Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Test Drive: 2007 SLK 55 AMG

V8 neatly packed!

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Forget the hair dresser’s car of old, this is in your face AMG combination of aggressive appearance with elegant styling. It has two things really adorable for this size of car; a fat ass & a V8 lump which oodles personality in the front, these give a tingle up your spine every time you look at it or turn the ignition key. Don’t get this wrong, the whole package looks gorgeous with proportions spot on, front end is mean, showing yes, that it means business as it even has gills & claws spread over the bonnet as well as the bumper.

Press sport mode in the console & the V8 opens up a ferocious appetite to chew up the road in front of it, accompanied by an instrumental growl; louder & louder CIMG6706as the revs climb into the red zone. Then, the 7 speed G-tronic gearbox smacks in the next gear & the orchestra starts all over. At traffic lights, sport mode feels like it just wants to pounce forward & go through anything in its way. Gear selection may be mastered by the buttons on the rear of the steering for personal satisfaction, but when in a hurry, the gearbox handles superbly with smooth changes. For some reason, playing with the switches doesn’t kind of give the real enjoyment the V8 wants to offer, there is a certain delay that is non existent when in Sport Auto mode. If the C button is selected, everything is tamed down to a relaxed atmosphere, that is, until a sharp probe of the go-pedal, then, a flashing traction control light goes bezerk.

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Brake disks are larger than on any other SLK & are cross drilled all round with massive AMG callipers, these help a commanding modulation with the big pedal, much needed with this power. Never over powering but a sense of control at any speed. Also, standard equipment includes brake assist.

CIMG6700Flexible pockets in the doors seem to be more at home in a Beetle than in an AMG package as are the door release levers, apart from these, the cabin is well focused to the driver & uniquely styled in Mercedes fashion & quality. The Centre console is well laid out & includes a very user friendly climate control system together with easy-to-reach buttons. Seats, a little on the hard side. Apart from that, everything is electric from the seats to the steering adjustment, virtually impossible not to get the right position for a comfortable fit.

Vario Roof does twitch a little more than is acceptable but it must be said that it is such a graceful piece of engineering: going from coupe to convertible just about squeezes into 22 seconds to fully lower or raise, that includes the windows. The boot is obviously compromised with all that metal, glass & mechanism stored there with the top down, however, a convertible hardtop design, with its coupe-like profile and superior wind and weather protection, provides significant advantages in the top-up position.

CIMG6713aThe ride is very composed with no abrupt bumping up & down on uneven surfaces but about the right amount of stiffness that is accepted on a spirited drive; there is no sacrifice & so a couple of hours cruising the continent would be a pleasure. With a symphony coming from the front, provided by a certain German lad who put all the instruments together in the form of a 5.5 litres AMG V8, the stereo can be shutdown for the entire trip. Although very vocal in express mode, traveling at the speed limit can also be a relaxing affair as the soft-touch material covering most of the interior seems to soak up any unwanted noise.

If cruising is not your style, you can tear away at the lights like a bat out of hell by means of 360BHP available, whizzing by the 60 mph mark in 4.9 seconds. This propulsion CIMG6730ais provided by 376lbs/ft of torque for all that V8 goodness as the engine roars angrily while the wheels fight for traction. Coming up to the bends is a balancing act, rear wheels struggling harshly to bite into whatever tarmac is left on the road, steering trying to keep up with necessary adjustments as the rev counter keeps waving at you; all tremendous fun. The Vario Roof weight penalty only seems to enhance the enjoyment keeping a good balance in the mix. CO2 at 288 g/km is unforgiving though & places it in the highest tax band but is expected with such a power hungry machine.

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The SLK has to compete with a very powerful bunch to the likes of BMW Z4, Nissan 370Z and Porsche Boxster. Thanks to its classy cabin, distinctive looks and solid performance credentials, the SLK more than holds its own in this segment. For a convertible that sacrifices little in performance and excels at luxury and prestige, the Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG can be the one to choose.

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