Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Review

By: Scott Newman

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Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Mercedes-Benz SLK350
Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Mercedes-Benz SLK350
Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

Mercedes-Benz SLK. Cruiser or bruiser?

Mercedes-Benz SLK350 Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK350

 

Mercedes-Benz SLK350

Ever since Mercedes-Benz's SLK launched at the 1996 Turin Motor Show, it has attempted to straddle a fine line between sports car, grand tourer and fashionista's fancy, with varying degrees of success. It's never been able to match the Porsche Boxster's dynamics, but it's always been a safe, if uninspiring, roadster option.

The third-generation R172 only muddies the waters further. On the one hand, the testosterone-fed, mini-SL styling hints at a more aggressive persona, yet even Mercedes is unsure how to classify the new car, saying the "jury [is] still out on what it represents."

The SLK's fresh new look is undoubtedly more masculine than before, though as usual it requires 18-inch wheels to properly fill out the guards. Rear-on, the R172 SLK has loads of wide-tracked presence while at the front, its SLS-inspired schnoz suits it well, though many seem to disagree.

What is undeniably attractive is the price. At $82,900, the entry-level SLK200, powered by a 135kW/270Nm 1.8-litre direct-injection turbo four, undercuts its predecessor by over $10K, despite 10kW/20Nm more grunt, two extra ratios and the full raft of Merc's latest safety gear.

At $118,900, the 225kW/370Nm 3.5-litre V6 SLK350 makes less of a value case, though it adds 18s, electric seats, climate control, full COMAND entertainment system with internet, and the AirScarf neck-warmer, while undercutting the old model by almost $3K. But you'd also want the AMG Sports package ($5900 on the four, $3200 on the V6) that adds a sports steering wheel with paddles, red cabin stitching, sexy red seatbelts, AMG 18s, LED daytime lights, sports suspension, a bodykit, and in SLK200, drilled front discs and "sports engine sound" for a throatier note.

SLK's signature folding-metal roof is now 6kg lighter and drops in 20sec (only when stationary), but another $4550 buys you an all-glass version with variable transparency called Magic Sky Control. Press a button and an electric charge is applied to particles in the glass, switching the roof from opaque to clear. It's genius.

While the 200's 1.8-litre turbo is sportier than the old blown variety, it's amazing how the direct-injection V6 totally transforms the SLK's character. It alters almost every aspect of the car for the better, and offers enough grunt to make better use of the SLK's agile, responsive chassis. The extra weight even seems to (slightly) improve the SLK's ride, although it never approaches comfortable and is unsettled by mid-corner bumps.

The optional Dynamic Handling package ($3000, or $1500 lumped with the AMG pack), with adjustable dampers and an understeer-killing Torque Vectoring Brake system, wasn't available to test, but should smooth things out. Then when the 310kW SLK55 AMG explodes in early-2012, the SLK's transformation will be complete.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

MERCEDES-BENZ SLK350

 

ENGINE: 3498cc V6, DOHC, 24v

POWER: 225kW @ 6500rpm

TORQUE: 370Nm @ 3500rpm

WEIGHT: 1540kg

GEARBOX:  7-speed automatic

0-100km/h: 5.6sec (claimed)

TOP SPEED:  210km/h (limited)

PRICE: $118,900

 

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