The new Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Roadster was launched in the UK in the
summer of 2004 replacing the successful first-generation model which
enjoyed sales of over 308,000.
The new SLK serves as a symbol for the new, dynamic brand image of
Mercedes-Benz. and is even more alluring, more powerful and sportier
Four models are available the 4-cylinder 200 KOMPRESSOR, 280 V6, 350 V6
and the range topping V8 SLK 55 AMG delivering 360 bhp. Transmissions
range from the 6-speed manual standard on the 200 KOMPRESSOR, 280 and
350 (5-speed automatic transmission available as a £1,450 option on
the 200 KOMPRESSOR). 7G-Tronic the worlds first 7-speed automatic
transmission for passenger cars is available as a £1,770 option on the
280 and 350 models and is standard on the SLK 55 AMG.
Prices start at £28,045 for the SLK 200 KOMPRESSOR and rise to
£50,530 for the SLK 55 AMG.
With tough competition in the form of the Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4 and
Porsche Boxster we tested the SLK 350 to find out if Mercedes-Benz's
new roadster is class leader material.
How It Drove - Performance
The Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 350 is powered by a 3498 cc, V6-cylinder
engine which produces 272 hp @ 6000 rpm enabling the SLK 350 to
accelerate from 0 - 62.5 mph in just 5.6 seconds and continue onto an
electronically controlled top speed of 155 mph.
The SLK 350's V6 engine is a totally new development boasting all the
qualities you look for in a powerful, free-revving sports roadster
engine. It also sets the pace in terms of fuel consumption returning a
realistic 26.7 mpg on a combined cycle.
We drove the SLK 350 from our Devon base to Liverpool for a wedding via
our favourite Welsh 'B' and unclassified roads. When pottering
along the unclassified roads the SLK was well mannered and as docile as
any family saloon car. However, whilst making up time on 'B' roads
the SLK transformed into a fully blown sports roadster, far more
capable than the safety limits imposed by speed restrictions and common
sense. We regularly drive these roads but we were particularly
impressed with the aptitude that the SLK had for these demanding roads
it is the perfect blend of performance and refinement. In fact we were
so impressed with the SLK's performance that we decided to follow the
same route home.
On 'A' roads and Motorways it was simply a case of selecting sixth
gear and cruising - with so much power on tap overtaking is easy.
Overtaking on 'A' roads is effortless you just drop a gear or two
should you need to and go but you do have to watch your terminal speed
as it can soon run into treble figures.
We drove the SLK around the Lake District and there is nothing more
rewarding than switching off the audio system and listening to the
powerful hypnotic engine and throaty exhaust note bouncing off the
surrounding stone walls as you climb through the gears.
The short-throw shift action 6-speed gearbox can be a bit notchy around
town and it did become tiresome in slow moving stop/start traffic, but
on the move it is superb offering light and precise gear changes. The
7G-Tronic automatic transmission is available as a £1,770 option on
the 280 and 350 models.
The SLK 350 is equipped with a lightweight braking system including
perforated front and solid rear discs. The front brakes are
four-piston, fixed callipers, internally ventilated brake discs,
perforated 330 x 28 mm and on the rear two-piston, fixed callipers,
solid brake discs 290 x 10 mm.
Mercedes-Benz has used an electronically controlled solenoid valve for
the brake force booster which allows brake pressure to be metered with
particularly high precision. Which also helps to improve the dynamics
of the brake pulses emitted by the ESP (Electronic Stability Program)
and Brake Assist.
The brakes work exceptionally well and make short work of shedding
excess speed but in our opinion the brake pedal lacks feel and we can
only assume that this is because of the 'brake-by-wire' system which is
How It Drove - Ride/Handling
The preceding SLK was not the best handling car on the road and
unbelievably had recirculating-ball steering, which is rather
agricultural by today's standards. The new SLK is a completely
different car, sharing little with the outgoing model bar the name.
Mercedes have fitted rack and pinion steering to the new SLK-Class and
our test car was equipped with Parameter speed sensitive power steering
(£200 option) which is variable and dependent on engine speed. At
lower urban speeds; the assistance level is high for quick and easy
manoeuvres. At Motorway speeds the level of assistance is reduced to
enhance straight-line stability.
One of our colleagues commented that ideally they would have liked a
little a bit more feedback but there is a fine balance between being
too direct and uncomfortable and the SLK is more of a sophisticated
roadster than an out and out track car.
Our test car was also equipped with 18" 5-spoke AMG alloy wheels -
225/40 front tyres and 245/35 rear tyres including sports suspension
(£1,200 option). The sports suspension option offers a firmer
suspension setup and damping settings. With the sports suspension
fitted, the body is lowered by 10 mm at the front and the rear and
total spring travel at both axles is shortened by 10 mm compared to the
standard chassis, while the spring rates increase by as much as 10 per
cent. The result is minimal body roll and exceptionally high levels of
With the 18" AMG wheels and lowered suspension you certainly feel in
tune with the road surface but the ride remains supple. Mercedes-Benz
have made an excellent job of filtering out unwanted vibrations
including scuttle shake which is indicative of most convertibles, roof
up or down.
With the low ride height, sports suspension and AMG bodystyling
(£2,550 option), you have to be careful driving the SLK over speed
bumps which isn't always to the amusement of tailing traffic. We did
bottom out the car once or twice at speed on an undulating 'B' road
which was little unnerving but only to be expected.
Rarely during our drive on Wales' demanding 'B' roads did the ESP -
Electronic Stability Program impede the SLK's progess. Only when
pulling out of a road junction in the wet with a bit too much
enthusiasm did the ESP system cut in and bring the car back into line
quicker than we could. Obviously the ESP isn't there to correct bad
driving and nor should it be used as a substitute for common sense, but
it is reassuring to know that the SLK is equipped with this safety
system as standard.
Ease of Use
The Mercedes-Benz SLK is a very easy car to drive and manoeuvre.
Visibility is very good with the rood down although it is a little more
difficult to reverse park with the roof up.
The cabin is simple, ergonomically laid out and brimming with
innovative features to reduce the strain of modern driving.
The SLK is fitted with the new electro-hydraulic vario-roof which at
the push of a button retracts into the boot space, leaving a flush rear
deck. It takes around 22 seconds for the roof to lower, changing from a
hard-top coupe to an open-top roadster and vice versa. For safety
reasons you cannot operate the roof on the move and your finger is
required to stay on the button throughout the process. It can be
remotely operated from the key fob, if you have chosen this option
(£90) and again you have to keep your finger on the button. The roof
is a work of engineering origami, pioneered in 1996 and first seen on
the previous model - it set new trends in automotive convertible
The new SLK offers greater boot space than the previous model (when the
roof is lowered) but if you are planning on going away for a long
weekend and intend putting the` roof down you will have to travel
light. We attended a wedding away from home and found that we could fit
our entire luggage in, but not in suit cases as they were too bulky.
Using the standard VDA method for measuring boot space, with the hood
down you can cram in 208 litres of luggage (with optional TIREFIT),
which increases to 300 litres with the roof closed. The boot is
equipped with a light.
Other handy storage areas within the car include a folding armrest with
compartment and a large lockable storage box on rear bulkhead between
the two seats both lock as does the glovebox via the the central door
locking. Further storage includes a compartment (with power socket) in
place of an ashtray, a net in the passenger footwell and 2 door bins.
Our car was fitted with optional Bi-Xenon headlamps with cornering
function and headlamp wash (£710). The Xenon headlamps are superb
offering increased vision in all driving conditions on both dipped and
The cornering function activates when the headlamps are switched on,
and work up to a maximum speed of 25 mph. The cornering light function
cuts in automatically in response to the driver using the turn signal
indicator or turning the steering wheel by a corresponding angle. At
which point the appropriate cornering light (utilising the fog lights)
illuminates the area to one side of the vehicle through an angle of up
to 65 degrees and a distance of up to 30 metres, thereby lighting up
areas of the road which would normally not be visible with conventional
Headlamp Assist is standard throughout the model range and ensures that
the headlamps are automatically activated in low level light conditions
such as tunnels and underground car parks. Our test car was equipped
with rain sensing wipers (£90 option) and automatically dimming
rear-view mirror and driver's exterior mirror (£250 option) preventing
tailing traffic dazzling you at night. The passenger mirror can be
programmed to drop when reverse gear is selected enabling you to view
the kerb when reversing.
Speedtronic variable speed cruise control comes as standard and enables
you to select the speed you wish to maintain. You can also store a
maximum speed at which you would like to travel which is ideal for
those 50mph contra flows or for those with more points on their licence
than they would like.
Safety and Security
The following safety & security equipment is standard on the
Mercedes-Benz SLK 350:
Driver and front passenger airbags, head/thorax sidebags for driver and
passenger, alarm system with immobiliser and interior protection, ABS
(anti-lock braking system) with BAS (brake assist), automatic child
seat recognition sensor (works in conjunction with Mercedes-Benz child
seats fitted with transponder), brake-pad wear indicator, ESP
(electronic stability program) with ASR (acceleration skid control),
fog lights, high-level third brake light, locking wheel bolts, remote
central locking, roll-over protection, passenger safety cell and
The SLK also benefits from drive away locking, where the doors are
automatically locked as you drive off.
Mercedes-Benz have not fitted deadlocks for safety reasons.
Comfort and Refinement
The new car is slightly larger than the outgoing model, the body is 72
mm longer and 65 mm wider, providing the SLK's occupants with more
Leg room is very good as is lateral space. Head room with the roof up
is very good and with the roof down infinite - taller occupants
depending on their seating position will find their hair ruffled with
the roof down even with the standard wind deflector in place which does
an excellent job keeping the wind at bay. Getting in and out of the SLK
is an easy affair, the doors open wide and the sills are low to step
The wind deflector is a net which is suspended between the rear head
restraints, acting as a windbreak by breaking up the airflow around
back of your neck. The net can prove awkward at night as it can be
difficult to see through when reversing, especially with the roof up -
it can be easily removed.
The optional leather sports seats are comfortable and supportive -
featuring integral head restraints. Both the driver's and
passenger's seats are electrically adjustable; the driver's seat
has a three position memory function, which also remembers the steering
wheel position and mirror settings. This can be tied into the remote
control, which will alter the settings to match the driver's
individual key (i.e. his and hers). The steering wheel can also be
programmed to move away when the key is removed to aid exit and return
to it's set position when the key is inserted.
A multi-function leather trimmed steering wheel with trip computer and
gearshift buttons (for automatic transmissions) is standard throughout
the SLK model range.
Although we tested the SLK during June it was cold enough in the
evenings to make use of the optional AIRSCARF (£340 option) and the
three-stage heated seats (£310 option) which worked well. AIRSCARF
works by emitting warm air from special vents in the head restraints at
the touch of a button acting as an invisible scarf flowing around the
head and neck of both the driver and passenger. This option is perfect
for topless night driving or those cold winter days unfortunately it
doesn't work with the air-conditioning on hot summer days.
Our test car was equipped with luxury automatic climate control (£425
option) which does an excellent job of regulating the individual
temperature of both the driver and passenger.
The interior lighting package is standard on all SLK models and
includes centre-console lighting, illuminated sunvisors, footwell and
exit lighting as a well as a reading light fitted in the interior
Further features include electric windows, electrically operated and
heated door mirrors - our test car featured folding mirrors (£190
option which was helpful when parking the SLK on the street),
cupholders, tinted glass and an outside temperature gauge.
How It Looks - Exterior
One word of caution - we wouldn't recommend that you buy a
Mercedes-Benz SLK if you are a shrinking violet. It might have been the
gorgeous designo Mauritius Blue metallic paint work (£600 option) or
maybe the £2,550 worth of AMG body styling, topped off with the
£1,200 AMG 18" wheels - but one thing is for sure you are going to
be noticed. We attended a wedding with the car and the bride took
second place to the car which attracted a lot of attention.
Roof up or down the SLK is a work of automotive art with great road
presence - add the body kit and wheels into the equation and you would
put a huge grin on the Mona Lisa.
The new roadster has been given more masculine lines which not only
show that it is more powerful but also that it has grown up. The front
symbolises the car's sporty attributes enthusing power and
performance by means of a long bonnet with a wide, slightly raised
central axis, which tapers towards the striking front section and gives
the roadster a new but familiar face. In this way the SLK echoes a
stylistic feature of the successful Mercedes Silver Arrows from Formula
1, while demonstrating unmistakably that it possesses the genes of the
legendary Mercedes racing sports cars.
Other styling features of the SLK include two chrome oval exhaust
tailpipes and striking LED tail and brake lights.
We prefer the SLK's exterior proportions to that of its bigger
brother the SL - a passing SL owner in a petrol station in Liverpool,
said that he preferred the SLK with an AMG body kit to his own car and
who are we to disagree.
How It Looks - Interior
The interior design reflects the SLK's exterior elegance with a
beautifully crafted cabin. The new instrument cluster features
black-faced dials surrounded by silver-painted trim rings.
Silver-painted magnesium trim also features on the door handles and
parts of the armrest.
Fabric upholstery is standard on the SLK 350 but our test car was
equipped with a number of options from the designo programme which
allows you to individualise your Mercedes-Benz.
The sumptuous interior of our test car included designo two tone
Mauritius blue Nappa leather upholstery (£2,140 option), designo
Anthracite Alcantara roof lining (£950 option), designo two tone
leather steering wheel and gearshift (£350 option), designo leather
covered trim parts (£290 option) and roll-over bars covered in designo
leather (£480 option). These options came to a combined total of
£4,210 and in our opinion are worth every penny because they turn an
off the peg car into a haute couture experience.
In Car Entertainment and Satellite Navigation
Mercedes-Benz SLK 350
Our test car was fitted with Mercedes Benz - Cockpit Management System
and Navigation Display (COMMAND APS) incorporating an RDS radio, single
slot CD/DVD drive in the centre console, with DVD Navigation in the
luggage compartment (£1950 option).
You can watch DVD's (region 2) whilst stationery, and when you move off
you still retain the sound. We enjoyed the odd episode of 'Hectors
House' as you can see above. Even when a DVD is in operation you retain
European DVD navigation, with a moving colour map as there is another
DVD drive in the boot.
The navigation system is very useful and makes map reading arguments a
thing of the past . We attended a wedding in Liverpool, with separate
venues all over the city and not once did we need to consult a map. The
navigation 'commands' are both visible on the colour TFT moving map and
optionally on the driver's LCD panel between the speedo and rev
counter, there are also voice prompts giving you guidance ahead of
Our test car was also equipped with a six disc CD autochanger which is
mounted in the glove box (£350 option) and the Harman/Kardon Logic7
surround sound system (£500 option) which includes eleven speakers
with 380-watt output.
In our opinion the audio option not only sounds fantastic but enhances
the driving experience.
The COMMAND APS system can control the hands-free telephone system
(£420 option) which will work with a number of compatible mobile
The audio and cockpit management system controls are located on the
steering wheel for ease of use and safety.