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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - SLK-class

First look: Benz lifts lid on new SLK roadster

The nose knows: Mercedes' new SLK has a family resemblence to its flagship SLS Gullwing, especially around the grille.

Third-generation Mercedes SLK cuts fuel consumption by up to 25 per cent

Mercedes-Benz logo14 Jan 2011

By RON HAMMERTON

MERCEDES-BENZ’S new, more environmentally friendly SLK roadster has jumped out of the box in Europe ahead of its rolling launch that is set to start at the German car-maker’s 125th anniversary celebrations in Stuttgart later this month, followed by a public unveiling at the Geneva motor show in March.

Three weeks after images were leaked on the internet in a video from Europe, official pictures and details of the evolutionary, SLS-inspired two-seater have been issued, revealing that the new, third-generation model will retain its famous folding hardtop, which the SLK pioneered in this category.

This time, however, the roof will come with a choice of conventional metal panel or two types of sunroof – tinted glass or top-shelf electro-magnetic variable tint glass.

The latter is a world first – dubbed Magic Sky Control – that can be switched from light to dark with the touch of a button to block out sun or vice versa.

Promising “very competitive pricing”, Mercedes-Benz Australia has confirmed that the new model will be launched in Australia at the end of the third quarter this year, probably after a high-profile Australian International Motor Show unveiling in Melbourne in July.

The new SLK is said to be up to 25 more efficient than the outgoing model, with greatly enhanced levels of safety.

Daimler chairman and head of Mercedes Cars Dieter Zetsche said the SLK embodied the role of the trend-setter like no other car.

“I am convinced that with its passionate design, its high-quality interior and its modesty at the filling station it will continue to provide an enormous amount of fun on the road in future, too, consolidating its status as a cult roadster,” he said.

4 center imageDespite its new, SLS-style upright radiator grille, the new SLK is more aerodynamic, at 3.0Cd – down from 3.2Cd. The bonnet and mudguards are made of aluminium to cut weight, and headlights are now entirely LED.

The Australian branch of the luxury German car-maker has confirmed that it will offer at least one version of Benz’s new turbo-charged 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine in the SLK, along with the 3.5-litre direct-injection V6, in the SLK350.

In Europe, three models will be available from launch, all flying Mercedes-Benz’s environmental BlueEfficiency banner: SLK200, SLK250 and SLK350.

The four-cylinder petrol models are both equipped with a new 1.8-litre engine, but in two states of tune: 135kW and 150kW.

The entry-level SLK200 BlueEfficiency, with the135kW engine, has a claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.0 seconds – 0.6 faster than the current 200 Kompressor – and a top speed of 237km/h.

Mercedes-Benz claims the SLK200 BlueEfficiency is the most economical roadster in its class, achieving 6.1L/100km on the combined cycle on premium unleaded and emitting jus 142g of CO2 per kilometre.

Whether Australia will get the SLK200 or SLK250 – or both – at launch remains to be seen.

The SLK350’s new 225kW V6 – a certainty for Australia – is said to power the roadster to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds – about the same as the current equivalent.

Fuel economy is greatly improved, thanks to a range of BlueEfficiency fuel-saving measures such as idle-stop, delivering 7.1 litres per 100km, compared with 9.3L/100km for the current SLK350.

Mercedes-Benz says the V6 has been newly developed, with third-generation direct injection, piezo injectors and multi-spark ignition.

All SLK models will come standard with a new seven-speed automatic transmission, but a six-speed manual alternative will be available with the base SLK200.

At launch at least, the current 3.0-litre V6 powerplant has gone missing, with the four-cylinder SLK250 seemingly taking the place of the SLK300 in the line-up.

Mercedes-Benz says the 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel is also under consideration for Australia. Currently, no diesel SLK is offered in Australia, but with the growth of demand for diesel in all quarters of the market, this might change.

The company adds that it has no information yet on any hot AMG variant, which European reports speculate should get Benz’s AMG’s acclaimed twin-turbo 5.5-litre V8, but without turbo-charging.

The SLK buyer in Europe will be able to choose from three suspension formats: a standard conventional steel suspension, a firmer sports set-up or a Dynamic Handling package with electronically controlled, fully automatic damping system.

Inside the new SLK, the dash has been remodeled in a style similar to the big-brother SLS.

As GoAuto has already reported, the new SLK will be loaded with a raft of Mercedes-Benz’s latest safety gear, including its Pre-Safe system that alerts the driver to an imminent collision and, if necessary, applies emergency braking.

In addition to the regular set of airbags, the SLK gets a new ‘headbag’, which provides lateral protection for the head impact area, as well as an additional thorax airbag in the seat backrest that protects the upper body in the event of a side impact.

Another new standard feature will be ‘Neck-Pro’ crash-responsive head restraints, developed by Mercedes to support the front occupants’ heads in the event of a rear impact and reduce the risk of whiplash.

Pedestrian safety has also been enhanced by sensors in the front bumper that register an impact and immediately raises the bonnet by 85mm to create additional space between the bonnet and the components in the engine compartment. This results in comparatively lower impact for the pedestrian’s head, reducing the overall risk of injury.

Other systems announced by Mercedes-Benz for the SLK include a camera that detects speed limit signs and displays them on the speedo, an ‘intelligent light system’ with five modes for different driving conditions, and a post-crash supplement to the Pre-Safe system that can automatically provide interior lighting, lower the side windows by 50mm for better ventilation and (where memory is fitted) raise the steering wheel.

Last year, Mercedes sold 338 SLKs in Australia, up 13.8 per cent on 2009. Rival Audi sold 646 TTs, while BMW found homes for 299 Z4s.

Current pricing for the SLK starts at $91,450 for the 1.8-litre SLK200K, rising to $119,690 for the SLK350 and on to $177,410 for the top-whack SL55 AMG.

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