Mercedes SLC review
The Mercedes SLC is the successor to the SLK convertible and comes with a fresh design and new engines. It rivals convertibles such as the Audi TT Roadster, BMW Z4 and the cheaper Mazda MX-5. Think of the SLC as a facelift and name change of the old SLK – because the car shares many components with that car.
What's not so good
Mercedes SLC: what would you like to read next?
The Mercedes SLC’s engine range is pretty good for a compact roadster – petrols include a 181hp 2.0-litre petrol and a sporty 362hp 3.0-litre V6 in the range-topping SLC 43 AMG, which replaces the SLK 55 AMG. Those looking for diesel power get the 64.1mpg SLC 250d model.
In terms of driving, it is similar to the SLK – with more of a focus on comfort than out-and-out sportscar thrills and the standard nine-speed automatic gearbox ensures smooth, and effortless, acceleration. The SLC 43 AMG is a different beast and should be sharper thanks to adaptive dampers with selectable settings.
The only major differences inside compared to the old car are a bigger seven-inch (up from 5.8 inches) infotainment screen that is easy to use, plus a redesigned steering wheel. Otherwise you still get a two-seater cabin and a folding metal roof that increases security and refinement when closed.
As expected from a Mercedes, equipment levels are generous – leather upholstery, air-conditioning and cruise control are standard, while notable options include £1,150 adaptive LED headlights and £675 park assist.
While its all good looking on the outside, the interior is pretty dated
While an Audi TT Roadster might feel more modern inside and a Porsche 718 Boxster might be more fun to drive on the limit, the Mercedes SLC retains its proven formula of a sporty drive and a secure metal folding roof. It’s now also better kitted out, sharper to drive and more refined than ever before. The SLC might not be a class leader in terms of thrills, but as a safe choice it’s one of the best ones out there.
The Mercedes SLC isn’t the last word in space – and you probably wouldn’t expect it to be – but, while the boot is a decent size for a sports car, it shrinks markedly when the roof is down
Perhaps the best thing you can say about the SLC's practicality is that it's much better than you probably expect it to be
Space for two is as much as you’d expect from a two-seater convertible and the driving position is low and sporty. The seats focus on holding you in place rather than pampering you, but according to reviewers they’re good at both.
A cool option is Magic Sky Control – it costs £1,995 and allows you to adjust the amount of light that comes into the cabin by changing the transparency of the panoramic roof.
Now, a two-seater convertible will never be particularly practical but at least the SLC gets decently sized door bins and quite the big glovebox.
The SLC is a small roadster, so boot space isn’t huge, but at 335 litres with the roof up it can easily fit weekend luggage for two, plus it’s the largest in class leading the BMW Z4 (310 litres) and Audi TT Roadster (280 litres). Unsurprisingly, the load capacity diminishes significantly with the roof down, but you can still fit a soft bag or two.
If you expect the SLC to drive like a sports car, you’d be disappointed.
It's perfectly fine at slow speed, but start pushing it and the SLC is out of its comfort zone
A pleasingly broad choice of engines is available for the SLC with only the entry-level petrol getting a six-speed manual. The rest of the range comes equipped with an excellent nine-speed automatic that, with its smooth shifts, suits the roadster perfectly.
Kicking off the range is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with 184hp called the SLC 200. It’s fairly cheap to run with a combined fuel economy figure of 43mpg (3mpg more with the automatic), yet still rapid enough 0-62mph taking seven seconds.
If you’re after more performance you can have SLC 300 with the same engine tuned to 245hp. It has the same combined fuel economy as the auto SLC 200, but a much quicker acceleration time of 5.8 seconds.
The 362hp 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 in the SLC 43 AMG is already used in other models including the GLE SUV, but the (relatively) light roadster body helps get the best of it. In the SLC, the V6 sounds very pleasing with an addictive howl during acceleration and racecar crackles from the exhaust when off-throttle. A 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds makes the SLC 43 faster than a Jaguar F-Type S, but slower than a Boxster S – combined fuel consumption of 36mpg is about average for the class.
Some might shun the idea of a diesel-powered roadster, but the impressive running costs will be a big lure to others. The headline fuel-economy figure of 70mpg is easy to achieve, because the SLC is light and aerodynamic. Moreover that number is 10mpg better than in the diesel Audi TT Roadster. Yes, the engine itself is the ageing 2.1-litre unit that is now being phased out in other models (replaced by a much quieter 2.0-litre), but at idle the familiar diesel rattle is well suppressed and a 0-62mph time of 6.6 seconds is impressive – and three-tenths quicker than an entry-level BMW Z4 petrol.
As a smaller alternative to the SL roadster, the SLC retains its focus on comfort, but feels sportier than its bigger brother. It still suffers from the firm low-speed ride that afflicted the SLK, but on the open road the tweaks carried out with the name-change are evident.
The direct steering, combined with the limited body roll provide the driver with a sense of confidence. It’s still not a patch on the near-perfect Porsche Boxster, but according to critics, the SLC is more fun than the Audi TTS Roadster and sharper than the Jaguar F-Type.
Mercedes’ Dynamic Select system is standard on all but the entry level SLC 200 and allows the driver to select between Comfort, Sport, Eco and Individual driving modes. They change a range of the car’s characteristics including steering wheel weight, throttle response and, in the case of the AMG model, engine sound.
The SLC 43 AMG is the first of the new range of AMG models with the revived 43. It sits in between AMG Line trim and full-fat AMG models. The SLC 43 drives sharply and it’s easy to place on the road, but ultimately it’s not as entertaining as a Boxster S. The Porsche’s 100kg-lower weight and mid-engined layout give it the dynamic edge. However, as a cruiser, the Mercedes turbine-smooth six-cylinder engine gives it a touch of sophistication that the droney four-cylinder engine in the Porsche can’t match.
The minimalistic Audi TT interior puts the dated cabin of the SLC to shame.