Top-Down Fun for Two | 2012 Mercedes SLK350

July 2012 View more


The word ‘roadster’ conjures up images of small, sprightly convertibles. Of carefree weekend jaunts. Of you and your passenger zigging and zagging across pastoral landscapes, headed toward smiles and laughter.

No wonder Mercedes applies the roadster label to its all-new 2012 SLK350—a car that invites envy both for what it is, and the type of lifestyle it implies.

The SLK mimics the look of Mercedes’ bigger SL-class convertibles, which themselves mimic the lines of the company’s SLS AMG sports car. So SLK buyers are the beneficiaries of the trickle-down effect—a great long-hooded design that started with Mercedes’ most exclusive model, and ended up, in just a few short years, bestowed upon a much more accessible car.

The SLK’s power folding top stows itself in a sufficiently quick 20 seconds. While a steel roof comes standard, buyers can choose a tinted transparent panel or a ‘magic’ panel that can go from translucent to darkened at the driver’s whim. Those glass roofs make even a top-up, windows-closed type of day feel brighter and more enjoyable.


Inside, the SLK is as snug and sharply appointed as you might imagine. The circular air vents have cross-hatch dividers that bring to mind a jet’s engines, while the steering wheel’s flat bottom evokes a race car’s cockpit. Firm and supportive seats invite long drives. And on chilly days you can leave your pashmina at home. The ‘Airscarf’ option places a horizontal row of vents between the headrests and the seatbacks, enabling the driver and passenger to send a steady stream of hot air cascading around their necks.

As the SLK’s high-design and good looks so aptly advertise, this is a delightful car to drive—luxurious and comfortable.  It’s an automotive sanctuary that will not just get you from point A to point B, but may also transport you over whatever psychic speed bumps might be impeding your forward motion.

Cars in general (and low-to-the-ground, short-wheelbase cars in particular) can corner much faster than prudent drivers would ever attempt. Should your prudence ever momentarily abandon you, the SLK’s suspension and the laws of physics will collaborate on a direction-changing thrill ride that will leave your passenger asking for advance warning before future departures. And when your prudence returns, the SLK’s sharp steering and crisp turn-in makes even casual curves a cause for notice.

This is not one of those roadsters that hopes its handling compensates for lackluster engine performance. There is nothing remotely retiring about the SLK350’s 302-horsepower V6, which is good for an exhilarating 5.4-second scoot to 60 miles per hour.


It may be obvious, but it bears noting that the SLK is a toy of sorts. With two seats and a small trunk it is a cozy conveyance for the young, or young-at-heart, who have few responsibilities that involve transporting people or possessions. Either that, or buyers who have a garage big enough for an extra car to go along with the sedan or SUV that they drive when utility demands it.

If you do not find yourself in this demographic, don’t worry. There is always the four-seat E-class cabriolet to keep you from leaving the Mercedes dealership empty-handed.

The SLK350 can be yours for as little as $54,800. Among the options waiting for your approval is the sport package, which upgrades the bodywork and wheels for a well-worth-it $2,500. If speed does not pull your heartstrings, consider the four-cylinder SLK250, which starts at a much lower $42,500 and sacrifices very little over the six-cylinder model. On the other hand, if the devil on your shoulder has a penchant for performance, you can go the other way with the $67,500, V8-powered SLK55 AMG.

Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC