170 series SLK-Class Roadsters, 1996 – 2000
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK was presented at the Turin Motor Show in April 1996 and was launched on the market in autumn of the same year. It added a new dimension to series of “SL” (sporty, lightweight) vehicles, the K in the name “SLK” standing for “kurz” or “short”. The engineers were uncompromising when it came to safety, comfort, environmental compatibility and suitability for everyday use. They developed a vehicle that differed from other roadsters in its class in many respects, the most noticeable, perhaps, being the vario-roof – a steel roof which could be fully retracted into the boot.
Behind the welded interior bulkhead, between the fuel tank and the load compartment, was another partition, made from diecast magnesium, a material which underlined another of the body engineers’ key development goals – lightweight construction. The same material was used for the cover behind the roll-over bars. This was the first time that Mercedes‑Benz had used lightweight magnesium, a material that allowed a weight reduction of up to 50 percent compared with steel, in a series-produced vehicle. Magnesium was also used for the engines’ cylinder head covers. These and other measures ensured a low overall weight of just 1270 kilograms for the base version.
The SLK’s lightweight construction and its aerodynamic design – the SLK 200 had a Cd value of 0.33, making it one of the most aerodynamically efficient cars in its class – helped ensure that fuel consumption was low. The SLK 200 consumed 9.1 litres of premium unleaded petrol per 100 kilometres, the SLK 200 KOMPRESSOR 8.5 litres of Super Plus and the SLK 230 KOMPRESSOR 8.8 litres of premium unleaded (each of these figures representing NEDC combined consumption).
For an even sportier exterior design, the SLK could be factory-fitted with the AMG body design package, consisting of a front apron with integral circular fog lamps, side skirts and a rear apron, all painted in vehicle colour. A modified rear silencer with chromed tailpipes blended harmoniously with the rear apron. AMG light-alloy wheels, size 7.5 J x 17 for the front axle and 8.5 J x 17 for the rear, were also available. On the SLK 230 KOMPRESSOR these could be combined with wide-base size 225/45 ZR 17 tyres at the front and 245/40 ZR 17 at the rear.
Like its bigger counterparts in the SL series, the SLK, known internally as model series 170, was built in Bremen. In fact, as a result of huge demand, an extra 600 jobs were created there. This expansion of the production capacity was designed to reduce the inevitable backlogs in deliveries – as had been experienced with model series 129 – one drawback of prodigious market success.
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