PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — If you are like me, a warm summer night, a purring exhaust and a top down on a roadster is just about as good as it gets. There is just something about taking that long ride through the backroads after a tough day that makes whatever it is that ails you feel a lot better.

Taking that ride in a Mercedes SLK350 convertible might be as good as it gets in the two-seat roadster category.

At first glance the SLK cuts a beautiful figure with its long nose, upright front grille and fascia. LED lights accent the front headlamp and parking lamps. A swept back windshield, angular lines and ground effects give the two-seater the illusion that the car is moving even when it is standing still.  Small ventiports behind the muscular front wheel wells are the only interruption to clean sides of the car.

With the top down you can almost smell the marine air and hear the sounds of cruising along the beach just by looking at the car. With the roof up, the SLK cuts an elegant figure as well. Getting in and out of the SLK is done with relative ease top up or down.

Inside the interior is all Mercedes high quality with extremely comfortable seats covered in two color leather and equipped with AIRSCARF, a heater outlet just below the headrest that will keep your neck warm if the air gets a bit of a chill. Just the thing to make sure you keep the top down for autumnal leaf watching!

The instrument cluster is easy to read with both analog gauges and a small screen between them for the vehicle information system. One of the cooler things …the Magic Sky Control roof, which photo-chromatically tints its wide glass panel from nearly dark to fully transparent.

2012 07 09 08 52 04 Drivetime With Vinnie Richichi: 1st Impression 2012 Mercedes Benz SLK 350 Roadster

Photo Credit:Vinnie Richichi

The Mercedes has all of the safety goodies including anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control; active head restraints; and Attention Assist, which flashes an alert to drowsy drivers in the form of a steaming cup of coffee icon on the dashboard. No it’s not sponsored by Starbucks.

Jump into the SLK and hit the gas and the 302 HP V6 comes to life although a bit muted in the Economy mode. The seven speed automatic can be slipped comfortably into its gears from the paddle shifters. Hit the button on the console dropping it into Sport mode and Clark Kent quickly turns into Superman with noticeable improvements in engine behavior, shift points, responsiveness and handling. 0 to 60 times come in at 5.4 seconds and the SLK feels extremely solid in the corners pushing the electronically controlled suspension through it’s paces. Braking is done behind 18-inch AMG wheels that keep the SLK solidly in contact with the road.

One of the only flaws of the SLK is one that is present in most retractable hardtop cars…lack of trunk space. You better pack light if you are heading off to that beach and make sure it is in a soft bag!

The version I drove with Sport and comfort packages stickered at $55,675. EPA gas mileage figures come in at 20 city 29 mpg highway …very good for a small, quick roadster.

While maybe not as sports car like as the Boxster or the Z4, the SLK 350 brings a lot of fun drivability to the small roadster class. What’s more is it delivers a lot of luxury while not losing it’s athletic feel. It gives you both worlds at the touch of a button, a flip of a paddle. It’s the kind of car hot summer nights were made for!

For more information: www.mbusa.com/mercedes/vehicles/model/class-SLK/model-SLK350

Vinnie Richichi has been driving vehicles of all kinds and covering the automotive scene for over 20 years. His Drivetime-radio vehicle reviews have aired on radio stations across the US as well as his website www.drivetime-radio.com. You can hear Vinnie weekdays on The Vinnie and Cook Show on Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan.

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