The new-generation SLK: More powerful, more economical, more intense: rediscovering roadster driving pleasure

Mar 4, 2008
  • New front and rear with sportier character
  • New sports engine and ingenious direct-steer system
The Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class roadsters have long captured the hearts of sports car enthusiasts. Following an extensive facelift programme incorporating around 650 newly developed components, the new-generation SLK models are going on show to a European public for the first time in Geneva. They are now more dynamic than ever and offer an even more emotionally charged driving experience.
Since their first appearance in 1996, the compact SLK roadsters have come to symbolise Mercedes-Benz' dynamic brand image. Already a familiar sight on our roads, the second-generation two-seater is now being further enhanced with the implementation of a raft of measures, the aim being to further emphasise the car's sporty character and continue the SLK-Class success story by introducing new dynamic and powerful elements. Some 310,000 first-generation roadster models were sold between 1996 and 2004. And around 185,000 customers – some 60, 000 of them in Germany alone – have already purchased the second-generation model since its launch in March 2004 (figures at year-end 2007). This means that total unit sales of the SLK roadster now stand at around the half-million mark.
The new-generation SLK blazes a trail of new sporty highlights, bestowing yet greater appeal on this thriving two-seater with the trendsetting vario-roof that transforms the car from a roadster into a weatherproof coupé in a matter of seconds.
Striking character: more pronounced V-shape at front and diffuser-style rear
The designers have honed the looks of the cult two-seater for added sportiness. Eye-catching features include the new-look front bumper with a modified air-dam arrangement and a more pronounced arrow shape. Plus the area around the Mercedes star has been restyled to give it a more striking look. The tail end has also been remodelled by the design team, with the diffuser-look styling at the bottom giving the roadster an even more powerful appearance from the rear too. This is further emphasised by the trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes and the AMG-inspired darkened tail lights. The exterior mirrors now have LED indicator repeaters with a pronounced arrow shape, and also have a larger mirror area. The range of light-alloy wheels is also almost entirely new.
High-quality cockpit and new three-spoke sports steering wheel
Many of the interior's details have undergone remodelling too, and the interior has been refined as a whole by meticulous material selection. Particular care was taken to optimise the interior in such a way as to make it that much more driver-focused again. Centrepieces include a new three-spoke sports steering wheel with multifunction buttons as well as a new instrument cluster with intriguing-looking dial bezels.
New "gullwing red" leather appointments will now be available, which are reminiscent of the interior appointments in the legendary 300 SL gullwing model. Further new additions include nappa leather appointments in "natural beige", which complement the new "pale burr walnut" and "black ash grain" wood trims perfectly.
Enhanced audio and telematics systems
Mercedes-Benz is installing the new generation of audio and telematics componentry in the SLK too for the first time. This boasts improved user friendliness together with even more handy functions. Standard features integrated in every radio include a hands-free facility using Bluetooth technology, plus – as an option – a new media interface in the glove compartment, which enables mobile audio devices such as the iPod to be fully integrated into the audio system and operated from its control panel.
The switch to the new telematics generation also sees Mercedes-Benz offering the optimised LINGUATRONIC voice control system, renowned for its outstanding operation, as an option for the SLK-Class for the first time.
Voluminous surround sound even with the roof down
Passengers can enjoy a unique listening experience, regardless of whether the vario-roof is open or closed, thanks to the optionally available Harman Kardon® Logic7® sound system. The passenger compartment is filled by a rich surround sound for crystal-clear listening pleasure of an unprecedented standard for a roadster.
High-revving sports engine: added power and far lower fuel consumption
Making a mighty contribution to the sporty billing of the new-generation SLK are three reengineered drive units, which all make their mark with lower fuel consumption, resulting in reduced CO2 emissions. Both the four-cylinder engine in the SLK 200 KOMPRESSOR and the six-cylinder sports engine in the SLK 350 benefit from a substantial increase in output and torque. The SLK 55 AMG retains its familiar engine – an eight-cylinder unit that has lost none of its mesmerising performance capability and remains a unique selling point in the SLK segment.
The Mercedes-Benz engineers devoted particular attention to the V6 sports engine with high-revving concept, which is also being fitted in the new-generation SLK. By performing a major overhaul of the engine's mechanics, the engineers have succeeded in giving the V6 unit a completely new lease of life. Although the displacement remains the same at 3498 cc, the engine now musters up 224 kW/305 hp at 6500 rpm – some 24 kW (33 hp) more than its predecessor. The peak torque has also been boosted, by 10 Nm, and now stands at 360 Nm when the engine is running at 4900 rpm.
This has been achieved by raising the rev speed limit to 7200 rpm, at the same time as increasing the compression ratio, fitting a new intake manifold and making extensive modifications to the valve gear.
The new engine also strikes a far more emotive-sounding note after being deliberately tuned to deliver resonant sports engine acoustics, with overrun mode producing a particularly emotion-stirring sound. In combination with the 7G‑T RONIC automatic transmission, the engine management system furthermore triggers an automatic double-declutching function during downshifts - not only does this create a very sporty soundtrack, it helps to limit load-alteration effects too.
Yet despite its higher power output and such high-calibre performance, fuel consumption in the SLK 350 has been cut by a sizeable margin. With the six-speed manual transmission on board, combined fuel consumption is just 9.5 litres per 100 km, a remarkable reduction of 1.1 litres per 100 km; if the 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission is fitted, the sports engine limits itself to a mere 9.2 litres of fuel for every 100 km on the combined cycle - 0.9 litres less than previously. The cut in fuel consumption also lowers CO2 emissions by 23 g/km to 219 g/km on the automatic model (manual: 227 g/km, a reduction of 28 g/km).
Choice of three further engines
Following the facelift, the engine line-up for the second generation of the successful SLK-Class will comprise three further variants:
  • The output of the four-cylinder supercharged engine has been boosted by 15 kW/21 hp (to 135 kW/184 hp), while its torque has been increased from 240 to 250 Newton metres. Combined fuel consumption has dropped by 1.0 litre to 7.7 litres per 100 km. This in turn reduces CO2 emissions by 27 g /km to 182 g/km.
  • The SLK 280 has also undergone further improvement with respect to fuel economy and therefore CO2 emissions. Fuel consumption has dropped by 0.4 litres to 9.3 litres/100 km (automatic: ‑0.2 litres to 9.1 litres/100 km) and CO2 emissions by 11 g to 220 g/km (automatic: -6 g to 216 g/km).
  • The SLK 55 AMG is equipped with the familiar 5.5-litre V8 powerplant developing 265 kW/360 hp and a peak torque of 510 Newton metres.
The three new models in the SLK range all come with a precision six-speed manual gearshift. The SLK 55 AMG retains the 7G-TRONIC Sport seven-speed automatic transmission. The optional extras available include a five-speed automatic transmission for the SLK 200, as well as the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission or, alternatively, the 7G-TRONIC Sport with shift paddles on the steering wheel for the six-cylinder SLK 280 and SLK 350 sports engine models.
New direct-steer system for outstanding agility and tangible fun at the wheel
A newly developed direct-steer system with variable power assistance that elicits the very best from the suspension's sporty capabilities is optionally available (standard on the SLK AMG 55). It combines agility and manoeuvrability on twisting country roads with light steering forces when parking and assured steering characteristics at high speeds.
The direct-steer system is derived from the previous speed-sensitive power steering and operates purely mechanically. This dispenses with the need for elaborate actuator units and complex sensors, which would otherwise impair the flow of forces between the wheels and hands, thereby compromising steering precision. At the heart of the system is a new rack with ingeniously devised gearing, which ensures that the steering gear ratio changes in tune with the steering angle. In and around the central position, the steering has an indirect ratio for good straight-line stability, resulting in tremendous assuredness when travelling at high speeds. At a steering angle of just 5 degrees, the ratio starts to increase very rapidly and the steering feels much more direct. As a result, the number of steering wheel turns from lock to lock is reduced by around 25 per cent with the new direct-steer system. Consequently, relatively small turns of the steering wheel are sufficient for changing course when driving in city traffic. Fast sequences of bends on rural roads, on the other hand, can be negotiated almost intuitively with relatively small steering movements – with assurance, precision and a healthy dose of driving pleasure.
Visually enhanced SLK 55 AMG
On a technical level, the SLK 55 AMG remains almost unchanged. The only differences are a few visual enhancements. The front end of the AMG model now features a new apron with a black-painted transverse fin and side air outlets, as well as darkened headlamps.
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 55 AMG Performance Package, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 55 AMG Performance Package, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 200 KOMPRESSOR, driving shot, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 200 KOMPRESSOR, driving shot, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 350 with sports engine, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 55 AMG, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 55 AMG, exterior
Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, SLK 55 AMG, exterior