Moving into its second generation for the 2005 model year, the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class roadster retained its retractable hardtop but adopted a different front end with a large three-pointed star in the center and small grilles on each side. Inspired by Silver Arrow Formula One racecars, the 2005 SLK-Class was meant to resemble the automaker's new SLR McLaren supercar. Mercedes claimed that this generation of the SLK-Class was "more aggressive, sportier and more powerful" than its 1998 - 2004 predecessor.
The SLK350 holds a 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.
A new SLK280 version with a 228-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 is available for the 2006 model year. Mercedes-Benz also offers an SLK55 AMG edition with V-8 power.
The roadster's fascia features an arrow-shaped nose and a long hood. Measuring nearly 3 inches longer and wider than its predecessor, the latest SLK-Class has a steeply sloped windshield and taut body lines.
The SLK's retractable hardtop goes up or down in 22 seconds. The folded roof takes up less trunk space than in the first-generation SLK.
A lowered sport suspension is 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 SLK-Class has 46 percent better torsional rigidity than its predecessor.
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.
For cool-weather driving with the top down, an optional Airscarf neck-level heating system blows warm air from the headrests.
Under the Hood
In the initial SLK350 model, a 3.5-liter V-6 with variable 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 with Touch Shift operation can be installed. A 355-hp, 5.5-liter V-8 powers the SLK55 AMG. For 2006, the new SLK280 roadster contains a 228-hp, 3.0-liter twin-cam V-6.
Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an Electronic Stability Program are standard. A BabySmart child-recognition system prevents the front passenger-side airbag from activating.
Acceleration is energetic and refined with the 3.5-liter engine, which seems a more civilized choice than the old supercharged four-cylinder. Automatic-transmission operation can be rude. It can get jerky at low speeds in lower gears and delivers a sizable jolt if you hit the gas pedal while slowing down.
Steering and handling are strong points, inspiring confidence and poised behavior. Better yet, the SLK's ride is easily tolerable for a sports car of this caliber. Sure you feel the bumps, but most are dispensed with rather handily.
The seats are adeptly supportive and snugly bolstered, yet surprisingly comfortable. Space is ample inside, and top-up visibility isn't bad. When parking, however, the driver may have no clue where the pointy front end is located. Wide doors make parking-lot spots a problem.