Under all this black plastic and corrugated panelling sits the all-new Mercedes SLK, due for launch in 2011. Mercedes’ latest iteration of its baby roadster signals a more dynamic, efficient and purist approach from Stuttgart compared to its predecessor. There's even an electric version on the drawing board!
The new Mercedes SLK (2011): adopting the family face
It is clear that Mercedes is making the new SLK closely follow the brand's latest design trends – making it look just like a baby SL. This means a big bold grill (reminiscent of the R107 SL of the 70’s and 80’s) whilst the headlamps are strikingly geometric, just like the SL.
Expect low mounted daytime running LED lamps to complete the front of the production car, as well as the intelligent light system (ILS), which appeared on the E-class in early 2009. Other sporty touches include lateral air vents integrated into the front wings (cunningly hidden by a strip of black plastic on the test mule) as well as larger side repeaters built into the wing mirrors. The front end has also been extended to comply with new pedestrian protection legislation.
Similarly, the rear end has grown, this time to allow for a boot which is 20 litres larger than its predecessor's. However, lozenge-shaped wraparound tail lamps and squarer rear wings mean that the extension doesn’t really stand out like a sore thumb.
Inside the new Mercedes SLK
Expect the interior of the new roadster to take inspiration from Mercedes’ E-class. This means a fixed sat-nav screen and some familiar switchgear. However the SLK will be dramatically more sporty than the E-class in its detailing. The new car also uses the latest generation of the ‘Airscarf’ neck and back warmer that made its debut in the outgoing SLK. Perhaps this one will have Airgloves too...
Other niceties to grace the options list include multi-contour seats with massage feature, night vision, lane guidance, lane departure warning, improved rollover protection and a much more powerful multimedia system.
A leaner, greener Mercedes SLK
Despite expanding dimensions, Mercedes has actually managed to shave off 100kg compared with today's car. And this doesn’t just mean that we expect the new SLK to be more spritely than its forefather, it will also be more efficient. The efficiency flag is being proudly flown by Mercedes with the new SLK, although a BlueEfficiency version hasn't yet been confirmed. There are, however, rumours of a plug-in 350 CGI appearing in 2013 as well as mild hybrid modules, which are offered as standard on all S-class models from 2012.
It is predicted that the engine line-up will be completely different from that offered on the current SLK. Petrol-powered offerings come in the way of the 250 CGI, a turbocharged 1.8-litre four with 204bhp, the 350 CGI, a 3.5-litre V6 giving 292bhp and the jalepeno-hot AMG, boasting 503bhp from the 6.2-litre V8.
Diesel fans will be glad to hear of the 250 CDI, a twin-blown 2.1-litre four-cylinder oil-burner that offers 204bhp to rival the base petrol.
Don’t get too used to this line up, though – it will soon change. A year after launch, the 204bhp petrol will be axed in favour of a direct-injection 2.0-litre that develops 238bhp. Later on in 2012 a slightly punchier 225bhp version of the 250 CDI will also be offered. A 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 will also be offered with either 306bhp or 354bhp depending on your bank balance. The AMG 6.3-litre will later be scrapped in favour of a 4.6-litre bi-turbo V8, which promises to match the old engine's performance but make it dramatically more frugal.
Mercedes SLK Mk3: a driving sensation?
When the current SLK came out in 2004, many were presently surprised with the way it drove and this one should be no different. Peel away the sporty exterior and you'll find a C-class platform and suspension, which is no bad thing. To make it even more fun, Mercedes has tuned the chassis for better grip and quicker responses. It will also be fitted with adjustable dampers, bigger brakes, variable rate parameter steering, and larger 18in wheels. The car also boasts a longer wheelbase than the current SLK for better roadholding and stability.
As well as tuning chassis and suspension, Mercedes has also got to work on its gearboxes. It promises a six-speed manual with more precision and shorter throws – always a weak spot for Mercedes. But it will only be available on the diesel and low-powered petrol. Everything else gets run through the slick-shifting seven-speed 7G-Tronic ‘box which has been favoured instead of the five-speed auto that is currently available.
With about 18 months until the Mercedes SLK’s official launch, keep checking CAR Online for updates.