Steep thrills ahead

The most pow­er­ful SLK yet is also nearly the cheap­est AMG

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige -

TECH­NOL­OGY

Amghas whipped the tur­bos off the 5.5-litre di­rect-in­jec­tion V8 (there was no more room in the road­ster’s en­gine bay) and given it (by ne­ces­sity) a new in­take and cylin­der heads.

Com­pared with the out­go­ing ver­sion, there is a hike of 45kw and 30Nm to put power at 310kw and torque at a rear­wheel quiv­er­ing 540Nm. .

Benz also claims it is the most fuel-ef­fi­cient petrol V8 around, thanks to a cylin­der drop-out sys­tem and stop-start that helps de­liver claimed com­bined fuel use of 8.5L/100km— 30 per cent bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor.

The SLK can run on four cylin­ders while cruis­ing, shut­ting off the other four when they are not needed.

Also on the high­light reel for tech­nol­ogy is vari­able power steer­ing—‘‘di­rect steer’’ in Merc-speak— which helps broaden the steer­ing’s abil­ity, to make it use­ful when park­ing and pelt­ing through a se­ries of bends, but still does not en­dow the hefty drop-top with the sharpest cor­ner­ing man­ners.

Torque vec­tor­ing is a fancy term for the brak­ing of the in­side rear wheel to help the car turn. It is ef­fec­tive when press-ahead driv­ing is un­der way but seems to be a lit­tle bit of tech­nol­ogy aimed at coun­ter­act­ing the pushy nose.

DE­SIGN

The new Sls-themed styling has been ap­plied to the SLK and theamg­vari­ant has plenty of vis­ual ag­gres­sion.

The bull-nose is long and the rear end and cabin look some­what ab­bre­vi­ated, with the tail high­lighted by an un­der-bumper dif­fuser and quad oval ex­hausts.

The test car was coloured red within, a stark con­trast to the grey ex­te­rior, but the twoseater’s cabin is a picture of Ger­man ef­fi­ciency and er­gonomic ac­cu­racy.

The round, rolling retro vents were a favourite, as was the grippy sports steer­ing wheel with pad­dleshifts, which are worth us­ing when the gen­uine man­ual change mode is en­gaged.

Cabin stor­age is use­ful enough for phone and wal­lets, and if you do not want to drop the top there are 335 litres of boot space, which shrinks to 225L if you want to fold the roof and in­crease your vi­ta­min Din­take.

SAFETY

This is the watch­word for the three-pointed star and it has plenty to back that claim— roll bars, dual front, head and tho­rax airbags, seat belt pre­ten­sion­ers with belt force lim­iters, ac­tive head re­straints, three-stage sta­bil­ity con­trol, tyre pres­sure warn­ing sys­tem and the Presafe safety sys­tem which also has a drowsy driver de­tec­tion sys­tem among its fea­tures.

DRIV­ING

Pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence in the cook­ing SLK cars was not un­pleas­ant but there was no sug­ges­tion of de­liv­er­ing scalpel-like sharp­ness in the bends. Theamg­model gets closer to that point, but it is still go­ing to yield to other drop-tops. The gap is far closer than it used to be, how­ever, and while the Porsche flat-six has au­ral ap­peal, the Benz bent-eight has plenty of char­ac­ter too.

Thank­fully the SLKAMG has a nice V8 bur­ble, one not tem­pered by a cou­ple of tur­bos. Its sound is de­mure at part­throt­tle, smooth and eco­nom­i­cal when in C and Eco mode, slip­ping gen­tly be­tween gears for un­fussed progress.

The ride is less fre­netic than some of it­samgsi­b­lings, although it still does a bit of crash and thump over some of our nas­tier roads.

With the top dropped there were a few squeaks from be­hind the roll bars on nas­tier bumps— some­thing not present when the lid was locked up. But drop the roof, se­lect Sport mode on the trans­mis­sion and sta­bil­ity con­trol and in­tro­duce the throt­tle pedal to the fire­wall, well, then the ser­e­nade be­comes more akin to a heavymetal track.

This is the per­son­al­ity that best be­fits THEAMGSLK V8.

The ac­tive ex­haust sys­tem leaves lit­tle left un­said at full throt­tle, when the flaps within the ex­haust open right up. There is a nice crackle on over­run as well, with a neat ‘‘ waf­fle’’ of a noise be­tween cogs on the up­shift, but the AMG’S out­go­ing 6.2-litre atmo en­gine still has it beat for a sound­track.

The num­bers are im­pres­sive — 4.6 sec­onds for 0-100km/h, so in a straight line it will pip the Porsche Boxster S by 0.6 secs and the TT-S Road­ster by 0.8 secs. But it is one sec­ond quicker to 100km/h than the $36,000 cheaper SLK 350.

The other Ger­mans make up ground in the bends. The SLK 55 does the job in fine style but the front end just does not quite bite like the Porsche Boxster and the all-wheel drive Audi TT S 3 years/un­lim­it­edkm

53 per cent 2 years/25,000km

Rat­ing 5 stars (NCAP) None

5.4-litre V8, 310kw/540nm 7-speed au­to­matic, RWD

8.5L/100km (on test 16.0L/), 197g/km CO

4.1m (L), 1.8m (W), 1.3m (H)

1610kg has grip in buck­et­loads. All of which would make a point-to-point time trial be­tween them very in­ter­est­ing. All I have to do now is find the time, the cars and two vol­un­teer driv­ers. Any tak­ers?

Wag­ne­r­ian: Drop the roof of the SLK 55Am­gand hear the dif­fer­ence

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