The 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG made its eagerly anticipated intro at Frankfurt, intent on grabbing a healthy chunk of the limelight. With harder-edged bodywork and suspension bits complemented by the first-ever fitment of AMG's all new 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8, this scintillating two-seater is without question, the most enthusiast-oriented SLK-Class variant ever created.

>See more new cars unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show

In keeping with its longstanding tradition, the AMG treatment extends to all aspects of this new SLK55 AMG. Cosmetic enhancements on this third-generation offering start with its bolder front fascia that boasts a larger grille and air intakes, deeper front apron, darkened clear headlamp covers and AMG-spec LED running lights. Chrome side grilles, unique rocker sills and AMG lightweight alloy wheels accentuate its profile, whether the retractable power hardtop -- in steel, polycarbonate-based panorama or trick MAGIC SKY CONTROL variable-translucency glass flavors -- is up or down. Adding a bit of sting to the tail are a subtle but functional body-color deck-lid spoiler, extended rear apron with aero-tuned blackout diffuser element and dual chrome exhaust tips.

Inside, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG builds on the design theme of the basic SLK-Class with a number of variations inspired by the SLS AMG. Unique AMG instrumentation, a leather-wrapped, flat-bottom sport steering wheel with aluminum shifter paddles and aggressively bolstered AMG sport seats done in premium leather are set off by SLS-style round air vents rendered in brushed-aluminum and a special AMG analog clock. As in lesser SLK models, M-B's Airscarf neck-level heating system is on hand to take the chill off of all-fresco motoring on cooler days or nights along with the new rollbar-mounted Airglide adjustable windblocker system.

As noted in our earlier story, the new AMG 5.5-liter V8 tucked under the hood of this uber-performance two-seater is truly stunning piece of advanced engineering. Sharing various bits of common architecture with the M157 twin-turbo V8 found in the current AMG E63/CLS63/S63/CL63 models, the naturally aspirated, direct-injected all-aluminum M152 cranks out 415 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque, increases of 55 and 22 output units compared to the previous motivator. Teamed with a tri-mode AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission, it hustles the 2012 SLK55 AMG from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds and on to an electronically limited 155 mph top end.

While might definitely makes right in this case, the M152 also ushers in a new era of efficiency, courtesy of tech enhancements like its F1-inspired AMG Cylinder Management System that can shut down up to four cylinders unde lighter loads, M-B's ECO start/stop system, an alternator management system that permits kinetic energy normally lost as heat to be applied to recharging the battery and special catalytic converters that allow leaner operation. Collectively, they contribute to nearly a 30-percent improvement in overall in fuel economy and an equally dramatic decrease in CO2 emissions.

Final ingredient in the go-fast formula of the new SLK55 AMG is a full chassis rework. It starts with a suitably stiffened AMG sport suspension and AMG 3-Stage ESP stability control that offers the choice of On/Sport/Off modes. AMG Direct-Steer steering and Torque Vectoring Brakes with  bigger vented/perforated rotors round out the standard vehicle dynamics hardware while harder-core enthusiasts can opt for the AMG Handling Package which brings an even stouter AMG Performance Suspension, rear-axle differential lock, two-piece front brake discs and an AMG Performance steering wheel.

Safety remains a priority at Mercedes, and the 2012 SLK55 AMG features a litany of the firm's latest passenger protection technologies. New fiber-reinforced rollover bars, two-stage front airbags, knee bags, thorax bags, NECK-PRO crash-active head restraints and ATTENTION ASSIST drowsiness detection head the list of standards while DISTRONIC PLUS distance-maintaining proximity control and PRE-SAFE Brake that can prepare to autonomously apply the brakes when it detects an impending frontal collision are both available as options.

Expect the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG to go on sale here early next year. However, there's word yet on pricing for the most powerful SLK ever to be unleashed on the street.

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