Looking more hardcore than its petit predecessor the SLK is initially available in three derivatives in South Africa, powered by either a supercharged two-litre or a 3,5-litre V6 engine.Looking more hardcore than its petit predecessor the SLK is initially available in three derivatives in South Africa, powered by either a supercharged two-litre (one of the Twinpulse generation of Mercedes four-cylinder powerplants) or a 3,5-litre V6 engine.

The car’s wheelbase is 30 mm longer and the body 72 mm longer and 65 mm wider than that of its predecessor to provide passengers with more space and greater comfort.

The sportiness of the new SLK is underlined by its arrow-shaped nose, wing profiles in the radiator grille, twin tailpipes, long bonnet, raked windscreen, wide doors and short front and rear ends, which contribute to the car’s wedge-shape silhouette.

Mercedes claims to have improved the SLK’s handling characteristics by virtue of a newly-developed three-link front suspension, rack-and-pinion steering and uprated braking system. The manufacturer further carried out modifications to the multi-link independent rear suspension and adapted it to a larger track width.

The SLK200 Kompressor is fitted with a six-speed manual transmission (five-speed automatic transmission is available as an option). The SLK350 has the 7G-tronic seven-speed automatic transmission fitted as standard, but customers can order their cars fitted with the 6-speed manual transmission.

The SLK200K’s engine produces maximum power of 120 kW and peak torque of 240 N.m. The Twinpulse technology is claimed to have improved the new SLK200K’s fuel consumption by eight per cent over the outgoing engine with the same output (8,7 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle, Mercedes says).

For the SLK350, Mercedes-Benz has developed a new four-valve per cylinder 3,5-litre six-cylinder engine that produces maximum power of 200 kW and 350 N.m of torque between 2 400 and 5 000 r/min. The Stuttgart-based manufacturer claims the SLK350 automatic will accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5,5 seconds and from 60 to 120 km/h in 5,1 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz chose the SLK to present an innovation in the shape of the Airscarf neck-level heating system. The system is located in the seat backrests and at the touch of a button, heated air is directed out of special vents in the head restraints and “acts like an invisible scarf to warm up the head and neck of the SLK passengers when out on the road”, the manufacturer claims.

The further-developed metal folding roof opens and closes in 22 seconds and takes up less space in the boot than before thanks to and newly-designed pivoting rear window. With the Vario-Roof open, boot capacity stands at 208 litres - 63 litres more than in the outgoing model. It is now also possible to operate the folding roof by a remote control function in the car key.

In terms of safety, adaptive front airbags are fitted to the SLK range for the first time. The belt force limiters also work through two stages and adapt to the severity of an accident. In the event of a side impact, newly developed head/thorax airbags inflate to protect the head and upper body of the passengers.

According to manufacturer, the special sensor also triggers the side airbags and both belt tensioners if the car rolls over. Robust steel tubes in the A-pillars and rollover bars behind the seats offer additional protection in this type of accident.

The new SLK’s interior has been completely redesigned and upgraded and is distinguished by switches, buttons and trim elements with silver-coloured surfaces, which contrast with the dark tones of the dashboard. Customers can also choose from a range of four shades for the leather interior.

A Thermatik air conditioning system is standard in the SLK200K and a Thermotronik automatic climate control system with built–in sun and pollutant sensors is fitted to the SLK350.

Entertainment and information are delivered to SLK passengers through the Audio 20 CD stereo system (standard on the SLK 200 K and the SLK 350), while COMAND APS, which includes a DVD/CD player, colour screen and separate DVD drive for the navigation function, is optional. A surround-sound system with eleven speakers and 380-watt output is also available as an option in order to further optimise the in-car audio experience.