Here’s the first driving report with the new Mercedes-Benz SLK 350. Enjoy!
Argue if you want in favor of the Porsche Boxster’s no-compromises chassis, or the BMW Z4’s now-outed closet speed freak. The SLK holds its own: it grips and grunts with its own visceral pulse–and hot-lapping the volcanoes and valleys of Spain’s Tenerife Island proves that it’s still a three-way arms race. And still a very small, very exclusive club. With a new model comes an evolved look heavily influenced by the SLS AMG gullwing and the CLS four-door. A compact roadster like the SLK doesn’t have as much room to let those styling themes play out in a purely elegant way, but there is a solidity and clarity to the new look that rises above the convertibles that came before it. From the front quarters, it’s a more mature look than the under-detailed, first-gen car, and a welcome step back from the overstyled second-generation roadster. The new front end sits taller, though: look at the SLK from the side and you can read the brutalist effect of new pedestrian-safety ergs in its blunt grille and squared-off headlamps. The roof blisters over the body’s wedge in a bare little bubble, same as ever, and tapers off into teardrop taillamps that create the most cohesive view–the one from behind. It’s best when the roof is tucked in and the metallic twin peaks of the seat backs stand up at attention.