If the SUV says utility, the sporty roadster with a convertible top is all about a carefree day on the road. Mercedes gets this right in the redesigned SLK350. I scooped up a friend, popped the top and took to the hills above Malibu. This beauty fit perfectly into the landscape. The SLK is sculpted, tight and cut--like a body-builder. A steeply sloped front end meets a seriously slanted windshield; it looks as if this SLK is zooming even at a standstill. But zoom it must, with a 3.5-liter aluminum V-6, 268-horsepower engine. Slipping through the rocky coastline, I thrilled to the skin-tight responsive steering, the seamless shifting and the pitch-perfect traction. This is a monumental improvement over the previous-generation SLK, which looked cheap and gave a decidedly uninvigorating ride.

Inside, sleek is the buzzword. My tester had red leather seats and door inserts contrasting with matte black. The dash is all about matte metallic finish, and the bling-bling Mercedes logo is everywhere: on the steering wheel, shift knob, wheels, front grille and trunk lid. So much personality in such a small package.

Tip: Want better fuel economy? Try the 7-speed auto transmission for $1,390.