2013 SLK55 AMG Test Drive - Review by Sports Car Lover / Racer...
At this year Amelia Island Concours I took the new SLK55 AMG for a spin. These are my thoughts. Please note, when I purchased my 2005 (then 2006) SLK350 6-Speed manual, I came from mid-engine cars and preferred the sharper turn-in, more agile handling over the then current model, as well as the ability to have the wonderful manual, as they suited my tastes more. Here are my thoughts:
The handling is much improved, as is the ride quality. Did I mention the ride quality was improved? Make that massively improved.
The styling grows on you, and it looks a lot better in darker colors like Mars Red, the rear end doesn't look nearly as big as it does in silver or white. I do not think it looks more attractive or more "butch" then the previous generation.
The Magic Sky and interior features are wonderful! There are many improvements here.
The exhaust is quieter giving more cruising enjoyment, and not as obviously cluing others into what you are about to do to them.
The exhaust does not have the presence the previous generation did, which was a bit part of the charm. People who modified the already loud exhaust will not be happy.
The start-stop function. First, it doesn't turn the engine off on coasting or actual stop, but waits a bit before it does. Secondly, when it starts, it's like starting the car and brief rev, and a jerk (a previous tester actually had the wheels chirp when starting from a rest). This system is not good for a high-torque car.
The steering does not have noticeably more feel, and it will favor understeer without throttle. It is still not as agile feeling as the SLK350 with Sport Suspension, but considering the big engine, I think it is a sizable improvement over the last generation, but not my choice for a track.
The transmission. It completely neuters the car, and is, in my view, unsafe. We hit a straight stretch, I put my foot into it. One-thousand-one. One-thousand-two, (downshifts from 7 to 6), One-thous(downshifts more gears, now we're flying.) Afterwards, make sure the computer is in SPORT mode. Now, instead of over 2.5 seconds, it takes only 2 seconds to downshift to moving along. I know these things take miles to get a database built up, but still. Also, even in manual mode, it refuses to hold a gear and will shift mid-corner. This is not anywhere close to the SLS, or even Porsche PDK units. It is NOT a sports car transmission.
In fact, the transmission paled in response time and comparison to the transmissions in the Chrysler 300 SRT and even the Range Rover Evoque! The only way I could get along with this car is to run it in manual mode all the time.
In summation, when I thought about this car, I thought, while I might be willing to give up a bit of the handling and turn-in feel, the only real thing holding me back is that transmission. Not only that it is not a manual, but also that it just does not seem to work well, and it works against you not with you. I have missed shifts, hit wrong gears, and been back in the right one faster than this thing works, even in it's sport setting!
I do not remember in my drive of the R171 SLK55 that the transmission was so slow in sport mode to downshift. It was too slow for me, but not sure it was to this level.
If you're on here, you know I race. My requirements are more than what most people would have, and my tastes specialized. You owe yourself a chance to drive this car before you decide. However, I would definitely drive one before placing my order.
If you are looking for more comfort and more efficiency than the R171 SLK55, it is to be found here in spades. It's a less vicious SLK55, more velvet glove and less hammer along with a bit more willingness to change direction.