Steep thrills ahead
The most powerful SLK yet is also nearly the cheapest AMG
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.
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.
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.
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