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New kids for 'baby Merc' family

2011-08-24 12:53
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Model SLK 200 / 250
Engine Four-cylinder 1796cc / V6 3498cc
Power 135kW @ 5250 / 225kW @ 6500
Torque 270Nm @ 1800-4600 / 370Nm @ 3500
Transmission Six-speed manual, seven-speed auto / seven-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 7.3sec (m), 7sec (a) / 5.6sec
Top Speed 240km/h / 250km/h
Fuel Tank 60 litres
Fuel Consumption 6.5/100km/ 7.1/100km
Weight 1750kg (m) / 1785kg (a) / 1855kg
Boot Size 335 litres
Steering Power-assisted
Airbags Yes
Tyres 17" / 225/45 (front), 245/40 (rear
Front Suspension Multi-link suspension, anti-dive, coil springs, gas-pressure shock absorbers, stabiliser
Rear Suspension Multi-link suspension, anti-squat and anti-dive, coil springs, gas-pressure shock absorbers, stabiliser
Service Plan Six years, 120 000km
Warranty Two years,
There's always been one major threat to owners of convertibles and their friends - a sudden rain shower with the roof down. Mercedes' 2011 SLK range of two-seaters has that hassle beat, though terms and conditions apply.

We told you earlier this week about the Mercedes SLK 55 AMG and, yes, it will be here early in 2012, but for now Mercedes-Benz SA is serving up two models of the roadster, each a stunning example of the modern sports-car maker's art.

Both – the SLK200 and SLK350 – were on display and lined up for driving among the vineyards and through the mountains of the Western Cape and Mother Nature threw in some heavy springtime rain. Not something you'd usually want while launching a convertible – but a blessing this time around because Mercedes has the Rain Gods tamed 15 years after the launch of the first SLK back in 1996.


The aerodynamics of the 2011 cars, despite their vertical nose and grille, incorporate a carefully canted windscreen and two transparent, curved and individual wind deflectors behind the seats and rollover bars that, with the folding aluminum roof retracted into the boot, send the airstream – provided you're travelling at more than 80km/h (T's & C's apply) – up and over the cabin to join the haze of water swirling in the car's wake.

It's just one of the innovations Mercedes has created for Generation 3 of the SLK and it's helped to reduce the cars' Cd from 0.32 to 0.30.

The cars' bonnet and wings are also aluminium and further "assistance systems" optionally available include "intelligent" lights with five functions (cornering, country mode, motorway mode, "active" mode and enhanced fog lights mode), each activated according to driving conditions.

Eckart Mayer, Mercedes-Benz SA's vice-president for sales and marketing, reminded during the presentation of the cars at the Lanzerac hotel and winery in Stellenbosch that it's 15 years since the SLK series was launched and that since then more than 500 000 of the mini-Merc have been sold worldwide.


"The SLK has been a trendsetter since 1996 when the first generation appeared with its 'Vario' folding aluminium roof," he said, "and it has been dominant in the South African market since then."

Its natural opposition comes from German fellow travellers Audi's TT and BMW's Z4.

The second generation arrived on the world market in 2004 at the Geneva auto show and brought with it – apart from a radical change in appearance (see our picture gallery) – the neck-warming Airscarf, a system of warmed air delivered through vents in each seats adjacent to the head restraint.

Airscarf continues in the cars – an option in other markets but standard in South Africa – as an adjunct to the cars' ability to shrug off rain so now not only can you stay dry on a wet morning with the top down, you can also stay dry.

NOTHING NORMAL: Twin trapezoidal chromed exhausts instantly identify the 2011 Mercedes SLK roadster.

Also defining the new SLK is the addition to the body-coloured folding roof (less than 20 seconds in either direction, since you asked) of an electro-chromatic glass panel that can be lightened or darkened (R16 000, thank you very much) when the driver wishes.

The third alternative is a fixed tinted-glass panel for a more modest R6500.

The SLK is, however, still a classic roadster with a proportionately long bonnet, two-seater cabin, and very short boot. The grille has reverted to the 1996 model's single horizontal bar but for the first time there are two large vents in the bonnet immediately in front of the windscreen, the headlights wrap further around the wings, the tail lights use light-emitting diodes and the twin exhausts are not only chromed but also trapezoidal – and tuned to make the most wonderful music as you (or the automatic seven-speed gearbox) work through the ratios.

The SLK 350 is only available with the seven-speed auto/manual sequential gearbox, the SLK 200 offers a six-speed manual or the seven-speed auto.

The base prices are:

SLK 200 – R555 700
SLK 200 a/t – R570 350
SLK 350 a/t – R734 100

…and include Mercedes' 120 000km or six-year maintenance plan and a two-year unlimited-distance warranty.

Other options include a "dynamic handling" package at R6500 with three modes and "torque vectoring" that uses the rear brakes to stabilise cornering, and an AMG sport package (not, not including the engine!) that adds bodywork and cabin tweaks (including red upholstery stitching and sports pedals) for R32 000 on either model.

Mercedes' Pre-Safe collision avoidance and mitigation system is standard, as is the free coffee cup – Mercedes' drowsiness warning system that shows it is operating by displaying a small coffee cup on the fascia panel – then a LARGE one should your driving style vary in a way the car's computer analyses as being dangerously different.

The size of your bank account might dictate the size of engine you choose, should you lust after a new SLK, but either – after driving both this week – will provide a high degree of road performance. Only the intensity of the experience will differ…


Each is a new unit, the smaller a four-cylinder, the larger a V6, and each has Mercedes' BlueEfficiency direct fuel-injection system that, the automaker claims, reduces fuel consumption respectively by 19% and 28% and gives the SLK200 the lowest CO2 emission figure in its class – 151g/km.

The four-cylinder, 1796cc engine makes 135kW. The auto version is rated at 6.5 litres/100km with 0-100km/h in seven seconds and top speed of 237km/h (manual 240km/h).

The 3498cc V6 in the SLK 350 makes 225kW, reaches 100km/h in 5.6sec and is electronically limited to 250km/h. Its fuel consumption is listed as 7.1 litres/100km with 167g/km of CO2. The V6, Mercedes says, has been completely newly developed with third-generation direct injection, piezo injectors and multi-spark ignition.


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