Manual SLK 350 - not happy

An Australian friend of mine here in London got a good bonus and decided to but a new Merc SLK. He's a conservative driver and was quite happy to order the small 4 cylinder model. But the dealer let him
borrow the 350 version and he loved it. 35k with all sorts of options.
But Jon has never owned an automatic and decided, with my enthusiastic backing, because I'll get to drive the car a bit, to forgo the 7 speed auto, save 700 and opt for the 6 speed manual version of the 350.
But both SLKs he test drove were autos.
Anyway, the deal is that they will either deliver the car to your door or fly you and partner business class to Germany so you can drive the car back to the UK yourself. He opted for the latter.
The thing is, after several thousand kms, he still can't get to grips with the gears. Says it is impossible to drive smoothly around town. Claims the shift is heavy and clunky, much worse than on the old 1988 Ford Falcon wagon he had in Melbourne some years back. The 6 year old manual Audi A4 he had before the Merc was a dream to drive in comparison. He still loves the Merc but regrets not going for the auto.
I feel a bit guilty for saying go for the manual, especially given the bad press that manual Mercs do get from time to time, but I had no idea he hadn't actually test driven one. The dealer now tells him, "Well, Mercedes don't make many manuals..." as if that's an excuse.
I haven't driven the car yet but will this weekend, I wonder if it really is that bad.
Or maybe the box will loosen up over time. Anyone else got any related experience?
Thanx, James
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A bit.
I hope that's English understatement!
DAS
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snipped-for-privacy@westpac.com.au wrote:

I find that hard to believe.

Now *that* I believe. Audi makes a great manual tranny. MBZ is good also, but they make better automatics. I have yet to see a decent manual in an American brand.
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then much "Notchier" feel of ZF like I had im my BMW, or my wife has in her Volvo....
Now clutches are a different story.

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Bah...again ...also How about a 63 Fuel injected Corvette with Muncie close ratio four speed and 4.11 gears
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65 DODGE DART with 3 ON THE TREE
we called it find a gear
the case, minus a few cans!
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snipped-for-privacy@westpac.com.au wrote:

I took the car for a quick spin around Hyde Park in central London last night. I honestly don't know what his problem is. The box is heavier to shift than your typical front drive buzz box but the throws are short and precise. The clutch is not forgiving if you just stomp on it and drop it as you shift, but smooth and fast gear gearchanges are possible - even from the dreaded first to second - if you think about what you are doing. I'm sure he'll get quite used to it over time; I suspect his Audi softened his driving skills a bit!
Great exhaust note with the top down, and boy is that car fast! Why don't Mercedes put out a 280 SLK, or dare I say it even an 270 SLK DI? The 200 might seem a bit small, but the 350 is a bit of overkill!
Anyway, I know Mercedes do excellent automatic tranmissions, but the manual 350 is terrific in my view. Unless you are after a hairdresser's car, I don't see why you would want to dull its perfomance edge and driving fun with a slush box.
Actually, what about a 350 SL with a manual gearbox? It wouldn't drag off a Porsche but it would still have decent poke, and be great fun to drive.
James (no longer felling guilty for suggesting he order the manual!)
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There's a 200 already, as I am sure you know. http://www.mercedes-benz.de/content/media_library/germany/mpc_germany/de/mercedes-benz_deutschland/personenwagen/home/produkte/neufahrzeuge/slk-klasse/preise/preisliste_slk-klasse0.object-Single-MEDIA.tmp/SLK_171_2005.pdf
I am sure an intermediate engine will become available. Maybe a diesel, too. There's a CLK diesel already, after all.
DAS
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