A revised name, new engine, and refreshed styling continue the evolutionary wave that is sweeping over the German luxury brand's entire line-up.
Big changes have hit Mercedes-Benz's pint-sized hot road roadster for 2017. A revised name, new engine, and refreshed styling mark the transition from the SLK-Class of old to the 2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 of today, continuing the evolutionary wave that is sweeping over the German luxury brand's entire line-up.
At its core, the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 remains true to the mission statement of the hopped-up compact two-seaters that have preceded it: namely, to offer fun in the sun, at speed, without getting overly serious about lap times. Don't look for hardcore handling or tire-shredding acceleration from this hardtop convertible, as the SLC 43 prefers to fill a grand touring role as compared to rivals like the Porsche 718 Boxster or the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. It's a focus that seems well-aimed at the core customers who regularly peruse Mercedes-Benz showrooms, and while there have been a few bumps in the road during the transition from fire-breathing V8 to turbocharged V6, the AMG model still delivers a shot in the arm for performance-seeking buyers.
- Without a doubt, the sharper lines of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 make it the best-looking iteration of the roadster to date. The more aggressive grille and large headlights help visually lengthen the hood and draw attention away from the stubbiness of the rear deck, while inside it's business as usual with a cabin arrangement that will be familiar to anyone who has spent time in a recent Mercedes-Benz coupe or sedan. We particularly liked the hide-away roof controls located under a leather-covered extension of the centre console.
- The biturbo 3.0-litre V6 delivers 362 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque, numbers that are ahead of rivals from Porsche and BMW, and which are matched with a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox. With the pedal down you're looking at a 0-100 km/h time of roughly 4.6 seconds, which is plenty quick.
- The move from the SLK55's V8 to the new turbo design has helped slice 29 kilograms from the car's curb weight - but you're still looking at a almost 1,600 kilograms of car, so expect dynamics that are more cruiser than cone-killer.
- We had the chance to take an extended road trip in the SLC 43, with the top up in one direction and down in the other. Despite its stiff AMG suspension package, it's a very comfortable highway car, and with the roof in position there's ample trunk space for overnight bags. Even with the top down, you can still slide relatively flat duffels under the folded metal.
- There's no way around the fact that the 2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 offers less power and marginally slower straight-line speed than the more robust SLK55's bigger motor. In fact, although still the mightiest roadster in the compact luxury segment, the SLC 43 backs away from the more hooliganish aspects of its V8 past, and while it's still fast it's not 'as' fast as it once was.
- One other thing to mention: the SLC 43 doesn't offer the hand-built AMG engine that buyers have come to expect from Mercedes-Benz's in-house performance team, and it doesn't feature the plate signifying that it was hand-assembled by a single engineer in Affalterbach (as it is instead built on the same line as other Mercedes-Benz motors). For some customers this won't matter, while others will see the move as a dilution of what AMG has traditionally stood for.
- With the driving mode set to Sport+ you get a nice exhaust note from the rear of the SLC 43, but you also have to deal with the 9-speed automatic transmission's lack of smoothness at lower speeds. Slowing down to a stop in Sport+ means bracing yourself for that final jerk as the gearbox shifts into first, an issue that simply doesn't crop up in any other drive mode. We were forced to choose between the snapping and popping from the pipes or keeping the eggs in the trunk from cracking on the way home from the grocery store.
- The 'Individual' driving mode would seem to offer a chance for great exhaust tone without the aggressive tranny tuning, but it allows for only two parameters to be edited: drivetrain and steering. This means there's no way to separate the shift pattern from the mufflers, which seems like an oversight for those who just want to cruise around listening to the pleasing tones of the biturbo six. More configuration capability here would be great.