Pick up an SLK 55 AMG and don't look back.
We love looking at brand-new cars as much as the next car enthusiast, but we also keep a keen eye on the used car market and have previously recommended many fun cars that could all be had for less than $20,000 (around the same price as a new Honda Civic). Some of our choices include America's M3-killer, the original Cadillac CTS-V, the Honda S2000, and even a whole list of 400 horsepower cars. After scouring the internet, we think that we have found yet another sub-$20,000 bargain.
Not only is our choice a Mercedes convertible, but it also comes from the company's AMG division. Among all of the AMG cars, the SLK 55 AMG is one of the more forgotten models. The car was based on the R171 generation SLK, and was sold from 2005 to 2010. The AMG version of the car was powered by a 5.4-liter naturally aspirated V8 producing 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque. The car could hit 60 mph in 4.9 seconds and go on to a limited top speed of 155 mph. After running a quick search online, we found that you can now buy a 2005 to 2009 SLK 55 AMG for around $15,000 to $20,000 with anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 miles on the odometer.
The SLK always had the connotation of being a bit of a soft sports car, but we think that the AMG version should quell this misconception. Just listen to the savage noise coming from that 5.4-liter V8 engine and watch the brutal acceleration.
The SLK 55 AMG was one of the less popular AMG models, which is why they can now be picked up at such a nice price. Unlike some of the bigger AMG cars, the SLK 55 was much simpler and didn't have quite as many technology features that were prone to breaking as the car got older. The folding hard top roof could be a source of big bills, but the mechanism isn't known for breaking. This is still an old performance car from Germany, so if you do want to buy one you should set aside funds for expensive consumables like tires and brake pads. Overall, the SLK 55 does seem to be on the more affordable end of the German performance car reliability scale.
The car isn't perfect, which may be why people may have turned to competitors like the Porsche Boxster S when they bought these new. Unlike the Porsche, the SLK 55 was only available with a seven-speed automatic transmission. If having three pedals in a non-negotiable for you, the SLK 55 is not your car. Inside, the SLK is very comfortable, but the Mercedes COMMAND infotainment that is used in the car is way out of date. Although we did find a few ways to replace the old head unit with something more modern. If you like convertibles, and are looking for a comfortable daily driver that also has the shouty characteristics of a German muscle car, the SLK 55 AMG could be the perfect car for you.
Those who are looking for a more "purist" experience should probably look at a used Boxster S or Lotus Elise, but for those who value comfort, luxury and speed, the SLK 55 AMG is a great package.