2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class
The latest rendition of the Mercedes-Benz SLK arrives in showrooms this year, revamped from stem to stern, and more finely honed as a performance rival to the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z4.
More performance and more features in the new edition help the 2012 SLK to a rating of 8 out of 10--pending the arrival of any AMG hotness headed our way in the new model year.
The SLK's new look is heavily influenced by the bigger SL roadster, not to mention the SLS AMG gullwing and even the new 2012 CLS four-door. It's compact and stubbier, which shows up clearly in its nose, but the careful attention paid to omitting extra lines and sculpting surfaces gives the SLK its own grace, mostly from the rear three-quarters. The cabin's switched off some of the studded-chrome excess of the second-generation hardtop convertible, bringing back the first-gen car's metallic console trim, leaving the brighter chrome touches for the steering wheel and some minor controls surrounding a big LCD screen.
For performance, the only SLK drivetrain out there in the wild earns our high score. A 201-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder is coming, and an AMG-powered SLK55 seems like a sure bet--but at launch the SLK 350 will be the first to land in showrooms. With the 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6's grunt and a paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic flicking up and down with the help of driver-selectable modes, the SLK's come ever closer to the thrills you'd experience in its competition, placing just shy of the Z4 and Boxster for immediate steering feel and exhaust-note perfection.
Dynamic Handling control also lets drivers tailor the SLK driving experience to Sport or comfort driving conditions. Either way, it's happy to claw and grab its way through corners--something you'd accomplish with a little more neutrality in the Porsche.
It's marginally wider inside the new SLK's cockpit, but the space for passengers isn't as much a hallmark as some fantastic features. The usual audio and infotainment systems are there for the taking. So is AIRSCARF, the simple and brilliant venting of warm air around your neck that eggs you on to lower the folding hardtop earlier and later in the driving season. There's also a photochromic roof option, so you can dial in or dial out sunlight like a really cool pair of sunglasses.For an in-depth look at performance and luxury features in the new roadster, check out our 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK first drive.