You may remember the headlines when a video of the new Mercedes SLK leaked onto the internet last month, well now we have the official unveiling of Mercedes’ 3rd generation SLK which will be launched in the UK in June, 2011.

The sense we gain from Mercedes’ press brief is that they’ve tried to secure the class-lead in every aspect of this compact roadster segment, now that BMW’s Z4 has emulated the SLK’s folding-hardtop format the Stuttgart car maker is intent on establishing some clear advantages which will differentiate the SLK in the eyes of the customer.

Mercedes aims to do so by way of some novel innovations, including the world premiere of panoramic vario-roof with Magic Sky Control (basically a glass roof panel which switches to light or dark at the touch of a button), plus a range of safety innovations which include ATTENTION ASSIST (drowsiness detection), Pre-Safe® (an anticipatory occupant protection system) and a new Intelligent Light System that provides five lighting functions (cornering light function, country mode, motorway mode, active light function and enhanced fog lamps), which are activated depending on the driving conditions


But it’s not all about safety, Mercedes are also making a big play about the SLK’s class leading fuel economy courtesy of powerful new 4 and 6-cylinder engines featuring the standard-specification ECO start/stop function. Each new model is up to 25 per cent more economical than its predecessor and yet quicker too.

There will initially be three models of the SLK available at launch, all of them powered by new engines with direct injection. The four-cylinder engines in the SLK 200 BlueEFFICIENCY and SLK 250 BlueEFFICIENCY develop 181 bhp and 201 bhp respectively from their 1.8 litres. The SLK 200 BlueEFFICIENCY is claimed to be the most economical roadster in its segment. With the enhanced, optional seven-speed automatic transmission 7G‑Tronic Plus it returns 46.3 mpg on the combined cycle and yet still sprints from 0 to 62 mph in 7.0 seconds, and achieves a top speed at 147 mph (150 with manual transmission).

The SLK 250 BlueEFFICIENCY is equipped as standard with the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission and returns 45.5 mpg on the combined cycle. From a standstill it reaches 62 mph in 6.6 seconds, and a top speed of 150 mph.

The V6 engine in the SLK 350 BlueEFFICIENCY draws 302 bhp from its 3498 cubic-centimetre displacement, using this power to accelerate in 5.6 seconds from 0 to 62 mph (top speed 155 mph). It returns 39.7 mpg on the combined cycle. The new V6 engine has been developed from the ground up and its most important hallmarks are its 3rd-generation direct injection, piezo injectors and multi-spark ignition.

This class-leading fuel efficiency is also due in part to the ECO start/stop system which is fitted as part of the standard specification in all models.

Design and aesthetics

As you can see from the pictures, the new SLK has taken on a more mini-SL look to its front and rear design, the wide radiator grille bears the Mercedes-Benz star in a prominent central position and displays a powerfully contoured, chromed fin at the front. The clearly defined headlamps complete the look for the new SLK’s face, which is intended to resemble that of the legendary 190 SL from the 1950s – regarded by many as being the original “SLK”.

But it was not just the past that the designers were focusing on; with the new SLK’s front end they also intentionally created a close visual link with the new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG “gullwing model” and the new CLS.

The interior is characterised by stylish sportiness and high-quality, authentic materials. The centre console and other trim parts gleam in brushed aluminium. Wood can be selected as an option in high-gloss dark brown walnut or high-gloss black ash. Four round, galvanised air outlets integrated in the dashboard emphasise that this model well and truly belongs to the Mercedes-Benz sports car family, their shape being a nod to those in the SLS.

The SLK’s generous round dials are flanked by the information display for the online computer. The colour display for the communications and entertainment functions is housed in the centre of the dashboard, and can be easily read by both the driver and passenger. On the top of the dashboard, also in the centre, sits a fine analogue clock – an unusual detail which subtly underlines the roadster’s stylish character.

Other high-quality items of equipment include a multifunction sports steering wheel with a flattened bottom section and a thick leather crown, plus optional sun-reflecting leather which noticeably reduces the degree to which the surfaces it covers heat up, impressive ambient lighting and the innovative neck-level heating system Airscarf, familiar from the predecessor.

Dynamics and handling

Since the 2nd generation version, the SLK has become quite a dynamic car to drive and this latest version aims to consolidate this position. Mercedes are now offering 3 suspension options to choose from; a conventional steel suspension comes as standard, a sports suspension with harder springs and dampers provides a more sporty driving experience and then as an alternative a Dynamic Handling package is also available.

The Dynamic Handling package provides a suspension with continuous adjustable damping. It has an electronically controlled fully automatic damping system, so the vehicle rolls away gently even on poor road surfaces, but still offers high driving dynamics.

Also included in the Dynamic Handling package are a Direct-Steer system and the Torque Vectoring Brakes developed by Mercedes-Benz. The Direct-Steer system offers more handling and agility than the standard steering, whilst also reducing the amount of physical effort required when parking.

In critical conditions the Torque Vectoring Brakes produce a defined rotational movement of the vehicle about the vertical axis in fractions of seconds through selective brake actuation at the rear wheel on the inside of the bend. This results in the SLK stabilising without any compromises where dynamism is concerned, and it steers into the bend precisely and under full control.

The Leaked Video

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK is unofficially unveiled.

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Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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