Capable but massively expensive track-tuned SLK points the way ahead at AMG

Our Verdict

Mercedes-AMG SLK 55

The Mercedes SLK 55 AMG's non-turbo 416bhp V8 makes a hot rod out of the German car firm's junior roadster

21 July 2006

What is it?

This is no ordinary SLK 55. The new SLK 55 AMG Black Series is a hardcore track day special. A deep front air dam, bulging front wheelarches, outlets within the front flanks, chunky side sills underneath the doors and a boot deck spoiler instantly signal its racetrack ambitions.

And then there’s the roof – a fixed lightweight carbonfibre structure made by ski specialist Fischer in Austria. It is claimed that the single-piece roof, which replaces the complex folding hard-top, trims up to 80kg from the SLK 55’s kerbweight, although the addition of larger brakes and other detail changes mean the overall loss has been reduced to 45kg.

Inside, there are hard-shell Recaro racing seats, a thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel and carbonfibre door and dashboard trims.

At the heart of the new two-seater is a lightly modified version of the SLK55’s familiar normally aspirated 5.4-litre V8. It gets a new inlet manifold, as well as a more free-flowing exhaust, and power rises from 360bhp to 400bhp at 5750rpm.

What’s it like?

You know it’s special the moment you turn the key. The exhaust note is harder in character, with a deep baritone blare from middling revs. Throttle response is sharper and the improved power-to-weight ratio makes the new Mercedes livelier off the line.

The standard seven-speed automatic gearbox has also been reworked with new Speedshift software. It now offers two manual modes, the more aggressive of which swaps cogs with a rough but rapid action fully befitting the car’s circuit-charging pretensions.

Other interesting changes concern the suspension. It uses adjustable dampers in combination with stiffened springs and sturdy strut tower braces at each end. They provide noticeably better body control and firm up the ride appreciably, working superbly with Pirelli P-Zero Corsa tyres on lightweight 19-inch alloy wheels to raise grip and traction levels.

Should I buy one?

No doubt about it, the SLK Black Series is a seriously good car and is as much at home on the track as on the road. It’s harder, faster and better to drive than its standard sibling, but it is eye-wateringly expensive. Which explains why AMG will assemble just 10 per month and expects to sell no more than 100 worldwide.

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