2013 Mercedes-Benz 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

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Fast. Tidy. Pricey. These are my initial impressions of the matte white 2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG as I course my favourite suite of backroads – its hard top retracted and the $104,390 as-tested cost sheet lying on the passenger seat beside me.

Oh yes, this little two-seat roadster certainly moves out. Torsten Oelschläger hand built the 5.5L naturally aspirated direct-injection V8 at AMG ground-zero in Affalterbach, Germany, and it feels every bit of its claimed 415 hp and 398 lb-ft.

The muted yet purposeful rumble at idle escalates to a menacing howl as the revs climb thanks to some trick electronic exhaust flaps. Throttle travel is long yet thrust is meted out in a smooth, progressive arc right to the 7,200 rpm redline. Powering out of tight bends has the SLK’s back end squirming like a hooker in church.

This is basically the same 5.5L V8, sans turbos, that powers most other AMG vehicles. In fact, the SLK 55, C 63, and SLS gullwing supercar (the latter two sporting a 6.2L V8s) are the only non-forced-induction cars in the AMG lineup.

And that fact alone makes this an intriguing vehicle. It’s 415 hp puts it smack dab in Porsche 911 Carrera S territory, although conceptually, price-wise and power-wise it lines up pretty well with the exceptional Jaguar F-Type V6 S with its 380 hp supercharged 3.0L V6. And of course you’d be cross shopping the poetic 315-hp Porsche Boxster S ($72,600), the hooligan 360-hp Audi TTRS ($62,600) and the super-sexy BMW Z4 sDrive35i.

Unlike any other AMG vehicle, with the exception of the new four-cylinder CLA 45, this SLK feels intimate – there is a connection with the roadster right off the bat. Back to that tidiness. The seats grip you in all the right places and the flat-bottomed Alcantara wheel is connected to a quick (if not totally feelsome) rack. The SLK changes direction quickly, and while you could call the fixed-rate suspension very firm, it doesn’t crash or upset the car unless the surface is really bad.

That said, the Jag F-Type and Boxster S with their adaptive dampers are more comfortable rides.

Usually the term “chuckable” does not apply to AMG vehicles, but here we find a playful roadster that loves to wag its tail in a predictable and controllable fashion. It’s way looser than Boxster – you don’t get that unflappable poise – but if you like to have a touch of oversteer at your beck and call, this Merc is a hoot. There are three levels of stability control – loose, looser and holy crap.

The seven-speed AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic, which uses a wet-clutch pack in place of the torque converter, works well, although its response to shift paddle inputs is not as immediate as with the Jag’s ZF eight-speed or the Boxster’s exceptional seven-speed PDK twin-clutch.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG
2013 Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG. Click image to enlarge

Looking at this car’s spec sheet, we can likely attribute much of its heightened athleticism to the optional $6,600 AMG Performance Package that adds limited slip differential, speed limiter delete, a firmer sports suspension, 18-inch AMG alloys, carbon fibre trim and the aforementioned AMG steering wheel.

And as would be expected, the SLK 55 makes for a fine long distance tourer. With the hard top in place you’re as snug as a bug in a rug, and the cabin is well isolated from road and wind noise – all the better to hear the fine Harman/Kardon audio. Unfortunately, if you want to carry more than just a couple of overnight bags, the roof is going to have to stay up, ‘cause once folded it takes up a big chunk of the already modest trunk.

So here, again, we look to the Boxster with its very usable front and rear cargo holds.

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