The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK is the third generation of this iconic little sports car, one that rocked the automotive world when it unveiled the first modern automatic retractable hardtop back in 1997.
This latest SLK incarnation has several new wrinkles, including a wide SLSinspired front grille with a sweeping hood, relatively long doors and a short rear section. Even with its futuristic look, its nose is reminiscent of the classic 190SL of the 1950s, considered by many as “the original SLK.”
The interior of the SLK also has been refreshed and includes such new standard equipment as 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.
Our test car for the week was the SLK350 model, powered by the new 3.5- liter V-6 engine with direct injection and multi-spark ignition. With even more power and better fuel economy than its predecessor, the new SLK engine generates 302 hp and 273 pounds-feet of torque.
Also available is the SLK250 with a new turbocharged 1.8-liter direct injection fourcylinder engine that produces 201 hp and 229 pounds-feet of torque.
The 2012 SLK line also has a new transmission with a more advanced torque converter lockup clutch that provides even better fuel economy, more responsive driving, quieter operation and increased durability. The new transmission 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 “FEATF” fluid provides less friction and improved fuel mileage.
This latest SLK continues with its distinctive retractable hardtop. With the top up, it’s a quiet, weather-tight coupe; push a button and in about 20 seconds later the car is topless. Thanks to a pivoting rear window, the folded roof of the SLK takes up relatively little trunk space. Like the retractable hardtop of the larger SL model, the rear window of the SLK pivots to match the curvature of the top as it’s being lowered.
An optional AIRSCARF system can extend the convertible open-air 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 you to cruise comfortably with the top down in cooler weather.
AIRSCARF even compensates automatically for changes in vehicle speed. A standard fabric air deflector mounts to the SLK roll bars, helping to reduce air buffeting. Going a step farther, an optional AIRGUIDE Plexiglas wind deflector mounts to the back of the roll bars.
Pricing on the 2012 Mercedes Benz SLK starts at $43,375.
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>.