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2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 Convertible/Coupe Review by John Heilig +VIDEO

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 (select to view enlarged photo)
2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350

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SPECIFICATIONS: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350

Model: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 302 hp @ 6,500 rpm/273 lb.-ft. @ 3,500 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed automatic with paddles
Wheelbase: 95.7 in.
Length/Width/Height: 162.8 x 71.5 x 50.8 in.
Tires: P225/40R18 (F)/P245/35R18 (R)
Cargo volume: 10.1/6/4 cu. ft. (roof closed/open)
Fuel economy: 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway/21.1 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal.
Curb weight: 3,397 lbs.
Sticker: $67,175 (includes $875 destination charge, $11,500 in options)

TOP 5 Reasons to Buy This Car

1. It's a sports car
2. Easy conversion from coupe to convertible
3. Excellent handling
4. Very good power
5. Comfortable

The Bottom Line: The SLK350 Here is a nice, not-overpowered sports car with all the correct attributes: excellent handling, decent power, comfort and great looks.

I have always been a fan of sports cars. I cut my teeth on an MGA, so my gut feeling is toward small, slightly underpowered, well-handling two-seaters that you can really enjoy driving.

Normally, you'd expect a modern sports car from Mercedes-Benz to be over-powerful. The SLK350 isn't. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of power and torque when you need it. But you can be tooling along on any road and be surprised by how slow you're going. In this sense, the SLK350 reminded me of my MG.

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 (select to view enlarged photo)

But, I had to get two MGAs (a coupe and a roadster) to get what the SLK offers in one package. If the weather is too cold, or rainy, you can leave the hard top in place and drive a coupe. If the sun is shining and the thermometer is where it belongs in the upper reaches, then put the top down and motor around in a convertible. It only takes a couple of seconds to lower the top. You lose cargo capacity with the top down (about 3.7 cubic feet), but still there's enough for a weekend jaunt anywhere. The top controls are hidden by what appears to be an extension of the center console/arm rest.

With the top up or down, the SLK resembles the classic 300SL roadster or coupe, but in a smaller package. Mercedes-Benz has done a nice job in styling the SLK and the SL with a bit of history in mind.

I liked the SLK's handling. We took the SLK on one of my favorite twisty roads and had a ball driving it. Again, it didn't take a lot of speed to enjoy the drive because the handling is so good.

We used the paddle shifters on this road, and the paddles made shifting easier, but they really aren't necessary, although we had a ball using them. There's enough power and torque from the engine to obviate any need for manual shifting.

The seats have excellent side support, as you'd expect from a sports car, and are comfortable. Thanks to Weight Watchers I can now fit in deep bucket seats, rather than ride on the bolsters. They are power seats with the controls on the doors. there are clear wind deflectors behind the seats that do mitigate some of the backlash.

Watch TACH's SLK Roadster promo video

As for creature comforts there's a very clear audio and navigation screen. The audio controls are clear, if you know how to use them. There's also a "smart knob" (M-B calls it the COMAND system) on the console that allows you to switch among the various functions. As with most of these smart knobs, it takes a short while to understand them and figure out how to make them work the best, but the learning curve is fast.

The HVAC system is good, with clear controls. There's a knob on the left for temperature adjust, the one on the right is for fan speed, and the pushbuttons in the center control the air flow.

All in all, the SLK350 is close to being an ideal sports car. It has a hard top that converts the car to a coupe in inclement weather. In the Northeast it's also handy not to have a canvas top to handle winter weather. It has great handling and enough power to allow you to have fun and not risk going too fast.

If only the price was friendlier.

2011 The Auto Page