-Benz SLK250 has a slightly less powerful 1.8L inline-four engine producing 201hp @5,500rpm and goes from 0-60 in a slightly slower 7.7 seconds. The SLK250 gets an efficiency rating of 22 city / 32 highway.
In the mid-range models, the SLK series starts to pull away from the Z4 in terms of fuel efficiency. The BMW Z4 sDrive35i has a twin-turbo 3.0L inline-six engine that puts out 300hp @ 5,800rpm and shaves a second off of the 28i’s 0-60 time, clocking in at 5.9 seconds. It has an efficiency rating of 19 city / 26 highway. The SLK350 has a 3.5L V-6 engine capable of 302hp @ 6,500rpm, and also capable of beating the sDrive35i’s 0-60 time by 0.4 seconds, bringing its own time to 5.5 seconds. It also uses less fuel than the sDrive35i to get there, earning an efficiency rating of 21 city / 29 highway.
The competition really gets interesting between the high-end models. The SLK55 AMG simply blows the Z4 sDrive 35is out of the water in terms of performance, but makes a large sacrifice in efficiency to do so. The BMW Z4 sDrive35is has a twin-turbo 3.0L inline-six engine that produces 335hp @ 5,900rpm and clocks a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds while still retaining an efficiency rating of 17 city / 24 highway. The SLK55 AMG boasts a much larger 5.5L V-8 engine capable of 415hp @ 6,800rpm and an insanely quick 0-60 time of just 4.2 seconds; however, in terms of efficiency, the SLK55 AMG gets a measly rating of 9.2 city / 13.7 highway.
In the end, it boils down to practicality. The mid- and entry-level options are similarly priced, but the SLK’s 10.1 cubic feet of cargo space, versus the Z4’s 8 cubic feet, coupled with the improved efficiency make Mercedes-Benz the winner in these categories. The SLK55AMG, with an MSRP of $80,500 and a poor efficiency rating, make the 80hp advantage very, very expensive advantage over the Z4 sDrive35is and its $64,200 MSRP.
In conclusion, the Mercedes-Benz SLK series wins the first two rounds with its practicality, but is doomed by the same at the high end of the line.
Byline: Roland Parker is a freelance writer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Roland often writes on German automobiles, the U.S. auto market, car gadgetry, the history of automobiles, and other relevant topics; those with an interest in quads may want to check out the official ATV & UTV of the Texas Rangers.