2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350
Engine: 3.5L V6
Power: 302 hp, 273 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 20 city, 29 hwy
Price as Tested: $60,800
Boots, check. Scarf and beanie, check. The Mercedes-Benz SLK350 hardtop convertible–wait, what? Alright, so maybe for most of the country it’s an odd time to be reviewing a small, drop-top two-seater, but every once in a while you have to pull up in the other other Benz. After all, it’s a newly designed take on an offering from the undisputed automotive king of mass produced luxury. It should be a blast to drive at any time of year, right? I figured it couldn’t hurt to find out.
Before even unlocking the little 302-horsepower beast, my impressions of the 2012 SLK350 took a hard turn for the better. While its outgoing, bubbly predecessor seemed perfectly fit for older MILFs, ze Germans took a much more aggressive design stance on its replacement. Verdict? This time around, the 350 ain’t no “chick-car,” and if you do see a girl rockin’ one, she’s probably at least got tattoos. Top up, the break lines of the mechanical roof–which retracts in a mere 20 seconds–are so well placed, gawkers might not even realize you’re rocking a ’vert until you decide to expose yourself. Opt for the panoramic glass option, and from the cockpit you’ll feel one with the sky even when you’re fully buttoned up. Feeling a bit richer? There’s also the overhead option for Magic Sky Control. Yeah, all of you who sweat the Maybach know what that’s about.
Back to the cabin. Planted in its high-backed seats, the SLK350 feels like a purpose-built road machine. Its confines are cozy, but not cramped. Those of y’all more baller in build may cry foul, but for my average American physique, things felt just right and perfectly placed. Even more to my delight, with the top up, this Benz was missing something almost every hard-top convertible on the market unfortunately boasts–a blind spot. Still, I had no intentions of riding around unnoticed. Opened up, the 350 shows its true character. Headlights on, a ribbon of illuminated red piping runs through the interior with the soft electric glow of South Beach’s Art Deco district. But while it would make for a good people-watcher on Ocean Drive, you’d be missing out on the real fun it packs.
The only beach I had in reasonable distance was Long Island’s Robert Moses State Park. Not bad, but it was November. I figured it was time to familiarize myself with MB’s AirScarf technology. In addition to the heated seats, which I already had on high, with AirScarf on, the 350’s heating system blows warm air out of a seating vent, keeping your neck and shoulders toasty. Top down through town, I may have looked like a complete jerk, but there’s no disputing the fact that I sounded dope. Yes, the audio system hits hard like it should, but the car’s real audible treat is its exhaust note. Even at low-speed city driving, the V6 emits a throaty, aggressive growl that will turn heads quicker than the Ni**as In Paris beat. On the downside, the engine and transmission combination have a tendency to surge hard with minimal throttle, so it’s definitely not the car to tailgate in. I held hope that the flaw was a sign it just wanted to be opened up, and I was right.
Hitting the causeway, I dropped the transmission into manual shift and took over with the wheel-mounted paddles. The Benz’s response was brilliant. The SLK’s power band is smooth and solid, but comes on quick, so keep an eye on that redline. Yet with all its power, the SLK350 feels planted like a car twice its weight. Unless you pop off traction control, the chances of your feeling like you’re about to lose control are slim to none. Even then, the car’s stance is so low to the pavement, you’d really have to be going dumb to feel any type of tipping point.
Practicality? Come on, man, it’s a two-seat convertible. Unless you’re unhitched and plan to be for quite a while, the SLK350 is strictly plus-one status. That said, it isn’t a total toy. Kick back the trunk partition, and its boot can still swallow up a good amount of gear; the roof just won’t retract. Choose to air things out, and you’re toting around a backpack and a spare pair of kicks at best. OK by you? Hop behind the wheel, let the top back and get some wind in that stupid Movember ’stache of yours. It’ll be far from the silliest thing you’ve done.