Though hard to picture right now, with this summer feeling as far away as the last, we do love a brawny V8 roadster in the UK. So much of the early TVR appeal was in lightweight, great looking drop-tops that rumbled like little else, and it’s still possible to buy a new F-Type convertible in 2023 with the 5.0-litre AJ-V8. That’ll definitely put a smile on your face when the sun finally comes back out.
From Ariel to Westfield, dozens of British carmakers have stuffed a V8 in an unsuspecting sports car over the years, creating some legends in the process. But we can’t claim to be the only place fond of a big engine in a small, roofless car, of course. AMG might be at its most desirable when making hot rods of family cars (or putting an F1 engine in a production model), but it has a rich history of convertibles as well. One that looks even richer with an uncertain future: the SL still has a brilliant V8 in it, but that’s a more expensive prospect than ever. The C-Class-sized drop-top won’t get a big engine again, and the SLK/SLC isn’t going to return anytime soon either. If Audi can’t make the TT viable, then there’s no hope for the smallest Merc convertible.
Amazingly, it was less than a decade ago that you could still buy an SLK with a V8 in it, that most traditionally charming of sports car recipes brought into sub-200g/km relevance for the 2010s. The NEDC test skewed reality here as it did in so many other instances - the official MPG was 33.6! - but the SLK was smarter than most, with cylinder deactivation for the V8 meaning better MPG and CO2 than even the least powerful V6 F-Type.
The 55’s 5.5-litre V8 was claimed to be the most efficient V8 in the world in 2011; essentially it was the engine used by the E-Class and SL AMGs at the time, without the turbochargers used by the big cars. That meant smaller outputs than the 63s, but ‘smaller’ is a relative word in the world of AMG: this was still a compact sports car usually powered by four-cylinder engines with more than 420hp and almost 400lb ft. Plus a soundtrack straight out of Hollywood, with your neck being kept warm by the AirScarf. The SLK wasn’t a Boxster to drive, but equally it wasn’t hard to see the appeal. Where the six-cylinder AMG SLKs never quite captured the imagination, the 55s were proper little bruisers in best Affalterbach tradition.
That character, and a relatively short time on sale, has kept values strong. There are later, lower mileage SLC43s out there - the replacement for this car with the 367hp twin-turbo V6 - around for thousands less than this car. A 2014 model in Polar White (seemingly a popular colour for these, oddly enough) with fewer than 40,000 miles, it’s still quite the attention grabber, from the blistered arches and quad pipes to enormous engine shoehorned into an engine bay that still doesn’t look large enough. You’d be checking the oil every other day, just for one more look. Then start it up, for one more listen. The nuances of ride and handling become somewhat less persuasive with that kind of engine for company.
This 55 is for sale at £28,995, about the top of the market right now. Hardly a bargain basement AMG then, but still a relatively recent car as well - however old school the layout seems. With a panoramic hardtop and all the modern Merc luxuries inside, there’s no reason why the SLK couldn’t be used every single day, come more rain or (hopefully) some sunshine. And what a treat it would be.
SPECIFICATION | MERCEDES SLK55 AMG
Engine: 5,461cc, V8
Transmission: 7-speed AMG Speedshift Plus automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 422@6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 398@4,500rpm
MPG: 33.6 (NEDC)
CO2: 195g/km (NEDC)
First registered: 2014
Recorded mileage: 37,000
Price new: £54,965 (before options)
Yours for: £28,990
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