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By Jim Flammang
March 26, 2003
Vehicle Overview Little has changed for 2003 on Mercedes-Benzs lower-priced, two-seat, retractable-hardtop convertible. A new, high-performance SLK32 AMG version emerged for the 2002 model year and is equipped with a 349-horsepower supercharged V-6 engine, racing-derived brakes and an AMG SpeedShift transmission. Only 1,000 models were destined for the U.S. market. A new Sport Package that is inspired by the SLK32 AMG is available for the regular SLK-Class models and includes a fresh front air dam, rocker panels and a rear valance.
Face-lifted for 2001, the SLK320 has a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 engine, while the original SLK230 Kompressor uses a supercharged four-cylinder that makes 192 hp. Each model has Mercedes-Benzs Electronic Stability Program.
Equipped with sculpted rocker panels, Mercedes-Benzs smallest model in the United States sits on a 94.5-inch wheelbase that is 5 inches longer than the Mazda MX-5 Miatas. Push a button on the console and the articulating metal roof raises or retracts automatically into the dual-hinged trunk space in about 25 seconds. The trunk opens in two different modes: at the front to accept the roof or at the rear to fit a small amount of luggage. Door mirrors feature integrated turn-signal flashers.
The SLK32 AMG gets a special, recalibrated, reinforced suspension with unique spring rates and shock-absorber valving. Double-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels on the SLK32 AMG hold P225/45ZR17 tires up front and P245/40ZR17 tires in the rear. A front air dam incorporates AMG fog lights, while a small lip spoiler at the rear of the trunk lid reduces aerodynamic lift by more than 50 percent, according to the manufacturer.
Two occupants get leather bucket seats. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air conditioning, an air filter, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Bose cassette stereo system. In addition to the V-6 engine and wood interior trim, the SLK320 has eight-way power seats and a telescoping steering wheel. Maximum cargo space is 9.5 cubic feet but is only 3.9 cubic feet with the top down.
Sport seats in the SLK32 AMG are upholstered in two-tone Nappa leather and come equipped with integrated headrests and what Mercedes-Benz calls substantial side bolsters. Two-tone leather trim throughout the interior mates with dark birds-eye maple wood. Mercedes-Benzs Tele Aid emergency assistance system includes such functions as vehicle diagnostics, remote door unlocking and alarm monitoring.
Under the Hood
The hottest engine of the SLK-Class is the supercharged Kompressor V-6 in the SLK32 AMG, which whips out 349 hp and 332 pounds-feet of torque. The SpeedShift transmission in the SLK32 AMG promises shifts that are up to 35 percent faster than those in a conventional automatic. Mercedes-Benz claims the SLK32 AMG can race from zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.
The supercharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine in the SLK230 Kompressor roadster is rated at 192 hp. Moving up to the SLK320 brings a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6. Both engines can team with the standard six-speed-manual transmission or with an optional five-speed-automatic unit that incorporates Touch Shift for manual gear changes.
Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are standard in all models. A BabySmart child-recognition system keeps the front-passenger airbag from activating.