Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class Adds New Model

Toronto, ON – After shaking up the small roadster market when it was introduced in 1997, the second-generation SLK wowed the public again when it hit the Canadian streets last year.  For the 2006 model year, the SLK coupe/roadster features three distinct models – the popular 268-hp V6-powered SLK350; the high-performance SLK55 AMG, fitted with a 355-hp AMG V8 engine; and new for this year, the SLK280, powered by a 3.0-litre version of the new-generation V6.

Boasting 228 horsepower and 221 lb.-ft. of torque, the new SLK280 accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in about 6.3 seconds.  That's more power and better acceleration than the previous-generation V6-powered SLK320!  With a suggested retail price of $59,950 for the SLK280 (versus $65,400 for the SLK350), the new V6-powered model represents an extraordinary value in the small roadster market segment.

Design Cues from the F1 World

Inspired by the world of Formula One racing, the exterior design of the SLK incorporates an arrow-shaped nose, a sleek front hood, sloped windshield and a handsome, tapered silhouette. Aggressive styling carries through to the rear, punctuated by dual exhausts. 

Dominating the SLK cockpit are large chronometer-style gauges – speedometer, fuel gauge, tachometer and clock – with silver switches and trim elements that contrast against a darker sculpted dash.

Zero to 22 Seconds for Open-Air Driving

The automatic retractable hardtop of the original car set the SLK apart from its competition.  With the top up, it's a quiet coupe – push a button, and the car is topless.  The roof of the current SLK goes up and down in 22 seconds, and the folded roof takes up surprisingly little trunk space – thanks to its pivoting rear window.  Like the retractable hardtop of the larger SL model, the rear window of the new SLK swivels to match the curvature of the top, providing nearly 85 litres more trunk room than its predecessor.

An Extended Driving Season

The optional AIRSCARF system can extend the open-air driving season into the cooler months.  Built into the seatbacks of the SLK, the neck-level heating system blows warm air from the head restraints of the driver and passenger seats, allowing occupants to cruise comfortably with the retractable hardtop open in cooler weather.  AIRSCARF even compensates automatically for vehicle speed. 

V6 Engine with Variable Valve Timing

Although new engine technology usually makes its first appearance in existing car lines, last year's debut of the new-generation SLK coupe/roadster also marked the arrival of a new high-tech engine family from Mercedes-Benz, one which is characterized by four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust valves.  Variable intake and exhaust valve timing requires separate camshafts for the intake and exhaust, so the SLK powerplant represents the first time Mercedes-Benz has used double-overhead camshaft technology on their V6 engines.

Whether it's the 3.0- or 3.5-litre version, the new V6 develops more than 80 percent of its maximum torque at only 1,500 rpm.  While variable valve timing gets much of the credit for the engine's unusually broad torque curve, a two-stage intake manifold plays a key role as well.  Other high-tech features in the engine include tumble flaps that increase gas mileage by making extra turbulence in the intake passages at part throttle.

The High-Tech V6 from Start to Finish

First, a forged crankshaft with four main bearings is placed into an all-aluminium engine block that features wide main-bearing saddles and transverse bearing supports that minimize vibration.  A balance shaft is then installed in the block between the two cylinder banks, about where the camshaft is located on a pushrod-type V6 or V8 engine. 

Iron-coated aluminium pistons are pinned onto forged steel connecting rods that are about 20 percent lighter than other comparable engines.  The pistons slide into the cylinders, and the connecting rods are clamped around the crankshaft journals.  When the aluminium-silicon engine block is pressure-cast, its cylinder bores are etched to expose a surface incorporating pure silicon – a long-life, low-friction running surface for the piston rings.  In addition, the block is nearly three kilograms lighter than if it was fitted with conventional cylinder sleeves.

The two cylinder heads are bolted onto the block, and twin camshafts are installed in each head.  The intake cams are driven by a double chain from the crankshaft, and small gears on both cams in turn drive the exhaust cams. The same duplex chain that drives both intake cams also loops under the balance shaft sprocket.  This means the balance shaft counter-rotates at crankshaft speed, and its off-balance "lobes" cancel out the inherent vibration of a 90-degree V6.

Double-wall exhaust piping is used to keep the exhaust air as hot as possible leading down to twin catalytic converters. With the help of secondary air injection, the catalysts promote additional downstream conversion of pollutants into carbon dioxide and water vapor, and two oxygen sensors for each catalyst monitor and help manage the entire process.

Hardbody with a Hardtop

The SLK's unitized body uses an impressive amount of high-strength steel alloy – 42 percent of the total structure – and the entire body shell is zinc-coated for long-term corrosion protection. The SLK makes use of a scratch-resistant clearcoat paint that was initially developed in the nano-technology sector.

Ceramic particles less than a millionth of a millimeter in size are part of the molecular structure of the paint bonding agent, and as the paint dries, these particles form a regular, dense pattern that greatly enhances its scratch resistance.  Rigorous laboratory car wash tests show a 40% improvement in gloss retention.

One of the Safest Open Cars

The original SLK was deemed one of the safest roadsters in the world, and the new-generation SLK is even safer.  In addition to its built-in roll bars and two-stage front air bags for both the driver and passenger, the SLK is also equipped with knee bags and head-thorax air bags which are located in the seat backs and deploy in the event of a side impact that exceeds the deployment threshold.  The top edge of the fully-inflated head-thorax air bags reaches above the top edge of the seat back to help provide better head and neck protection similar to the curtain-type air bags on hardtop Mercedes models.

Stopping power for the SLK350 is provided by perforated and ventilated 330 mm (13-inch) front disc brakes with four-piston calipers and ventilated 289 mm (11.4-inch) rear discs with two-piston calipers.  Brakes on the high-performance SLK55 AMG are even bigger, with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers at the rear.

Like all Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, the SLK comes equipped with the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), a Mercedes innovation that can help prevent slides and spins, especially in slippery weather.  ESP can detect an impending spin or slide and prevent it by applying the brakes on one wheel to keep the car going where the driver is pointing it.  In addition, full-range straight-line traction control provides safer travel on slippery road surfaces.  Also standard on the SLK is Brake Assist, which can detect an emergency or "panic" stop (based on how quickly the brake pedal is applied) and apply full braking force faster than any driver could.

About Mercedes-Benz Canada

Mercedes-Benz Canada is responsible for the sales, marketing and service of the three brands within the Mercedes Car Group in Canada; Mercedes-Benz, smart, and Maybach.  Headquartered in Toronto, Ontario, Mercedes-Benz Canada employs approximately 900 people in 22 locations across Canada.  Through a nationwide network of 18 Mercedes-Benz owned retail operations and 35 authorized dealerships, Mercedes-Benz Canada sold 15,790 vehicles in 2005, the best year ever reported for Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc.

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