Mercedes-Benz SLK200 Kompressor (2008) Review
Mercedes-Benz SLK200 Kompressor. Welcome updates to the original steel-roofed cabrio.
2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK200 Kompressor
[Sep 2008] Twelve years after the original Mercedes-Benz SLK introduced the benefits of a folding metal roof, the second generation model has been freshened up with some improvements in appearance and performance.
Mercedes-Benz might call it a roadster, but in reality this car is a convertible coupe and a good looking one at that.
M-B claims to have honed the appearance of the cult two-seater for added sportiness and it now certainly has sharper edges and a more pronounced V-shape with a modified front bumper and air-dam. Changes to the rear flanks, along with new trapezoidal exhaust pipes and darker AMG-type tail lights, also give it a more masculine appearance.
The SLK now also carries much larger wing mirrors with in-built LED indicators and a new range of alloy wheels.
The refinement continues inside where there are new connections in the glove box for an iPod and other mobile devices to integrate into the audio system, plus a number of interior refinements including a new three-spoke steering wheel and a new instrument cluster with unique-looking instrument dial bezels.
Power output on the entry-level SLK200 Kompressor has been lifted by 15kW to 135kW, while torque is up by 10Nm to 250Nm. Despite these lifts, average fuel consumption has dropped by 1.2L/100km to 8L/100km, due mainly to a much taller final drive ratio.
By far the biggest improvement when you get behind the wheel is steering feel - it gives this latest model a real sense of agility, the result of a 25 percent reduction in turns lock to lock. The "direct-steer" system, which is the work of Australian company Bishop Steering, combines a variable steering ratio with speed-sensitive assistance.
The steering gear ratio changes with the steering angle - in the straight ahead position the steering features an indirect ratio for good straight-line stability, but at just five degrees of lock the ratio changes dramatically. Steering precision on a fast winding road requires minimal input and at parking speeds the steering is far lighter, making the car more manoeuverable.
In manual form the German sportster dashes to 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, 2.2 seconds slower than its more potent stablemate, the 350SLK, but the gap doesn't feel that great.
On the road, both in six-speed manual or five-speed automatic form, it feels nimble and on rails. The suspension tuning is also impressive and benefits from the stiffness afforded by the metal roof. With the top down, and it only takes 22 seconds to go down or up, the body is not as tight, but it's not far behind.
Braking from ventilated front discs and sold rears is progressive, with great pedal feel and response and when worked hard, they respond in much the same way time and time again.
Importantly, the refreshed 1.8-litre supercharged engine has a marvelous torque band that, coupled with the taller final drive ratio, means you can leave the car in a higher gear for a lot longer. The flowing torque provides sling-shot performance that suits this somewhat heavy coupe and, at 1390kg, it's certainly no lightweight.
Both the manual and auto gearboxes suit the SLK200. The six-speed manual has a light clutch and nice positive gate action, while the auto five-speed has Mercedes-Benz tip-shift manual override, which is very user-friendly.
Value-wise, the latest changes to the SLK have not added to the price but the government-imposed surcharge on the luxury car tax has, adding a couple of grand, taking the basic SLK200 Kompressor to $88,520 for the manual, $91,825 for the automatic.
The alloy wheels available across the SLK range have been revised - standard fitment on the SLK200 are 17-inch light alloys, shod with 225/45-series tyres on the front and 245/40-series on the rear.
Whie the handling of the SLK is impressive, its ride quality on anything but a billiard surface can be harsh and at times annoying, not helped by firm seats that I found to be far from comfortable and the biggest disappointment, apart from a general lack of cabin space.
Mercedes-Benz has always had firm seats - it's part of the company's heritage and on a long journey they're difficult to criticise. But the SLK's combination of firm ride and firm seats on our poor roads is a real minus and the lack of a soft edge to its rather tight interior makes the SLK best for short journeys.
This is a intimate two-seater in the strict interpretation of the word and there's minimal storage - just finding somewhere to put your coat is a problem.
The rewarding drive though, makes up for its compact interior and hard ride. On a smooth surface it's more pleasant and on German roads it would be even nicer.
But then, you don't buy a car like this for out and out comfort - it's all about sportiness and in this latest interpretation it's a very competent convertible coupe. The SLK350 may have the mumbo but the SLK200 has the sweetness - and for the money, it's the value package.
2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK200 Kompressor
BODY: two-door convertible/coupe
DRIVETRAIN: front eng, RWD
ENGINE: 1.8-litre, supercharged
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual, five-speed automatic
PRICE: $88,520 manual, $91,825 automatic
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