The sports car, having once been a status symbol without equal, is having a tough time of it at the moment. They simply aren't as fashionable as they once were, and the ripple effect can be seen everywhere. News of the Nissan Z Proto not coming to Europe is merely the latest in the long line of disappointments. Rumours abound that the Audi TT will be replaced with something four-door and electric, the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ duo have undersold (though are being replaced), the Alpine hasn't flown off forecourts and there isn't going to be another Mercedes SLC.
Now, granted, there were probably not droves of people mourning the demise of Mercedes' smallest drop-top. It frequently lost out in comparisons to its German rivals and never quite captured the style of the original in subsequent updates. Nevertheless its departure only reduces variety in the Mercedes range; it might seem like there's a new model introduced every other day, but there aren't many which aren't SUVs, saloons or A-Classes. At least the SLK/SLC brightened up the showrooms a bit.
It also implied a bit of imagination and ambition; none more than the SLK 55 AMG. Because here was a car typically offered with 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrols and diesels, suddenly equipped with a 5.5-litre V8. Not only that, but a V8 larger than the previous time AMG had convinced Mercedes-Benz the idea was a reasoned one. The car before this one, the R171 SLK55 AMG, used the 5,439cc M113 V8, enough for 360hp in the standard car or 400hp in the Black Series.
For the R172 '55, AMG employed an even larger (5,461cc), even more powerful (421hp), M152 V8, essentially the same engine found in the contemporary '63 models but shorn of its twin-turbos. It was a mighty engine, bestowing upon the innocent SLK a wild, muscle-car edge, and the experience chiefly became about the car's attempts to contain it. The claimed 33.6mpg surely says more about the NEDC test than any great parsimony on the V8's part.
Of course the engine made the SLK memorable, and that attribute is becoming ever more desirable in cars - especially when nice '55s like this one are available for £25k. A 2013 car, it's notable for having the AMG Performance Package (meaning a limited-slip diff) and speed limiter raise that it's hard to imagine many customers taking up. The paint scheme won't be to all tastes, though again it ensures that this is not simply another blend-in SLK.
Of course at this point it's probably worth pointing out that a Boxster will be a sharper steer for similar money, the V6 SLC43 that followed will be just as quick and the early Jaguar F-Types are only getting cheaper. But even with that knowledge, it's easy to see the charm of a V8 SLK. Specifically because it's a V8 SLK. Imperfect, yet endearing. And sometimes that's enough.
SPECIFICATION | MERCEDES SLK55 AMG
Engine: 5,461cc, V8
Transmission: 7-speed AMG Speedshift Plus automatic, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip diff
Power (hp): 422@6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@4,500rpm
MPG: 33.6 (NEDC)
CO2: 195g/km (NEDC)
First registered: 2013
Recorded mileage: 39,000
Price new: £54,965 (before options)
Yours for: £24,995
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