2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
June 12, 2017

Buying tip

If you get the hot-rodded SLC43, there's no good reason not to go for the Dynamic Handling package, which makes the most of it without any noticeable ride compromise.

features & specs

AMG SLC 43 Roadster
SLC 300 Roadster
MPG
20 city / 29 hwy
MPG
25 city / 32 hwy
MSRP
$60,300
MSRP
$47,950

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 until just last year, nomenclature it wore for nearly two decades. 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.

We give it a score of 7.2 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

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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 innovative feature in the SLC; vents near the headrest gently blow warm air around your neck, enabling comfortable top-down driving in colder weather. The feature isn't new for the Mercedes-Benz, and other rivals have gotten on board with similar features. 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.

Mercedes SLC performance and safety

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 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. With it there's a specially tuned version of the same 9-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 9-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 range includes all the luxury staples including HD radio, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation and real-time traffic, controlled by a version of the automaker's COMAND infotainment interface. Although it's not quite as slick as other models—and the screen isn't all that big either—it works fine for the SLC, mostly because the open-top driving is the main attraction.

7

2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

Styling

The Mercedes-Benz SLC gets some fresh details, but it remains split between performance and luxury missions.

Don't let the badging throw you off; the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC isn't all-new. Rather, it's a modestly refreshed version of the former SLK, a model that hasn't in itself been fully redesigned since 2011.

We give the refreshed SLC a styling score of 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

In design, the current generation of the SLK had already been on a sportier tack, following up on the bolder, more assertive direction of recent Mercedes-Benz SL models. In the past it's been more of a softly designed touring convertible; yet in its present generation it gets a lot closer to realizing its roadster potential.

And now, with the nomenclature change to SLC, this roadster becomes just a little more masculine yet—thanks to new front-end styling, some revamped lower bodywork, and a few relatively minor interior touches.

Those design tweaks are the most successful (and the most present) at the snout, where there's a more upright and rounded yet more open grille, inset with chromed points and combined with some more chiseled lower bodywork.

Altogether, it could make you suspect that the hoodline has been propped up just a bit in front (it hasn't). In the side profile, very little has changed, while at the rear new taillights and a new bumper (actually just some new curves to the plastic covering it) barely.

Pedestrian safety and crash test standards aren't kind to short wheelbase shapes, nor low-slung coupes, but Mercedes-Benz has managed to pull out a decent silhouette here. The Mercedes-Benz SLC manages to whittle some elegance from the shape, with details cribbed from the AMG SLS gullwing and other pricier cars.

As it is, just as in the current SL, we're not huge fans of how the SLC's blunt, imposing front end transitions into soft, gently tapering rear quarters. The new rear treatment helps ground the tail design a bit, however, and this remains a model that looks much better top-down than top-up—even if the roofline with the top-up is quite elegant. When the roof is tucked in, the view from behind makes the SLK especially distinctive, with the seatbacks echoed in its metallic twin peaks.

The high-performance SLC43 doesn't get its own sheet metal, but nearly everything else is unique to the model.A gloss-black air deflector, larger lower outer air intakes with silver chrome fins, and a silver chrome front splitter all set it aside, as does a gloss-black and diamond-patterned radiator grille. Gloss-black 18-inch AMG alloys and gloss-black mirror housings give the exterior a contrast-heavy look, while silver-chrome accents and quad-flow chrome exhausts fit into a silver chrome diffuser apron.

For 2017 there's a new flat-bottom steering wheel, and while it makes the best attempt to initially convince you that what's ahead of the driver is fresh, bring your field of focus ahead of it and there's not much more to usher the look forward. Mercedes-Benz has upgraded the infotainment screen to 7-inch hardware, yet it remains embedded within the dash, at a time when other Mercedes models have screens that are tablet-like standalone affairs.

In general, you won't find some of the finer touches inside the SLC as you might in other Mercedes cars. The previous audio and car controls are carried over in the SLC, with various buttons and switches instead of rockers and knobs. The drive selector, for example, instead of a roller switch is a single button that forces drivers to cycle through modes instead of toggling up or down the lineup. Meaty metallic ribs flare from the flat-bottomed steering wheel, and metallic tubes house clean analog gauges—which have been restyled this year, against a darker background.

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8

2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

Performance

The SLC300 is quick and confident, while the SLC43 focuses on something far more rewarding to the driver.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC is offered in two quite different performance flavors—and to make the right decision, you should first look at what exactly you want out of a comfortable touring roadster like the SLC.

We give it a performance score of 8, mostly for the strong powertrain in the SLC43 and its crisp manners. It's the version we'd buy, and a nicely conceived alternative to the harsher, more squirrely AMG SLKs of the past. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The mainstream models of the lineup are badged SLC300—now featuring a 241-hp, 2.0-liter inline-4, as was introduced in the SLK300 this past year. As such, with the new nine-speed, the SLC300 can get to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds.

On the straight line, it feels that quick; and really, it's plenty strong and responsive for most needs, provided you're not the type to intentionally head out to some challenging driving roads.

We'll add that, in Comfort mode especially, the combination of transmission lag and slight turbo lag don't make this model feel anywhere close to as perky as the former V-6 SLK350. When the power does show up, this engine doesn't need to be worked into its upper ranges; there's a good and bad to that, as it has plenty of power right in the middle of the rev band.

SLC43: Our pick

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 9-speed automatic that helps it get to 60 mph in just 4.6 seconds.

Thankfully, the SLC43 has an excellent, linear accelerator, just as the SLC300, and both versions have variable-ratio steering. They're great city and scenic cruisers. If it weren't for the sound being quite different, both of these models feel quite comparable in low-speed drivability.

And to help cater to varied needs, there's a standard Dynamic Select system provides five drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual. It adjusts powertrain response, the stability system, and steering boost, as well as other parameters.

While the SLC43 is definitely fast, a host of other AMG-engineered improvements collectively make this a better drive than the SLC300. Add the Dynamic Handling package and altogether the lowered suspension with active damping, stiffer steering components, variable-ratio steering, upgraded brakes, special engine mounts, and rear suspension changes, and limited-slip rear differential add up to a lot more control in tight corners.

Altogether, the SLC43 is a more accessible sports car than the previous SLK55—even if that model was more powerful. Engage Sport+ mode, which allows more leeway, and because of the better weight distribution and the new differential it's predictable and reproducible.

Both of these models have great steering, the changes in the SLC43 offer somewhat better feel and weighting. And it's abundantly clear that the SLC300 isn't intended for tail-out driving; push it there and you'll find the inside rear wheel scrambling for traction.

Ride quality is more of a case-by-case basis, because of this model's very short wheelbase. With adaptive damping, it makes good with road coarseness, yet it can feel busy on some types of choppy surfaces.

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5

2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

Comfort & Quality

The SLC is one of the most comfortable ways to go by roadster, but the cabin feels dated and the trunk is a limiting factor for weekends.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC lineup is subcompact-sized in its overall footprint, and its long-hood, short-cabin design doesn't exactly maximize space. Like other small roadsters, the SLC is tight inside, and if you're new to this kind of car, you'll find remarkably little space for passengers and cargo.

Above our baseline of 5, we give it an extra point for comfortable seats, but take it away for the SLC's skimpy trunk and lack of interior storage. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

That said, if you're comparing the SLC to a model like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the interior will feel generous. Most passengers will fit fine, but our taller editors—basically, all of them—think the SLC could use an inch or two more leg room, and more seat travel. The footwells are a bit shallow compared to some other new cars, and the seats are positioned a bit close to the dash.

There's really not a lot of space for storing smaller items around the cabin. The center-console compartment has just enough space for an SLR camera body with the kit lens—no more—and aside from that there's surprisingly little storage up in the cabin...which also makes the SLC feel like a carry-over from Mercedes models of the last decade.

The story inside the trunk isn't much better either. With the folding top down—it can't be lowered without first setting the trunk partition either—there's barely enough luggage space for a weekend retreat for two. A storage bin underneath the trunk can stow a backpack, but in all there's only 10.1 cubic feet of storage room in the trunk with the top up, and a scant 6.4 cubes with the top folded back.

A flexible cargo lid inside the trunk has to be latched in place over some of the cargo hold before the top can be moved; it's a good safeguard, but it's possible that potholes and bumps will dislodge it, or you'll forget to put it in place, so you might have to get out and fiddle with the trunk before going roof-free.

SLC: It's the little things

But then there are the great redeeming factors. One of them is the superb Airscarf system, which pipes just the right amount of hot air onto your neck to keep you warm, with the heated seats, on a cool morning. It's not a new feature for Mercedes-Benz, but it continues to be absolutely charming in this small roadster, combined with impressive wind buffeting for such a short vehicle.

The other redeeming factor is the top itself. This weathertight, folding retractable hardtop is the pinnacle of its design. With the top in place, the cabin is quiet and respectable, but with the top down, it's all the fun of plein air driving without harsh wind and road noise made better with the mesh divider between the two seats. Special windstops even close off the opening in the roll hoops behind each seat to help prevent drafts.

Otherwise, raising or lowering the top is just a button press away—at up to 25 mph, though you do have to be at a full stop for it to start operating. Once the top is up, the SLK is much more coupe-like; that is to say, it's quieter, with a more closed-in feeling.

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2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

Safety

In the absence of crash-test ratings, there's a generous suite of safety features.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC is a small roadster—so be prepared to feel a little vulnerable out on the road, with outward vision rather challenging at times as well.

Although neither this model nor its nearly identical predecessor, the SLK, have been crash-tested by U.S. safety agencies (because of its relatively low sales volume), Mercedes-Benz does have a long history of over-engineering its cars and not skimping on safety.

According to Highway Loss Data Institute information, even though it appears that SLK drivers make a lot of insurance claims, the model has relatively low rates of bodily injury and personal injury. And that's generally a good sign about a model's occupant protection.

Still, we'll abstain on a safety score until there's data to support one. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The safety feature set here is impressive, and there's a comprehensive set of items that offer solid occupant protection and others that could help prevent an accident.

Dual front, side and head airbags are included, with a driver knee airbag, plus anti-lock brakes; traction and stability control; and active head restraints. All models also include the Attention Assist system, which monitors driver inputs and will recommend a break when it senses you're becoming drowsy. And a suite of mbrace telematics helps with roadside emergencies, mobile app utilities, and remote vehicle access.

Active Brake Assist is standard on the SLC, while we're expecting that Mercedes will again offer a full safety package with Pre-Safe features, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, adaptive highbeam, and blind-spot monitors, alerting the driver by simulating rumble strip vibrations in the steering wheel.

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9

2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

Features

Airscarf and Magic Sky Control can make the SLC cabin feel like a day spa relative to other roadsters.

The 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC lineup continues to feel just a bit more like a luxury vehicle than any other small roadster.

If you want the small package, yet you want to be coddled, the SLC is one to focus in on. Even with its top down, the SLC has premium finishes and premium features, as well as some noteworthy tech and active-safety features, it's a baby SL in many respects.

We give it a 9 for features, noting its good standard and optional features, good choice in custom trims and appearance kits, and its killer app—its folding hardtop. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Mercedes-Benz SLC300 models are well-equipped, with power windows, locks and mirrors; climate control; and leather seats. And the COMAND infotainment system now includes a 7.0-inch screen, DVD player, internet radio, Bluetooth streaming, voice controls, and two USB ports.

The Mercedes-AMG SLC43 includes a long list of additional appearance and performance extras—yet, there are some options on the table. For 2017, Mercedes-Benz lists the Dynamic Handling package (including a rear limited-slip differential) and AMG ride control sport suspension as key options for the SLC43, as well as a Night (appearance) package and a flat-bottom performance steering wheel.

Regardless of model, Mercedes' brilliant hardtop convertible roof is standard. It opens in 20 seconds via a lever in the cabin and tucks neatly in the trunk—even though it eats precious cargo space. The SLC sports a mesh divider between the seats to cut down on buffeting, but the Mercedes' short wheelbase creates a little more turbulence than longer models.

Mercedes offers a panoramic glass roof with Magic Sky Control, which photochromically tints its glass panel from nearly opaque to fully transparent, spanning almost the entirety of the main roof panel. You'll also want the wonderful Airscarf feature, which gently blows warm air around your neck, for those cool, brilliant spring and fall days.

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2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC Class

Fuel Economy

In base-engine SLC300 form, the Mercedes-Benz SLC should remain one of the most fuel-efficient convertible picks.

The SLC300 is rated by the EPA nearly at the same levels as last year's SLK300. The SLC300 is pegged at 25 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined.

For those who prioritize performance, SLC43 models are rated at 20/29/23—impressive considering their powerful twin-turbo V-6.

We give it a score of 7 for green, based on those figures. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All SLC models get start-stop technology that automatically stops the engine at stoplights, in some conditions, and restarts it as you lift back off the brake pedal. It's a reasonably smooth system, and it rarely misses a beat to let you take off quickly when you need to.

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7.2
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety N/A
Features 9
Fuel Economy 7
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