Wednesday 13 July 2016
The Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 is the replacement for the bonkers SLK 55 AMG. How does this new version stack up? We find out.
For the past 20 years, the Mercedes-Benz SLK has been dominant in the compact roadster segment, with the hot AMG version cackling in the face of the standard car’s soft image. Now it’s back with a new name and a completely different engine.
Let’s start with those three letters on the boot. Mercedes has been on a roll recently, switching its model names to confuse casual observers and keep those in the know on their toes. The SLK is now known as SLC to better signify its relationship with the C-Class, from which it borrows a lot of technology.
As if coming to terms with a change of name wasn’t enough for purists to deal with, the roadster also drops the 5.5-litre V8 for a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6. It’s less powerful but more efficient. Downsizing claims yet another victim.
The SLK always had something of a ‘hairdresser’s car’ image, which was remedied by the AMG. However, this new tyre-shredding version doesn’t look quite so extrovert.
The headlights have been slim-lined, which makes the front end much better proportioned – the old roadster looked like a bigger car’s nose had been stuck on. It also gets more angular exterior flourishes that give the AMG a sportier look than its softer siblings.
This time around it’s a little less obvious that you’ve gone for the full-fat version, but it is reflective of the fact performance has been toned down. Marginally.
Roof-down is the SLC’s best angle. The slick vario-roof doesn’t have the quickest action, but it’s worth waiting for it to drop as the slightly awkward-looking rear of the cabin is hidden. Instead, your eyes are drawn to the
muscular haunches above the rear wheel.
‘Space’ and ‘practicality’ are two words you can’t really use in any positive light with the SLC. You can get a few bags in the boot – and a few more if you keep the roof up – but don’t expect to enjoy a trip home from Ikea.
With the roof in al fresco mode, boot space is limited, but a clever device ensures you don’t crush your bags by mistake. If the separator in the boot has been pushed back to give more space, it’ll stop the roof from retracting.
This is not a hard-edged sports car, designed for carving up B-roads. No, this is an AMG, and that means it’ll be left behind in the twisty stuff by the likes of the Porsche 718 Boxster S. Don’t think of this as a criticism, though, as it really depends on what you are looking for from a new roadster: B-road barnstormer, or a fast cruiser?
If you’re after a fast cruiser, the SLC 43 is for you. Despite ditching the boisterous 416bhp V8 and replacing it with the more refined V6, it does straight-line stuff very well. In fact, it accelerates from 0-62mph in 4.7
seconds – just one-tenth of a second slower than the old car.
Getting enthusiastic with the throttle pedal, though, will give you the suspicion that the official figures are somewhat understated. And the noise is fantastic. Sure, it’s not a gargling, snorting SLK 55, but its new howl feels somehow more sophisticated and in keeping with the car’s character.
It actually encourages you to hold back a bit. Pushing too hard results in initial understeer, followed by a wallowing mess as momentum rolls the car’s weight over the outside wheels.
This a brilliant eight-tenths car. So long as you’re not getting heavy-handed at the limit of grip, it’s great fun to drive at a fair lick.
Compare it with its predecessor and it does feel like good value. At £46,360, it’s nearly £10k cheaper than the car it replaces. If you can deal with the fact it’s now less in-your-face and marginally slower, the SLC 43 AMG’s spec makes the price tag quite justifiable. And for buyers in this segment, you can’t put a price on that tri-star badge.
It’s also a good chunk less expensive than the Porsche 718 Boxster S, which has a little less power but much more composure in corners. It costs about £5,000 more, depending on which gearbox option you go for.
The bling styling and emphasis on look-at-me noise at the expense of road-holding ability mean that this car is for people who enjoy the finer things in life. It’s definitely not for wannabe racing drivers like the Porsche 718 is.
Just as at home on the school run as it is cruising beside the sea in summer with the roof down, the SLC 43 is the perfect weekend car for non-car enthusiasts.
Model: Mercedes-AMG SLC 43
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 producing 362bhp and 384lb/ft
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph top speed (electronically limited), 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds
Economy: 36.2mpg combined
Emissions: 178 g/km
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