What’s it like?
More than these bald figures, it is the reworked four-valve-per-cylinder unit’s improved response and ability to rev that really makes a difference. While the old engine achieved a rather conservative 6800rpm, the new one can be wound to 7200rpm before the onset of the limiter. Consequently, it feels livelier and more willing, with the revs rising and falling with greater determination.
Allied to this new V6 engine is a standard six-speed manual gearbox, but the optional seven-speed automatic will still impress the most. Running a slightly longer final drive than before, it helps propel the updated SLK350 from 0-to-62mph in 5.4sec – just 0.5sec slower than the similarly updated 355bhp 5.4-litre V8 powered SLK 55 AMG - and a slight 0.2sec improvement on the old model.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz says you will be no quicker in a straight line with the manual, and the automatic achieves better fuel economy and lower CO2 emission figures.
Acknowledging the second-generation SLK has lacked the sort of steering response offered by some of its more contemporary open top rivals, Mercedes-Benz has also given it a new variable steering rack.
At the straight ahead, the so-called Direct Steer system is geared much the same as before in a bid to achieve good motorway stability, but as you wind on lock it gradually becomes increasingly direct, the actual ratio varying from 15.8:1 to a whip crack 9.5:1.
In combination with standard of 17-inch alloys shod with 225/45 (front) and 245/40 (rear) tyres, it provides the SLK with noticeably sharper responses at speed and a keener ability to turn into corners.
Add the optional sports suspension and larger 18-inch wheels to the mix and you’ve got a car that can hold its head high in the company of the TT, Z4 and Boxster. In fact, the complete handling repertoire has been greatly improved, making it a much more rewarding drive.
Making things all the more impressive is the fact that the improved dynamics do not come at the expense of the SLK’s excellent ride quality. No other two seat rival cossets its occupants over rough roads with such aplomb or control.
Accompanying the mechanical tweaks is a very lightly reworked exterior. Among the changes is an aggressive new front bumper with twin vertical struts seeking to provide the compact roadster with even closer visual ties to the latest McLaren-Mercedes F1 car, darkened tail lamp lenses, a deeper rear bumper with integrated diffuser element and a pair of trapezoidal shaped chromed tail pipes.
It’s a subtle makeover that helps give the SLK a slightly fresher, but far from character changing appearance, like that brought to the facelifted SL.
Similarly subtle changes have taken place inside, with reworked instruments, multi-function three-spoke steering wheel and a new finish for some of the switchgear grouped on the centre console helping to lift its appeal.
Should I buy one?
Yes, if you want a comfortable premium roadster with enough pace to keep you ahead of the obvious competition; the SLK’s new top-of-the-line engine and variable steering rack does make it a more appealing buy than its well-liked predecessor.
But if sales of that model are anything to go by it will be the cheaper 182bhp, 1.8-litre SLK 200 Kompressor and 228bhp 3.0-litre SLK280 that will continue to the bulk of business here in the UK.