Mercedes-Benz has pulled the covers off its redesigned 2012 SLK-Class, providing an early glimpse at the Roadster’s new styling, including an exotic panoramic vario roof that changes transparency, and new direct-injection engines. The new Mercedes-Benz SLK 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.
Gone is the SLR McLaren-inspired front hood, replaced with an aluminum unit capped by a more traditional upright radiator grille. Reappearing after an absence are the side grilles on the front quarter panels, reminiscent of those on the Benz roadsters in the 1950s, and SLS AMG, more recently. Slightly longer and wider than its predecessor, it’s an attractive package. Plus, it cheats the wind with a slippery drag coefficient of just 0.30Cd.
The SLS influence continues within, as the SLK’s cabin has been completely reworked to resemble that of the gullwinged supercar, albeit in three-quarter scale. A long, wide center console gently flows into a short center stack, while four large vents all but dominate an otherwise unobstructed dashboard. The addition of Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND multimedia interface just below the shifter simplifies control arrangements, while accent lighting on both the door panels and center stack provides some additional ambiance at night. The neck-level Airscarf heating system remains an option, much like the new Airguide wind diffusers, which rotate out from the rollbar hoops.
Claimed to offer a 25% increase in fuel economy compared to the previous model, in Europe, the SLK will be available with three engines, all of them featuring direct injection and stop/start systems.
Filling in the base model’s shoes is the SLK 200 BlueEfficiency variant, powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder powerplant, capable of 184 hp. Mated to a seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission, the four-pot needs just 6.1 liters of gasoline per 100 km (38.6 US mpg) in the combined cycle. The SLK 200 sprints to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7 seconds and has a top speed of 237 km/h (147 mph).
Next up is the SLK 250 BlueEfficiency, fitted with the same engine, but tuned to deliver 204 hp. It accelerates from standstill to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 6.6 seconds and maxes out at 243 km/h (151 mph). Furthermore, the extra oomph doesn’t take its toll at the pump, as the SLK 250 consumes 6.2 lt/100 km (38 US mpg).
The top dog of the line-up will be the SLK 350 BlueEfficiency, motivated by a newly developed 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The bevy of technology found under the bonnet helps the range-topping SLK return good mileage as well (7.1 lt/100 km or 33 mpg) and sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 5.6 seconds. Top speed is pegged at 250 km/h or 155 mph.
In the U.S., the new generation of Merc’s roadster model will be offered in two variants, the 302HP SLK 350 (0-60mph in 5.4 sec) and the 201HP 1.8-liter four-cylinder SLK 250 (0-60mph in 6.5 sec, 27mpg combined with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox).
The base models will come with a conventional steel suspension, while optional goodies include a sports suspension with harder springs and dampers and the Dynamic Handling Package with continuous adjustable damping, further refined by a better steering system and torque vectoring brakes.
The initial launch in Stuttgart, Germany, this past weekend feature the Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 with a 3.5 litre V6 engine with 302 horsepower. We’ll get a closer look at the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK next month at the Geneva Motor Show.