Although most car manufacturers tend to mould their models to suit new trends, the same can’t be said for Mercedes. When the time comes to update one of its cars, which is typically once every six years, Mercedes examines the needs and wants of its target market. This is obvious in the company’s newest release, the heavily overhauled third-generation SLK roadster. Both the first-generation SLK, which was launched back in 1996, and the second-generation model, which went on sale in 2004, have been strong sellers in Ireland, so it’ll be interesting to see if the new model can continue this trend in the midst of a recession.
As expected, it follows the same styling pattern as the new CLS Coupe and CLK Coupe, which quite frankly, is a good thing. First, and most notably, the SLK’s front end has been completely overhauled in a sporty manner. A wider and more upright grille catches the eye immediately, along with reshaped headlights and new built-in LED daytime running lights. There’s more reshaping along the flanks with revised vent grilles and a muscular new rear wing. Mercedes has developed an innovative new technology for the car, dubbed ‘Magic Sky Control’, which can switch the panoramic roof from light to dark with the flick of a switch.
The new SLK is the smallest car in its class, but Mercedes insists the interior is more comfortable than its predecessor. The centre console and surrounding trim is now brushed in an aluminium finish while a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel and an online computer give the cabin a more modern feel. Mercedes will also offer an optional sun-reflecting leather interior for the SLK that prevents it from heating up in hot conditions, though this is unlikely to be of any use to Irish buyers!
Mercedes is offering a range of new four- and six-cylinder powerplants for the SLK that are 25 percent more efficient than those in the outgoing model, and all are fitted with an ECO start/stop system as standard spec. On launch, Mercedes will offer the SLK in the three different guises, the first of which is a 1.8-litre, 184hp, four-cylinder entry model dubbed the SLK 200 BlueEFFICIENCY. This is likely to be the most popular unit in Ireland, as it can get from 0-100km/h in 7 seconds and has a top speed of 236km/h, but uses just 6 litres of petrol every 100 kilometres.
Next up is the SLK 250 BlueEFFICIENCY, which is a tuned version of the SLK 200 and has 204hp on tap. The range-topping SLK 350 BlueEFFICIENCY model draws 306hp from its 3.5-litre V6 engine, reaches 0-100km/h in just 5.6 seconds and reaches an electronically limited top speed of 250km/h. The SLK retains its steel suspension platform, but Mercedes will also offer the car with an optional sports suspension package that consists of harder springs and dampers. A dynamic handling package will also be available that will offer continuous adjustable damping.
Mercedes has been working hard to improve the SLK’s safety credentials, and it certainly shows, as it’s equipped with a drowsiness-detection system and an anticipatory-occupant-protection system as standard. There’s also the option of a Pre-Safe Brake system that applies the brakes automatically in the event of an impending rear-end collision, an Intelligent Light System that provides five lighting modes, depending on driving conditions, and also an innovative new Speed Limit Assist system that is able to detect and indicate the respective detected speed limit using a camera on the inside of the windscreen. The new Mercedes SLK will reach Irish shores this July; just in time for sunny season (let’s hope). Prices have yet to be confirmed.