With its matte finish paint scheme and a 415-horspower V8 wedged beneath its hood, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG has the stuff of the ultimate bad boy ride. And yet, the high level of creature comforts, the stylish Designo interior and its ability to cruise around town in civility give this two-seat junior SL a sophisticated and polished personality. Think of it more as a handsome rogue.

The SLK is a good looking package. Its Magno Alanite Gray paint scheme (a $3,950 option, not pictured) has enough sheen to its matte finish to avoid the dull look that has quickly become an automotive cliché among the go-fast set. The interior features supple Auburn brown leather seats and classy Piano black accents. The retractable hardtop quickly turns the SLK from a buttoned-down coupe into a carefree roadster. One of the coolest features of the top is the Magic Sky Control glass ($2,500 extra) in the roof which at the touch of a button goes from heavily tinted to nearly clear eliminating the need for a supplemental sunshade.

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Split personality

With nearly 400 lb-ft of torque complementing the 415 horsepower, the AMG hand-built V8 offers plenty of snap off the line. Teamed with the very direct shifting 7-speed AMG Speedshift automated manual, the SLK drivetrain has the high strung, edgy feel of a true sports car. When the car is driven normally, some of that edge recedes but never quite goes away. The engine starts with a rush in its exhaust note before settling down into idle. That same suddenness in engine engagement can be annoying when the stop/start system is active in eco mode. And if you don't wait a beat before mashing on the gas, the car can lurch forward. But driven with restraint, the SLK55 AMG proves to be a competent grand tourer that can quickly turn into an all-out canyon carver in sport mode. When engaged, the steering tightens along with the suspension, the shifts are even crisper and the throttle response is lightning quick. The AMG handling package is responsible for much of this prowess and the $4,750 package includes upgraded brakes and suspension, limited slip differential, 18-inch alloy wheels and an ungoverned top speed of 174 mph.

This dual nature comes at a price. The base SLK55 AMG starts at $68,925. Loaded up with the special paint and interior, AMG performance package, a top-of-the-line multimedia system, and Nappa leather, our test vehicle listed at $89,740. The SLK delivers both style and performance in equal measure.

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