Sneak Preview: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK

Huckfeldt
Sneak Preview: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLK

The SLK has been a solid success since its launch in 1996. In early 2011, we'll see the third generation of the roadster, which wants to be more aggressive in appearance and character. Despite a slightly longer front end (to comply with European pedestrian-protection rules), a mildly extended trunk (which holds 11.2 cubic feet instead of 9.8), and a longer wheelbase (for improved stability), the target weight is reduced by more than 200 pounds. The cabin adopts certain E-class elements, but the design theme is much sportier and less ornamental. Options include a two-speed neck-and-back warmer, heated and ventilated seats with massage, night vision, lane-departure warning, and active cruise control. The chassis will be tuned for more grip and quicker responses; new items include adjustable dampers, eighteen-inch wheels, bigger brakes, and variable-ratio steering. A direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6 will be available at launch; later, a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V-6 (in two versions, producing about 300 hp and 350 hp, respectively) steps in. The AMG model starts out with the 6.2-liter V-8 that's familiar to most of the AMG lineup but is significantly hotter than the current SLK55 AMG's aged powerplant. The 6.2-liter will eventually give way to a 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8, which matches its power and torque while substantially bettering its mileage and lowering emissions. Mercedes-Benz's Blue Efficiency effort could add hybrid elements after 2010 and even a plug-in hybrid in 2013.

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