Mercedes-Benz adds style, tech to redesigned SLK

The redesigned Mercedes-Benz SLK features a more grown-up look and a whole host of technologies.

When it debuted nearly 15 years ago, the first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster was packed with technology, including a then-still innovative folding metal hardtop. Now, the third-generation SLK has made its online debut ahead of its first formal outing in March at the Geneva Motor Show.

The SLK will be offered with a pair of engine choices. At the top of the heap is a 304-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 in the SLK350 that helps the roadster scoot to 60 mph in just 5.4 seconds with its standard automatic transmission. The German automaker says that this combination is capable of a 23 mpg combined fuel consumption figure.

A four-cylinder powertrain returns to North American-specification SLKs for the first time since the supercharged unit powered the first generation model. Set to go on sale shortly after the V6, the SL250 will be equipped with a 1.8-liter, 201-horsepower four-cylinder mated to either a six-speed manual or an automatic transmission. With the stick, it will be capable of a reasonable 27 mpg combined but will still sprint to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.

Electric power steering - called Direct-Steer in Mercedes-Benz's vernacular - will be standard, while the roadster's sporty quotient will be upgraded thanks to Torque Vectoring Braking, which can lightly and selectively apply the rear brakes for added traction in hard cornering.

Harking back
Unlike the second-generation SLK, which looked rather like a mini version of the automaker's SLR McLaren roadster, the latest SLK clearly draws its inspiration from the gullwinged Mercedes-Benz SLS supercar. Its blunt front fascia features a prominent three-pointed star and an upright design. In part, the design satisfies European pedestrian safety standards, but it also gives the sporty car a heritage-laced look that dates back to SL roadsters of the 1950s and 1960s.

From the side profile and rear end, we can see that the third-generation SLK looks more like its immediate predecessor, with a swoopy door opening and side-swept tail lamps.

Inside, the SLK is both much simpler and much more elegant than before. Its boxy design follows Mercedes-Benz's latest interior language also seen on the latest C-Class.

Technological revolution
For its third generation, the SLK gains a whole host of the latest assistance systems to support the driver, including the drowsiness detection system known as Attention Assist. There is also an optional occupant protection system known as Pre-Safe, a proprietary technology; and the Pre-Safe Brake, which can apply the brakes autonomously in the event of an impending front-end collision.

In addition to Pre-Safe Brake, the SLK will also come standard with Adaptive Brake, which is a combination of ABS, the acceleration skid control system ASR and active yaw control.

Crash results will also be improved, thanks in part to reinforced members, a new side impact structure and a new fiber-reinforced roll-over bar. The restraint systems with two-stage driver and front passenger airbags have also been enhanced. A new feature is the headbag, which provides generous lateral protection for the head during an impact. An additional thorax airbag in the seat backrest protects the upper body in the event of a side impact.

Mercedes-Benz will also offer optional Bi-Xenon headlamps that have the ability to swivel while turning with a technology known as Active Curve illumination, as well as Parktronic Parking Guidance, which is a system that uses ultrasonic sensors to spot suitable parking spots, and then provides the driver with a schematic of the best possible maneuvers to park the car.

Look for more details and pricing information for the SLK to be released closer to its on sale date this summer.