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Mercedes-Benz SLK 350

Broadcast dates : 25th July 2004
29th July 2004


The original SLK was launched in 1996 and despite a very high price for those times it was an instant success. It non-plussed some people who were expecting a very sporty car, but although it had a somewhat muted ride and engine note, it also handled very well.

The latest generation SLK has raised the stakes in this market. And in this V6-engined 350 version, it may just be the pick of a bunch that includes the BMW Z4, the new Audi TT V6 and the Porsche Boxter.

All dynamic areas of the SLK have been sharpened up. The steering is much more accurate, the brakes are outstanding, the seven-speed automatic gearbox is razor-sharp and the new V6 engine is a gem.

This is the first Mercedes to use the new 24-valve V6 engine, which will gradually replace the 18-valve V6 used across its range over the past eight years.

This new motor is a big step forward for Mercedes-Benz. It is wonderfully smooth and produces 200 kW at 5 600 rpm. Even more impressive its three hundred and fifty Newton metres of torque, which peaks at 2 400 rpm and maintains that torque level until 5 000 rpm.

To celebrate the new engine, Mercedes has also introduced a wonderfully crisp exhaust note to the car, no doubt the result of thousands of hours of "acoustic tuning".

The famous vario-roof introduced on the SLK in 1996 started a worldwide trend towards so-called coupe-cabriolets. The latest vario-roof is a masterpiece of design and engineering, with much improved rigidity to the structure and an elegant folding operation.

What's more, boot space is quite generous thanks to the sandwich-folding of the rear glass. With the top up there is 308 litres of luggage space and this is reduced to 208 litres with the top folded away.

The quality of materials in the cabin is excellent. The design is a mixture of restraint and elegance. Gone are the rather studied retro themes of the first SLK, with the instrument pods now unashamedly twenty first century in style. There are touches of polished metal brightwork to enliven the theme and these have been tastefully handled.

A plus factor of the SLK in our view is that it remains very much an evolution of the first model. In fact during our time with the car it didn't attract as much attention as we may have thought, as many people assumed they were simply seeing another SLK.

The most controversial styling feature is the nose, incorporating a thematic version of the F1 McLaren snout in the bonnet and grille.

Yet in the metal it is beautifully integrated.

The rear end is also wonderfully elegant, and we believe that this is yet another Mercedes that will hold its appeal for decades to come.

Sporty drivers may mourn the fact that there is no manual gearbox version of the SLK 350.

However the four-cylinder SLK 200 Kompressor model, also just launched, does offer a six-speed manual version.

Another factor that will make the SLK a winner is its price. The original was much more expensive than its rivals from BMW, but the new 350, for example is priced at just twenty thousand rand more than the top Z4 model. It is R40 000 more than the new Audi TT 3,2 V6 Roadster. But the SLK has the advantage over both these cars in that it is both a cabriolet and a steel-roofed coupe.

In many ways this is an even better car than the Mercedes-Benz 500 SL. More modern, it also feels more solid than the larger car, and in fact it offers similar levels of performance to the V8-engined 500.

Like the 190 SL of the 1950s and the previous-generation SLK, this is another winner from Mercedes-Benz.

In its latest guise it has made the transition from cruiser-cabriolet to a full-blooded sports car.
  • Engine: 3 498 cc V6, 24-valve
  • Power: 200 kW @ 5 600 rpm
  • Torque: 350 Nm @ 2 400 - 500 rpm
  • Transmission: 7-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
  • Performance (Manufacturers figures)
  • Top speed: 250 km/h (limited)
  • 0-100 km/h: 5,5 seconds
  • Fuel consumption: 10, litres/100 km
  • Price :R505 000

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