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One slick Mercedes

The word boulevardier is usually used as a mild dismissive for a car that is engineered to be more of a soft riding cruiser than a sportster. I know; I’ve used it myself, especially during my younger days when I preferred cars with a harder edge to them. Older and wiser, not to mention a bit of a boulevardier myself, I have come to think the word can have a positive connotation to it, especially when used to describe the Mercedes SLK350 coupe/roadster.

Actually, the two seat hardtop convertible is more of a sports boulevardier, marrying very stylish sports car looks with strong if not eyeball flattening performance and a comfortable ride that makes one want to contemplate any excuse to ditch work, grab the Ray Bans, drop the top and head out on the open road.

Mercedes’ designers have face lifted the SLK for 2009, tweaking the front bumper and rear apron, penning a new exhaust pipe design, adding larger rear view mirrors, darkening the tail lights and reworking the instrument cluster. It’s all very subtle, but the revisions take a couple of years off the car’s age and keep the competition guessing.

Far less subtle is the tester’s new AMG Sport Package, which bulks up the SLK350 with the muscular body cues and wheels cribbed from the SLK55 AMG.

However, in this iteration, the SLK can be viewed as a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, this despite a thorough reworking of the 3.5 litre V6 that imbues it with 300 horsepower, a considerable 32 more ponies than last year’s motor. Torque has also been increased by seven pound feet and now peaks at 265 lb ft at 4,900 rpm, achieved by raising the rev limit to 7,200 rpm, increasing the compression ratio, fitting a new intake manifold and modifying the valvetrain. Oh, the SLK350 scoots, make no mistake zero to 100 kilometres an hour in 5.4 seconds is far from tortoise like, but you really have to want it to. In comfort mode, the seven speed automatic starts out in second gear and shifts early to stretch fuel economy. Punching the sport mode drops startup to first, but one needs to go to manual mode and
cheap ray bans use the steering wheel mounted paddle
replica ray ban sunglasses shifters to get the SLK to dance.

(Manual shifting can be performed using the console shift lever, but Mercedes annoyingly insists on using left/right downshift/upshift activation instead of the more common and intuitive up/down motion.)

The other thing is that it doesn’t deliver on Mercedes’ contention that the fortified V6 "strikes a far more emotive sounding note after being deliberately tuned to deliver resonant sports engine acoustics." In fact,

the tonal quality of the engine is rather flat, not conducive to providing any aural thrill at all. Truly, this was my only disappointment with the car.

On the other hand, the SLK350’s fuel economy proved a major delight, Fed up with the never ending job of putting the house back in order after significant renos, I coerced my wife into playing hooky for the day and taking a top down cruise to the Muskokas. Our 370 km round trip, despite stops for lunch, sweet corn, fudge and bathroom breaks (not necessarily in that order), delivered a parsimonious 7.7 litres per 100 km. The downside is the engine’s appetite for premium unleaded.

Kudos are due the folding hardtop vario roof in Mercedes speak that transforms the SLK from roadster to weatherproof coupe in 22 seconds. It is a mechanical marvel, stowing cleanly and neatly at the touch of a button. A tip of the hat should also be directed at the Mercedes designers who created the second generation SLK’s looks the car looks every bit as stylish with the roof in place as it does down. Fortunately, my timing in picking up the two seater was such that the top was down the entire week except when I parked it overnight.

The SLK’s new direct steer system with variable power assist is an interesting addition, engineered to get the best out of the suspension. The rack’s
cheap ray bans gearing is designed to alter the steering gear ratio as the steering angle changes. On centre, the steering has an indirect ratio for straightline stability. As soon as the steering wheel is turned past an angle of five degrees, the ratio increases and the steering feels far more direct. It’s a little weird at first, but the upside is that tackling the twisty bits requires smaller steering movements. After I figured it out, the SLK proved far more tossable, though still not quite at the level of rival BMW’s Z4.

Topped off with a cabin that feels and looks every bit as driver
replica ray bans oriented and luxurious as its significantly more expensive SL sibling with a few less distracting buttons and switches to play with the SLK is hands down the most elegantly attired roadster I’ve driven for less than $100,000. It’s more stylish than the Porsche Boxster and (especially) the Z4 and quieter and easier to drive than Audi’s lovely TT soft top. If it wasn’t for the TT’s quattro all wheel drivetrain, which extends the car’s usability to year round, the SLK350 would replace it on my very short list of cars to buy once I cash my imaginary 6/49 winnings.

For a world increasingly frenetic and fast paced, the SLK is a panacea a first class boulevardier by which to enjoy the journey rather than the destination.

Engine: 3.5L DOHC V6

Tires: P225/40ZR18 front, P245/35ZR18 rear

Transport Canada fuel economy L/100 km: 11.8 city, 8.1 hwy.

Standard features: Six speed manual transmission, heated sport seats, leather interior, leather wrapped shift knob and multifunction steering wheel, dual zone automatic climate control, cruise control, power windows with one touch express up and down, power mirrors and door locks, MP3 compatible in dash six disc CD changer with AM/FM/weatherband radio, auxiliary input in glove box, Bluetooth connectivity, TeleAid emergency calling system, aluminum trim, first aid kit, dual zone front air bags and head/thorax side air bags, integrated garage door opener.Articles Connexes´╝Ü