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