Merc shows its magic

The sky’s the limit for the new Mercedes road­ster, writes Paul Gover in Ger­many

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

THERE is a spe­cial treat on top of the all­new Mercedes-Benz SLK road­ster. The two-seater fun-mo­bile that brought the fold­ing clamshell roof right up to date in 1996 now has a sun­roof that leads the world.

Tap­ping the same tech­nol­ogy that pro­vides in­stant pri­vacy in bath­rooms around the world, Benz now has a flick-a-switch glass sun­roof that in­stantly goes from full sun to full shade.

It’s the vis­ual treat in a car that has been rein­vented for 2011 and be­yond, as well as a likely sell­ing point that will mi­grate quickly across the Mercedes-Benz range.

‘‘It’s a lit­tle bit of magic. It’s an ex­clu­sive nov­elty,’’ says Uwe Zaiser of Daim­ler, sitting in­side the SLK at the press pre­view in Stuttgart.

Benz says the ob­jec­tive with the third­gen­er­a­tion SLK is to pro­vide more driv­ing en­joy­ment, as well as more emo­tion.

It got things right with the orig­i­nal SLK but ad­mits it lost a lit­tle fo­cus with the car that leaves show­rooms later this year.

‘‘We love con­vert­ibles. We love open-air driv­ing,’’ says Michael Schumacher, Benz’s new­est sales­man through the Mercedes F1 team, af­ter pulling the wraps off the SLK.

The new car is ob­vi­ously big­ger, chunkier in the nose but with more strength and char­ac­ter.

There are three en­gine choices, from a ba­sic four to a V6, and three trim lev­els.

In Aus­tralia, prices are likely to hover close to the cur­rent model, which starts at $91,450. There will also be an AMG hotrod. Benz trum­pets front guards and a bon­net made from alu­minium, seven airbags and safety sys­tems in­clud­ing At­ten­tion As­sist and Pre-Safe Brake, which au­to­mat­i­cally ap­plies max­i­mum brak­ing if it de­tects an im­mi­nent crash.

There is a seven-speed au­to­matic gear­box and the maker claims the en­gines of­fer 6.1 litres/100km, with stop-start as stan­dard.

But it’s the roof that makes the most im­pact, pro­vid­ing what Benz de­scribes as a ‘‘well­ness at­mos­phere’’ and cut­ting heat in­ten­sity by up to 80 per cent and low­er­ing dash­board tem­per­a­tures by as much as 10 per cent.

It uses a spe­cial poly­mer lin­ing in­side a lam­i­nated two-plate glass roof, which is nor­mally opaque. But ap­ply a small cur­rent and the roof is like clear glass with a slight blue tint.

It’s an im­pres­sive piece of trick­ery that will in­evitably, bring a herd of im­i­ta­tors.

On top: The Mercedes-Benz SLK road­ster has be­come a mar­ket leader with its sun­roof.

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