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10Best Cars: Best Luxury Sports Car - 10Best Cars

Mercedes-Benz SLK350

January 2005

The term sports car is significant here. In 1997, the original SLK ushered in the era of the modern hardtop convertible and also put a Mercedes roadster within economic reach of a much bigger slice of the market. But for all its appeal, and despite various updates, we had trouble thinking of it as a real sports car. Small-scale grand tourer, yes. Sports car, not quite.

That changes with the arrival of the second generation. The body shell has been stiffened—a 46-percent increase in torsional rigidity, 19 percent in bending, this to a chassis that was far from flexy. Rack-and-pinion steering replaces the old recirculating-ball system, and the suspension has been tuned a click firmer—all of which pays sharpened response dividends. There’s also bigger power from a bigger (3.5 liters versus 3.2) V-6: 268 horsepower, 258 pound-feet of torque. Allied with the much-improved six-speed manual transmission, this is enough to achieve 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, even though the new SLK is a little heavier than the old.

It’s also a little longer, taller, wider, and roomier. Not to mention better-looking. The bobtail cuteness of the original gives way to a grown-up look that echoes the theme of other SL Benzes, including the mighty SLR McLaren.

All in all, a much more serious SLK. And we say that without considering the forthcoming AMG version, which will add V-8 power to the equation. We can’t wait.

 

Specifications

Vehicle type front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door roadster
Base price $46,220
Engine type DOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6
Power (SAE net) 268 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 258 lb-ft @ 2400 rpm
Transmissions 6-speed manual, 7-speed auto with manumatic shifting
Wheelbase 95.7 in
Length/width/height 160.7/70.4/51.1 in
Curb weight 3250–3350 lb
EPA fuel economy, city driving 18–19 mpg
 

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