We're typically used to receiving automotive spy photographs from freelance photographers, but the latest images of the forthcoming 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK actually came from Mercedes-Benz itself.
Although the German auto manufacturer has yet to unveil the car in its entirety, it did release a number of photographs of the new SLK (in disguise, of course) to celebrate the roadster's new roof design. Although the SLK will continue to utilize a retractable hardtop, the top itself will be available with a glass roof panel, along with what Mercedes-Benz dubs Magic Sky Control.
Magic Sky Control essentially consists of a polymer matrix embedded into the glass panel, which contains magnetic particles suspended in fluid. In its default state, particles within the panel are naturally arranged in a haphazard fashion, which scuttles most light and helps darken the cabin. When an electrical charge is applied to the matrix, the particles align themselves in a fashion that allows light to permeate the pane.
According to Daimler, the special panel works quite well, even in the most extreme of temperatures. After testing the system in the Arctic, engineers recently hauled a group of SLKs to Death Valley, California, to subject the Magic Sky Control -- along with the entire car -- to temperatures in the neighborhood of 122 degrees Farenheight. The automaker claims dimming the roof panel can help drop interior temperatures by as much as 50 degrees, increasing passenger comfort while simultaneously reducing the load placed on air conditioning and climate control systems.
Although we haven't seen specifications for U.S.-bound cars, we expect the Magic Sky Control roof pane to be an option on North American SLKs, just as it will be in Europe. Daimler says the option will likely cost European customers an extra $2800, but expect more details to emerge closer to the SLK's debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show in March.