What is it?
Out with the old, in with the new. That’s the message Mercedes-Benz is extolling with the SLC. Don’t be fooled, though. Despite the change in name, the two-seat roadster is nothing more than a mildly facelifted version of the third-generation SLK, which first hit UK showrooms back in 2011. Not so new, then.
Read our full Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 review here
Among the subtle mid-life styling changes brought to Mercedes-Benz’s compact roadster are a redesigned front bumper with larger ducts for improved engine bay cooling, an altered grille design and revised headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights and fresh internal graphics. At the rear, there are new LED tail-light graphics and a reprofiled bumper with integrated tailpipes and a more pronounced diffuser element.
Revisions to the operating procedure of the SLC’s folding hard-top now allow it to be opened without having to manually set the luggage cover in place. It also now operates at speeds of up to 25mph, allowing it to be opened and closed while setting off rather than at a standstill, as with the older SLK. Buyers can continue to order the optional Magic Sky Control glass roof, which employs an electrochromic process to vary the amount of light entering the cabin.
Inside, the SLC retains the same dashboard as the SLK. However, it receives revised instruments, fresh trim applications, a larger infotainment monitor and a new three-spoke steering wheel, among other detailed changes.
Standard safety equipment now includes the Active Brake Assist collision prevention system, Attention Assist (which detects and alerts drivers to signs of fatigue), Active Bonnet (which raises the bonnet to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision), remote boot lid release and automatic headlights.
Heading the SLC range is the £46,355 SLC 43. The replacement for the old SLK 55 receives the same twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol engine used by the C 450 4Matic Sport. With 362bhp, it delivers 53bhp less than the naturally aspirated 5.5-litre V8 petrol unit used by its predecessor. But while the SLK 55 AMG developed its 398lb ft of peak torque at 4500rpm, the SLC 43’s 384lb ft can be tapped from just 2000rpm.
The SLK 55 used a seven-speed version of AMG’s Speedshift automatic gearbox, while the SLC 43 is fitted with Mercedes-Benz’s latest nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission, which, apart from its two extra ratios and significantly higher final drive, also features Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Eco and Individual driving modes.
What’s it like?
There’s nothing particularly wrong with the SLC 43. But on the other hand, there’s nothing particularly outstanding about it, either. While we accept that it is not a full-blown AMG model, it disappointingly lacks the sort of dynamic qualities one expects of a car conceived to take on such exceptional machinery as the Porsche Boxster.
The big news, of course, is the arrival of a new AMG engine. The twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 petrol unit, first unveiled in the C 450 4matic Sport last year, provides the 1520kg SLC 43 with an impressive turn of speed and, in Sport Plus mode, a truly stirring exhaust note. However, it lacks the outright response and high-end heroics of the naturally aspirated 5.4-litre V8 used in the discontinued SLK 55 AMG.
The outright potency of the new V6 engine is reflected in the SLC 43’s official 0-62mph time of 4.7sec. This is just 0.1sec shy of the claimed 4.6sec of the SLK 55. But while it manages to deliver similar performance to its more powerful V8 predecessor, it is nowhere near as entertaining when stirred with a heavy dose of right foot, owing to an excessive amount of induction blare and a relatively low 6000rpm redline.
What the 60deg engine does deliver, though, is exceptional low to mid-range flexibility. This, coupled with an extra two gear ratios thanks to the adoption of Mercedes-Benz’s latest nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox, provides the SLC 43 with highly agreeable cruising qualities and highly competitive combined cycle consumption of 36.2mpg, giving the new performance orientated roadster average CO2 emissions of 178g/km.
In other areas the new Mercedes-Benz is a mixed bag. Among the positives is its overall refinement, which is excellent by roadster standards. The folding hard-top roof, which now operates on the go at speeds of up to 25mph and comes with an optional automatic boot separator, continues to impress. With a 335-litre boot capacity when the roof is up and 225-litre capacity with it down, boot space is also quite good by class standards
What lets the SLC 43 down is its lacklustre dynamic ability. On the upside, the changes brought to the SLC 43’s suspension, including unique front axle geometry, make it a more engaging car to drive than any of the other SLC models. The variable rate steering is particularly good, offering greater directness and accuracy than the standard set-up.
Predictably the ride is firm, although it is not as uncompromising as it was in the old SLK 55. Encountering a pothole when the suspension is loaded up in corners can cause the body structure to shimmy, although it quickly settles. Yet despite the obvious shortfall in rigidity, the reworked chassis delivers a good deal of grip and impressive body control, prompting you to push the new Mercedes-Benz hard when the conditions allow.
However, the SLC 43’s stability control system is a continual annoyance when you up the pace over challenging back roads. Whether in Sport or Sport Plus mode, the electronic safety net persistently begins to cycle as you charge into corners, ultimately curtailing any real driving enjoyment that might be on offer.
As a result, the range-topping SLC rarely feels rewarding in the way a small sporting roadster with an AMG badge on its boot lid perhaps should on an open road. Rather, it comes across as being disappointingly aloof and lacking in critical dynamic ability. It’s fine when you’re cruising along but doesn’t respond well when hustled hard, especially in tight corners like those we encountered during the SLC 43’s launch.
Should I buy one?
Before you commit to the SLC 43 we’d recommend you try other models in the range. While capable of delivering a good lick of speed when the conditions permit, it doesn’t have the overall cohesiveness of some siblings. Better still, cast your attention in the direction of Porsche and the recently facelifted 718 Boxster. At similar money to the range-topping SLC, it represents a better buy, provided you can live with the four-cylinder turbocharged engine.
Location Nice; On sale Now; Price £46,355; Engine V6, 2995cc, twin-turbocharged, petrol; Power 362bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 384lb ft at 2000rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; Kerb weight 1520kg; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Top speed 155mph (limited); Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 178g/km, 30%
What is it?