The front end plays an important part in the implementation of this concept. It symbolises sporty attributes such as power and performance by means of a long bonnet with a wide, slightly raised central axis, which tapers towards the striking front section and gives the sports roadster a new but familiar face. In this way the SLK-Class echoes a stylistic feature of the successful Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows from Formula 1, unmistakably showing that it possesses the genes of the legendary Mercedes-Benz racing sports cars.
This muscular appearance is reinforced by two horizontal wing sections in the radiator grille, as well as an extended front apron with a large lower air intake, vertical vanes and spoiler edges swept well to the sides. The designers have used styling features like this to emphasise the width of the body and underline the powerful presence of the roadster.
The large headlamps likewise provide an unmistakable emphasis, both by day and by night: during daylight the highly polished surfaces reflect sunlight to make the lighting units sparkle like precious gems, and at night the state-of-the-art projection lamps characterise the lighting concept of the SLK-Class and show that the sophisticated design is backed up by equally sophisticated technology.
On looking closer one discovers a design refinement which shows the attention to detail by the Mercedes designers: the outer areas of the lenses continue the muscular contour jointly formed by the wing and bonnet, stylishly extending this to the front as a prominent curvature. The projection lenses of the headlamps follow precisely this shape, protruding forward below the curved glass and reminding one of high-quality camera lenses with their chrome surrounds.
In this way the headlamps both stand out and blend harmoniously into the lines of the front end: precision in both form and technology. This is particularly obvious in the version with bi-xenon headlamps. In this case the chrome surrounds of the projection lenses are partly transparent, which also provides interesting lighting effects when viewed from the side.
At the same time the striking interplay between the bonnet, radiator grille, headlamps and front apron confirms the technical quality of the SLK body. Everything appears to be cast from the same mould, both in form and colour. The front apron is perfectly integrated to form a stylistic unit with the bonnet, even though two different components are actually involved: the front apron encompasses the lower area of the front end with the Mercedes star, the radiator grille and the horizontal wing sections painted in the vehicle colour. The bonnet fits precisely around the upper section of the Mercedes star, lending a sense of completeness to the overall appearance.
The vario-roof was a multiple challenge for the designers. Firstly because the SLK is expected to look good whether the roof is open or closed, and secondly because, especially at the rear, the body design had to take into consideration a number of technical aspects which ensure faultless roof operation. In other words, the Vario-roof had to become an integral part of the design concept. The designers and engineers resolved this conflict of interests by teamwork, proving that even with the Vario-roof closed, a roadster can still be uncompromisingly a sports car.
The new SLK-Class also shows its unmistakable character when viewed from the side: a long bonnet, wide doors and a short rear end – these are the typical features of a sports roadster, and they are even more prominent in this case. This is partly because the wheelbase is 30 mm longer and the body 72 mm wider than in the preceding model. These new dimensions emphasise the powerful proportions typical of a roadster. Owing to the extremely short front and rear overhangs, the gaze is focused on two very important features of a sports car, namely the wheels.
There is no doubt that it is the 16-inch wheels that underline the muscular and active character of the new SLK-Class when viewed from the side. Widely flared wings extend around the well-filled wheel arches like perfectly tones muscles, symbolising the athletic power of this roadster. The body language is clear: in these areas the metal skin is intentionally tailored to be rather tight and "body-conscious", with pronounced curves that arouse curiosity about the muscles concealed beneath it. This impression is even more striking in the six-cylinder SLK 350, as Mercedes-Benz uses 17-inch wheels as standard here.
As areas where sheer power and sporty dynamism are focused, the wheel arches form a dramatic contrast to the large, smooth flanks of the bodywork. Here the design exudes a sense of calm, and it is here that the Mercedes designers have placed their masterly signature by allowing lines and surfaces to interplay – thereby achieving stylish effects. The designers needed only one line to lend tautness to the entire side of the car. This rises slightly to the rear from the front wheel arch and creates a visual link with the rear end, characterising the wedge-shape of the body. In this way dynamism is given its own form without compromising the elegance characteristic of a Mercedes-Benz.
At the same time this line breaks the light and provides an interesting contour arising from the dramatic interplay between convex and concave surfaces.
The swept-back A-pillars accentuate the dynamic silhouette of the sports roadster. These continue the lines of the bonnet and transfer them to the rear end in a curve when the vario-roof is closed, the C-pillars dipping down gently into the boot lid and characterising its slightly embossed form. One might compare these flowing lines with a cord of muscle, too; it extends over both outer areas of the boot lid and gently transfers its strength down to the rear apron. This provides a visual separation from the spoiler lip, as it slightly raises the centre area of the boot lid, forms a horizontal line and contributes to the outstanding aerodynamics of the new SLK-Class.
The boot lid is not only special in styling terms, but also technically. To shape the centre area and emphasise the horizontal line of the spoiler lip, the SLK designers divided the outer skin of the boot lid into two and attached the lower section with the licence plate recess by laser welding. The laser works so precisely that the fine seam has the appearance of a design line which is continued sideways by the contour of the rear light cluster and gives the rear end of the SLK even greater formal consistency.
Other styling features at the rear of the SLK-Class include two oval exhaust tailpipes in chrome, striking rear lights with LED technology and an integral, powerfully accentuated rear apron. These too emphasise the uncompromising athleticism of this unique automobile. In other words, the new SLK-Class cuts an impressive figure from any angle and viewpoint.
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