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Review of: 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 2dr Roadster AMG SLC43
2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43: New name, new demeanour
By David Miller
Nov. 14, 2016
Outside of the Mazda MX-5, you don’t hear a lot about roadsters. It’s a small market made smaller when you’re shopping in the luxury aisle.
For the past 20 years, Mercedes-Benz has been a big part of that discussion with a two-door known as the SLK, and now the German brand is looking to gain some steam by changing its roadster up.
What we knew as the SLK has transformed into the SLC, a name change brought about by its similarities to the C-Class portfolio, but not it’s a total makeover. On offer are two SLC versions: the SLC 300 and the performance-minded SLC 43.
For this test drive, I took out the AMG-badged SLC 43 to see what this mild refresh is all about.
Pros & Cons
- + Attention-getting styling
- + Usable technology
- + Sharp handling
- - Trunk space
- - Price
- - Shift lever
At first glance, it appears to have a similar long hood and sleek silhouette, but if you look more closely at the details, you’ll quickly realize there’s more to it than a simple name change as you start to see those skillful enhancements.
Overall, the SLC gets toned up with a bold and aggressive look and styling cues that Mercedes is using on most of its products. The front end receives the most work, with a diamond radiator grille that sparkles and shows off the tri-star badge. There are also more polished headlamps that incorporate an active LED high-performance lighting system, as well as plenty of chrome found in its front splitter and AMG apron.
The action continues in the back with attention-seeking LED taillights. These are a signature feature that puts an exclamation mark on the car’s more aggressive demeanour. Finishing out this sharp and sporty look are optional 18-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels and twin exhausts.
Through these new design tweaks, the SLC 43 looks great with its top up or down. That can be a challenge for designers, as roadsters have compact bodies that can lose their luster when sealed at the top. That’s not the case here, where both configurations maintain plenty of emotional appeal.
The interior receives some changes too, but they’re not as noticeable as those to the outside.
The SLC 43 receives a dark aluminum trim throughout the cockpit that doesn’t distinguish itself enough from the regular aluminum used in the SLC 300. From there, it receives a smaller gear shift that adds no additional excitement; it’s dinky and goes against the aggressive approach taken on the outside. If they had just kept the same gearshift as the past iteration, nobody would have said anything. As long as it’s not the steering wheel gear shift lever, consumers would remain content; it’s just another unnecessary styling addition for the sake of being different.
Out with the bad and now into the good. Mercedes has enhanced its instrument cluster and seven-inch colour touchscreen that brings the SLC in line with its other more recent models. The informational aspect of the vehicle is much improved from both a tech standpoint and styling; these are qualities that need to be there in order to justify a starting price of $58,800 for the SLC 300 and $70,900 for the SLC 43.
You’re never going to get tons of space in a roadster, but the SLC43 never feels cramped, and getting in and out of the vehicle is fairly easy. The bucket seats sink you in for whatever type of drive you’re in the mood for. However, if you look at the flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel with red stitching, perforated Nappa leather seating and those racing red seat belts, the SLC 43 is clearly sending you a signal to find your wild side.
Even though the seats may be roomy and comfortable in the front, don’t expect much room to be found for storage. In the end, this is a roadster and there needs to be room for the top when you’re ready to feel that gusty wind. You’ll find limited space in the trunk for a few bags or a carry-on.
Like any quality luxury roadster, Mercedes makes sure the SLC 43 makes the process of putting the top up or down easy through an electronic switch. Simply flip the secret lever located behind the gear shift and lift it up. In a matter of seconds, the top will open or close at speeds below 40 km/h.
In a few of its upper-tier vehicles, Mercedes has been trotting out an airscarf feature, which you’ll find in my tester for the $5,600 price of the optional premium package. It blows hot air on your neck and if you couple that with its heated seats, it enables you to drive this roadster topless through the fall and during the early days of spring.
Another cool — optional — feature that was included is magic sky control ($2,800). It alters the amount of light that can enter the car, depending on your preference. Through a touch of a button, the SLC 43 can adjust its panoramic roof to have either an open-air feeling or a dark tint that prevents the cockpit from heating up.
A new twin-turbo, 3.0-litre V6 engine adds more juice to an already exciting SLC roadster. This engine brings more power to the SLC lineup, cranking out 362 hp and 384 lb.-ft. of torque that’s matched to a quick shifting nine-speed automatic transmission.
The power is there and it can accelerate on a dime, but what impresses the most is the smooth ride that it conjures up. To me, a gentle and quiet drive is what a luxury roadster is all about. The SLC 43 stays composed and is only aggressive when you want it to be.
When you’re in the mood for some turbo-hungry action, just place the car in sport or sport-plus mode and brace yourself for a joy ride. That’s the whole point of getting the upgraded SLC 43 over the SLC 300: you don’t have to always push down on the throttle, but you know it’s there when desired.
The combination of the engine’s initial torque and the handling prowess provided a lowered suspension, stiffer steering and high-performance brakes allows for a sharp, yet balanced ride that gives you some deep exhaust note noises and leaves you with a half-cocked smile. And there’s nothing sub-par about that smile: it’s the mark of fulfillment, as this roadster isn’t about showing off; it’s about enjoying life.
There’s a big jump in price from $59,000 to $71,000, so if you’re going to choose the SLC 43 over the SLC 300, you had better utilize that power under the hood or have a large bank account to back you up. That being said, most people who are in the market for a luxury roadster have enough disposable money to choose the SLC 43, so there should be no problem there.
In the SLC 43’s price range there are a lot of other options to be had, so it comes down to personal preference and a longing desire to have a topless vehicle in the stable.
Mercedes has made major strides in styling and technology to improve its luxury roadster. A change in nomenclature from SLK to SLC emphasizes the point that Mercedes has a desire to improve on its modest sales.
The top-tier 2017 SLC 43 ups the ante with AMG performance adding a powerful, yet balanced ride to an already good-looking specimen. It’s hard to find too much fault with it, as the quality and craftsmanship is spot on. It just comes down to preference with other luxury roadster options near that same $70K-plus range, like the Jaguar F-Type, Audi TT and Porsche Boxster S, which immediately come to mind.