Mercedes SLK55 AMG: Spotted

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...


Engine: 5,439cc, V8
Transmission: 7-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 360@5,750rpm
Torque (lb ft): 375@4,000rpm
MPG: 23.5
CO2: 288g/km
First registered: 2005
Mileage: 59,000
Price new: £51,975
Price now: £15,950

See the advert here





P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (65) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Eviltad 04 Jan 2018

    I'd have been more interested if it WAS a Black Series SLK.

  • TurboHatchback 04 Jan 2018

    I love these though this particular example is a rather miserable colour for a small V8 roadster.

  • Krikkit 04 Jan 2018

    Have a big soft spot for these, fabulously silly cars.

  • Gandahar 04 Jan 2018

    Forgetting costs for a moment

    This version is the best looking version. AMG tried to wangle a bit of F1 in there at the front. Later cars looked like photoshoping Frank Bruno and Tyson fury into a picture after being pummeled by my mother with a stick of rhubarb.

    Also although the chassis is middling too poor, having to cope with a big lump up front compared to a BMW convertible of the era, you do get a rumbling V8. I think after all these years that would actually make it distinctive as a 2nd hand dinosaur good old days purchase.

    The V8 in this is well judged, both for figures of bhp and lb ft for what it is whilst making a good sound. For a cruiser that is more important than how it drives at the limit.

  • MattyB_ 04 Jan 2018

    I loved my SLK55 - it wasn't the sharpest tool, and the gearbox didn't lend itself to enthusiastic driving.

    But it made a went like stink, and hearing that glorious V8 with the roof down is something else. It also averaged a good 25mpg with mix A/B/Town driving, which surprised me, much better than the 18mpg my VXR8 averaged on the same roads.

    They're also surprisingly cheap to run if you avoid Mercedes. I had to rebuild my gearbox (£2500) but I was unlucky, it's not common. I also had a manifold issue, Merc wanted £1200+Fitting, fixed by a local exhaust place for £40+ fitting biggrin

    They seem to have bottomed out price wise, they've hovvered around the £15k mark for the last 3 years at least, so depreciation is minimal as well.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment