Wind in your hair, rattle in your ears used to be the sports car mantra. Not any more – thanks to the advent of hardtop dropheads like Mercedes-Benz’s svelte SLK roadster.
The SLK's advanced two-piece vario-roof now features a new lightweight magnesium frame and uprated electronic mechanism that converts the two seater from roof-up coupe to open-topped roadster in just 20 seconds.
Sure, with the roof stowed there’s a little touch of scuttle shake but when it’s up and secured the bodyshell is as rigid as any coupé – mercifully free of extraneous noise. Of course, there’s a price to pay in terms of luggage capacity with the stowed roof gobbling up all but 225-litres of boot space but a re-design extends that to 335 litres when the hood is up – though that’s still not room for much more than a couple of weekend bags.
The optional Magic Sky Control roof uses electro-reactive particles sandwiched between the Panoramic roof’s polycarbonate sections, allowing the driver to switch from clear to opaque at the touch of a button. The roof helps to keep the temperature on interior parts such as armrests cooler by up to 10°C compared with conventional tinted glass.
My test car came in white, with a strikingly handsome black and dark brown nappa leather interior. It looked massive, with a very long hood, but when I parked up at the end of my first short but truly exhilarating run I discovered it was not much longer than the Vauxhall Corsa in the next bay. It is, though, bigger in every dimension than its predecessor.
It might have been a struggle for a big lad liked me to get in and out but once settled behind the wheel, a sense of comfort and wellbeing took over. Yes, it’s got oodles of power but few cars are as easy to drive.
There’s a UK-specific 12 strong model line-up, priced from £30,010 on the road. Standard equipment includes 17-inch five-spoke alloy wheels; Audio 20 radio with integrated six-disc MP3-compatible CD drive; Bluetooth phone interface; a Becker Map Pilot navigation system; DAB digital radio tuner; fabric wind deflector; LED daytime running lights; multi-function 12-button nappa leather steering wheel; rain-sensing wipers; and sports seats.
AMG Sport versions like the 2.5 diesel I drove feature special body styling, lowered suspension, 18-inch wheels and leather seats.
There’s now a choice between four petrol engines and, for the first time, a turbodiesel powerplant. They each deliver a class-leading combination of refinement, economy and performance. An integrated ECO start/stop system is fitted to four and six-cylinder SLK models with either six-speed manual or 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmissions, helping achieve up to 56.5 mpg and 132 g/km CO2 combined – remarkable figures for a truly sporting car that can sprint to 100 mph in less time than it takes to put that metal hood up.
Driving impressions? – I loved it.