The SLK was a breakthrough two-seater at launch in 1996, combining luxury with compact dimensions and a folding hard-top.
Despite competitors talking about launching rivals, the field has largely been filled by the Mercedes, the Porsche Boxster and the BMW Z4 (nee Z3).
But as the SLK heads into its third generation next year, the familiar competitors are planning replacements, while other rivals are being considered.
Porsche Boxster: 2012
The next Boxster will be based on the new 911 platform, but expect it to offer more of the same: mid-engined and strut rear suspension. Direct-injection engines and a twin-clutch transmission are tipped to feature. Porsche is understood to be targeting CO2 emissions of under 200g/km for the entry-level version.
Jaguar XE: 2013
The baby Jag sports car is still awaiting the green light from the firm’s owner, Tata. But it still remains top of the wish list, with a launch date around 2012/13 pencilled in. Jaguar is pushing its engineers to ensure maximum parts sharing with the XK, while delivering a smaller, more agile package.
Audi R4: 2014
The future of Audi’s mini-R8 is hanging in the balance. Audi wants a car based on a lightweight alloy spaceframe, like the Detroit e-tron concept and R8. But VW’s engineers are pushing for a steel production solution for ease of manufacture. The R8 could also then share parts with the BlueSport, VW’s entry-level mid-engined two-seater, a car that itself has yet to get the green light.
Alfa Duettotanta: 2015
The revival of Alfa has to include a two-seat spider, particularly if a return to the US features in that plan. Pininfarina’s idea for that car is the incredibly stylish rear-drive Duettotanta, shown at Geneva this year.
BMW Z4: 2016
A long way off, but a sketchy outline of the next Z4 includes a move to the next-generation 3-series platform. There will be a folding metal hard-top and new super-frugal four-cylinder petrol engines, but no three-cylinder units.