Sunday, September 18, 2011

Memories: the SLK

I  the summer of 2005 I got a fairly major promotion at work with a nice pay rise. At that time I'd owned the Audi TT for about four years so I decided it was time to start looking for a new car. Porsche had just launched the Cayman and after visiting the Cayman launch event in Vancouver I was very tempted to order one. During my research I had come across the Mercedes SLK a few times but largely ignored it due to its decided lack of buzz and interest.
That changed when I discovered the SLK 55 AMG and read some of the reports about it. It was supposed to be quite the ride, one of Mercedes' wildest cars. It surely looked impressive on paper, a 5.5 liter V8 making 360hp and a whopping 370lb-ft of torque, in a car weighing just over 3000lbs. 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. Then there was the hardtop convertible roof and a very generous trim level. I forgot all about the Cayman and ordered a fully loaded black on black SLK 55 from a local Mercedes dealer. It took three months for the car to arrive. Test driving one wasn't possible since they weren't really available, any arriving at dealers had already been sold. I was a bit nervous about it all but excited at the same time.

When it finally did arrive I was giddy with excitement and I was glad to find out I wasn't wrong about the performance. And the sound...that sound coming from the quad exhausts at the back was something else. It would rumble and burble along at low rpms but once you opened it up, it would downshift a couple of gears and all hell would break loose. A barbaric howl would come from the back of the car and with the immense torque available, there would be acceleration, so much acceleration. Passing manoevers became blurs of noise and speed and any playful throttle anywhere near corners would make it throw out its tail almost immediately.

I did some great drives in that car, one of them was a road trip to the Okanagan with my friend Kam who had a Maserati Grandsport at the time.

I developed a great respect for Mercedes AMG cars, they have so much massive power. In a large sedan like the E or S class, this is a bit dubious but in a small two seater roadster like the SLK was complete madness. So yes, I had fun in this car. Lots of it. It wasn't perfect, the 7-speed automatic gearbox was fairly old-school, no fancy dual-clutch setup or anything like that and it was at times hard to live with. It was more designed for city driving than a good rip around a mountain road. The electronic traction control was also overly enthusiastic so it would immediately intervene when things got interesting. Maybe this was a good thing!

When the lease was up, the recession hit and I wasn't comfortable committing to another large cash outlay to buy the car. I returned it to Mercedes and walked away, this was late summer 2008. I was without my own car for just over a year, my next purchase was the Boxster in March of 2010.

Looking back, I have very few pictures of the car and most of them aren't great. I do have very fond memories of it and every time I see or hear an AMG car I get that feeling back. In an ideal world I would have the money and the space for multiple cars, with an AMG being one of them. They are something else.

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