The SLK350 used to be a baby roadster, a lightweight open-top cruiser in Mercedes-Benz's lineup. But the 2012 model features a more aggressive design and engine.

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Vents in the hood and sides, along with a lower air intake, help give the SLK350 a performance look.

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The new engine uses direct injection to feed six cylinders, and makes 302 horsepower, plenty for this roadster.

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The SLK350 is strictly a two-seater, and although the cabin is compact, Mercedes-Benz includes useful ergonomic features such as putting the power seat controls on the doors.

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The SLK350 comes with a retractable hard top, standard, which folds up or down in just 20 seconds. When up, it creates a nicely curved roofline.

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Mercedes-Benz put nicely curved back glass in the roof, and CNET's car came with a panoramic roof option, another glass panel on top. The car can also be optioned with an electrochromatic roof that changes opacity at the touch of a button.

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Mercedes-Benz managed to keep air turbulence down to a minimum in the cabin, but there is still quite a bit of external noise when driving at speed with the top down.

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The roof folds up into the trunk, taking up some space. However, this trunk space is still very deep, and would easily fit a couple of roller bags.

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The SLK350's cabin is nicely appointed, as you would expect in a car that starts at $55K.

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Mercedes-Benz gave the SLK350 a sport steering wheel, with a flattened bottom and sculpted thumbholds over the spokes.

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The steering wheel holds buttons for voice command, stereo, and phone control.

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These white-faced gauges give a performance look to the instrument cluster. The center monochromatic screen shows trip information, plus a coffee cup icon representing the drowsy-driver detection feature.

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The SLK350's seven-speed automatic uses a lock-up clutch for tight gear shifts, which transmits power more directly than a torque converter to the rear wheels.

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The dial for the COMAND system, set in the console, controls all onscreen functions.

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The navigation system uses a hard drive for map storage, and can render buildings in 3D.

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The navigation system includes traffic data, which it uses to route around trouble spots.

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The Bluetooth phone system includes a full address book, automatically downloaded from a paired phone.

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The car recognizes a good number of audio sources. Music Register refers to the onboard hard drive, which has room for music storage.

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With both iPods and USB drives, the system organizes music by album, artist, and genre. It also displays album art.

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The Harman Kardon audio system uses 11 speakers and a 500-watt amp to produce excellent sound.

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