SLK Gullwing set for take-off

28 Jan, 2009 12:12am Sam Hardy

Classic Gullwing body styling meets state-of-the-art hybrid technology as Mercedes readies new SLK flagship

A stunning new Mercedes sports car is about to take flight – feast your eyes on the SLK Gullwing! Auto Express has learned that the German firm is planning a baby brother to its forthcoming flagship SLC supercar – and what’s more, it’s going to be a hybrid, too.

The model draws on the legendary Mercedes 300SL ‘Gullwing’ and imminent SLC – as previewed in Issue 941 – with a pair of doors that are hinged in the middle of the roof. And it will sit at the very top of the next-generation SLK range, providing a striking and desirable rival to Porsche’s Cayman S and Audi’s TT RS.

As you can see from these pictures, the new SLK will be much more muscular than the current car, with a sharper look previewed by the new E-Class (see right). The bonnet is long and features faired-in lights and a large three-pointed star, while underneath is a Formula One-style splitter.

But as well as being amazing to look at, the new model will be green, too. In fact, it’s the eco-friendly hybrid technology that’s made the Gullwing door design possible in the first place. That’s because this SLK variant will use battery packs located in its side sills. Because the sills need to be high to accommodate the packs, designers hit on the idea of turning a potential flaw into a virtue, combining them with the roof-mounted doors to create a baby brother to the SLC.

It’s likely the range-topping SLK will use the same advanced lithium-ion battery technology as the Blue Zero E-Cell concept which debuted at the Detroit Motor Show earlier this month. It has batteries that drive an electric motor, and the model can run for around 120 miles before needing to be recharged.

In the SLK, this combination will be teamed with a petrol engine, possibly a development of the 3.5-litre V6 used in the current car. With a brake-energy regeneration system – like the KERS set-up on this season’s Formula One cars – plus stop-start, the SLK Gullwing would be extremely efficient, with fuel economy of around 40mpg and CO2 emissions of 150g/km.

Performance will be superb, too. Combined with the V6 engine, the petrol-electric set-up would have as much torque as a regular V8. And with the electric motor assisting the engine under full throttle and up hills, owners could expect awesome acceleration, with 0-60mph in five seconds and a top speed of 155mph. Fine-tuning of the performance and handling is likely to be carried out by Mercedes’ AMG division.

The baby Gullwing is still some way off yet, though. It’s likely that the new SLK range will go on sale in 2011, with this flagship version arriving in 2012. The SLK will continue to be rear-wheel drive, although changes to the line-up will include a slight increase in size, and the availability of a folding glass roof for the first time.

Mercedes’ new SLK is not the only major development at the smaller end of the firm’s range. It is also planning a new front-wheel-drive A-Class-based roadster, which would gun for BMW’s 1-Series Convertible. It’s expected to arrive in 2010, and will draw its styling inspiration from the Vision SLA concept car.

In the meantime, well heeled buyers don’t have long to wait to see the SLK Gullwing’s bigger brother. The new flagship SLC supercar, which will sit above the SL, is set to make its global debut in the next few months. Boasting an all-new aluminium spaceframe and an AMG-developed 550bhp 6.2-litre V8, it will cost around £120,000 and go on sale by the end of the year.

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