2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
July 5, 2008

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK doesn’t have the edgy driving experience of other roadsters, but it keeps you comfortable, looks fast, and is fast.

To bring you this review on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class roadster, TheCarConnection.com's experts have handpicked some of the most insightful comments from other reviews. Then to make this especially useful to shoppers who might be comparing the SLK to another roadster model, the editors at TheCarConnection.com have contributed their own driving impressions.

The SLK-Class is a small roadster model from Mercedes-Benz; it stands out from the crowd most notably because of its power retractable hardtop, styling cues inherited from the larger, more exclusive SL-Class roadster, and comfort-oriented features that aren't offered in other roadsters at this price.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes in three different models: The SLK280 is powered by a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6 engine, while the SLK350 features a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, and high-performance enthusiasts can select the SLK55 AMG and its 355-hp engine for ultimate power. Transmission choices include a six-speed-manual--only offered on the base SLK280--and a seven-speed-automatic gearbox with TouchShift operation.

Beginning with the 2005 model, the SLK inherited more aggressive styling borrowed from both the Mercedes McLaren SLK supercar and the more graceful stance of the larger SL. The interior of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is adorned with brightwork, and the curvy dashboard flows into the door panels, while the instrument panel sports large, chronograph-style gauges. Seating is well bolstered, and actual seating space is ampler than in most roadsters.

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The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK has good acceleration with either of its V-6 engines, but the more powerful SLK350 has enough punch to be entertaining even on the steepest and tightest mountain roads, though you'll have to control the shifts yourself as the transmission felt indecisive in Drive. The SLK isn't as fun to drive, since its steering lacks the sharp turn-in feel and edgy response of other roadsters. However, the SLK's ride is very settled and absorbent.

The power retractable hardtop in the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK really sets it apart from other roadsters; the clever arrangement can go up and down in just 22 seconds. The one drawback of the roof is that it occupies a designated area of the trunk when it's down, but there's still enough space for modest weekend bags. Wind buffeting with the top down is excellent, and to further boost comfort, there's an option called Airscarf that's tremendously useful on cold, sunny days. It channels warm air from vents located in the driver and passenger's headrests and allows top-down driving when you otherwise couldn't comfortably do so.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK rides on 17-inch alloy wheels and performance tires; a lowered sport suspension is offered for more aggressive driving, though at a sacrifice in ride comfort. A special version of the SLK350, the Ten Year Anniversary edition, gets an automatic gearbox, 17-inch wheels, special badging, and red stitching and trim on the interior.

For the power-hungry, there's also the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG model, which brings a 355-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8 engine; a special Speedshift version of the seven-speed transmission; and other modifications such as a sport suspension, upgraded wheels and tires, and sport seats. Most noticeable, though, is the much more aggressive Formula 1–style air dam with mesh intakes and side skirts.

The options list is long for the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK, with several premium packages that bring heated sport seats, Sirius Satellite Radio, rain-sensing wipers, an upgraded Harman Kardon sound system, a navigation system, and a SmartKey system that allows remote operation of the top.

Standard equipment includes head-and-thorax side airbags, knee airbags, stability control, a rollover sensor, fixed roll bars, and anti-lock brakes. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK has not been crash-tested.

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Styling

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers a stunning exterior and a stylish, if somewhat confusing, interior.

In 2005, Mercedes-Benz set out to restyle the hot-selling SLK-Class, and the body style introduced that year is the same one that can be found on today's 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class. While the styling is universally praised, 2008 is the last year for the current generation of SLK-Class, as Mercedes-Benz has deemed it time for another update.

The exterior of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class gets superlative compliments in the reviews researched by TheCarConnection.com. Kelley Blue Book writes that "the SLR McLaren-like front end turns heads at every encounter" and "the perfectly aligned side bodylines appear as though carved from a single block of steel." Car and Driver adds that this 2008 Mercedes-Benz is "arguably one of the best-looking two-seaters on the road." Edmunds reviewers say that for Mercedes-Benz, 2008 brings an SLK-Class that comes in three trim levels: "SLK280, SLK350 and SLK55 AMG," though the only real external differences are that the SLK280 "includes 16-inch alloy wheels," versus 17-inch wheels on the SLK350 and 18-inch wheels and some unique "exterior trim details" on the SLK55 AMG. All three trims of the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class feature the "power-folding hardtop," according to ConsumerGuide, and Edmunds says it's "unique-in-class."

The interior of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has been updated as well, going from good to great. Kelley Blue Book says that "Mercedes has done a wonderful job of organizing the SLK's interior," with controls that are "close at hand," according to ConsumerGuide. However, ConsumerGuide notes a few drawbacks, most prominently that "not all" of the controls are "obviously marked, and the steering-column stalk for cruise control invites confusion with the turn-signal lever." ForbesAutos offers both pros and cons for the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class, writing that the interior "is elegant, with a dashboard that flows" from side to side, though they point out that "as with all Mercedes-Benzes, there are many buttons and knobs that can seem overwhelming at first."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Performance

Welcome handling improvements have turned the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class into a full-blown performance car.

For a convertible with such a racy appearance, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, as you might expect, would claim strong performance as be a given. In the previous version, this wasn't the case, but for Mercedes-Benz, 2008 brings an SLK-Class with much stronger performance credentials.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers a choice of three engines, indicated by the trim level of the vehicle. Edmunds says that under the hood of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK280 is "a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque," while the midline "SLK350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque." If you demand significantly more power from your luxury convertible, Mercedes-Benz offers the "high-performance SLK55 AMG," which Edmunds says features a "5.4-liter V8 that pumps out 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque," good for a "0-60-mph time of 5.1 seconds." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that the other engines also turn in strong performance, with Kelley Blue Book claiming that the SLK350 moves "from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 5.4 seconds," while ConsumerGuide shows "6.1 seconds 0-60" for the SLK280.

A pair of transmissions is offered on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, and which one comes standard depends on the engine. ForbesAutos says "a standard six-speed manual transmission drives the rear wheels on the SLK280" and a "seven-speed automatic with manual-shift capability is optional." On the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK350 and SLK55 AMG, the "seven-speed automatic" is the only available transmission. Impressions of the manual are wholly positive, but the seven-speed auto gets mixed reviews. Car and Driver characterizes the manual on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class as "good," while Kelley Blue Book adds that it is "quick-shifting." When it comes to the seven-speed automatic, Cars.com writes that the "operation can be rude," as it "can get jerky at low speeds in lower gears and delivers a sizable jolt if you hit the gas pedal while slowing down." Other reviewers disagree, however; for example, ConsumerGuide praises the 2008 Mercedes-Benz automatic for "smoothly" changing gears and notes that it "downshifts promptly to provide passing power."

For a car that offers respectable amounts of power, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class also manages to return decent, but not great, fuel economy. The EPA estimates that the SLK280 will get 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with the automatic transmission and 17/25 mpg with the standard manual. The numbers drop to 17/23 mpg for the SLK350 and 14/20 mpg for the SLK55 AMG.

One of the biggest criticisms Mercedes-Benz faced with the previous SLK-Class was that it simply didn't offer the handling qualities that its dimensions and styling suggested. For the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class, that criticism all but disappears. Edmunds says the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers handling to "please all but the most demanding drivers," and "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." Other reviewers add praise, with Kelley Blue Book finding that "ride has definitely been improved, with less harshness over bumps and improved stability in tight turns." ConsumerGuide sums it up, writing that "any SLK has precise steering, adroit overall balance, and grippy cornering" to go along with "strong brakes" that easily "deliver drama-free stops."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers an exceptionally well-crafted interior and comfortable seats, but unsurprisingly, cargo space isn't exactly ample.

Build and materials quality are, as you would expect, quite high on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class. A pleasant surprise is also found in the SLK's overall comfort, which in a small car can sometimes be sacrificed in the name of aesthetics.

The two-door, two-seat 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is outfitted with a pair of bucket seats that offer both good support and commendable comfort levels. Edmunds writes that the "soft and supportive seats remain comfortable even after several hours of driving," while ConsumerGuide adds that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK's dimensions provide "good shoulder width and head clearance, but tall drivers may want more legroom." Car and Driver describes the interior simply as "comfy." In accordance with the increased emphasis on sporty handling, Kelley Blue Book says that for 2008 Mercedes-Benz has installed "supportive bucket seats" for both front occupants.

Storage space on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz isn't ideal, though it still offers more room than many of its competitors. ConsumerGuide testers find that, with the top lowered, there is "just enough space for a couple of soft suitcases," while "raising the roof frees sufficient trunk volume for a long weekend." Cars.com offers some dimensions to go along with their impressions, listing the trunk volume in the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class as "6.5 cubic feet with the top down and 9.8 cubic feet with the top up."

Materials and assembly quality is outstanding on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class, a reflection of both the badge on the front and the sticker price in the window. Edmunds praises the interior for its "handsome, soft-touch materials" and notes that "even the plastics used exhibit the same high quality." ConsumerGuide notes that "cabin materials are top-notch," though in one of the few complaints read by TheCarConnection.com concerning materials, they find themselves wishing that "the dressy aluminum trim were available on more models than just the top-end SLK55." That aluminum trim is essentially the only change in materials between the SLK55 and the less-expensive SLK280 and SLK350.

Interior noise is usually above average in convertibles, but the folding hardtop on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class does an admirable job of providing a comfortable decibel level inside the cabin with the top up. Kelley Blue Book says that, with the top up, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz boasts a "cozy but quiet environment" in the cabin. Top down, ConsumerGuide says, "wind noise is modest," and they note that the "SLK's sport-tuned exhaust note is prominent, but it never annoys."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Safety

Offering all the safety features you could ask for, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has a solid safety roster.

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class hasn't been crash-tested by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), most likely because of its sticker price and low sales volumes, but it is equipped with a wide array of safety features that should inspire confidence in 2008 Mercedes-Benz owners.

When it comes to safety features, Mercedes-Benz has developed a reputation for offering some of the finest in the industry. The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is no exception. Cars.com lists the standard safety features offered on the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class as "side-impact airbags, all-disc antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system." They add that "a BabySmart child-recognition system prevents the front passenger-side airbag from activating" when a child is in the front seat, which is a welcome feature, given the fact that the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK offers no backseat in which to put children. ConsumerGuide mentions that the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class also comes with a "tire-pressure monitor, roll bars," and "daytime running lights."

One additional feature of the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class that improves overall safety is the view that the driver enjoys. ConsumerGuide reviewers say that while the "removable mesh wind blocker clouds rear visibility," overall "the outward view is good" from within this 2008 Mercedes-Benz, even when driving "top-up." Cars.com reaffirms that opinion, writing "top-up visibility isn't bad."

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2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Features

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers what is perhaps the most desirable feature available in a convertible today: the Airscarf.

Like most Mercedes-Benz models, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes well equipped even in its most basic trim. For those who want more luxury, for 2008 Mercedes-Benz offers a full complement of optional features on the SLK-Class.

Offered as standard equipment on every 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is an extensive list of features that ConsumerGuide says includes "air conditioning w/dual-zone automatic climate controls." You'll also find a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls, cruise control, leather upholstery, height-adjustable bucket seats," and "remote keyless entry." Further, there's a "nine-speaker CD audio system," according to Edmunds. While the standard features list on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK280 and SLK350 is identical in terms of features, ConsumerGuide notes that the 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG adds "power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, heated 8-way power seats," and "illuminated mirror visors."

The 2008 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class certainly isn't lacking when it comes to standard features, and the options list only adds to the SLK's lust-worthy features. Mentioned in nearly every review read by TheCarConnection.com is the "optional Airscarf neck-level heating system" in the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class, which Cars.com finds will blow "warm air from the headrests." ForbesAutos reviewers find that feature particularly helpful for "convertible lovers who enjoy top-down motoring in the fall." Another desirable option on the Mercedes-Benz 2008 SLK-Class is the Harman Kardon audio system, and Kelley Blue Book says that other cool options include a navigation system and "HID headlamps."

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Styling 8.0
Performance 8.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
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Features 9.0
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