SLK55 better than Boxster, SL and SLR

( at least that is what this Canadian Errol Flynn aficionado reviewer said ) 5797ca-a0a9-4c8c-8e9d-aa164aaa792a&rfp=dta&page=1
Benz blasts off
The Mercedes SLK55 finally gets the powerful engine to go with its looks
DAVID BOOTH CanWest News Service
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Until now, Mercedes-Benz's SLK has been the Errol Flynn of the luxury sports-roadster set. Blessed with swashbuckling good looks, the ladies all loved it and, for swishing about, it was an impressive piece of kit. But, like the flouncing Flynn, one always suspected the SLK would fold up like a tent should a real car show up to do battle.
Normally, that would entail a comparison with Porsche's Boxster, the class standard for sporty roadsters. Housed in a more rigid chassis with more appropriate suspension tuning and a willing engine, the Boxster, especially in S guise, was always more of an authentic sports car.
The recently released, second-generation SLK350 did little to narrow the gap between the effeminate and the testosterone-enhanced. Stiffer, more agile, and modestly more powerful, the SLK pointed to a new seriousness on Mercedes' part, even if the 350 was still a rung or two below a Boxster on a twisty road.
No such backhanded compliment is needed for the latest addition to the SLK family. Tuned, massaged and otherwise fettled into a serious backroad weapon by AMG, Mercedes's in-house tuner, the SLK55 breathes fire through a 5.5-litre V8, slings through corners thanks to wider tires and stiffer suspension, and has enough braking power to stop an F-14 on an aircraft carrier's short deck.
First, though, would be the SLK55's magnificent engine. Basically a 5-litre V8 that's been bored out to 5.5 litres, we've seen this engine before in the E55 AMG sedan.
Familiarity, in this case, does not breed contempt. This is because the 5.5-litre's 355 horsepower and 377 pound-feet of torque has to motivate only 1,540 kilograms of SLK. The result is a 4.9-second zero-to-100-kilometres-per-hour time, a number that will easily see off even the newly revitalized 280-horsepower Boxster S.
But even that fails to capture the SLK55's turn of speed. It may not match a Viper, but it sure feels as speedy as the new 400 horsepower Corvette, especially since it's mated to a new seven-speed automatic transmission. Passing is effortless and mighty quick. Mercedes says that accelerating from 80 to 120 km/h takes only 3.8 seconds (1.7 seconds quicker than the SLK350), compared with only a 0.6-second advantage the SLK55 holds from zero to 100). I say it just plain scoots.
Punch the throttle and the quick-shifting automatic downshifts a couple of gears, right into the meaty part of the V8's powerband.
Lest you think the SLK55 would be quicker with a manual gearbox, it's worth noting the SLK350 is a 10th of a second faster to 100 km/h in automatic form than when mated to the six-speed manual. My one gripe with the tranny isn't that it's automatic, but that the paddles for the manual shifting option are small and difficult to reach on the backside of the steering wheel.
The 5.5-litre also makes a very delicious V8 rumble while performing the aforementioned scooting. Mercedes's expensive, McLaren-built SLR is the company's ultimate two-seater, but, astronomical price differences notwithstanding, the SLK's engine sounds more authentic. But how about the chassis? Unlike previous roadster versions, the SLK55 doesn't feel underdamped and oversprung. Though only a race track would do a test of this car justice, this much I know: The suspension is thoroughbred firm for the minimal roll necessary to keep those wide-footprint Pirelli PZero Rossos glued to the pavement.
Yet, the ride is commendably compliant over anything short of potholes large enough to swallow small dogs. I'll even go one step further and say the SLK55's damping is among the best compromises between road holding and comfort I've ever sampled.
As far as the brakes go, both front calipers have six individual pistons. Considering a garden variety family sedan has but one, you'd be right in anticipating immediate stopping power and great feedback. In the rear, where even some expensive sports cars cheap out, the calipers are powerful four-piston units clamping on big 330-millimetre discs. You won't be running out of whoa power in an SLK55.
Back to that Porsche comparison and you'll find that, at $82,900, the SLK55 fares well against the $75,600 Boxster S. The Mercedes boasts 75 more horsepower, more powerful brakes and the convenience of that retractable top.
I know I'm likely committing heresy, but not only do I prefer the SLK55 to the Boxster, but also to the SL55, not to mention the McLaren SLR. The SLK has what all sporty roadsters should bring to the dance - lithe, agile handling. That it happens to have a monster V8 under the hood is what separates it from its rivals.
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I'll bet that the SLK was always better to have as a daily driver and it looks better (at least you can easily tell which end is which).
It's just that in the rarified macho world of tenths of seconds and on-the-edge driving the Boxster may have been 'superior', but that is irrelevant to many people.
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