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Benz ‘SLC’ sportscar project still on

Target: Porsche has had its own way for a long time with the 911, but German and Japanese rivals are on the horizon (Note: AMG SLS pictured below).

Rivals for Porsche 911 stack up as Mercedes-Benz keeps ‘SLC’ sportscar project alive

20 Jul 2012

PORSCHE’S iconic 911 looks set to gain a new set of competitors with the news that the on-again, off-again project at Mercedes-Benz hot-shop AMG to produce a sub-SLS sportscar remains alive, but delayed.

BMW and Toyota could also be looking to pick at Porsche’s market share through their technological collaboration that was recently extended to include the joint development of a sportscar.

And Japanese luxury brand Infiniti is exploring the possibility of producing a sportscar, having unveiled its sleek Emerg-e range-extended EV coupe at Geneva in March as a follow-up to the two-door Essence hybrid concept of 2009.

British journal Autocar has reported the Benz 911 competitor, dubbed SLC, is still on the agenda following a report late last month from German publication Auto-Motor und Sport that high development costs were hampering the project.

Autocar says the SLC’s planned 2014 launch has been delayed a year because Benz has allocated engineering capacity to the next-generation C-Class volume-seller.

The SLC is said to have a body constructed of lightweight aluminium and be as wide as, but shorter than, the SLS, replacing the larger car’s retro styling and gullwing doors with a take on current the Benz design language and conventional doors.

4 center imageLexus LF-LC, Infiniti Emerge-e, Infiniti Essence.

Like the 911’s only significant current competitor, the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, the SLC will have its front-mounted engine situated as far back as possible and driving the rear wheels through a transaxle at the back – said to be a seven-speed dual-clutch unit in the SLC – to aid weight distribution.

Given the SLC will be an AMG-developed product like the SLS, a V8 powerplant is a given, although Autocar speculates that development of a new 4.0-litre twin-turbo unit could stall due to cost.

Impending EU6 emissions regulations could preclude AMG’s 6.2-litre V8 from being used, forcing the company to use a version of the naturally aspirated 5.5-litre unit from the SLK55 AMG instead.

Autocar suggests a soft-top version of the SLC is also on the cards, to be launched in 2016.

Of the two sportscars expected to emerge from the BMW-Toyota tie-up, the Japanese entrant could well have already been previewed by the Lexus LF-LC concept shown at Detroit in January.

Lexus global product planning general manager Karl Schlicht told GoAuto at the show the company is looking for its “2+2 GT” to be priced between $US100,000 and $US130,000 in North America.

“It’s a similar ballpark as 911,” he said. “At that level it’s still very premium but obtainable.”

Even if Infiniti’s Emerg-e fails to translate into production reality, the company could still step up to the plate, using experience from parent Nissan’s 911 Turbo-baiting GT-R.

Leveraging Nissan’s platform, engine and technology-sharing deal with Benz parent company Daimler might even result in the Infiniti entrant being closely related to the SLC.

At the Geneva show Infiniti Cars Australia general manager Kevin Snell said Infiniti’s five-year plan called for the development of a high-end sportscar.

“Infiniti has been studying various sportscar directions,” he said. “It is one of the things we want to do.”

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