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Review and photos by Mike Schlee

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2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class

The Mercedes-Benz SLK was ahead of its time.  It foreshadowed today’s trend of retractable hard-top convertibles back in 1996, when it first debuted. Available exclusively on our shores with a 193-hp 2.3L supercharged four-cylinder engine, the SLK was a smaller, more affordable alternative to its bigger brother, the SL-Class.  Now entering its 18th year of production, the SLK has grown in size slightly and in power significantly; especially when dealing with the SLK 55 AMG.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG. Click image to enlarge

For 2012, the SLK received a complete refresh that included upgrades under the hood.  In the top-of-the-line SLK 55 AMG, Mercedes’ new 5.5L V8 replaced the old 5.5L V8.  Although this may sound trivial, power jumped 60 hp and 22 lb-ft of torque during this engine swap.  The new 55 AMG produces 415 hp and 398 lb-ft in a vehicle weighing a relatively svelte 1,610 kg—only 135 kg more than the base, manual-transmission SLK 250 with its turbocharged four-cylinder engine.

Those familiar with Mercedes-Benz AMG vehicles will realize that the new 5.5L V8 found in the SLK is basically the same engine found in several other AMG models, sans turbochargers.  These were left out due to ‘packaging issues’ but I have a sneaking suspicion that Mercedes didn’t want to put in excess of 500 hp into the diminutive SLK roadster as its performance may start to eclipse that of the larger SLS AMG and SL 63 AMG.  Even without the extra boost, power is still awesome in this SLK, yet controllable.  It felt like I could dial in anywhere from 1 to 415 hp with my right foot thanks to a linear power curve; peakiness simply does not exist in this engine.

The V8 sounds bellowing from the rear of the car are addicting, especially with the top down.  The noise is reminiscent of a 1960’s small-block-V8 muscle car.  If you closed your eyes and merely listened to the vehicle, it wouldn’t be crazy to mistake the SLK 55 AMG for a nicely tuned 1967 Camaro Z/28.  As well, under wide open throttle, gearshifts near redline produce momentary backpressure V8 snarls out of the AMG quad tip exhaust system.  This engine, however, is not just about power and noise; it also has some of the latest fuel saving technologies built in.   The V8 features AMG cylinder management, which can run on four cylinders under light loads.  It is also equipped with the controlled efficiency stop-start mode that can thankfully be turned off by selecting either sport mode or manual mode in the transmission.  During my time with the vehicle I kept it exclusively in ‘sport mode’ to deactivate the start-stop technology and wasn’t all that gentle with the accelerator pedal; that V8 soundtrack is just too addictive.  However, I was still able to achieve an average of 13.8 L/100 km.

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