NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - The outgoing Mercedes SLK had an agreeable face but was often dismissed as a poseur, a frivolous femme in a world of manly two-seaters.
But in the year's happiest surprise, the reborn SLK350 is not only gorgeous but a serious sports car as well. For $46,220, the convertible's bona fides include a sinewy 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower -- a 25% increase over its predecessor; 60 mph arrives in a swift 5.4 seconds.
Steering, brakes, clutch and six-speed manual shifter offer a liveliness and precision that were AWOL before. It all feels more Porsche or BMW than Benz, and the SLK whips not only its predecessor but the BMW Z4 for style, performance and even fun-to-drive feel -- the latter, something we never thought we'd say about a two-seat Mercedes.
The body's lovely shape, including the nose's homage to the $450,000 SLR McLaren, borrows from Benz's exotic lexicon, while the interior is coolly minimalist and modern. A special SLK55 AMG version ($61,220) makes its intentions clear with a burly 5.5-liter, 355-hp V-8.
The car also retains the quick-draw retractable hardtop that makes it a true all-year convertible. A poseur no longer, the SLK350 is a sports car that any serious driver -- man or woman -- would be happy to take home.