The thing about innovation is that to follow up, you tend to need another dose of innovation to keep people interested. Case in point: Mercedes-Benz having shoes to fill with its little SLK. The original was one of the first cars on the market with a modern retractable hardtop, taking after its costlier forebearer, the SL. And fourteen years later, with nearly everyone fitting folding tin roofs to their convertibles, the Stuttgart has launched the third-generation model with Magic Sky Control.
The innovative roof, as we've reported in the build-up to its release, adjusts the tinting of the glass panels automatically. It's an option, and buyers can still get a solid metal folding roof or a fixed-tint glass one if the electronic trickery is too much. Naturally, though, that's not all that's new about the new SLK.
The latest compact roadster from Stuttgart sits on a new platform with new styling. Whereas the outgoing model aped the SLR with its Formula One-style nose, the new SLK takes its cues from the SLS AMG with its more upright grille. The new shape is also more aerodynamic, and Mercedes has incorporated a new transparent panel between the rear roll hoops that tilts to optimize airflow and keep turbulence in the cabin to a minimum.
The SLK will launch in the North American market in SLK350 guise, packing a 3.5-liter V6 good for 302 horsepower and a 5.4-second sprint to 60 mph. The 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, 201hp SLK250 will follow, as is expected the naturally-aspirated 5.5-liter V8 SLK55 AMG. The new SLK gets its official launch later this month at the head office in Stuttgart in celebration of the company's 125th anniversary, with its public debut slated for the Geneva Motor Show in March. Follow the jump for a video and full press release, but be sure to check out the high-resolution photos in the gallery below.
The all-new 2012 SLK Roadster
Passion meets efficiency
MONTVALE, NJ – The all-new SLK-Class, one of the most exciting and successful sports cars ever built, is entering its third generation. The 2012MY roadster takes driving pleasure and open-air enjoyment to the next level by blending nimble handling with stylish comfort, striking sports-car design, everyday drivability, top performance and exemplary efficiency. In addition, the 2012 SLK-Class is proud to present the world premiere of the panorama vario-roof with MAGIC SKY CONTROL, which switches between light and dark transparency at the touch of a button.
Exemplary efficiency and athletic flair come courtesy of powerful new 4 and 6-cylinder engines
With superb levels of performance, they are more fuel efficient than their predecessors and with unique new safety equipment the 2012 SLK-Class sets the new standard in this segment. With its wealth of technical innovations, the SLK is once again the benchmark in its class. The 2012 SLK-Class goes on-sale in the U.S. this summer.
"The new SLK embodies the role of the trend-setter like no other car", says Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. "I am convinced that with its passionate design, its high-quality interior and its modesty at the fuel station it will continue to provide an enormous amount of fun on the road in future, too, consolidating its status as a cult roadster."
Innovations are part of the successful history of the Mercedes-Benz SLK:
- In 1996, the first generation caused a sensation with the vario-roof, which transformed the wide-open roadster into a fixed-roof coupe at the touch of a button in just a few seconds.
- The second generation placed the warm AIRSCARF around the neck and shoulders of the occupants as needed, ensuring open-top enjoyment even in cooler temperatures.
- Now the third generation presents a unique highlight – the world premiere of the panorama vario-roof with MAGIC SKY CONTROL, which can be quickly switched to light or dark transparency at the touch of a button.
The new Mercedes-Benz SLK unites premium comfort and high-quality equipment and appointments with an especially athletic flair. At the same time the new roadster is the most fuel efficient in its class matched with segment-leading safety. All-weather driving enjoyment – open or closed, during weekends or the daily commute – is firmly anchored in the SLK's genes.
Timeless aesthetics embody hallmark sports-car sensuality
The designers have tailor-made a body for the new SLK that emphasizes its classic roadster proportions and puts them in the spotlight with a thrilling result. Behind the long hood is a compact passenger compartment and a short rear overhang. The SLK will tempt potential customers with these key attributes that characterize all the classic roadsters from Mercedes-Benz.
The first eye-catching feature is an upright radiator grille that stands proud and confident in the wind and bears the new Mercedes-Benz brand look. The grille emphasizes the long and well-proportioned hood, and with its light-catching contours it already hints at the roadster's dramatic qualities. The wide radiator grille bears the Mercedes-Benz star in a prominent central position and displays a powerfully contoured chromed fin at the front. The clearly defined headlamps complete the look of the new SLK's face and resemble that of the legendary 190 SL from the 1950s, which is regarded by many as being the original "SLK". However the designers did not just focus on the past; with the new SLK's front end they also intentionally created a close visual link with the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG "gullwing model" and the new CLS.
The impressive result of this meticulously detailed work is that in spite of the more striking, steeper front and larger frontal area, the Cd value has been cut to just 0.30 – a brilliant achievement (the predecessor model's Cd value was 0.32).
The timeless, classic shape of the side profile with the classic roadster proportions embodies aesthetics of the highest caliber and is a visual cue to the sportiness and driving pleasure in store. Fine details show the care that has been taken by the Mercedes-Benz designers. For example, a molding conceals the trunk joint, so that the side line cannot get in the way, as it usually does with similar roof designs. The ventilation grilles in the front fenders with a chromed fin are reminiscent of the famous Mercedes-Benz roadsters of the 1950s. In the new SLK they form the perfect starting point for a feature line, which flows to the muscular rear fender, using light and shadow to add style and timeless aesthetics to the sides. Meanwhile the upper edge of the wide headlamps – which for the first time boast all-LED technology – also appears to flow into the feature line.
Interior with style and pure good looks
Despite the most compact dimensions in its class, the 2012 SLK has generous interior dimensions. To achieve this, the designers have developed interior appointments that offer the driver and passenger the highest degree of quality and pure precision. The interior is characterized by stylish sportiness and genuine high-quality materials which have been processed with perfect precision and skilled craftsmanship. Standard brushed aluminum trim covers the center console; wood trim can be ordered as an option in high-gloss dark brown walnut. Four round, metallic air outlets integrated in the dashboard emphasize that this model truly belongs to the Mercedes-Benz sports car family, their shape being a nod to those in the SLS.
The SLK's generous round dials are astride a display for the onboard computer. The color display for the communications and entertainment functions is housed in the center of the dashboard, and is easily read by both the driver and passenger.
Other high-quality pieces of equipment include a multifunction sports steering wheel with a flattened bottom section and a thick leather crown, plus available sun-reflecting leather that noticeably reduces seat temperature, ambient lighting and the innovative neck-level heating system AIRSCARF, familiar from the predecessor.
Unique equipment: MAGIC SKY CONTROL
For the first time Mercedes-Benz is offering a choice of three variants of the lightweight-construction vario-roof for the new SLK: in just a few seconds this feature transforms the roadster into a coupe with a "fixed" roof at the touch of a button – and vice versa:
- The standard version is a roof painted in the vehicle color.
- Optionally available is a panorama vario-roof with dark-tinted glass.
- The third option is a world premiere – the panorama vario-roof with MAGIC SKY CONTROL. This glass roof switches to light or dark at the press of a button. In light mode it is virtually transparent, offering an open-air experience even in cold weather. In its dark state the roof provides welcome shade and prevents the interior from heating up from the sun's rays. In other words: a comfortable atmosphere at the touch of a button.
Innovative AIRGUIDE wind-stop system
A comfortable alternative to the conventional wind-stop is a new pivoting wind- stop for the 2012 SLK, invented by Mercedes-Benz aerodynamics engineers. It consists of pivoting transparent plastic layers attached to the back of the roll bars. The driver or passenger can swing them to the center of the vehicle in an instant, thus taming turbulent air flow.
Spirit and efficiency
There will be two models of the 2012 SLK available in its first year, both powered by direct-injection engines. The completely redesigned V6 engine in the SLK350 develops 302 hp from its 3498 cubic-centimeter displacement, using this power to accelerate in 5.4 (est.) seconds from 0 to 60 mph (top speed 155 mph). Its fuel consumption is estimated at 23 mpg. Its most important highlight is its 3rd-generation direct injection, piezo injectors and multi-spark ignition.
Later on in the model year, the SLK250 goes on-sale with a four-cylinder engine developing 201 hp from a displacement of 1796 cubic centimeters.
The SLK250 is equipped as standard with a 6-speed manual transmission and consumes an estimated 27 mpg (combined). From a standstill it reaches 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and it has a top speed of 155 mph.
Suspension for the closest relationship with the road
A sports suspension with firmer springs and dampers ensures a sporty driving experience. Additionally the Direct-Steer system offers more handling and agility while also reducing the amount of physical effort required when parking.
During spirited driving, the Torque Vectoring Brakes produce a defined rotational movement about the vertical axis of the vehicle in fractions of a second through selective brake actuation at the rear inside wheel. This results in the SLK stabilizing without any compromises, and it steers into a bend precisely and under full control.
Clever use of materials and high levels of safety
The new SLK's bodyshell has been further refined, with the hood and fenders now made of aluminum.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK also sets new benchmarks in terms of safety. The third generation of this icon will make use of a whole host of the latest assistance systems to support the driver, including the drowsiness detection system ATTENTION ASSIST, developed by Mercedes-Benz and fitted as standard equipment. Available through special order is DISTRONIC PLUS with PRE-SAFE® Brake, which can autonomously apply the brakes in the event of an impending rear-end collision. As such, with the SLK Mercedes-Benz again exceeds modern safety requirements.
Optionally available is the Lighting Package that not only provides headlamp cleaning but cornering and active light functions.
The 2012 SLK-Class makes its U.S. showroom debut in summer 2011.