This fiery creature needs very little in the way of an introduction and anyone in the market for a luxurious, two-seater sports car with an almighty engine will probably be pointed towards Mercedes’ potent SLK 55 AMG at some point.

What is it?

It’s the fire-breathing brother of the German marque’s hard-top convertible that packs a 5.4-litre V8 under its sculpted, elongated bonnet. To ensure drivers of the lesser SLK models know what they are up against, the 55 AMG variant features muscular wheel arches, a small boot-lip spoiler, enormous alloy wheels and enough AMG badging to sink a small ship. Customers pay the whopping £10,000 premium over the 350 AMG Sport purely for that visceral engine note and the pure grunt a Mercedes V8 offers.

What is it like to drive?

Despite the beefy exterior and array of eye-catching AMG trim, the SLK 55 isn’t exactly what you would call overtly sporty. There’s no denying the 421bhp on offer is impressive, and the car does accelerate to 62mph from a standstill in just 4.6 seconds, but it feels heavy. The ride is beautifully judged for long motorway journeys but it doesn’t exactly excite the senses on the winding cross-country routes. The gearbox is rather slow and dim-witted in auto mode and the cogs don’t swap fast enough when the paddles are used, either. Then there’s the steering, which offers a decent amount of feel but can be so weighty at slow speeds it becomes a chore. Our test model was particularly cumbersome and hefty when reversing but this could just be an isolated incident.

What is it like inside?

Mercedes-Benz certainly knows how to lay out an interior and the cabin of the SLK 55 AMG is as plush as you would expect of a car of this calibre. Slivers of carbon fibre adorn most surfaces, the dials are chunky yet elegant and the seats are covered in a beautifully soft leather with the neat addition of AMG logos. There’s also a brilliant array of tech on offer, with Mercedes’ Distronic cruise control being a major highlight. It takes the strain out of long motorway journeys, and let’s be honest, this car was built for those.   

Is it practical?

Hard-top convertibles are rarely practical but the mighty Merc does at least attempt to offer some stowage space. The boot hosts the roof mechanism when the top is dropped but there is a handy cubby hole beneath this that can easily swallow a couple of weekend bags and some light shopping. Golf clubs are a resolute ‘no’ when the top is down, as is a buggy, but there is always the passenger seat for desperate load-luggers. Inside, there are the usual bottle holders and grippy areas to stow coins plus the added bonus of hidden netting that keeps light items, such as hats and scarves, from blowing away when the roof is lowered.

Should I buy one?

Those wanting a real, adrenaline-pumping driving experience may be left a little cold by the SLK 55 AMG and there are plenty of other offerings out there that will better it for thrills on twisty roads. But its surprisingly frugal (we managed well into the mid 30s with ours) yet powerful engine and brilliantly comfortable suspension set-up make it the perfect choice for customers wanting a drop of sporting luxury without the numb bottom and ringing ears other competitor models bring. There’s also the added benefit of it looking like a mini SLS AMG when viewed from some angles.

Don't want to buy new? Browse through our used selection of Mercedes-Benz SLKs here

The facts

Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG

List price: £55,005
Engine: 5.4-litre V8, petrol
Power: 421bhp
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Fuel economy: 23.5mpg (urban), 45.6mpg (extra-urban) 33.6mpg (combined)
Emissions: 195g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: N/A