If used for the purpose it’s intended for, this car is bonkers and a very good amount of fun.
Quite a bit of the Mercedes-Benz lineup has seen a refresh in the past year, many models being completed with a new name as well. The two-seat SLK roadster is no exception to this, considering the outgoing model was getting a bit long in the tooth. This year marks the evolution of the SLK into its new name, the SLC. The new model is a heavy redesign, and stays true to the car’s roots as a traditional two-seat roadster with a power-retracting hardtop. We borrowed a 2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 for a week, including a road trip a few hours outside the city, to see how it stacks up against both its predecessor, as well as its rivals.
The SLC’s new styling just works, maintaining excellent proportions and adding some subtle design tweaks that freshen up the car considerably. Remember though, the new “43” series of AMG vehicles is a first step into the AMG brand – think of it like a baby AMG; not quite up to the full-blown V8s, but with unique aesthetic touches, suspension calibration, and punchy powertrains. Our car was painted Fire Opal, with 18” multi-spoke AMG wheels. The car is sexy-looking, with gorgeous LED lighting front and rear. A subtle front lip sets off the lines nicely, and the decklid has a lip spoiler as well.
On the inside, the SLC is snug and well laid out. At 6’1, I found the interior to have ample space for both myself and a passenger, with plenty of legroom. Our test vehicle had black Nappa leather upholstery with red stitching and red seatbelts, a truly attractive setup. All of the SLC’s interior controls are standard issue Mercedes, with good ergonomics and a responsive infotainment system with 7” touchscreen (COMAND). The cabin is made particularly airy thanks to the panoramic Vario Roof with Magic Sky Control, which tints from fully transparent to translucent at the touch of a button located by the rear view mirror.
Incorporating the same twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 we sampled in the C 450 AMG (reviewed here and now known as the AMG C 43), the SLC is seriously quick. Packing 362 horsepower at 5,500RPM and 384 lb-ft at 2,000RPM into a car roughly the size of a shoe means response is instantaneous and the car accelerates with genuine thrust. There isn’t much turbo lag, and it’s only noticeable for an instant before boost kicks and rockets the car to desired speeds. The outgoing SLK 55 AMG with the V8 was just manic and we’re sad to see it go, but the new SLC 43 delivers an exhilarating driving experience on its own.
The new nine-speed automatic transmission, an in-house Mercedes-Benz unit, is way more than adequate. We like it a lot better than the ZF nine-speed application in Chrysler and Honda products. It has paddle shifters, and thankfully, the SLC doesn’t get the column-mounted shifter that other Mercedes models get – it gets a thumb-sized shifter on the center console that looks quite good and fits the car’s character. The transmission shifts well enough, and automatically matches revs on downshifts. I really enjoyed the Sport+ mode, which adjusts transmission and throttle response, and also wakes up the exhaust.
On downshifts and when letting off the throttle, the SLC 43 makes loud yet confident noises from the rear, almost reminiscent of the V6-powered Jaguar F-Type (reviewed here). It’s not as raw as the Jag, but a pleasant surprise and we found it to be a lot louder than the C 43. When leaving the Dynamic Drive Select in “Eco” or “Comfort”, the car quiets down and refines itself, but we still noticed some exhaust drone in ninth gear at highway speeds.
Nine gears contribute very heavily to the car’s fuel economy. During our week’s worth of testing with the car, with a mix between city and highway economy, we saw an average of 10.6L/100km. This involved a good amount of driving in “Sport+”, which is the least efficient mode. Over our road trip of about 600km at highway speeds, with two on board and a little bit of luggage, the SLC stayed firm at 7.9L/100km. The fuel tank on the SLC 43 AMG will hold 70L, which is a little bit bigger than the SLC 300’s 60L tank. This vehicle requires premium 91-octane fuel.
When cornering, the SLC is unsurprisingly planted, and despite the electric steering being devoid of natural feel, will change direction very quickly. Getting on the throttle earlier than one should will induce oversteer, but if done right, the car can zoom out of corners like a little missile. The SLC is rear-drive only, with no 4MATIC offered as an option. Canadians can definitely choose to drive their SLC 43 in the winter, but even with the electronic stability control and advanced safety systems, dedicated winter tires are a must.
In Canada, the SLC 43 starts at $70,900, a significant premium over the $58,800 SLC 300. Our vehicle was also equipped with the $5,600 Premium Package which adds satellite radio, AIRGUIDE, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AIRSCARF, the Harman/Kardon surround sound system, panoramic Vario Roof, intelligent key, COMAND with navigation, park assist, and a few other features. This package is a must-have, and Mercedes says most buyers will opt for it. DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control with Distance Pilot is $1,200, bringing the as-tested sticker on our SLC to $80,500.
The convertible top retracts using a button hidden under a small cover, and takes about 45 seconds. It can be operated at speeds of up to approximately 20 km/h, and the car will refuse operation if parameters are not ideal. The trunk lid actually opens backwards to allow the roof mechanism to fold in, so it’s essential to leave sufficient space behind the car. As far as we could tell, the SLC’s park assist systems will not go off if there isn’t enough space, but we didn’t get close enough to find out. The built-in AIRSCARF system pushes hot air through vents located beneath the headrests to create a “scarf”, which keeps occupants warm on chilly nights with the top down.
There isn’t a whole lot to dislike with this car, and most of its limitations are shared with other retractable hardtop convertibles. Mercedes-Benz claims 335L of trunk space, though if you lower the top, it’s quite difficult to put any more than a night’s worth of luggage in the trunk. With the top in place, going over bumps will cause some rattles and squeaks, but the sporty well-damped suspension is to blame for this in part. Storage space in the cabin is passable, though it would be nice to see a larger storage cubby between the seats.
After a week and many kilometers behind the wheel of the lovable roadster, one thing is apparent – the 2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 has a heart and soul. It may have its restrictions, but if used for the purpose it’s intended for, the car is bonkers and a very good amount of fun. It has plentiful appeal to be a passionate commuter for one or two people, or a weekend toy that’s capable of pulling some acceptable lap times at the track or even the autocross circuit. In short, this is a car that’s built for one reason only – to evoke a shameless smirk on the driver’s face – and it succeeds at this.