The SLK roadster Mercedes first introduced in 1996 was an awkwardly proportioned beast, with a compressed tail that looked like it had been in a rear-end collision. Over the years, the SLK styling improved slightly, but never enough to warrant a second glance. Not so the 2012 SLK350.
Having undergone a styling revamp in 2011, the SLK now has the head-turning looks to match the neck-snapping performance under the hood—and match the hefty price tag you pay for an extremely impractical two-seat plaything.
Power? The SLK 350 has plenty. The all-new 3.5-liter direct-injection V6 makes 302 horsepower and 273 lb-foot of torque, which translates to a blistering 5.4 time zero-to-sixty and a driver's license-jeopardizing electronically limited top speed of 155 miles per hour. The 7-speed automatic transmission has steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and efficiency, sport and manual modes to suit your driving mood.
The SLK has plenty of cutting-edge technology to help to keep this brawny machine on the road and not in the median. Speed-sensitive steering varies feedback to make parking easy while providing necessary feel at high speed. The sport suspension is firmer and lower for improved handling, and the adaptive brakes anticipate a sudden halt when you lift off the accelerator quickly, through moving the pads closer to the discs to cut down stopping time in an emergency. To top it off, the electronic stability program monitors your driving and adjusts engine power and braking to individual wheels to help keep you moving in your intended direction.
As for the exterior, this roadster simply will not be ignored. The stylish low bodywork is mesmerizing, specifically the sharply raked windscreen, grooved sidesills and imposing grill and airdam. The staggered-width wheels and tires not only improve launch and steering performance but enhance the SLK's suitably sinister demeanor. While the SLK is no slouch with the retractable hardtop up, its true beauty comes out as a convertible. After years of “meh" SLKs, the Mercedes-Benz design team deserves a high-five.
Style factor: With a ride this eye-catching, bold and sexy, you should have little problem finding a fair companion for the second seat.
Fiscal factor: High-performance, luxurious impracticality doesn't come cheap. The Mars Red beauty we tested—packed with some $7000 in options—would set you back more than $62,000.
Fun factor: With racing in their DNA and the very word“road” in their name, roadsters are made for motoring thrills, and the SLK350 is pure, open-air driving joy.