Words by Kevin Knight
I bought my Mercedes SLK 55 AMG in April 2013. Mine is a 2005 model in Silver. I considered quite an eclectic mix of cars before buying my 55 AMG, including a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 996, BMW Z4M, Mercedes SL55 AMG, Porsche 928 GTS, TVR Speed 6, BMW M6, Audi RS4, BMW M3 V8 convertible, Honda VTEC powered Rover Mini and a Mazda RX7. As you can tell I am drawn to many different performance cars, I’ll consider pretty much anything that has had an injection of excitement!
I was drawn to the 55 AMG by the aggressive yet compact shape of the body and also the addictive noise that is generated by the AMG fettled 5.4 litre V8 engine. The intricate mechanism of the fold down metal roof is just amazing to watch. The fact that it was the official Formula One pace car when it was first released also gives it bonus points. Its relatively conservative look and small size means it is easily mistaken for a lesser model SLK. I have enhanced this “sleeper” look by de-badging the car too. If you know what you are looking for though, it is still easy to spot a 55 AMG by its rear quad oval tailpipes, side vents in the front bumper and distinctive multi spoke alloy wheels.
It took a while to find my ideal specification and colour. I definitely wanted a 2005 model because it would qualify for cheaper road tax than the post March 2006 cars, a saving of around £200 per year! I wanted a car that was fitted with the larger six piston front brakes, there is some variation in the brake sizes from year to year.
The SLK 55 AMG shape looks amazing especially when approached from the side or rear. I always notice the subtle rear spoiler that finishes off the rear really well. As you get in, the window drops slightly to fit under the roof line and as you close the door the window closes. It’s a small feature that other cars have too but it reminds you that this is a well engineered machine. Once in the seat, putting the key in the ignition causes the drivers seat to move into the driving position. The opposite happens when you take the key out, making it easier to get out. Again, this small clever feature reminds you of the level of thought that went into this car and making it an everyday prospect.
If you’ve never heard an AMG engine before I definitely recommend that you do. The 55 AMG emits a real growl as it starts up, which settles down after a few seconds. The drive from start up is effortless, the torque is apparent right from the word go. AMG engine units are renowned for their huge torque figures and the 55 AMG is no exception, even from a crawl it has ample torque to accelerate with ease. This makes it both incredibly easy to drive around town and capable of violent acceleration on demand once you hit more open roads.
The main reaction I get when in the 55 AMG is surprise, at first glance to most it looks like a regular SLK, which despite being a very good car, does not have the awesome soundtrack of the AMG version. When people stop and ask me about it they are also shocked to find out it has a 5.4 litre engine hidden within its compact shape.
I have to admit that if I want to go out on a proper blat, I’ll take my Westfield which is a much rawer and demanding drive. However, the SLK is thrilling when pushing on, the noise especially is utterly addictive. I am considering an exhaust modification which takes out some of the silencers, I’m told by other owners that it transforms the car. Yet I do like that it is subtle, as do my neighbours! The way it can act subtle and low key, right up until you plant your right foot is a great mix for my everyday car. On long journeys the cabin is a great place to be and the ride is perfect for soaking up motorway miles. The handling when pushing on when the roads get twisty is also confidence inspiring too. The word that springs to mind is that of balance, the experience is well rounded and as a result the car really suits most situations. This is my practical car, it is comfortable to drive my roadster, important to stress that it is a roadster – my Westfield is a true sportscar, light and agile. The SLK is easy and comfortable to drive and always brings a smile to my face. My previous car was a Subaru Impreza, which only got noticed by enthusiasts, whereas this gets noticed by most people, especially on a sunny day.
I really love the exterior looks of the 55 AMG, both with the roof up and down. The amazement from bystanders when the roof opens never gets boring. Most convertibles look like a pram when the roof is up, this looks like a coupe. It is a real feat of engineering to fit the whole mechanism and metal roof into the compact shape of the SLK. The features I love about the interior are the heated seats and air scarf, in combination they keep a warm bubble of air in the cabin no matter what the outside temperature is. For me, it is a rare day when the roof remains up. It only takes 22 seconds to put the roof up and if fitted with the Smart Top upgrade you can do it remotely too. It is as much fun in the winter as it is in summer.
In my ownership I have used specialists to maintain the car, rather than the main dealer network. I prefer the independents because in my experience they listen more to the customer and what they need. Their pricing is also more reasonable and transparent. It is vital to keep a 55 AMG AMG regularly maintained and quickly investigate any issues that might arise. It is getting to be an older car now and as with most cars from the era, the number of sensors and electronics is a bit of a liability.
Over the next three years I expect an initial fall in value but good examples will start holding their value. I think this R171 model SLK is a pretty shape, especially when compared to the squarer replacement R172 SLK. To many people the car still looks relatively new in design. I also believe that there were only 769 SLK 55 AMG registered in the UK, so they are relatively rare when compared to the competition. In my opinion when a car is new, there is mainly a fascination with a cars statistics, how fast it accelerates and how much power it has compared to its rivals. However, once a car matures and is no longer ‘new’, the focus is more on the shape & style, the sound and also how it makes you feel whilst driving it. These factors all contribute to how often you ‘want’ to drive it, the SLK 55 AMG is a car I want to drive for a long time.
View our Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG (including Black Series) Picture Gallery: click here
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Buy MotorStars Magazine #37 which contains our full 16 page article about all aspects of buying, owning, the factory options, available colours, technical specification, part prices for theMercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG: click here