Small convertible cars suffer from the usual stereotypes, and owners have to battle them every time they choose to drive. But fit a V8 and those stereotypes start to melt away. The original SLK AMG, fitted with the supercharged V6, was said to be a little soft and lacking athleticism. The menacing second generation SLK looked to solve all those problems. With McLaren SLR styling, vents on the bonnet and bumpers, a subtle boot spoiler and not so subtle quad exhausts, it let drivers know that this pocket rocket meant business. The SLK55 AMG was also the blueprint for AMG's madder creations: the Black Series cars, a treatment which has so far only been further extended to the CLK, SL, C63 and SLS.
The SLK and similar AMG models around the turn of the century were the first to be given the 55 moniker with the M113 5,439cc V8, and don't forget that supercharged iterations of that engine were used in the CLK DTM AMG and SLR McLarens. In the SLK55, it only had 6hp and 54 lb ft more than the 32 it replaced (plus more weight), but managed to claw back an advantage using AMG's first seven-speed automatic transmission. That meant a sub-five-second 0-60 dash, with the torque to ensure the ESP triangle will flash well beyond that. Using it on long drives up and down the motorway needn't mean frequent stops to fuel a huge V8 either, the engine barely spinning over 2,500rpm at 85mph in its long seventh gear.
On a more spirited B-road drive, that innovative automatic 'box didn't change up at the limiter, a move many manufacturers could still do with copying today. However it was known at the time for being a bit sluggish on downshifts, a particular problem when you need the engine braking to help shed all that accrued speed...
One thing that can be deemed a negative for PHey types is AMG's phase during the 2000s where the ESP could never be fully turned off; it will correct the slip angle even when you don't want it to. Still, the SLK makes a strong case for itself as a winter drop top, the hardtop providing refinement and the AirScarf offering some warmth if you do want to embrace the elements (plus that glorious V8).
Thinking about competitors in this sector, the BMW Z4M
(both Coupe and Roadster) as well as the Porsche Boxster
(or Cayman) seem like the obvious choices for any prospective buyer, but none have the ability to transform from a relaxing motorway cruiser to a brutal open-topped V8 hot rod like the SLK. And if anyone tries to stop you by throwing a stereotype, remember the SLK55 AMG was the start of AMG's Black Series line we know and love today. It may not have been a fantastic Black Series, but we all have to start somewhere...
SPECIFICATION - MERCEDES SLK55 AMG
Engine: 5,439cc, V8
Transmission: 7-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 360@5,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 375@4,000rpm
First registered: 2005
Price new: £51,975
Price now: £15,950
See the advert here