Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 By Jeremy Clarkson

http://driving.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,12529-1805419_1,00.html
Mercedes-Benz SLK 55
By Jeremy Clarkson
Perfection, with optional nightmare
The first three weeks of Ford GT ownership were not happy. Its alarm
went off constantly, the anti-theft tracker cried wolf every five minutes and the satellite navigation system caused the engine to think it might be a dishwasher of some kind. So I sent it away and demanded my money back.
This didn't go down well with the readership of The Sunday Times. Every day my in-box was choked with more and more missives from angry people saying I'd been too rash, that I'd waited 40 years for this car and shouldn't have given up because of some small electronic glitches.
You were right, of course, so I'm delighted to say that it's back, sitting in my drive looking all blue and huge.
* They've fixed the alarm by winding down the sensitivity of the sensors. Now you could host a showjumping competition in there and the siren would remain mute. They've fixed the tracker by turning it off. And I don't know how they fixed the sat nav, but whatever they did it only lasted a mile before the engine warning light came on again.
Who cares? This sort of thing is bound to happen on a car that's right out there at the technical limits of what's possible. The mistake I made before is thinking the big Ford could be an everyday car, and it can't. It's for when the sun is shining and the roads are quiet. It's a car for high days and holy days. For Tuesdays and wet November days and negotiating-mini-roundabout days I needed some back-up. I needed something else.
But what? You'd imagine that in my position the choice would be easy and you'd be wrong. Making an ill-informed decision is easy - you just buy a BMW. But making a decision based on experience is . . . Well, let me put it this way. When I ask AA Gill where we're going for dinner it usually takes him until three in the morning to decide.
So did I want a Range Rover or a Honda S2000? I like the way the S2000's engine revs, but could I tell people at parties that I drove a Honda? And similarly I liked the idea of how a Range Rover would irritate the hippies, but the BBC's underground car park has Berliner-sized spaces. And 4x4s won't fit.
So, I went on to think about a second-hand Nissan Skyline GTR, an Eagle E-type Jag, a Porsche 911, the Range Rover, again, a Jaguar XJR, a Golf GTI and an Alfa 166 before eventually deciding to buy a Mercedes SL 55, the very car I'd sold to make way for the Ford.
Sadly, I discovered that next year it will be updated and given a new 6.3 litre engine. So on the basis that it's daft to buy a car that's going out of production soon I went back to the drawing board and asked a simple question. "In what car have you had the most fun recently?" Ah. That'd be the SL's baby brother. The SLK 55. I drove it for Top Gear through an army base in Norfolk while members of the Irish Guards' sniper division tried to shoot me in the face. And I loved it. I loved the jackhammer sound track, the brutal power delivery, the slightly vulgar styling details and, most of all, the air-scarf that blows warm air on the back of your neck when the roof is down. It's like being massaged by an axe murderer.
Being essentially mean I also liked the fact that the SLK 55 is roughly half the price of an SL 55 and no slower. Sure, its V8 has no supercharger and therefore only 360bhp, but because it's smaller and lighter it's just as quick. 0 to 60 is dealt with in 4.7sec. And the top speed is 155.
Having made the decision I toddled off to my local Mercedes dealership to buy one. Simple. Walk in. Ask for SLK 55. Hand over cheque. Go home with it. Sadly, though, it wasn't quite that simple.
I presume that most people who walk into a car showroom have pretty much made up their mind what model they want. They've spotted one in town, seen the ads or maybe read a report in a car magazine. And what they want to know is precisely how much this choice will cost and exactly what options it will have.
So why, then, is the brochure you're given full of such tosh? Let me give you a nugget from the bumf on the SLK. "Did you know that emotions - like pleasure - actually originate in the brain and not, as used to be thought, in the heart? Sense impressions like seeing, hearing and touching create an overall 'picture' which is relayed by the midbrain to other brain regions where emotions are produced."
I'm sorry. I thought this was a car dealership. Not some Robert Winston seminar.
Soon, however, I was with a charming salesman and a colour chart . . . well, when I say a colour chart it's actually no such thing. Dulux gives you more clarity when trying to sell you a fiver's worth of paint. All you get from Mercedes is some samples that "may differ slightly" from those that actually appear on the car.
This is ridiculous. Why can't each dealership have big pieces of steel in all the available shades so we can see what a colour looks like for real? And why is blue an optional extra? I chose black and moved on to the interior. I wanted bright red seats but these are only available in a two-tone combo with black. "I don't want that. It will look like I'm sitting in an advertisement for Lynx aftershave." But it was no good. The only single-tone red was the same colour as a placenta. And there were only four other choices, German Shoe Grey, Hearing Aid Beige, Mrs Thatcher Twinset Blue, or Albert Speer Black. I went for the placenta.
And then we started on the options, which I figured wouldn't take very long since I was buying the most expensive, most powerful model in the range.
Hmm. On a 50,000 Mercedes SLK 55 everything is an option except the bodywork, and if you want different wheels that's 4,000. And you don't even get to keep the set it would have come with anyway so you can sell them on eBay. James May, my ferociously unreliable co-presenter on Top Gear, recently ordered a Porsche Boxster. This is the main reason, actually, why I wanted the 55. To annoy him by having a better, faster car. Anyway, he specified a brown interior but said he wanted the original black steering wheel. This, for some unfathomable reason, would be an extra 400. What? For leaving something alone? James and I don't understand this. We simply don't know why it all has to be so complicated, why there are so many questions. Mind you, he doesn't have broadband because he says it's all too baffling.
* Eventually, though, I'd selected all my options, including a roof that can be opened remotely on the key - how cool is that? - and then had to haggle the price up. Being a motoring journalist means being offered big discounts. But being a motoring journalist means I can't accept. And then I was quoted a delivery date of "when the Iraq war is over".
Luckily I have an internet, because I know a man who could install one while I was at the pub, so I came home and looked on the worldwide web, where there were many SLK 55s. One of these, which has a specification close to the one I wanted, is available "when hell freezes over". And since that's likely to be sooner, this is the one I'm going for.
I've learnt a valuable lesson, then, these past few weeks. Testing a car is easy. Writing about a car is easy. But buying one is bloody hard work.
VITAL STATISTICS
Model Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 AMG Engine 5439cc, V8 Power 360bhp @ 5750rpm Torque 376 lb ft @ 4000rpm Transmission Seven-speed automatic Fuel 23.5mpg (combined cycle) CO2 288g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 4.9sec Top speed 155mph Price 50,530 Rating 4/5 Verdict Almost perfect, just don't try buying one
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Claptrap. But fashionable. And not confined to Mercedes or cars.
I agree with him. In my youth Merc brochures focussed on facts. (violins...)
DAS
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Dori A Schmetterling wrote:

He is right too about having to pick a colour without seeing it. If I were going to order a vehicle I would make it a point to journey to wherever I could see what all the colours actually look like.
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I think he's kind of an idiot.
He's not particulary funny either as he tries too hard. Sometimes he does get a giggle out of me though, so that's something :~)
I STRONGLY disagree with his idea "So on the basis that it's daft to buy a car that's going out of production soon"
I think those are actually the best cars to buy. It's daft in my opinion to by the first year of a new model.
Marty
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I am inclined to agree with you to an extent, at least. Our 190E was bought in Feb 93, one of the last of the Mohicans, with supply in the UK already tapering off. Production stopped in about Sep 93.
Got a good discount and the the warm fuzzy feeling knowing that practically all the components had been renewed/redesigned in the almost 10 years since launch...
DAS
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Martin Joseph wrote:

Agreed.
Well, it's bad for your resale value, I think. People will generally prefer the newer model from a 'status' viewpoint. I think if you plan to hold on to the car for a long time and don't care about the status stuff it's best to buy the last year.
I think JC is usually entertaining, but I don't really think anyone takes him seriously. I think Top Gear is more of an entertainment program these days, maybe it was serious once...
Ximinez (87 250D)
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In my day they had sheets of metal with the colours in the showroom. Too small to be give an accurate impression but better than a kick in the pants.
(Both in UK and in Germany, I thought.)
Maybe the samples are even smaller now because of the vastly greater range of colours.
DAS
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