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By Jim Flammang
April 7, 2004
Vehicle Overview A Special Edition of Mercedes-Benz’s lower-priced retractable-hardtop convertible has joined the lineup for 2004. Equipped with polished 17-inch wheels, the Special Edition SLK-Class roadster features a painted grille, a rear spoiler, special sport seats and Nappa leather-covered roll bars.
A high-performance SLK32 AMG version contains a 349-horsepower supercharged V-6 engine, racing-derived brakes and AMG’s SpeedShift five-speed-automatic transmission. A Sport Package inspired by the SLK32 AMG is available for regular SLK-Class models. Redesigned SLK-Class models arrive in the 2005 model year.
Exterior Mercedes-Benz’s smallest sports car features sculpted rocker panels and sits on a 94.5-inch wheelbase — that’s 5 inches longer than the Mazda Miata’s. Push a button and the articulating metal roof rises or retracts automatically in about 25 seconds. The trunk opens at the front to accept the roof or at the rear to reveal a small luggage compartment. The door mirrors feature integrated turn-signal flashers.
The SLK32 AMG gets a recalibrated, reinforced suspension with unique spring rates and shock-absorber valving. Twin-five-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.
Interior Two occupants get leather bucket seats. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air conditioning, an interior air filter, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a Bose cassette stereo. In addition to wood trim, the SLK320 has eight-way power seats and a telescoping steering wheel. Maximum cargo space is 9.5 cubic feet, but that space shrinks to 3.9 cubic feet when the top is down.
Sport seats in the SLK32 AMG are upholstered in Nappa leather and feature integrated headrests and what Mercedes-Benz calls “substantial” side bolsters. Leather trim and dark bird’s-eye maple are used.
Under the Hood The hottest engine in the SLK-Class lineup is the supercharged 3.2-liter V-6 in the SLK32 AMG, which whips up 349 hp and 332 pounds-feet of torque. Mercedes-Benz claims the AMG SpeedShift five-speed-automatic transmission produces shifts that are up to 35 percent faster than those of a conventional automatic. Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 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 a six-speed-manual gearbox or an optional five-speed automatic that incorporates TouchShift manual gear selection.
Safety Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an Electronic Stability Program are standard. A BabySmart child seat-recognition system prevents the front-passenger airbag from deploying when a known child-safety seat is installed.
Driving Impressions The SLK is agile and nimble and maneuvers like a traditional small sports car. With the 2.3-liter engine and an automatic transmission, acceleration is rather energetic, though well short of the big Benzes, and there’s little evidence of the supercharger’s operation. The SLK is a little less solid and a bit bouncier on the road than its larger cousins — but not by much. Space is quite plentiful for two people.
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