In my last post, I got a little fired up about the reliability issues with modern Mercedes vehicles, which should come as no surprise given all the pain my E63 wagon put me and its previous owners through. After dyno testing my 204,000-mile, high-performance wagon (which triggered yet another check engine light) I was pretty triggered myself. But the warning light went out on its own later that day, so perhaps my criticisms were a little too harsh. And when I really think about it, there is another modern AMG Mercedes in my fleet that’s been flawless to own for the past year — too bad I’m not keeping it, though, since it can’t haul a baby.
Nearly a year ago, I bought a 2008 Mercedes SLK55 AMG for my wife, which was exactly what she wanted right down to the color. Finding a bright red Mercedes, a rare color choice for a brand where most owners opt for conservative variations of silver or black, was really hard, but I eventually found this well-optioned AMG out of Scottsdale, Arizona. It’s equipped with a retractable convertible hardtop and all the modern conveniences, and I knew it would be perfect for my wife to drive year-round. She loves the car, and despite my own terrible luck with cars, it’s been totally flawless for her as a daily driver.
Actually, I don’t think luck has much to do with the uncommon reliability of this SLK55. The best thing it has going for it is the ancient drivetrain, a 5.4-liter M113 V8 that dates all the way back to 1997, when Mercedes first introduced it in cars like the E430, the C43 AMG and the SL500. These engines are relatively simple and easy to service, and since they lack the complication of turbos or electronically controlled variable-valve timing like nearly all luxury cars today, they are super reliable. By 2008, the SLK55 was the last car to host the dinosaur under the hood, and this hand-built, AMG-tuned version put out 355 horsepower. That’s a lot of power for a car of this size, and driving it feels like an LS-swapped Miata in a tuxedo.
Admittedly, it does weight 1,000 pounds more than a Miata, but the acceleration figures to 60 mph clobber the current generation Miata by nearly two seconds. While it may have an ancient engine under the hood, the SLK55 was the first to host the AMG speedshift version of the 7G-Tronic automatic transmission, which granted a huge improvement in performance over the badly aging 5-speed. With all the simple computer diagnostic capabilities of a modern Mercedes, diagnosing any problems would be easy as well.
So really, this SLK55 is the perfect blend between old Mercedes and new. Since the SLK is the cheaper, smaller alternative to the SL, it also lacks the complication of active hydraulic or air-ride suspension — and it avoided most of the cutting edge technologies, such as the SBC brakes tech, which was a troublesome electronic "brake by wire" system of the era that Mercedes eventually abandoned. Still, it does have some nice features, with my favorite being the Airscarf, which blows warm air on your neck for comfortable top-down trips during chilly autumn cruises.
There is one major problem with the SLK55 though, and like most things currently wrong with my cars, it’s totally my fault. In this instance, though, the issue is biological, as my wife is pregnant with a boy, and this SLK will not be able to haul around a baby. I suppose I could drill a car seat into the trunk, kind of like a baby carrier spoiler or a rumble seat in a Ford Model A, but I imagine hauling a baby this way would be slightly illegal. So it looks like I’ll be selling the only Mercedes I’ve ever had in the long term that has offered me a flawless ownership experience — unless I decide it’s worth keeping around for myself. Find a Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG for sale
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