Friday, July 22, 2011

2012 Mercedes Benz SLK First View

Posted by Vishnureddy at 6:34 PM

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JASPER, Alberta — It takes only 20 seconds to unfurl the SLK's power hardtop from its nesting place in the trunk. A fraction of a minute is an eternity when you've got a black bear keeping pace with your tiny roadster, so close you could reach out and touch its shaggy hide. Fortunately, it wasn't the slightest bit interested in us, cutting in front and lumbering down the embankment to do whatever it is that bears do in the woods. 

Too refined to be hardcore, the SLK has nonetheless earned the right to be considered a genuine sports car. 

There's nothing quite like an open-air two-seater for getting up close and personal with the great outdoors. And when the route encompasses one of the world's most spectacular highways—the Columbia Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta—having nothing between you and that vast, 360-degree panoramic postcard view is enough to exhaust all superlatives. 

First launched in 1996, Mercedes-Benz's SLK was the first convertible to boast a power-retractable hard top. For years, the SLK has been saddled with the unfortunate "chick car" designation; cute and non-threatening, it was the kiss of death to those less than secure in their manhood. The latest incarnation goes a long way towards redefining the SLK's role—for starters, its face bears an unmistakeable resemblance to the gorgeous SLS gullwing coupe's.

Soft curves have been replaced by sharp musculature, its rounded rump now a well-defined set of glutes. On its flanks, the signature gill air intakes are a throwback to the traditional SL roadsters of the 1950s. Optional in other markets, the aggressive AMG appearance package comes standard on Canadian vehicles.

Our tester was the V6-equipped SLK 350, the only model currently available, but a 4-cylinder SLK 250 and an SLK 55 AMG powered by a naturally-aspirated V8 should arrive by November.

Peeping out from under its chiselled backside are twin exhaust pipes, and while they may not emit a testosterone-laden bellow (that will come later with the AMG-badged versions), the mellow rumble is more than respectable. 

Certainly, the road workers near Banff felt no threat to their manhood by calling out their admiration of our "girly car". Having the lid down for most of our journey let us feel part of our surroundings rather than dispassionate observers, experiencing the sweet mountain air, the taste of grit and wind that whipped our hair into tangled snarls. 

Peeping out from under its chiselled backside are twin exhaust pipes, and while they may not emit a testosterone-laden bellow, the mellow rumble is more than respectable.


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