A new high-performance SLK32 AMG version of the two-seat roadster has emerged for 2002. It now comes equipped with a supercharged, 349-horsepower V-6 engine, racing-derived brakes and a new AMG Speedshift transmission. Only 1,000 of them are destined for the U.S. market, priced at $54,900. A new Sport Package, inspired by the SLK32 AMG, is also available for the regular SLK-Class models and includes a fresh front air dam, rocker panels and a rear valance.
Other than these new additions, the SLK-Class roadsters carry on as before with their retractable steel hardtops that fold into a dual-hinged trunk. Face-lifted for 2001, the SLK320 contains a 215-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 engine. The original SLK230 Kompressor uses a supercharged four-cylinder engine that makes 192 hp. Both have Mercedes-Benzs Electronic Stability Program. A six-speed-manual transmission became available in 2001, and an automatic unit is also offered.
Introduced in 1998, the SLK230 was the first modern car to have a retractable metal roof an idea that harks back to Fords of the late 1950s but has occasionally been employed over the years. The SLK-Class models compete against the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster and cost about half as much as the V-8-powered Mercedes-Benz SL500. Mercedes-Benz sold 11,268 SLK-Class roadsters during 2001, which represents a drop from the 12,930 units that reached customers in 2000, according to Automotive News.
Last years face-lift included new front and rear aprons, body-colored door handles, sculpted rocker panels and revised two-color taillights, along with the addition of a new rear stabilizer bar. Serving as Mercedes-Benzs smallest model in the United States, the SLK-Class is just a little bigger than the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Measuring 50.4 inches tall and 157.9 inches long overall, the SLK-Class sits on a 94.5-inch wheelbase that is 5 inches longer than the Miatas.
Push a button on the console and the articulating metal roof raises or retracts automatically into the dual-hinged trunk space. 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. The top-down process takes about 25 seconds. Door mirrors feature integrated turn-signal flashers. Xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights are available as part of an option group that also includes headlight washers and heated seats.
The new SLK32 AMG gets a special, recalibrated, reinforced suspension with unique spring rates and shock-absorber valving. Double-spoke alloy wheels on the SLK32 AMG hold 17-inch 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 is said to reduce aerodynamic lift by more than 50 percent.
Two occupants get leather bucket seats. Standard equipment includes dual-zone air conditioning, an interior air filter, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows and door locks, heated power mirrors 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, both of which are available as options for the SLK230.
Sport seats in the new SLK32 AMG are upholstered in two-tone Nappa leather and are equipped with integrated headrests and what Mercedes-Benz calls aggressive 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 lot is the new supercharged Kompressor V-6 in the SLK32 AMG, which whips out 349 hp and 332 pounds-feet of torque. The new Speedshift transmission in the SLK32 AMG promises shifts that are up to 35 percent faster than those in a conventional automatic. By tipping the gear lever to the left, the transmission will determine the best possible gear for maximum acceleration in any situation. Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-to-60-mph acceleration time of 4.8 seconds, calling this model the quickest Mercedes-Benz ever.
The supercharged, 2.3-liter, dual-overhead-cam 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 power plant. Both engines can team with either the standard six-speed-manual transmission or an optional five-speed-automatic unit that incorporates Touch Shift for manual gear changes simply by tipping the lever to the left or right.
Side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system are standard. A BabySmart child-recognition system keeps the front-passenger airbag from activating if a small child is seated in that position.