Conventional wisdom says that buyers shopping for a German-built roadster fall into one of three camps. Those wanting the best handling opt for the Porsche Boxster, those desiring a mix of comfort and performance opt for the BMW Z4 and those concerned primarily with comfort and luxury choose the Mercedes-Benz SLK.
That may have been somewhat true through 2011, but an all-new 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK
looks to change the stereotype of its predecessors. It’s more aggressive in appearance, sharper in handling and possessed of an edge that earlier SLK models seemed to lack. It’s still plenty comfortable, top up or top down, and while it’s not yet as capable on an autocross course as its German rivals, the 2012 SLK gives drivers far more entertainment value than previous versions did.
Currently, two engine choices are available, although a third is said to be coming for the 2013 model year. Today, buyers can choose between the SLK 350
, with its 3.5-liter, 302-horsepower V-6, and the SLK 55 AMG
, with its 5.5-liter, 415-horsepower V-8. Wait until next year, and you’ll likely have the option of a turbocharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, good for an estimated 201 horsepower.
Most buyers will be satisfied with the performance of the SLK 350, which offers paddle shifters for driver control of its seven-speed automatic gearbox. Larger brakes improve stopping distances and a new torque-vectoring control works with the SLK’s stability control to ensure the nose stays pointed in the right direction. Buyers demanding maximum thrust, however, will certainly want to opt for the SLK 55 AMG variant.
The SLK didn’t grow in size significantly with the latest redesign, so the interior is still tight for taller drivers and there’s not much room for luggage or cargo in the trunk. While the handling has been improved, gains haven’t come at the expense of ride comfort, and (thankfully) the SLK remains composed and comfortable even over rough pavement.
As you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz, creature comforts abound. Buyers get HD radio, Bluetooth phone integration, navigation and an available photochromic roof that darkens on driver command. There’s Mercedes-Benz’s “Airscarf,” too, which blows warm air on the necks of driver and passenger, increasing the temperature range of top-down motoring comfort by quite a bit.
For a complete review of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK models, you’ll find our comprehensive evaluation on The Car Connection