Full 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Review
What's New for 2008
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class sees a couple of minor equipment changes, including the SLK350 now only being available with an automatic transmission. Also new is the Edition 10 package, which celebrates the SLK's 10 years in production and features a black or silver exterior with a black-and-red interior scheme, special 10-spoke wheels, and smoked headlight and taillight bezels.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster looked like a serious performance car, but in reality (apart from the hyper SLK32 AMG) it wasn't. That first SLK, which boasted a class-exclusive retractable hardtop, was more a boulevard cruiser than a canyon carver. And for a lot of buyers, that was fine. But for driving enthusiasts wanting a roadster with agility and speed, the SLK left something to be desired.
All of this changed when the second-generation model debuted a few years ago. This model received an extreme makeover to please all but the most demanding drivers. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK is representative of the latest generation, and its stiff platform, powerful engine lineup, strong brakes and an available sport-tuned suspension allow it to be equally at home slicing up Mulholland Drive as it is cruising Rodeo Drive.
Competing against the likes of the BMW Z4, Nissan 350Z and Porsche Boxster, the SLK makes a strong showing thanks to its still unique-in-class retractable hardtop, classy cabin, distinctive looks and solid performance credentials. There is, of course, a premium to be paid for driving this sweetheart and some potential buyers may be put off by the Benz's higher-than-typical price. And others might prefer the Z4 and Boxster's still sharper handling dynamics. But those looking for a roadster that offers coupe-like comfort, plenty of performance and generous helpings of luxury and prestige should seriously consider the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is a two-passenger roadster that features a power-retractable hardtop. Three trim levels are offered: SLK280, SLK350 and SLK55 AMG. Standard equipment on the SLK280 includes 16-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control and a nine-speaker CD audio system. In addition to a larger V6 engine, the SLK350 adds 17-inch wheels and larger brakes. The V8-powered SLK55 AMG offers ultimate performance and comes with 18-inch wheels, high-performance tires, bigger brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, power and heated seats with driver-side memory, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, upgraded leather upholstery, and unique interior and exterior trim details.
Many of the AMG model's extra features are optional on the SLK280 and SLK350. Other SLK options include bi-xenon headlamps, a navigation system, a 380-watt surround-sound audio system, a glovebox-mounted CD changer, satellite radio, and an Airscarf system that directs heat through vents in the head restraints. There are also special "designo" color-themed packages based on exterior paint color and interior trim. The SLK280 and 350 can also be equipped with a sport package that includes a sport-tuned suspension, steering-wheel-mounted automatic transmission shift buttons and special wheels and exterior styling details.
To celebrate 10 years in production, there is the Edition 10 package, available on the SLK280 and SLK350. It features a black or silver exterior with a black-and-red interior scheme, special 10-spoke 17-inch wheels and smoked headlight and taillight bezels.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering the SLK280 is a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. The SLK350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The SLK280 can be had with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control, while the SLK350 is automatic only. The high-performance SLK55 AMG comes with a 5.4-liter V8 that pumps out 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque; it's paired up with a seven-speed automatic. The AMG is a potent performer, with a claimed 0-60-mph time of 5.1 seconds. The more common SLK350 is also respectably quick, as we've timed it at 6.3 seconds for that drill.
Antilock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, traction control, knee airbags and side airbags (that provide head and chest protection) and the TeleAid emergency call system are all standard on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.
Interior Design and Special Features
With the hardtop up, the SLK provides the security and comfort of a traditional coupe. The only downside is partially obscured sight lines, as there are blind spots caused by the roof pillars. Transforming the SLK into an open roadster takes just 22 seconds. When lowered, that top takes up considerable space in the trunk, but there are still 6.5 cubic feet of space available for luggage.
The cockpit features plenty of handsome, soft-touch materials and even the plastics used exhibit the same high quality. The soft and supportive seats remain comfortable even after several hours of driving, and if you keep the windows up while the top is down, wind buffeting is minimal. Those who like to have the top down at every opportunity will love the optional "Airscarf" system that channels warm air to your neck and shoulders via dedicated ducts in the headrests. Although it may feel like having a wolverine breathing down your neck, it actually works quite well and when it's combined with traditional seat heaters, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK becomes one of the most useful all-weather convertibles on the market.
Mercedes-Benz isn't typically known for building true drivers' cars, but the SLK is an exception. It delivers solid performance in acceleration, braking and handling. Obviously, the AMG model has the most performance potential, and indeed it posts impressive numbers in instrumented testing. But one needn't spring for the AMG for an entertaining drive, as the 280 and 350 models provide plenty of fun for enthusiasts. Only when compared directly to this segment's athletic star, the Porsche Boxster, do the SLK's slightly less tactile steering and slower handling responses become apparent.