Heading into its third generation, the redesigned 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK Roadster enters the market with a new look and an optional glass retractable hardtop with a technological twist.
Mercedes calls the sometimes-clear, sometimes-tinted roof technology Magic Sky Control, and it's just one of the new features on the fully redesigned convertible that retains the essential long-hood, short-trunk proportions that define the segment.
Nip and Tuck
Most of this SLK's design changes are evolutionary and only identifiable with a little help. The headlamps, for instance, are said to resemble those on the 190 SL from the '50s, while the front end as a whole was designed to look like the more exclusive SLS AMG coupe and CLS sedan. And despite all the various changes, the roadster's drag coefficient is reduced from 0.32 to 0.30.
The vario-roof power-retractable hardtop is standard equipment and comes in three versions: painted to match the body; equipped with dark-tinted glass; or Magic Sky Control, a first for a Mercedes-Benz. The technology allows you to change the roof from completely dark and opaque to fully translucent at the touch of a button. Mercedes is also introducing a new Airguide system that fits panels between the rollbars to reduce cabin turbulence.
Two models of the SLK will be available and both get direct-injection engines. The SLK350 arrives first with a new 3.5-liter V6 rated at 302 horsepower and mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
In 2012, a less-powerful SLK250 arrives that utilizes a 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated at 201 hp. Although Mercedes wasn't specific, we suspect this is the same twin-turbo four-cylinder engine that will be used in the 2012 Mercedes C-Class Sedan. In the SLK it will come standard with a six-speed manual transmission, while a seven-speed automatic will be an option.
Mercedes predicts the more powerful SLK will hit 60 mph from a standstill in 5.4 seconds, while the 1.8-liter version will accomplish the same feat in 6.5 seconds. Both offer a 155-mph top speed. Combined fuel economy is estimated at 23 mpg for the SLK350 and 27 mpg for the SLK250.
Safety Step Up
Fitted as standard equipment is Mercedes' Attention Assist drowsiness detection feature, which triggers both audible and visual alerts when it senses a driver is falling asleep. Optionally available is the company's radar-based cruise control system called Distronic Plus. Included in Distronic Plus is Pre-Safe brake, which will apply the brakes if the system predicts an impending collision.
Mercedes' Adaptive Brake feature retains brake application on an incline until forward motion begins, and packages active yaw control, acceleration skid control and ABS into one standard feature. In preparation for heavy braking, Adaptive Brake also pre-loads the brake system by bringing the brake pads into light contact with the rotors when the SLK driver lifts rapidly off the throttle.
Firmer springs and dampers offer improved ride control over the previous-generation SLK, while a new torque-vectoring brake system, which can apply brakes individually to each wheel, further enhances stability.
Active bi-xenon headlamps with headlamp cleaners and cornering lights are also available as an option.
Inside there are brushed aluminum trim pieces or, optionally, high-gloss dark brown walnut trim. And in typical German form, Mercedes engineers have thought of everything including optional reflective leather upholstery guaranteed to keep your backside cooler on sunny days.
The AirScarf neck and shoulder heating system remains.
Whether the world is waiting with bated breath for a self-tinting glass roof remains to be seen. However, if any company has the customer base to support such an eccentric feature, it's Mercedes-Benz. Expect to see more details in the coming months, as the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is expected to arrive in the U.S. this summer.