- Tight, refined interior with the top up
- More affordable than the SL
- Great features—like Airscarf
- Not sharp enough for some driving enthusiasts
- Tight for tall drivers
- V-8 is gone
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC offers luxurious open-air motoring for buyers who are more interested in weekend getaways than canyon-carving.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC was known as the SLK just last year. With its name change, it gets a mild facelift and a reconfigured lineup with two variants: the Mercedes-Benz SLC300 and the Mercedes-AMG SLC43. Just as the SLK, the SLC roadsters continue to prioritize easy drivability and comfort over all-out track times—although the SLC43 makes higher-performance driving a little more accessible without a lot of comfort sacrifice.
Mercedes-Benz updated the SLC's front fascia with reshaped headlights and air intakes. A diamond-block grille is now standard, finished in black as standard or in chrome with the Sport Package. The SLC retains its familiar silhouette with a steadily rising beltline, while there are now slimmer LED taillights at the rear of the car. The changes bring the SLC closer into line with Mercedes-Benz's latest design vocabulary, and though it's still a little clunky when compared to the rest of the automaker's lineup.
As well as the exterior manages to remain elegant and nicely sculpted, the interior is where the SLC simply fails to reach the swoopy, curvaceous, and meticulously detailed highs that have been introduced for the latest versions of the C-Class sedans and GLC crossovers, as well as the smaller CLA and GLA models. There are a few new surfaces, revised gauge faces, and a new steering wheel; but that's far from the facelift this cabin is ready for.
Two decades ago, the SLK pioneered the concept of the compact hardtop convertible; and today the SLC continued with essentially that same top design. It's brilliantly conceived and assures that pleasing, flowing roofline, and altogether it's still a high point of the SLC's design. The top can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 25 mph when the action has started at 3 mph or less. With the top up, the cabin is tight and never drafty, providing the quiet, comfort, security of a coupe; yet with the top down, it can get a little turbulent—made a bit better with the mesh divider deployed between the seats. Special windstops even close off the opening in the roll hoops behind each seat to help prevent drafts.
Airscarf is another truly innovative feature in the SLC; vents near the headrest gently blow warm air around your neck, enabling comfortable top-down driving in colder weather. While it's been offered now for many years, there are few alternatives in rival models that do quite the same thing. For further year-round enjoyment, the SLC's hardtop is fitted with a standard panoramic glass roof; it can be optioned with Magic Sky Control, which lightens and darkens the glass at the touch of a button.
Interior space is snug for tall drivers and luggage, a consequence of the SLC roadster design and compact dimensions. Outward visibility can also be difficult with the top raised, but the rearview camera makes reversing easier.
The SLC300 uses the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four that was introduced in last year's SLK300; it produces 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, and will propel the SLC300 to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds.
While the SLC300 is the entry model in the lineup, it's plenty quick by most counts—provided you're not the type to intentionally head out to some challenging driving roads—although the flat torque curve of its engine lacks the drama of a peakier, higher-revving engine.
The Mercedes-AMG SLC43 is the one to choose if you are the type to explore the limits of a car, and if you like a balanced, responsive feel to the handling even when pushing hard. It's a lot quicker, too. Its twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 makes 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. With it there's a specially tuned version of the same nine-speed automatic that helps it get to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.
Get the Dynamic Handling package, and the SLC43 pulls out all the stops, with various steering and suspension improvements as well as a limited-slip rear differential that helps it whip around tight corners with more poise.
Both the SLC300 and SL43 get a nine-speed automatic transmission. A standard Dynamic Select system provides five drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual.
Available safety equipment includes an active braking assist system that will automatically apply brakes if a driver doesn't react to visual and audio alerts; it could help to prevent a collision at relatively low speeds. Blind spot and lane keeping assists are also optional.
The SLC models include all the features expected in a luxury vehicle, like HD radio, Bluetooth, navigation, and real-time traffic—including a version of the automaker's COMAND infotainment interface.