The Mercedes-Benz SLK was clearly created for people who have succeeded in life, acquired a significant chunk of disposable income, and are seeking to recapture the thrill of youth. Nothing wrong with that, and the current SLK delivers as advertised. This has always been a good-looking little roadster that's easy to live with, with Mercedes cachet and a stowaway hard top that turns the car into a closed coupe with the touch of a button. In its original iteration, the SLK didn't entirely live up to its image. It was a pretty little boulevard cruiser more than a true sports car.
For 2005, the SLK was thoroughly redesigned with a new, more powerful engine and a retuned suspension (not to mention aggressive new styling). With its 268-hp, 3.5-liter V6, the SLK350 now performs on much better terms with rockets such as the Honda S2000 and Nissan 350Z.
For 2006, Mercedes broadens the SLK's appeal with the introduction of the SLK280, a less expensive model powered by a 228-hp, 3.0-liter version of the V6. It's just right for buyers seeking the pleasure of open motoring and the luxury of a Mercedes without the higher cost of the more powerful engine. The new SLK280 complements the SLK350 and super high-performance, 355-hp SLK 55 AMG.
The roadster boom of the mid-1990s created a host of cars in this class, covering a broad range of prices. Machines such as the Mazda Miata, Audi TT, and BMW Z4 have their own strengths and unique appeal. Within that mix, the Mercedes SLK-class is better than ever, with more choices, and all the cachet that goes with the three-pointed star. Whether the preference is show or go, the SLK is worth a look.
The 2006 Mercedes-Benz SLK280 ($42,900) has a 3.0-liter V6 rated at 228 horsepower. The SLK350 ($46,950) has a 3.5 liter V6 rated at 268 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard in both, while a seven-speed automatic ($1,410) is optional.
Leather upholstery comes standard on both models, along with a nine-speaker sound system with an in-dash CD player, an antitheft alarm and Tele Aid telematics, which provides emergency response service or direct connection to the nearest Mercedes dealer.
The most popular options are packaged in groups. A premium package ($1,200) includes dual-zone automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, automatic dimming mirrors, variable-rate power steering and an infrared remote that operates the roof. The heating package ($960) adds heated seats and forced-air vents in the headrests. The lighting package ($990) includes headlight washers and bi-xenon headlights with a beam that turns with the direction of the car for better illumination around corners. The entertainment/navigation package ($2,900) adds a stereo upgrade, six-disc CD changer and DVD-based navigation system with integrated video-screen controls.
Nearly all options are available individually, including heated seats ($690), Sirius Satellite Radio ($500), CD changer ($430), upgraded brown Nappa Leather ($400), and run-flat tires ($260). Limited designo packages ($7,950), which offer unique paint and interior color schemes, are available, including Chablis, Graphite and Espresso editions. Those who want the AMG show without all the go can choose the AMG Sport Package ($4,040) on the standard SLKs. It adds the AMG body package, lowered suspension and button-shifted automatic.
The limited-production SLK55 AMG ($61,500) is powered by a 362-horsepower, 5.5-liter V8 with an AMG Speedshift automatic that can be manually shifted with buttons on the steering wheel. The suspension is lowered and the brakes are upgraded to match the extra power. The SLK55 is easily distinguished by its AMG body tweaks and special 18-inch wheels.
Safety features on all SLK models include six airbags: frontal and side-impact bags that protect the head and thorax, and small bags that protect the knees. Active safety features such as ABS with brake assist, which automatically applies full braking force should the driver mistakenly relax pressure on the brake pedal in an emergency braking situation, come standard along with an electronic stability program that helps the driver maintain control by reducing skidding.