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Test Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

The Mercedes-Benz SLK350 is not the best-driving luxury sports car on the market, but it may be the most well-rounded. With sports cars (or any car, for that matter), you always have to have a trade-off between comfort and performance. A car that screams around the track will likely beat you up on your commute. Things like a monster engine, low-slung stance and a tight suspension make a sports car a sports car, but they can also make that same sports car tough to live with.

After a week in the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350, I can say that this is one sports car that is extremely easy to live with, in an “I know the loan is over but you can pry the keys from my cold dead hands” sort of way. No, the SLK is not going to take on the Chevrolet Corvette or Porsche Boxster at the track. But in the real world, you don’t need to be able to take on a Porsche. You need to be able to take on the Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys that clog most streets. The SLK had no problem doing that.

A Mercedes is the kind of car that people aspire to, and the interior of the SLK shows why. The design is minimalist, but that keeps the dash from being cluttered with buttons and dials. The air vents has an art-deco aeronautical look that was upscale and cool. On the outside, the SLK has been redesigned for 2012 and now it looks more like a sports car and less like something you’d buy your second wife. As a recovering blonde, I appreciate that.

My test SLK came with Mercedes’ $2,150 multimedia package, which included the COMMAND control system. Unlike other single-knob controllers I’ve tested, using this version of COMMAND was intuitive. It quickly synced with my phone and controlling music and navigation functions were easy. One piece of tech I didn’t like was the Sirius traffic and weather updates, which come as part of the multimedia package. The idea behind the updates is to alert you to traffic and weather issues on your route, but in the traffic-choked D.C. area, the updates were a bit much, coming on about once every minute, which caused the stereo to cut out. I’d be about to find out what Rick Astley was never gonna do, and the system would cut in to let me know that there was traffic on the inner loop of the Beltway. In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet. Luckily, the alerts were easy to turn off.

I enjoyed the SLK’s AIRSCARF system, which blows hot air on the back of your neck to keep you warm while driving with the top down in cool weather. The only problem with it is that the vent in the headrest isn’t adjustable, and I’m short, so the air just blew on the back of my head. On the plus side, I could skip the at-home blow dry and just let the SLK do my hair.

The SLK isn’t a performance-oriented sports car. It is, however, a sporty car that looks good, treats the driver and passenger like royalty and can outpace the vast majority of cars you’re likely to encounter on a daily basis.   

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