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Used Car Spotlight: Mercedes SLK55 AMG

Photo from Car and Driver

The Mercedes SLK has always occupied the strange roadster-lite space in the market alongside the BMW Z4 and Audi TT; that is, a two-person convertible that is more like a small GT than a proper athletic roadster like the Mazda Miata or Porsche Boxster. The first SLK debuted the modern folding hardtop, although overall the car was less than imposing on the street. While the exterior of the SLK32 AMG looked more or less the same as the standard car, the SLK32’s hidden weapon was carried under the hood in the form of a 349hp, supercharged V6 shared with the C32 AMG sports sedan. When it came time for the successor to the first-gen SLK, Mercedes went all out for the high performance version.

Looking to the past and taking a page from Carroll Shelby’s playbook, AMG shoehorned the new naturally aspirated 5.5L V8 (also shared with a AMG-ified C-Class) into the relatively small roadster, and a beast was born. The SLK55 AMG sported an aggressive new look, and had the performance to back up its mini-SLR McLaren appearance. 0-60 came in just 4.3 seconds, according to Car and Driver, who also pitted it against a C5 Corvette, which it bested; top speed was a typically German 155mph. Although the SLK55’s engine produced a respectable 355hp, it had to scoot around a not insubstantial 3,500 lbs. The comparable BMW Z4 M weighed 300lbs less, and the Boxster was 500lbs thinner than the SLK55, but neither could match the Merc’s explosive performance. Although the same engine was found with a supercharged attached in the larger E- and S-Class sedans, all boasted similar real-world acceleration figures.

The SLK55 also had the distinction of being the first Mercedes recruited to AMG’s Black Series skunkworks division. Although it was never sold here in the States, the SLK55 AMG Black Series boasted a power increase to 390hp, a fixed hardtop, and carbon fiber-reinforced body panels. A seven-speed automatic transmission was standard on both SLK55 models, and shifted faster than their more pedestrian counterparts. In addition to the myriad luxury accoutrements, the auto-only transmission represented Mercedes’ nontraditional take on the three-pedal requirement for classic sports cars.

Although it will never match the brutal and spartan Cobra, the SLK55 AMG nevertheless made a modern roadster much more than the soft, feminine two-seater it was based on. Especially after the 2008 facelift, the AMG looked like it was ready to lay waste to the girly open-topped cars that were prevalent in the mid-2000s, and did so with ease. It may not enjoy the mid-engined balance of the Boxster, but the SLK55 was faster in a straight line, the German equivalent of a muscle car. One day, when its price erodes a bit more, the SLK55 AMG may be regarded as a future classic. After all, small car+big engine is a sure fire bet to draw interested buyers when Barrett-Jackson rolls into town…

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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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