Ahhh, Pamela. With understated immodesty you named your new television program simply "Stacked." That's telling it like it is. For Mercedes-Benz to call its totally redone SLK350 coupe and roadster "athletic, innovative and more powerful," that's telling it like it is. Now the SLK not only ratchets upward from an all-new design and accessories aspect, but coincides with the launch of a newly evolved high-tech powerplant family as well.
Check the lines in profile, in angle, dead on. Rounded, but defined, wider in stance, pouring out over strong, spoked sport wheels. Dual exhausts. Fog lights edge the wide-mouthed air scoop below that classic tri-star on its aggressive "arrowed" face. Underneath, the new-generation 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter all-aluminum V6 hunkers down for a run, six-speed manual ready to throw into gear.
Inside muted metal touches highlight the center console with air filtering comfort and sound system controls, leather-wrapped shifter and optional navigation system. An AIRSCARF neck-level heater pours warmed air around neck and shoulders for longer open-air forays when temps start to fall. (Blonde seductress Pamela Anderson never had a more torrid impact.)
Our initial intro to the fledgling first generation SLK some eight years ago was open-topped in sun-baked Arizona, glued to a non-stop S-curved ribbon of road, our speed unheeded by a scattering of INS agents in cactus-masked wales watching for daytime illegals. But this 2005 next generation model is the SLK that finally grew up, leaving behind a predecessor that -- despite a lively sense of driving fun -- butted heads more with the Mazda Miatas of the world than a couple of "Zs." Based at $46,970 after an early 2005 price increase, the second generation SLK350 also has moved into the cost ranks more akin with the big boys.
The most intriguing SLK would have to be the retractable hardtop (remotely operated) roadster version. Besides a really thrilling sportscar run, basking under the sun in a droptop is a main reason to buy such a two-seater. High tech is the keyword for the 2005 SLK, with directional headlamps, stronger body and M-B's first ever use of double overhead camshaft technology on a V6, which boosts low-end torque for quick takeoffs. The 5.5-liter, 355-HP V8 and M-B's recently introduced seven-speed automatic transmission power the super-car SLK55 AMG.
With more horses, more precise handling and improved stability, one hopes the new SLK won't tax the psyche. If it does, there's always Mercedes-Benz's emergency response system to call on for help.