Moving into its second generation, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class roadster retains its retractable hardtop but now has a different front end with a large three-pointed star logo in the center and small grilles on each side. Inspired by Silver Arrow Formula One racecars, the 2005 SLK-Class is meant to resemble the automaker's new SLR McLaren supercar. Seen for the first time in the United States at the 2004 New York International Auto Show, the SLK-Class is claimed to be "more aggressive, sportier and more powerful" than its 1998 – 2004 predecessor.
Available in fall 2004, the SLK350 holds a new 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 that drives a six-speed-manual gearbox or an optional seven-speed-automatic transmission with Touch Shift operation. This engine benefits from variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust valves.
The first-generation SLK came in three forms: as the SLK320 with a 3.2-liter V-6, as the SLK230 Kompressor with a supercharged four-cylinder and as the high-performance SLK32 AMG with a 349-hp supercharged V-6. More than 68,000 SLK-Class roadsters have been sold in the United States.
The roadster's new fascia features an arrow-shaped nose and a long hood. A large Mercedes-Benz logo sits in the center of the nose, and a small grille sits on each side. Measuring nearly 3 inches longer and wider than its predecessor, the new SLK-Class has a steeply sloped windshield and taut bodylines. A new dual-exhaust layout is visible at the rear.
Like the original SLK-Class roadster, the 2005 model features a retractable hardtop that now goes up or down in 22 seconds. The folded roof also takes up less trunk space than before.
A lowered sport suspension will be available. Ten-spoke alloy wheels hold 17-inch tires. Perforated and ventilated 13-inch front disc brakes have four-piston calipers. With its top down, the new SLK-Class has 46 percent better torsional rigidity than its predecessor and 19 percent better bending strength.
Redesigned for 2005, the roadster's interior features silver-colored switches and trim elements. The sculpted dashboard blends into the door panels on each side. Large chronometer-style gauges dominate the two-passenger cockpit. Trunk space is 6.5 cubic feet with the top down and 9.8 cubic feet with the top up.
In order to make cool-weather driving with the top down more appealing, a newly optional Airscarf neck-level heating system blows warm air from the headrests.
Under the Hood
A new 3.5-liter V-6 with variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust valves develops 268 hp and 258 pounds-feet of torque. Either a six-speed-manual gearbox or a seven-speed-automatic transmission with Touch Shift operation may be installed. A 362-hp, 5.5-liter V-8 powers the SLK55 AMG.
Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an Electronic Stability Program are standard on the SLK-Class. A BabySmart child-recognition system prevents the front passenger-side airbag from activating.