Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Daily Driver’s Practical Car

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350

I have to admit, my first thoughts were that I was not going to like this car. The preconceived notions were that it was a SLS wannabe, small inside, basically a chick car. Those were quickly dissolved on the 1,000 mile, two-day drive to North Carolina for an MBCA event to tour the legendary Hendrick Mostorsports NASCAR facility.
My first thought was; "Is it practical? Well after driving it and getting very good fuel economy and engine performance, practical may need a better definition! The second, "Is it a chick car?"Although women are attracted to the SLK, and do drive them, men do not lose their masculinity by driving the SLK, as they may with the competitors, the Porsche Boxter and the Audi TT. Within a few miles, there was no question this is a driver’s car, the SLK is nimble, and powerful, it goes where you point it!

The look of the car is very iconic, even more so now, with the arrival of the new 2013 SL. This truly is a little brother in the line with the SLS and SL. Color and options play a big difference in the experience of any car, the deep black (no cost) exterior and black interior with aluminum trim (no cost option) made this car look quite stealth like. This SLK had the aluminum roll bar trim delete (takes $150 off the price) and is worth doing to keep the monochromatic look. Upgrading the wheels to one of the AMG options will make this car stand out even more.

Upon getting into the driver’s seat I was impressed at how roomy it was; the dash and controls are well laid out,the seats allow you to stretch out with infinitely adjustable backs. The air scarf in the top of the seat blew heated or cooled air on our necks and shoulders, and, as odd as that sounds, it was very comfortable.

Interior volume was more than I expected. Any sports car, coupe or cabriolet is not going to be as roomy as the ML that I drive on a daily basis. The seating and leg and head room were perfectly comfortable, though the seat bottom can become tiring on a six-hour ride. Driving a sports car this size, you do not need to bring along anything but your driver’s license and bail money!

As far as engine performance, driving both the Interstate as well as back roads, I found the 350 engine had power to spare, which demonstrated itself during a long hill climb on I77 in Northwestern North Carolina, passing a 7 series BMW. There was as much power as needed, and more when asked for! I did not expect much fuel economy with my lead foot, but the SLK averaged a respectable 27.5 average mpg for the trip.

The ride was sporty OK, I will even say rough- definitely more athletic than I am used to in my M or C Class! Not that I expected the soft ride of an S Class! It is, after all a small sports car!

Luggage space is surprisingly roomy, even with the top down; just don’t expect to be able to access much in a fully packed trunk with the top down. Once the top is in place in the trunk, you can only access a few items. Speaking of the top down, who owns a cabriolet without driving it topless? Like any convertible, your hair will be windswept and the noise level increases, but not so much that you cannot have a conversation or listen to the sound system without maxing out the volume.

Considering that this a convertible, the sound performance on the audio system was just fine of course upgrading to the multimedia package would improve it. No question the audio system is designed to support the Apple product line, through the pig tail connector, and an on-screen display of songs. The pig tail was easy to access in the center console, but if you wanted to connect an iPad, the issue would be where to stow it? Droid smart phones are an afterthought, the Bluetooth® connector worked just fine for the phone and playing standard music files.

It took some intense computer programming of both the phone and the system to program to continuously stream Pandora.

Pricing for this black-on-black SLK 350 with the Premium 1 package and basic options, sticker was just over $58K. Adding some nice-to-have add-ons will bring it just a little more than $63K. If you are in the market, speak with your favorite Mercedes-Benz dealer and see what incentives and promotions are available at the time of purchase.

Always remember your Mercedes-Benz Club Member Loyalty bonus of $1,000 off any new M-B for club members who have been members at least one full year! That bonus is on top of the best deal your dealer has for you, so do not forget it! It is available on any new M-B sold in the USA. Log onto the website for full details and to print your member savings certificate.

This is a fun car to drive! I was sad to hand the keys back to the dealership at the end of the trip. I was surprised at how my impression on the car changed in just two days. Practical really depends on your definition. A sporty fuel-efficient car for running around does not have to be a boring mini-car! Nor do you have to drive around every day in a car capable of carrying a month’s worth of groceries. The SLK can be practical, efficient, as well as, attractive and fun to drive!


William Hopper, MBCA Eastern Regional Director thanks Euro Motorcars of Bethesda Maryland for a chance to review the SLK 350.