Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class SLK55 AMG
Edmunds' Expert Review
Being a Mercedes-Benz, you'd expect the 2008 SLK-Class to provide plenty of style, luxury features and brand cachet. That it does. But it also provides a surprising amount of performance capability as well.
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.
trim levels & features
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.
performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Certain cars just have it and always will. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 is one of them.
The SLK's power to attract hasn't much diminished over time. Having sold 185,000 of its second-generation compact roadsters since the car's launch in 2004, Mercedes seems sufficiently happy with the formula to continue it in a slightly revised form for another generation.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 has a few high-performance tweaks to respond to the challenge of such cars as the Audi TT roadster, BMW Z4 and Porsche Boxster, but for the most part, you'll need to look long and hard to recognize exactly where it departs from its predecessor.
Just in Time for Spring
The U.S. version of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 is due to reach our shores in May.
The American model lineup will continue to do without the entry-level Mercedes-Benz SLK200 Kompressor with its 184-horsepower 1.8-liter inline-4, though this car has been a hit in Europe because it combines good fuel economy with an affordable price.
Instead we'll get the Mercedes-Benz SLK300 with its 228-hp 3.0-liter V6. You'll care most about the new SLK350 with its 305-hp 3.5-liter V6. Continuing to top the range will be the SLK55 AMG with its stonking 355-hp 5.4-liter V8. Pricing isn't yet determined, but don't expect any major shift, with the price of the SLK350 likely to be around $51,000.
Find the Difference
The styling changes made to this face-lifted version are slight, to say the least. All the main body panels remain the same, but the exterior mirrors have been enlarged and incorporate stylish LED indicator lights, and the bumpers have been given a chiseled design for a subtly aggressive look.
The front fascia displays the real changes, with new, broad cooling ducts and twin vertical elements in the bumper, accentuating a Formula 1-inspired design theme. The rear gets darkened taillight lenses, an integrated aero diffuser element in the bumper valance panel and sizable trapezoidal tips for the pair of exhaust pipes.
These are not the sort of aesthetic tweaks that exactly jump out at you, which should bode well for the resale value of the existing model. Still, one has to wonder whether they'll be enough to keep this car fresh in the long run. Time will tell.
In the Office
Once you're buckled in the snug cabin, you'll find similarly subtle styling changes, with a three-spoke steering wheel, lightly reworked instruments and a new finish for the center-console switches. There are also fresh color choices, including one with bright red leather upholstery and black ash garnitures for the dashboard.
Since this is a Mercedes-Benz, there is no shortage of gadgets to tempt you, notably a new-generation satellite navigation system with the latest speech-recognition system, plus an MP3-compatible Harman Kardon Logic 7 sound system and new iPod connection (although predictably, few of these features are included in the list of standard equipment).
One worthwhile addition is the SLK's clever Airscarf system, which features ventilation units incorporated into the seatback to blow warm air around your neck. It's the perfect solution for days when the outside temperature is less than tropical and you're in the mood for a spot of top-down motoring.
Naturally, the SLK's appeal will still revolve around its folding hardtop roof, which transforms this car from coupe to roadster in just 22 seconds. It delivers all-weather protection and park-anywhere security, but we love it because it really does encourage year-round top-down motoring, even in the worst of climates. The only real drawback is the limited trunk space, a big issue in a car with so little storage in the best of circumstances. When the top is up there are 10.6 cubic feet of capacity and when the top comes down there are 7.3 cubic feet.
Breaking the 300-hp Barrier
If there's a theme to the new SLK, it's the adoption of a more aggressive personality, and this is reflected in the significant changes made to the SLK350's 24-valve DOHC 3.5-liter V6. A taller 11.7:1 compression ratio is accompanied by more deeply shrouded valves in the combustion chamber and new camshaft timing.
There have also been some big changes to the induction system, with the adoption of a single-stage inlet manifold that feeds air into the engine via a plastic intake tract, a feature that reduces heat buildup and thus lowers the engine's operating temperature.
The result is a 33-hp jump, and the SL350 now packs a muscular 305 hp at 6,500 rpm. At the same time, torque is up by 7 pound-feet to 265 lb-ft at 4,900 rpm.
As impressive as the numbers might seem, the personality change in the engine is what really makes all the changes under the hood worthwhile. There's now a whole new level of throttle response, while a stronger rush of power at the top end extends the redline to 7,200 rpm from 6,800 rpm. As a result, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 feels a good deal more determined than ever before.
Faster Than a BMW Z4?
This impression is backed up by Mercedes-Benz's official acceleration claims, which suggest the SLK350 will hit 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 5.4 seconds. This makes the SLK350 faster to 60 mph than an Audi TT roadster 3.2 by half a second and faster than a BMW Z4 than 0.2 second. In fact, the SLK350 is now on the same performance plain as the Porsche Boxster S.
As with today's model, the European-specification SLK350 comes with a standard six-speed manual gearbox. For many prospective buyers, however, the optional seven-speed automatic will be the only choice. There are shift paddles on the steering wheel, and now this transmission will finally blip the throttle on downshifts.
Mercedes has also tried to make the SLK a sportier drive with its new rack-and-pinion steering, which offers variable gearing, not just variable power assist. When you're going straight down the road, the new steering system is geared very much the same as before. But as you increase the steering lock, the steering effect becomes increasingly more direct. It all adds up to a sharper driving experience, although as before there remains a notable lack of feedback through the steering wheel.
Fitted with standard 225/45R17 front tires and 245/40R17 rears, the SLK350 is now a more rewarding drive than it has ever been. The turn into a corner is crisp, the body control is excellent and the amount of cornering grip is impressive. There's some body shake on badly pockmarked roads, but overall this car's structure is incredibly rigid. It's clear this car's dynamic properties have been elevated to a new level. And as soon as you fit the AMG package with 225/40R18 front tires and 245R35 rear tires, the SLK350's handling gets even better, and without much deterioration in ride quality.
The Enduring SL
The market for premium-price roadsters is one of the most fickle of all. But the enduring success of the SLK proves Mercedes-Benz knows its customers well.
While 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 appears little changed from its predecessor, the mechanical modifications are more substantial than you might expect, giving this car a noticeably more sporting character. While we've only sampled the SLK350, it is clear the rest of the lineup has benefited in the same way.
Bring on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG!
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class SLK55 AMG Overview
The Used 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class SLK55 AMG is offered in the following styles: , and SLK55 AMG 2dr Convertible (5.4L 8cyl 7A).
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