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Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 2012 Review

EXPERT RATING
8
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Buy with confidence; all Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned vehicles come with a factory backed warranty, 100 point safety check, comprehensive service history and 24hr roadside assistance.

AMG may as well stand for Ah Mein Gott, such is the the impact the acronym can have on those in the passenger seat, or trying to keep up.

While there are svelte and subtle machines in the AMG arsenal, like the CL63, and snaky-tailed hooligans like the C63, the SLK 55 AMG sits somewhere in between. It's hardly a hairdresser's car, but anything with "scarf" (even an Airscarf) on its features list, you have to wonder....

VALUE

When there's six digits in the pricetag then value isn't the first adjective that springs to mind. The SLK 55 AMG has been cut by nearly $25,000 to start from $155,000, which buys you the most powerful SLK of all time and near the cheapest - the C63 slides in at $152,000.

Performance aside, the features list has satnav, full iPod integration via cable (thankfully now in the centre console, not the glovebox), Bluetooth phone and audio link, adaptive bixenon headlights, cruise control, power windows, a subtle AMG bodykit, dual-zone climate control, seat heaters and the Airscarf neck-heaters, voice control for the iPod/USB/hard-drive equipped infotainment 10-speaker surround-sound system, power-adjustable sports seats, a suede/leather sports steering wheel with paddleshifts.

The only option fitted to the test car was the AMG 18in alloy wheels for $1275.

TECHNOLOGY

AMG has whipped the turbos off the 5.5-litre direct-injection V8 and given it (by necessity) a new intake and cylinder heads. Compared to the out-going SLK AMG there's a hike of 45kW and 30Nm to put power at 310kW and deliver 540Nm, making it the most powerful SLK yet.

Benz also says its the most fuel-efficient petrol V8 around, thanks to a cylinder drop out system and stop-start that drops by 30 per cent the claimed combined fuel consumption figure over its predecessor - 8.5l/100km. The SLK can run on four cylinders while cruising, shutting of cylinders 2, 3 and 5 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 doesn't endow the hefty droptop with the sharpest cornering manners.

Torque Vectoring is a fancy way of explaining a braked inside rear wheel to help the car turn - it's effective when press-ahead driving is underway but seems to be a little bit of technology to counteract the pushy nose.

It's not going to be an issue for most driving, but if you are interested in turning with purpose and poise at pace .... something else starting with P is a better bet.

DESIGN

The new SLS-themed sportscar styling has been applied to the SLK and the AMG variant has plenty of aggression. The bull-nose is long and the rear end and cabin look somewhat abbreviated, with the rear end highlighted by a under-bumper diffuser and quad oval exhausts.

The test car was coloured red within, a stark contrast to the grey exterior, but the two-seater's cabin is a picture 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 don't want to drop the top there's 335 litres of bootspace, which shrinks to 225 litres if you want to up your Vitamin D.

SAFETY

The watchword for the three-pointed star and its has plenty to back that claim - roll-bars, dual front, head and thorax airbags, seat belt tensioners 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. The AMG model gets closer to that point but it's still going to be other open-topped cars first on the shopping list for those inclined to cornering.

But the gap is far closer than it used to be and while the flat-six has aural appeal, the Benz bent-eight has plenty of character too. Thankfully the SLK AMG has a nice V8 burble that's not squashed by a couple turbos - it's demure (fitting for the style-counsel model) at part-throttle, smooth and economical when in C and Eco Mode, slipping gently between gears for unfussed progress.

The ride is less frenetic than some of its AMG siblings, 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 rollbars on nastier bumps, something not present when the lid was locked up.

But dropping the roof, selecting Sport mode on the transmission and stability control and introducing the throttle pedal to the firewall and the serenade transformed into something more akin to a hair-metal title track.

This is the personality that best befits the AMG SLK V8 - the cruisy economy mode is fine for getting good fuel economy figures, but if you want that there's an E-Class cabrio diesel that's $40,000 cheaper. The active exhaust system leaves little left unsaid at full throttle, when the flaps within the exhaust opening right up.

There's a nice crackle on over-run as well, with a neat "whaffle" of a noise between cogs on the upshift, but the AMG 6.2-litre natmo engine still has it beat for a soundtrack. The numbers are impressive - 4.6 seconds to 0-100km/h, which means in a straight line it'll pip (just) the Boxster S (by 0.6) and the TT-S Roadster by 0.8, and it's one second quicker to 100km/h than $36,000 SLK 350.

Where the other German coupes might make up ground on the AMG is in the bends - the SLK 55 does the job in fine style but the front end just doesn't quite bite like the Porsche Boxster (hence the torque vectoring thing to give it a hand) and the TT S 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?

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG

Price from $155,000
Warranty 3 years/unlimited km
Resale 53 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval 25,000km/24 months
Safety rating five NCAP stars
Spare mobility kit
Engine 5.5-litre 32-valve V8, 310kW/540Nm
Transmission 7-speed automatic; RWD
Body 4.1m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.3m (h)
Weight 1610kg
Thirst 8.51/100km, on test 16l/100km,  tank 70 litres; 197g/km CO2 

Pricing guides

$39,895
Based on 6 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$28,990
Highest Price
$36,800

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
SLK55 AMG 5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $42,500 – 54,340 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2012 SLK55 AMG Pricing and Specs
SLK200 BE 1.8L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $26,900 – 35,640 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class 2012 SLK200 BE Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$28,990

Lowest price, based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months

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Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.