We liked the Mercedes-Benz SLK32 AMG's instant power-gratification add-on, otherwise known as the supercharger. With more horsepower than the mighty M3, the SLK is able to leap from the line just slightly faster than its German counterpart. We got the best run on the second attempt using a brake torque start with the traction control switched off. When we attempted to shift the five-speed automatic manually, we were unsuccessful as the transmission would upshift for itself even in manual mode. After the second run, each successive run got slower as the engine temperature got hotter, most likely a factor of supercharger/engine heat soak.
Braking is excellent with short stopping distances that were within 4 feet of each other over the four test runs. We did experience a small amount of brake-pedal pulsation after the vehicle had come to a complete stop, but we surmised that it had something to do with the Electronic Brake Assist doing its job and was not a malfunction of the system, since we were not moving when we experienced it. Our best 60-to-0 and 30-to-0 distances were on the very last run, showing that fade was not an issue, and that the brakes worked better with a little heat in them. Stability, as expected, was excellent with little to no movement in the lane.
Handling from the SLK32 was exceptional, with supercharged power oversteer available at the squeeze of the throttle. With a fine combination of quick, direct steering and a well-controlled chassis, the AMG version of the SLK was no slouch through the cones. It took a delicate balance between enough power to move quickly through the course but not so much that you were overpowering the grip of the rear tires to the extent that you were going sideways instead of straight ahead. Our best runs were with the ESP switched off and careful application of the throttle. Steering, for a recirculating ball setup, was quick and direct but probably due for replacement when they build the next generation of the SLK. Neil G. Chirico