Mercedes-Benz Debuts Three New Roadsters at Detroit Show
World Premiere of V6-Powered SLK and SLA Concept Roadster Highlight the News
DETROIT, Jan. 11 -- Only days after announcing its best sales year on record in the U.S., Mercedes-Benz is featuring three new and very different roadsters at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Each of the open cars provides an exciting glimpse into the future of the global automaker: the V6-powered SLK, the SLR roadster (an open version of the coupe which made its global debut at last year's show) and the surprise of the show, the Vision SLA concept.
A Sportier, Stronger SLK Roadster for 2001
Launched in January 1997, the highly successful SLK roadster has garnered over 35 inter-national prizes and awards, including the prestigious North American Car of the Year. Available this spring at U.S. retailers, the 2001 model making its world debut in Detroit is fitted with restyled front and rear bumpers as well as redesigned door sills, a body-color grill and a number of other visual enhancements. However, the big news is under the skin: the SLK can soon be ordered with either its proven, supercharged four-cylinder powerplant or a new high-torque 3.2-liter V6 engine. In addition, clients can choose between its five-speed electronic automatic transmission or a brand-new six-speed manual gearbox.
The Vision SLA Concept - Even More Compact than the SLK
Also making its world premiere at the Detroit Show, the SLA concept roadster is based on the A-Class, an innovative small car that's a sales success in Europe but is not currently available in the U.S.
Even more compact than the popular SLK, the SLA concept bears a family resemblance to the F1-inspired styling of the SLR super sports car (planned for production around 2003). An arrow-shaped aluminum front hood and eye-catching front fenders give the SLA concept a futuristic look - not to mention an aerodynamic drag rating of 0.36 -- while its flat windshield, large doors and gently sloping rear styling are reminiscent of the legendary Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow racers of the 1950s. Liberal use of perforated aluminum and saddle leather gives the interior of the open-air car a distinctively sporty look, and its carbon-fiber seat frames are about 25 percent lighter than other seats.
The A-Class's top-of-the-line 1.9-liter, 125-horsepower engine pulls the SLA from 0 to 60 mph in a spirited 7.8 seconds, while the oblique angle of the innovative powertrain is designed to slide under the occupant cell in a serious frontal collision. The latest hybrid approach to body technology involves extensive use of aircraft-quality aluminum in the body structure and largely plastic for the outer skin (door panels are aluminum) to provide the best balance of sophisticated crash safety and the lean, high performance expected of an open sports car.
The SLA weighs only 2090 pounds and uses a sport version of the A-Class fully independent coil spring suspension, along with vented disc brakes and electrically driven power steering. Its 92.5-inch wheelbase is shod with 225/35 tires mounted on 19-inch alloy wheels.
The SLR Super Sports Car Returns to Detroit
The SLR coupe made its world premiere in concept form at Detroit last year, and based on people's reaction at the Show, it was announced soon after that the super sports car would be produced for sale around 2003. Now an SLR roadster makes its U.S. debut, complete with a supercharged 5.5-liter V8 making around 550 horsepower for 0 to 60 mph acceleration of just over four seconds! From a marketing standpoint, the SLR line will be positioned as a premium sports car, well above the already legendary SL coupe/roadster. The tapered arrow-shaped nose of the SLR echoes the eye-catching lines of the current McLaren-Mercedes Formula One racing car, which recently won its second straight F1 World Championship. Conceived as a thoroughbred high-performance sports car, the SLR roadster comes with a convertible top made of a translucent material that preserves much of that open-car feel, even when the top is up.