Matt Prior
6 June 2012

What is it?

Ah, the return of the naturally aspirated V8. My favourite. This, presumably, is excellent news, even if it’s one shoehorned under the stubby bonnet of the latest Mercedes-Benz SLK – a car that has not, thus far, wormed its way deep into our affection like most of its rivals.

The big news, of course, is the arrival of a new AMG engine – always worth writing about, and no less so here. If you’d wondered what removing the turbos from the latest AMG engine would do, here’s the answer: 416bhp and 398lb ft of torque, and a similarly aggressive woofle on start-up. 

All promising so far. Ditto the claimed economy. Turbos, we’re told, are the future of efficiency, yet here’s a 5.5-litre, naturally aspirated unit that returns 33.6mpg and emits just 
195g/km. Just for the record, the Chevrolet Camaro’s 6.2-litre V8 puts out just 10bhp more yet travels only 20 miles for each gallon and spurts out 329 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

What is it like?

It also doesn’t sound as fruity as 
the AMG unit. There’s usually some fine engineering at work with AMG V8s, and this is no exception. Response is excellent and it revs with conviction – sufficiently so to make the SLK a bit of a hot rod, as the best SLK AMGs always have been.

That’s about the limit to its dynamic finesse, though. The seven-speed auto shifts agreeably most of the time but is sometimes reluctant to make downshifts in a hurry on command. Meanwhile, the steering lacks life, while the ride – not unlike a BMW Z4 at times – combines harshness and a lack of control over its body movements. All of these things serve to make the SLK an ultimately unsatisfying tool to pilot.

Elsewhere, it’s all in order. The hood is as excellent as ever and the interior is pleasingly well finished. The price is premium, but perhaps justifiable when you consider the quality of the power station.

Should I buy one?

And so that’s what you’re left with to satisfy you: the engine. Not the dynamic finesse of a Porsche Boxster. Not the comfort and deftness of a Jaguar XK. Not even the engagement, charm and character of a Chevrolet Camaro convertible. Just you, a terrific 5.5-litre V8 and the uncomfortable feeling that it deserves a better automobile than this in which to demonstrate its ample charms.

Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG

Price: £54,965; 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Top speed: 155mph (limited); Economy: 33.6mpg (combined); CO2: 195g/km; Kerb weight: 1610kg; Engine: V8, 5461cc, petrol; Power: 416bhp at 6800rpm; Torque: 398lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic


Join the debate


what a surprise

2 years 12 weeks ago

business as usual for amg then

they came, they saw, they lolled

With AMG pushing further

2 years 12 weeks ago

With AMG pushing further towards stand alone cars it's a shame there wasn't more effort put into the suspension and steering upgrades.



2 years 12 weeks ago

Perfectly summarized, Organgewheels.  MB has so much potential with the AMG line: you'd think by now they could just take Porsche or BMW apart to see how their steering and suspension work so well (^_^)...


2 years 12 weeks ago

NMGOM wrote:

Perfectly summarized, Organgewheels.  MB has so much potential with the AMG line: you'd think by now they could just take Porsche or BMW apart to see how their steering and suspension work so well (^_^)...


Mercedes have offered an objectively superior ride for decades and in lesser cars than the SLK55 AMG. If they've got it wrong here it's not because they don't know how.

I dunno, BMW and Porsche finally get their act together and revisionists would have us believe they've always been like that. Can only presume you've never been in the previous 5-Series or 6-Series or 3-Series Coupe or...

Real World Figures?

2 years 12 weeks ago

Simply epic MPG & Co2 figures. I would love to know what the real world figures would be for a gentle drive. I wonder if Mercedes will use similar tech in their A Class engines. Sub 200kg/33MPG with a 5.5 V8, why not try 60+ MPG from a 1.8 4cly petrol? No diesel needed!

Would be hilarious to have this engine in the new A Class actually. Ignore the 2.0 Turbo A25 AMG! I would expect nothing less from AMG to produce the worlds first (?) V8 hot hatch from the factory.

I like the SLK, but I think its character suits a six cylinder better. Still got loads of power, but more usable?

Havin' a larf ...

2 years 12 weeks ago

So ... It boils down to spending £54,965 for an engine ... Seems rather a lot to me ... I would expect a car to go with it ...

This SLK has lost the styling

2 years 12 weeks ago

This SLK has lost the styling elegance and indeed the easy driving style of the previous generations.The retro touches in the interior are not welcome either.

Interior needs a vacuum

1 year 30 weeks ago

You could have hoovered the left hand floor mat before taking the interior pics!

Someone has left crumbs all over it.

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Our Verdict

The Mercedes-Benz SLK has the right image, a posh cabin and it's easy to live with

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    Makes sense if you can forgive the noise, unexceptional dynamics and standard kit
  • First Drive

    Mercedes SLK55 AMG

    Fast, usable, and surprisingly frugal, but still quite an inert and unentertaining drive

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