Mercedes' new SLK350 beats the heat
Driving a convertible in Florida, in July, is a little like sitting under the heat lamp at a Sunday brunch prime rib station. Talk about flambéed follicles. So why the heck are we reviewing the newest Mercedes-Benz SLK two-seat drop-top when it's hotter than Hades outside, and there's no relief in sight till, er, November? That's because this new baby Benz has one of the coolest new tricks up its sleeve to beat the summer heat. It's called Magic Sky. This new-from-the-tires-up SLK already has the credentials to make a great year-round convertible on account of its folding hardtop.Punch a button and it goes from hardtop coupe to drop-top convertible in just 20 seconds. That's quick. But check the box for the optional Magic Sky — I agree, that's a pretty cheesy name — and the folding top comes with a glass roof that can go from clear to sun-blocking, heat-reducing tint at the flick of a switch. It uses the same kind of electrochromatic technology as automatic dimming mirrors. But it's the first time it's been used for a glass roof. This is the third-generation SLK, and by far the sportiest, most dynamic, most grown-up version yet. It's a little longer, and a little wider than the last model to give more space in the totally re-designed cabin. And its new exterior, with a front-end echoing Merc's flagship SLS supercar, turns heads everywhere it goes. Under the hood is an all-new 3.5-liter, 302-horsepower V-6 hooked up to a smooth-as-silk 7-speed paddle-shift automatic. It's an absolute blast to drive, courtesy of its super-responsive variable ratio steering, tsunami of power (0 to 60mph in 5.5 secs) and Velcro'd-to-the-blacktop handling. Prices start at $55,675 for the nicely-loaded SLK350, plus another $2,500 for the must-have Magic Sky roof. As for all the topless fun you're going to have when it cools down in November? Priceless. Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.