2005 SLK - A Racier Mercedes Roadster

New SLK briefly in Forbes:
http://www.forbes.com/lifestyle/2004/01/20/cx_dl_0120vow2.htm
A Racier Mercedes Roadster
This is why you build an exotic flagship.
Some people who follow the automotive industry do not understand why Ford Motor (nyse: F - news - people ) is introducing the GT supercar in 2004 while rolling out practical, high-volume vehicles like its new Five Hundred sedan and Freestyle wagon. Some have gone so far as to say that the big three American automakers build super cars and super car-prototypes, like General Motors' (nyse: GM - news - people ) 1,000-horsepower Cadillac Sixteen concept car, as needless entries in a "mine-is-bigger-than-yours" contest. In the last four months, DaimlerChrysler (nyse: DCX - news - people ) has unveiled two supercars: Mercedes-Benz's SLR McLaren coupe, which will go into production, and Chrysler's ME Four-Twelve concept car from this month's Detroit auto show, which might.
Car companies build exotic flagships to inspire their entire model range. As photos indicate, Mercedes' overhauled SLK roadster (see image above), which the company will introduce at the Geneva auto show in March, is indebted to the new SLR McLaren racer.
The line of two-seater SLKs could perhaps use some more sex appeal. As the cheapest of the three Mercedes convertibles (the others are the four-passenger CLK-class and the more expensive SL-class two-seater), the SLK, which starts at around $40,000, still costs more than the average American salary but has taken a sales dive recently. In 2003, SLK-class sales in the United States declined to 6,023 units from 7,784 in 2002--a drop of 23%.
Notice how the racy front-end styling of the new Mercedes SLR McLaren flagship (left) was imported onto the new SLK roadster to counteract the look of the outgoing, tamer SLK (right).
Although Mercedes-Benz representatives blamed the dip on the vehicle's lame-duck status, our hunch is that it probably had to do with its cramped cockpit, soft styling and underpowered engine. Also, at this price point, it has some real competition from cars such as Nissan's (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ) less expensive but faster 350Z, the still hot Audi TT, the BMW Z4 and even the slightly pricier Porsche Boxster.
Importing exciting styling, then, is probably all to the good. For example, BMW's $35,000 to $40,000 Z4 roadster, which jazzed up the Z3 with aggressive lines in a razor-sharp overhaul, sold 20,182 units in the United States in 2003, its first full year in the market--almost doubling the 10,490 units of combined sales for the Z3 and Z4 in 2002.
The new Mercedes SLK will go on sale at the end of this year and, Mercedes said in a statement, "incorporates design cues from Formula One race cars of the past and present. The sharp nose, long hood and steeply raked windshield emphasize the new SLK's more aggressive, dynamic character." The retractable hard-top will stay and, Mercedes said, "has been re-engineered to open and close faster than ever before, and incorporates a pivoting rear window for increased trunk space." The new SLK is reported to be four inches longer than the outgoing model, and will feature more interior and trunk volume.
While we welcome the extra space, what we really would like to see is a little more horsepower as well. Fortunately, Mercedes is promising that the new SLK will get more ponies under the hood, although it's not yet revealing how many but does say that it will have an entirely new engine. With more power and cubic inches, the SLK could well emerge a winner.
Forbes Fact While BMW may have stepped up in the $30,000 to $45,000 roadster segment with the overhauled Z4--and Volkswagen's Audi division still has a popular competitor in the TT--Mercedes still has something of a trump card with its expertise in engines and transmissions. The new SLK-class will be capped by the SLK55 AMG, which will reportedly use a derivative of the CLK55 AMG's 5.4-liter V-8, which makes 362 horsepower in the CLK. Although Mercedes will continue to offer a range of engines on the SLK, the only other powerplant the company is talking about for now is a 3.5-liter six-cylinder (complemented by a new suspension and brakes) that will serve as the base engine.
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LAND OF THE FREE ):
with any purchase .......
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Miro wrote:

I enjoy your sense of humor.
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