2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Review and photos by Greg Wilson
2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class
Tenerife, Canary Islands – Few locations on this planet could be better suited for test-driving a new sports car than this volcanic island off the North African coast. The largest of the seven Canary Islands, Tenerife is dominated by two imposing volcanoes rising to 3,700 metres which fall away, in varying degrees of drama, to the cold, blue Atlantic ocean from which these erupting titans emerged eons ago.
For Tenerife’s road builders, its steep hillsides necessitated construction of a seemingly endless repetition of switchbacks and winding roads that snake their way up to the crest of the volcanic mountain range, then back down the other side. In this far-flung Spanish outpost, you might expect to find poorly maintained, unpaved roads, but incredibly, Tenerife has some of the nicest, well-maintained, well-marked – but admittedly narrow – ribbons of asphalt in the western hemisphere – and very little traffic: truly a sports car lovers’ nirvana; small wonder, then, that Mercedes decided to introduce its revamped, third generation SLK sports car to the world’s media here.
The 2012 SLK isn’t a complete departure from the second generation car introduced here in 2004: the dimensions are similar and the chassis hasn’t changed much, but there are two new engines, new transmissions, suspension improvements, new exterior styling, a new interior, and additional safety and comfort features, including the unique “Magic Sky Control” glass sunroof.
Magic Sky Control sunroof, top; 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class. Click image to enlarge
Echoing Mercedes’ recent styling theme seen in the SLS and CLS, the new SLK’s styling is more aggressive than the former model’s. Its wider, upright grille with a prominent three-pointed star, raised hood, larger headlights, deep air dam, and new LED lighting makes the car look bigger and meaner that it really is. The front fenders feature new air vents, and at the rear are wraparound LED taillights, a black diffuser, and twin rectangular tailpipe finishers. The hood and front fenders are now made of lightweight aluminum, and its folding convertible hardtop is now made of plastic instead of metal.
In Canada, the SLK 350 comes standard with the AMG Styling Package which includes a more aggressive front air dam, side sills, rear diffuser in black, and larger 18-inch AMG alloy wheels and tires.
While the SLK appears to have ditched elegance for in-your-face boldness, it’s also a return to a long tradition of big-grilled Mercedes-Benz sports cars, such as the 190 SL, 300 SL Gullwing, and the new SLS.
The first SLK model to arrive in Canada is the SLK 350, the first Mercedes vehicle to be equipped with the company’s new M276 3.5-litre V6 engine with Mercedes’ third-generation direct fuel injection, and multi-spark ignition. Developing 302 horsepower at 6,500 rpm (up from 300 hp) and 273 pound-feet of torque at 3,500 – 5,250 rpm (up from 266 ft.-lb.), the new V6 offers an estimated 10 per cent improvement in fuel economy over the previous V6. It still uses premium grade gasoline.