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

What is it?

The headline news here is that most exciting and rare of introductions; an all-new AMG engine, featured here in the new Mercedes SLK 55 AMG.

Mercedes’ go-faster department is being coy about where else the naturally aspirated version of its 5.5-litre V8 will be used. Here, it provides the flagship SLK 55 AMG with 416bhp and 398lb ft of torque. And, fitted with automatic engine stop-start, high-pressure direct injection, intelligent ancilliary power management and a clever cylinder deactivation system, emits 195g/km of CO2 and returns a claimed 33.6mpg on the combined cycle. Which makes the SLK 55 AMG the most fuel-efficient V8-powered production car in the world – as well as the only V8-powered compact convertible you can buy.

What’s it like?

That economy claim’s certainly not pie in the sky. On our test route, the SLK 55 AMG returned a remarkable 33mpg at a typical motorway cruise, and better than thirty-one to the gallon over a varied route. That was according to the car’s trip computer, admittedly, but in this tester’s experience, they now tend to be unerringly accurate.

Economy isn’t going to sell many new SLK 55s, of course. More important by far is the fact that this new engine is powerful, flexible and tuneful enough to satisfy any reasonable requirement of a performance convertible. Wide open, the powerplant gives the SLK high-rpm thrust significantly beyond that of an Audi TT-RS. Throttle response is predictably crisp, and the car’s gearbox is impressive too. Smooth and unobtrusive in ‘D’, and responsive enough in manual mode.

There’s more mixed news on the ride and handling front. The SLK 55 gets stiffer springs, dampers, roll-bars and bushings than the standard car, more negative camber on its real wheels and a more direct steering setup. Equipped with AMG’s optional handling pack (even stiffer chassis rates and a limited slip differential), our test car felt a little too firm over rougher surfaces. Standard cars might have a more comfortable ride, but it remains to be seen if they’ll provide the well-damped but absorptive chassis compromise that is so attractive, where everyday use is concerned, in certain rivals.


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Better riding or not, no SLK 55 AMG – on this evidence – will have the precise body control and interactive, engaging drive of the class’ effervescent and evergreen dynamic standard-bearer – the Porsche Boxster S. Inconsistent steering weight, little steering feel, some noticeable low-frequency body pitch, and an otherwsie stable but inert and uninspiring chassis still ultimately separate this car not just from the Porsche, but at this price level, from the likes of the very sweetly suspended Jaguar XK.

Should I buy one?

If you like the idea of big open air performance without the usual penalty of sub 25mpg fuel economy, sure. The virtues of AMG Mercs often take longer than the usual test route to present themselves to the driver, and it’s very possible that this SLK would wind up being a highly satisfying car to own for all sorts of reasons.

But it’s still not a particularly engaging machine to drive, and even accounting for the other advances, keen drivers can’t fail to be disappointed by that.

Mercedes SLK 55 AMG

Price: £57,000; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 4.6sec; Economy: 33.6mpg; Co2: 195g/km; Kerbweight: 1610kg; Engine type, cc: V8, 5461cc, normally aspirated; Power: 416bhp at 6800rpm; Torque: 398lb ft at 4500rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic

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21 November 2011

OK car (I wouldn't say no, but equally it wouldn't be at the top of my list) but WOW what stunning statistics! Given the progress made in the last ten years, assuming petrol is still about in another ten, it makes you wonder where we can end up...

21 November 2011

Those are some seriously good fuel economy figures! Certainly shows there is life in the big capacity petrol engine yet.

It's just a shame that it isn't installed in a more engaging package but to most of the cars prospective buyers, I would imagine this matters little.

21 November 2011

Stunning figures except the mass of 1610kg. I guess the 7-speed 'box and the 5.5 V8 counteract that, and then some.

21 November 2011

I'd love to transplant this engine and transmission into an old 560 SEC.

21 November 2011

Hair dresser's express ?

21 November 2011

[quote Peter Cavellini]

Hair dresser's express ?


Very rich, very fast Hair dresser, maybe.

21 November 2011

Too. Much. Money.

If as suggested, £57,000 is way too much. I'm sure they will sell them, but for me this car, the 55, doesn't move the car on over the R171, in a way that the R171 did over the R170. A shame, because in general I think the R172 is much better than the R171.

Interior is a corker though.

21 November 2011

Fantastic stats. At first i thought this looked a bit expensive, and then i remembered that Jaguar are proposing to start their new small roadster at about this price with its, 3.0 V6, which surely makes this good value too.

21 November 2011

[quote Peter Cavellini] Hair dresser's express ?[/quote]

I doubt there are another 3 words that could describe this car better! After reading about the Black a few days ago this is just that.

The only interesting piece of information is that the big naturally aspirated V8 is alive and kicking. When I first read that the SLK AMG will have a V8 combined with the fact the the 6.2 will be discontinued I thought they would use the 4.7 V8 bi-turbo.

21 November 2011

Very impressive car indeed. 33mpg from a 5.5-litre V8! Bloody hell! I'm glad that it's normally aspirated too.


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