The latest incarnation of the Mercedes-Benz SLK is the best yet. The 2012 version is the third generation of this wonderful little sports car with an automatic retractable hardtop that goes up or down in under 20 seconds, a feature that only adds to the pleasurable experience of driving this little dream machine.
The 2012 SLK line debuted earlier this year with the SLK 350 model powered by a new 3.5-liter 302 hp V-6 engine with direct injection and multi-spark ignition. Early next year, the SLK 250 will join the lineup, powered by a new turbocharged 1.8-liter 201 hp direct injection four-cylinder engine.
There also is a new transmission available, one with a more advanced torque converter lockup clutch that provides better fuel economy, more responsive driving, quieter operation and increased durability. The new gearbox is designed to work best with a new type of low-viscosity ATF transmission fluid colored blue instead of the usual red. Together with new planetary gears, bearings and internal seals, the “FE-ATF” fluid provides less friction and helps to improve fuel mileage.
As for styling, the new SLK is a beautiful automobile, with wide SLS-inspired front grille and a sweeping hood, relatively long doors and a short rear end.
The already elegant interior has been refreshed and new standard equipment includes rain-sensing wipers, power folding/auto dimming mirrors, power memory seats with enhanced lumbar support, HD Radio, an integrated garage door opener and a rearview mirror with an integrated compass. Optionally available on the SLK line is sun-reflecting leather, Direct Ambient Lighting and the “Airguide” and “Comand” system.
Uniquely, the convertible roof panel is made of body-color polycarbonate, and an optional Panorama Roof has a see-through panel. Also available is a “Magic Sky Control” roof that allows the tinting of the panel to be changed by using the same electrochromic technology as automatic dimming mirrors. Sandwiched between two layers of glass, a chemical film called a matrix polymer holds oblong nano particles that line up uniformly when electrical current is applied, allowing light to pass through. When the electrical current is turned off by a button above the rearview mirror, the nano particles disperse randomly to reduce light and tint the roof panel.
An optional “Airscarf” system extends the top-down driving season into the cooler months. Built into the seatbacks of the SLK, the neck-level heating system blows warm air from the driver and passenger-seat head restraints, allowing occupants to cruise comfortably with the retractable hardtop open in cooler weather. “Airscarf” even compensates automatically for changes in vehicle speed.
Base price on the 2012 Mercedes Benz SLK350 is $54,800.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277, ext. 261, or by addressing email correspondence to LetsTalkCars@aol.com.