2019 Mercedes-Benz SLC 43 AMG
– Hard-top practicality
– Fair handling and comfort
– Decent power and gearbox
– Outdated interior tech
– Lack of feedback from controls
– Rivals are far sharper
Two decades ago, the Mercedes-Benz SLK was a game-changer. Aside from the unique styling for its time, the little two-seater roadster was the car that made the folding hardtop famous. Sure, other cars had it before, but no one remembers them. The SLK was the “inventor” of the segment, as several other carmakers from Peugeot to Ferrari brought out their own versions of the fancy roof since then. However, the SLK itself faded into oblivion, especially after an ill-advised name-change that no one can remember either. Here’s the final version of the once-legendary car — now called the SLC-Class — and it is going out of production for good after this year.
Around in its current form since 2016 (which is the model-year of the car in these photos), the SLC is a decent-looking car, in terms of generic design. No one can call it ugly, but absolutely nothing about it stands out either, and no one is going to give it a second look unless the roof is down and a couple of hot ladies (or lads?) are seen in it. The profile is not at all sporty because of the packaging constraints of the huge hard-top. And in SLC 43 AMG form, there aren’t even enough design cues to establish that this is a special version, aside from wheels, mildly redesigned bumpers and four totally-fake exhaust tips.
Inside, the cabin design dates back to 2011, when the pre-facelift car was still called an SLK. Hence, compared to recently-redesigned Mercs, the SLC has relatively tiny screens, an entire physical telephone keypad and an older-style rotary-knob controller adorning the otherwise attractive interior.
The SLC’s older COMAND infotainment system has a 7-inch display, Bluetooth and USB. Using the controller knob, Some functions are tricky to find, since you have to dig through various menus. The dashboard is filled with traditional physical buttons and knobs, but some of the labels can be hard to see at times. There is also a little 4.5-inch screen between the physical gauges.
The trim materials are good enough, with padding on most surfaces and pleasant brown leather upholstery. But otherwise there is no stitched-leatherette dashboard or aluminium trim to make you feel like you’re in a luxury product. Even a cheaper Nissan 370Z offers just as much.
Even though it’s a “premium” car, several basic luxury features are optional, including dual-zone automatic climate control (our car had a decent single-zone a/c), smart keyless entry, push-button start, navigation, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound stereo. Active safety features such as blind-spot monitoring are also available.
Cabin space is very good for average-sized folks, but a tall passenger trying to stretch out will quickly hit the limits of the electrically-adjustable seats. An “air scarf” headrest vent system can blow hot air on the back of your neck if you happen to live in Siberia. The boot is big enough to hold a couple of medium-sized trolley bags with the roof up, but the volume is almost cut down to half with the roof folded down.
Powered by a 3.0-litre turbo V6, the brand’s local website suggests it still makes 367 hp at 5500-6000 rpm (models in other markets were upgraded to 385 hp for the final year) as well as 520 Nm of torque at 2000-4200 rpm. We clocked off a 0-100 kph time of 5.4 seconds during our winter test, although Mercedes claims it can do a fair bit better. Top speed is limited to 250 kph. And as-tested fuel consumption was so-so for such a small car in a mix of aggressive and city-highway, at 12.9 litres/100 km (7.8 km/litre). Overall, it’d be a good motor with good low-end kick, but it suffers from noticeable turbo lag when pootling around town and lazier to respond compared to direct rivals from Audi and Porsche, even with a good 9-speed automatic gearbox.
The SLC tackles corners with enthusiasm and has sharp well-weighted steering erring on the firm side. The wheel becomes even more firm in “Sport Plus” mode, but it doesn’t help the lack of feedback. And the brakes are solid. But while this little convertible offers up a sporty enough drive, it yet again pales in comparison to its rivals in terms of driver involvement and outright performance at the limit.
It at least has a relatively comfortable ride. The 43 has stiffer AMG suspension and rides on 235/40 front and 255/35 rear tyres wrapped around 18-inch wheels. You feel more bumps on the road due to its short wheelbase, but tick the adaptive damping option if you plan to make it your office commuter. Aside from moderate road noise with the top up, it’s largely fine for long drives.
The Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 is a nice enough roadster for the daily grind and the occasional squirt of fun, but it is an overpriced and unfocused product that’s past its sell-by date. Older cars can be intensely fun and memorable, as evidenced by the Honda S2000 or even the BMW Z3 M Roadster, both of which we’ve owned, but no one is going to miss the SLC once it’s gone.
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