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Mercedes SLK; One (S)(L)ic(K) Ride

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On: Mon, Feb 21, 2011 at 10:56AM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Mercedes SLK; One (S)(L)ic(K) Ride

Even though it’s been around for nearly 15 years, the Mercedes Benz SLK is still a good looking car after all these years. Whether it is the early Kompressor version or the excitable AMG SLK55 of only a short while ago, the SLK has become a staple in the sports car market. For 2012, Mercedes has unveiled the third generation of its Boxster-fighter and it is a beauty.  

Taking cues from the drop-dead gorgeous SLS AMG halo car, the SLK continues the traditional long hood, short deck proportions that are the foundation for any attractive sporting car. The nose of the new SLK is more upright than the outgoing pint-sized SLR McLaren model. Keen eyes will notice not just the SLS inspiration when the roof is up, but when the SLK goes top-down, an SL model resemblance will start to make itself known. 

Vents behind the front wheels and hood scoops near the windshield all scream of past and present SL models. Those familiar lines, however, sit on an all new platform that thankfully keeps the SLK’s signature folding hardtop, which Mercedes brought back to the market in 1996 after it took nearly a fifty-year hiatus from any production car’s option list. It seems, however, that Mercedes is bent on making the roofs of the SLK unique in as many ways as possible, giving the nod to owners looking for an obvious second or third car that will undoubtedly see mostly nice weather.

The newest feature for the SLK will be what Mercedes is calling its Magic Sky roof, which is a glass panel that goes from light to dark a the touch of a button. It uses LCD-type gadgetry that sends a higher electrical charge through the glass to make the clear completely transparent and a lower charge to make it almost completely dark. Mercedes says in ‘dark’ mode it will help heat from building up in the cabin by nearly 80% compared to being fully clear.

Under the hood, American buyers will get no choice of engines. Initially the SLK350 will only feature a 3.5-liter 302-horsepower V6 with promise of a smaller 1.8-liter turbocharged direct-injection four-cylinder that will make 201-horsepower in SLK250 guise. Both engines will get the choice of either a six-speed manual or automatic. Mercedes claims a combined 23 mpg for the 350 and up to 27 mpg combined for the 250 (obviously heavily dependent on driving style).

As with any luxury car, the Mercedes comes with a host of techno-gadgets that are meant to improve the quality of the product, but slowly it seems that to ensure a high quality driving experience, we must take away more and more responsibility from the driver. Things like Attention Assist that serves as a drowsiness detection system, or Pre-Safe Brake, which applies the brakes independently of the driver’s control if the system senses a pending front end crash. The new SLK also gets Bi-Xenon lights with an option known as Active Curve Illumination which allows the headlamps to actually swivel into a turn to light the way around those pesky corners.

Parktronic Parking Guidance is the final nanny that not only points out potential parking spots using what is essentially sonar, but Mercedes takes things a step further and has the car display the recommended angle of approach for its chosen spot. It is difficult to fault Mercedes for trying to make driving an easier experience, but it seems like a very slippery slope, and not long until we are all sitting back being driven around by our cars, not because we are that important, but more so because we have been deemed too dangerous to drive for ourselves any longer. But I digress … In any event, with all of that attention not needed for driving, Mercedes offers another first: Internet access from your SLK, because, well, you have to do something behind the wheel, right?

The new SLK does offer some technology that doesn’t bring to mind thoughts of Skynet or the Matrix, like improved airbags around the cabin. Two of which are specifically to improve protection for the head and upper body from side impact collisions. Aside from just safety features, engineers worked in some creature comforts as well. A Dynamic Handling Package is available which electronically monitors the suspension and applies the rear brakes at the computer’s discretion during difficult twists and turns.

AirGuide is a deflector system built into the rollover bars that can be adjusted to divert air from swirling around the cabin so as not to mess up the high-priced haircuts of its owners (this technology used to just be putting up the sun visors for those who can remember). AirScarf is a gizmo that blows warm air around the necks of the driver and passenger because, well, why not? Inside the cabin of the SLK, cues can be found from the C-Class as well as the SLS AMG. Wood trim and brushed aluminum are available in spades, as well as a sport steering wheel that serves as a master control for most of the machinery in the cockpit. The seats are adorned with typical blush leather, and the occupants can rest easily knowing that the new SLK can better withstand a crash thanks to better reinforced side impact structures and improved roll-bar. .

The SLK350 will come in about as quick as a non-S Porsche Boxster with a 0-60 mph time of about 5.4 seconds and a quarter mile time of about 13.8 @ 104 mph. This car will be more of a cruiser, and no match for a Z4 sDrive35is or Corvette convertible around the track. But fear not, Mercedes faithful, there is rumor, of course, of an AMG SLK55 on its way in about a year from now. No word on what that juiced-up power train will be, but rest assured it will be enough to impress and more than likely be a 400+ horsepower M-fighter. Exact pricing on the SLK is not yet certain, but expect base price’ right around $48,000 for the newest slick ride from Mercedes.

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Michigander | 12:54PM (Mon, Feb 21, 2011)

The SLK has always been one of my favorites... and still is!


RoadKill | 6:36PM (Mon, Feb 21, 2011)

I really like the way the Magic Sky roof, works....I could see that technology on all the windows

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