The Mercedes-Benz SLC roadster for 2016 is the rebranding of the light, sporty convertible SLK.
While the name has changed, bringing the C-Class influences to the fore, the car still remains true to its driver-focused sporting roots from the SLK birth 20-years ago. More tech has been included for ease as well as quality-of-driving enhancements, but also a new engine to really rev things up.
The Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 now comes with a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine, replacing the naturally aspirated V8 from the SLK. This was previously only in the larger GLE SUV models so should offer plenty of power in this light roadster.
But is it enough to compete with the Jaguar F-Type, Porsche 718 Boxster S and Audi TT competition? We took the Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 and the SLC 43 AMG models out on the roads to see what the newly named range has to offer.
Mercedes-Benz SLC (2016) preview: Design and build
While the look of the SLC is great, it's the sound that will really impress. Both the 300 and the 43 AMG have tuned engine-exhaust combinations that result in a sound that stirs excitement (also available are the smaller engined SLC 200 and diesel 205 d). Drop the top and that's even more exhilarating with crackling pops on the downshift and a stirring burble on the rev climb. The SLC really sounds every bit the sports car you want it to be.
The front grille is steeper than in the SLK, which elongates the nose and makes it look sportier. In the case of the AMG the spoilers and studded grille enhance that even more. It's not a world apart from the SLK 55 before it, but certainly offers a level of Mercedes' more modern charm. The standard rims are 17-inch 5-spoke alloys while the AMG offers 18-inch 10-spoke wheels.
Inside the trim is premium, as you'd expect at this price point - the range comes in Sport or AMG options, starting at £30,495 and hitting £45,950 for the AMG 43.
With Nappa leather options and plenty of colour coded stitching in our test 300 model, it feels high-end, despite being very much a sports car. That said the dash is a little plastic-heavy given the older-looking buttons all over the place.
The AMG variant comes with sports seats that hold you perfectly in place with just the right amount of padding. The result is a centralised, comfortable ride that also offers enough feedback to appreciate just how hard this car can corner. The sport trim model features a Nappa leather steering wheel with sporty flat edge for greater control and grip.
The panoramic sunroof can be adjusted to turn more opaque, should you wish to block out the sun and keep cool. This works at the touch of a button and can go from fully transparent to totally opaque. Weather permitting, though, it's all about no sunroof at all: the roof can be opened while moving at speeds of up to around 25mph, ideal if you're caught in rain.
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The entire roof is off and folded away in a matter of seconds ready for you to turn on what Merc calls "Airscarf" (a £395 optional extra). This blows warm air on your neck to stop any chill which, when combined with the heated seats, makes for a comfy ride even on colder days. Of course the aerodynamics are just so that wind is channeled away from driver and passenger for a surprisingly wind-free ride. We would say it's quiet too, but in the 43 AMG it's anything but: that engine noise is a riot (in a good way).
Mercedes-Benz SLC preview: Performance and handling
Both the SLC 300 and the tuned-up 43 AMG models are built to offer an exciting ride that should keep up with the most demanding of drivers. And at nearly £5,000 less than the Porsche 718 Boxster S and over £7,500 less than the Jaguar V6 F-Type rivals, you're getting good value too.
Sure, many of those will be Sunday drivers looking to head out for a burn about, but the SLC is also capable enough to serve the needs of any two-seater fans. But then so is the Audi TT, which is slower but also about £3,500 cheaper.
The 300 comes with a 1,991cc four-cylinder engine that churns out 245bhp, while the AMG version features a 3.0-litre V6 with twin-turbo that delivers 367bhp for 0-62.5mph in 4.7-seconds. The 300 should offer 47mpg mixed use while the AMG 43 manages 36.2mpg, claims Mercedes.
Handling in the SLC 300 is excellent and in the AMG it's even better. There are various options to aid different driving styles too: Dynamic Select allows options like Eco mode to keep revs low; Comfort to use the suspension for a luxurious ride; Sport and Sport+ for performance, and Individual to tweak as you want the car to respond.
Throwing the cars around mountain roads in Sport+ mode revealed the braking and steering were responsive enough to inspire confidence. The AMG mechanical rear-axle limited-slip differential, performance exhaust, enhanced sports braking and steering, plus larger engine, help to really immerse you in the driving experience. And if all that sounds a little daunting, Mercedes even throws in complimentary driver training for AMG owners to-be.
While there can be a little early up-shifting from the 9-speed automatic gearbox, power is there when you need it. Equally, braking and road hold were good enough to fly at cliff-edge bends without worry. This works both ways, of course – even with traction control turned off it was still difficult to get the rear to really kick-out even when flooring the power. But when on a cliff edge that's probably for the best.
Mercedes-Benz SLC 2016: Infotainment and smart driving
The SLC is first and foremost a driver's car. For that reason the infotainment system and car extras are fully capable but not luxurious or high-end when compared with other sedan-style models. There are lots of plastic buttons, a fairly average sized 7-inch screen (which is a step up for the previous 5.8-inch version), plus functional climate controls.
The built-in sat nav is controlled by the Mercedes click-and-twist wheel, placed perfectly at the end of the armrest. Controlling menus is simple, which it needs to be as the console feels quite far across and really requires a shift of attention to see.
Mercedes' latest LED Intelligent Light System is an optional extra on these models, allowing you to leave auto high beam on and the lights will black out sections of the road to make sure detected oncoming cars are not dazzled.
Safety assisted smart driving can allow the SLC to be driven without much pedal touching necessary. The car can automatically recognise road sign speeds and adjust the cruise control limit to suit. The car will also brake and accelerate to maintain a distance behind the car in front – this worked perfectly, even cornering when in city surroundings, with the only time you really have to get back on the pedals is to restart after you've come to a full stop. Not bad considering this all comes as standard.
As convertible sports cars go the Mercedes SLC is one of the more comfortable options that still offers plenty for the cost. It delivers more than enough power for those who want something that will push their limits, while remaining in relative luxury.
Competitively priced compared to the Porsche and Jaguar competitors and only a little more than the Audi TT, the SLC is a very compelling option. For those who go in for that sort of thing you're getting the Mercedes name, engine tuning and handling smarts for a decent sub-£50k price.
As you'd expect on a roadster, the tech isn't all singing and dancing. That said the finish inside is decent with some smart cruise control options, dynamic driving selections and a smart gearbox that does a lot of the work for you. The quick close and open roof works well, even while moving, and the new larger screen makes sat nav more accessible.
If you want a car that can get your adrenaline flowing when you're in the mood, but one that can convey you in comfort and style, the SLC is a very capable option. When you hear that gorgeous engine, though, making yourself drive in anything other than Sport+ mode will likely become an exercise of will power – especially if you're driving the pricier AMG.