If you expect the SLC to drive like a sports car, you’d be disappointed.
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.
It's perfectly fine at slow speed, but start pushing it and the SLC is out of its comfort zone
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.