Mercedes has taken great strides to refine the luxury roadster experience with the SLK, regardless of whether you’re driving with the top up or down. The retractable hard top can be had three different ways: as the standard metal roof; as a panoramic glass roof; or as the Magic Sky Control roof, which features a glass panel with adjustable opacity. The optional Airguide uses Plexiglas pieces that rotate out from behind the seats to calm cabin turbulence when the top is open. Other open-air comfort options include sun-reflecting leather and Airscarf, which blows warm air onto the necks of the driver and the passenger. It’s a stretch to call the SLK a sports car, but it is definitely sporty, and many of the editors of this magazine have just as much respect for this car as they do for the BMW Z4. All SLK models use variable-ratio steering, called Direct Steer, that quickens during aggressive driving. While these systems have traditionally felt unnatural and unpredictable, Mercedes has executed it nearly to perfection in the SLK. The SLK350’s direct-injected V-6 is quick and powerful and has a raspy growl, and its seven-speed automatic delivers silky-smooth upshifts. For those interested in better fuel economy, the SLK250 uses a turbocharged four-cylinder paired with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic and is expected to achieve an EPA rating of 23/31 mpg. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the normally aspirated V-8 of the AMG car will power the SLK to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
Trim levels: SLK250, SLK350, SLK55 AMG
Body style: Convertible, 2-passenger
Engines: 1.8L turbo I-4, 201 hp, 229 lb-ft
3.5L V-6, 302 hp, 273 lb-ft
5.5L V-8, 415 hp, 398 lb-ft
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 7-speed automatic
Passenger volume: N/A
Cargo space: (top down/up) 6.4/10.1 cu ft
Mercedes-Benz’s compact hardtop is new for 2012, bringing the design in line with the brand’s chunkier, more masculine styling and making strides to mitigate its reputation as a “chick car.” Along with fresh V-6 and V-8 engines, the third-generation SLK reintroduces a four-cylinder engine and a manual transmission. It also debuts a bevy of new convertible-centric comfort features.
Standard features include ABS; dual-stage front, side head and thorax, and driver and passenger knee air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; driver-drowsiness alert; and traction and stability control. There is no optional safety equipment.
All: 17-23 mpg city/26-31 mpg highway
- Frugal four-cylinder
- Innovative comfort features
- More fun to drive than the previous car
- Shifts can be slow
- Not as sporty as competition
More muscle for the small droptop.
- Audi TT
- BMW Z4
- Porsche Boxster