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SLK diesel dilemma for Mercedes Down Under

D-word: Mercedes-Benz has unveiled its first ever diesel SLK, but its Australian prospects remain fuzzy.

No firm Australian agenda as Mercedes-Benz introduces its first-ever SLK oil-burner

19 Aug 2011

MERCEDES-BENZ has issued details of its first ever diesel-powered SLK roadster ahead of its release in Europe next month, but the German luxury giant’s Australian subsidiary remains cool on the prospect of its introduction here.

Based on the third-generation SLK which will be launched here in petrol guise later this month, the SLK250 CDI uses the same beefy 2.1-litre turbo-diesel engine that serves various members of the bigger C-class and E-class range.

Technology like fourth-generation common-rail injection, two-stage turbo timing and a fuel-saving idle-stop system means that – like most modern performance-oriented diesels – the engine manages to combine greenness with ‘meanness’.

With 150kW of power and a muscular 500Nm of peak torque, the four pot oil-burner pumps out the sort of figures that defy its diminutive displacement.

Two BlueEfficiency petrol variants of the all-new SLK two-seater – the SLK200 and SLK350 – will be released in Australia later this month before being joined by the mid-range SLK250 and the stonking SLK55 AMG early next year.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific senior manager of corporate communications, David McCarthy, told GoAuto that while diesel variants sell well here in the E-class coupe and cabriolet, and should prove popular in the forthcoming C-class two-door models, the two-seat SLK is a different matter.

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“I don’t know there’s a big market yet,” he said. “I would imagine it would be pretty small volume.” Mr McCarthy pointed to the relatively small sales of similar diesel-powered sportscars, such as the Audi TT TDI, in the Australian market, as well as concerns over the diesel’s distinctive soundtrack.

“(The torque) is the big attraction of the engine and the SLK is a pretty light platform. But it’s the noise that the engine’s going to make.” Mr McCarthy did not categorically rule it out, however, stating that: “I can’t imagine it would be before second quarter of next year if we said yes.” The SLK250 CDI roadster can sprint from 0-100km/h in a respectable 6.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 243km/h. Overtaking should not pose any problems thanks the engine’s surplus of torque, helping the roadster bolt from 80-120km/h in a claimed 4.3 seconds.

Official fuel economy figures point to a meagre 4.9 litres per 100km on the combined EU cycle, while CO2 emissions are 128g/km.

The engine will be mated to the Stuttgart marque’s seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic gearbox at the European launch in September, before being joined by a six-speed manual option in 2012, though it is likely the car will be automatic-only if goes on sale here.

As with the rest of the SLK range, buyers of the 250 CDI will be able to opt for the brand’s panoramic vario-roof with Magic Sky Control, allowing for the roof to be changed from dark to transparent at the touch of a button.

The car can also be optioned with the Dynamic Handling package, which includes electronically controlled and fully automatic dampers, a Direct-Steer system and Torque Vectoring Brakes.

As GoAuto reported in June, Mercedes-Benz will lop a cool $10,000 from the starting price of the entry-level, petrol-powered SLK when it arrives in Australia.

The SLK200 BlueEfficiency will land in showrooms priced from $82,900 (plus on-roads), compared with $92,540 for the outgoing model, representing a 10.8 per cent cut.

The savings will be slightly less on the SLK350, with the new model – also now wearing the BlueEfficiency enviro-tag – arriving at $118,900, down $2160.

Pricing has been withheld for two more variants – the SLK250 BlueEfficiency (replacing the SLK300) and the AMG-enhanced SLK55 – which follow early in 2012.

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