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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mercedes SLK Facelift: In Depth

New direct-steer system for outstanding agility and tangible fun at the wheel

A newly developed direct-steer system with variable power assistance that elicits the very best from the suspension's sporty capabilities is optionally available (standard on the SLK AMG 55). It combines agility and manoeuvrability on twisting country roads with light steering forces when parking and sure steering characteristics at high speeds.

The direct-steer system is derived from the previous speed-sensitive power steering and operates purely mechanically. This dispenses with the need for elaborate actuator units and complex sensors, which would otherwise impair the flow of forces between the wheels and hands, thereby compromising steering precision. At the heart of the system is a new rack with ingeniously devised gearing, which ensures that the steering gear ratio changes in tune with the steering angle. In and around the central position, the steering has an indirect ratio for good straight-line stability, resulting in tremendous assuredness when travelling at high speeds. At a steering angle of just 5 degrees, the ratio starts to increase very rapidly and the steering feels much more direct. As a result, the number of steering wheel turns from lock to lock is reduced by around 25 per cent with the new direct-steer system. Consequently, relatively small turns of the steering wheel are sufficient for changing course when driving in city traffic. Fast sequences of bends on rural roads, on the other hand, can be negotiated almost intuitively with relatively small steering movements - with assurance, precision and a healthy dose of driving pleasure.

Visually enhanced SLK 55 AMG

On a technical level, the SLK 55 AMG remains almost unchanged. The only differences are a few visual enhancements. The front end of the AMG model now features a new apron with a black-painted transverse fin and side air outlets, as well as darkened headlamps.

The trendsetting SLK

As trendsetters and technology leaders, the SLK-Class Roadsters have long enjoyed the image of a modern cult car. Even after the extensive modifications, the familiar outstanding qualities remain; for example, the vario-roof that transforms the Roadster into a coupƩ in 22 seconds, not to mention the comprehensive standard specification, including head/thorax sidebags, adaptive front airbags and two-stage belt-force limiters. Plus, the Roadster also comes with the option of the unique AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, which allows open-top driving pleasure all year round, even in the winter months.

Design and equipment

Open to extra sportiness: striking lines for an even sportier character

New front end with modified air-dam arrangement

Tail with powerful diffuser styling

New sports steering wheel and restyled instrument cluster

Cutting-edge technology for audio, navigation and telephone systems

State-of-the-art sound system for outstanding surround sound

The design mirrors the character: muscular shoulders, large wheels and a dynamic wedge shape with a long bonnet and short tail echo the intense power and sportiness of the SLK-Class Roadsters. This most masculine overall impression is complemented by a host of details with motor racing connotations that underline the great sports car tradition of Mercedes-Benz. These include a front-end design that takes its cue from the world of motor sport, wing-shaped sections in the radiator grille and a twin-pipe exhaust system.

During the course of the facelift programme, the designers have spiced up the visual appearance of the cult two-seater. Their styling enhancements for the new-generation SLK-Class were all about instilling yet more sportiness and an even greater sense of forwards surge.

Bolder front with more pronounced V-shape and new rear apron

The most eye-catching feature is the new-look front bumper with its modified air-dam arrangement. Instead of one large air dam in the centre and two smaller ones at the sides, large air dams on the left and right now dominate the picture. The vertical struts have been moved towards the middle where, together with the extra 14 millimetres of overhang, they emphasise the front end's more pronounced V-shape. The front fog lamps with their new, extra chrome surrounds are integrated into the three-dimensional ventilation grilles, which are likewise new.

The area around the Mercedes star is also moulded by sharper contours. An all-round chamfered edge that is positioned much higher than on the outgoing model gives the Roadster's face a more striking look, and combines with the more solid-looking horizontal louvres in the radiator grille to make the vehicle appear broader.

The tail end has also been remodelled by the design team, with the diffuser-look styling at the bottom now giving the Roadster an even more powerful appearance from the rear too. This is further emphasised by the trapezoidal exhaust tailpipes and the AMG-inspired darkened tail lights.

The exterior mirrors offer a larger surface area and feature LED indicators with a pronounced arrow shape, which help to create the distinctive night-time design of the SLK-Class. The larger mirrors mean that the new-generation Roadster now measures 43 millimetres wider.

The side-mounted rear aerial has also been reworked. It is now just 20 centimetres long, meaning that it blends into the car's silhouette more harmoniously. What's more, it no longer has to be removed when the vehicle is taken to an automatic car wash.

Light-alloy wheels in a new design and scintillating paint finishes

The range of light-alloy wheels has been virtually completely revised. Only the SLK 200 KOMPRESSOR continues to be fitted with the previous 16-inch wheels as standard (tyre size 205/55 R 16 V). The six-cylinder models ride on 16-inch and 17-inch light-alloy wheels in a new design (tyre sizes – SLK 280 front: 205/55 R 16 W, rear: 225/50R 16 W, SLK 350 front: 225/45 R 17 W, rear: 245 R 17 W). Furthermore, there is a choice of three new, dynamic wheel designs with mixed-size tyres for all engine variants.

"Palladium silver metallic" has been added to the range of paint finishes, as has "prehnite green metallic", a shade which is exclusive to the SLK-Class.

Driver-focused cockpit with sports steering wheel

Many of the interior's details have also undergone remodelling, and the interior has been refined as a whole by meticulous material selection. Particular care was taken to optimise the interior in such a way as to make it that much more driver-focused again. The centrepieces here are a new three-spoke sports steering wheel and a new instrument cluster. Four multifunction buttons can be found on both the left and right of the sports steering wheel on its horizontal spokes; a wood/leather steering wheel can be ordered as an option.

Facing the driver is a quite fascinating element in the form of the new instrument cluster, which has now been given a most exclusive and sporty touch thanks to the three-dimensionally shaped bezels of its dials. This, together with the new needles and the chrome surrounds for the clock and fuel gauge, lends far greater emphasis to the driver-focused design.

High-quality materials, new colours and new woods in the interior

High-tech and aesthetics also merge as one when it comes to the centre console's styling. The switches and buttons are now predominantly black in colour, resulting in a tidier, more harmonious appearance. That does not mean to say there is no room for a couple of highlights, however: a new chrome insert beneath the headunit catches the eye, combining with the new gleaming chrome fins of the cup holder and ashtray to produce an even classier feel.

The designers achieved an intriguing light and shadow effect by varying the cross-section of the trim strip on the passenger side to make it slightly convex. As a result, the dark and light zones change depending on the light, and the trim strip looks far more three-dimensional than before.

New "gullwing red" leather appointments will be available - reminiscent of the interior appointments in the legendary 300 SL gullwing model. The new nappa leather appointments in "natural beige" complement the new "pale burr walnut" and "black ash grain" wood trims perfectly.

Operation of the power windows has also been revised and optimised, and now features a push-pull control.

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Related entries:

OFFICIAL: Mercedes-Benz SLK Facelift Unveiled
Mercedes SLK Facelift Keeps its F1 Nose


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