The SLK has evolved nicely over the years, with more focus and grace, and just the right amount of intoxicating sports-car urgency combined with true mini-SL gravitas it never possessed in its earlier lives.
We won't mask our love for the new Porsche Boxster, or neglect to note that the current BMW Z4 is now the better touring car for the closet speed freak. But the Mercedes SLK has its own visceral pace and pulse; it holds its own in the corners, and proves that it's still a three-way arms race.
The 2013 SLK Class is offered in three quite dramatically different personalities. At the base end there's the SLK 250 and its 201-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; we still haven't driven variants with this engine, but we've found it plenty perky in the C Class--and it's the only way you can get an SLK with a (six-speed) manual gearbox. What most are probably going to find the best compromise between price and performance in the lineup is the SLK 350 and its 302-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. But those who always need to have the best and fastest will head straight to the sizzling V-8-powered SLK 55 AMG.
Over extensive drive time in the SLK 350, we've found it easy to get used to this model's rhythm and drivability. With any of these automatic models, there's a paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic pushing force to the rear wheels in a mostly smooth way. Massive, biting brakes are in store, either way, and new torque-vectoring control works with the SLK's stability control to tighten cornering, giving this latest edition a lot of tech weaponry to tackle corners.
The top is, quite simply, what the coupe-convertible SLK is all about. You lose some trunk space compared to soft-top rivals, but what you get instead is a tight, refined interior that's long-distance quiet and comfortable, and essentially a coupe with the top up. Unfortunately, the interior's still snug for tall drivers and for luggage. Outward visibility can also be difficult with the top up, and there's no rearview camera system on offer.
The 2013 SLK models have it covered in other respects, with all the infotainment features expected in a luxury vehicle, like HD radio, Bluetooth, navigation, and real-time traffic. The SLK can be fitted with a photochromic glass roof that tints itself on bright sunny days--and there's AIRSCARF, which blows a warm, gentle breeze on your neck and beckons you to put the top down on a chilly-but-sunny day.