Roadsters like the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC aren’t exactly in vogue right now.
The Honda S2000 faded away a few years ago. BMW Z4 sales have fizzled to levels far below those of the more expensive 6-Series Convertible. Porsche’s pushed the Boxster upmarket. And the only bright spot on the market is the affordable Mazda MX-5 Miata and its stellar redesign this past year.
Where does that leave Mercedes-Benz? While there’s an entirely new generation of this compact roadster in the works, it remains a couple of years away. And what’s here in the meantime might seem to some as merely a rebadged SLK; yet it's more than that.
SLC43 skips some AMG pedigree, goes for the esses
While we won’t go so far as to say the new SLC lineup offers a completely different driving experience, or a completely new look, there’s a net sum of meaningful new-and-improved goodness here—and the big news is the introduction of a new Mercedes-AMG SLC43 that does away with the previous SLK55’s V-8 in favor of a specially tuned turbo V-6.
2017 Mercedes-AMG SLC43Enlarge Photo
In the SLC43, the twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 makes 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. It’s not handbuilt, like AMG’s V-8 engines, but it, and there’s no version of the specially built, torque-converter-less Speedshift MCT transmission. Instead there’s merely a sport-tuned version of the same nine-speed automatic in the other SLC models. And 0-60 times knock out at an impressive 4.6 seconds.
There are lots of other AMG-engineered improvements—at their collective best with the Dynamic Handling package—to make this a better drive than the SLC300, including a lowered suspension with active damping, stiffer steering components, variable-ratio steering, upgraded brakes, special engine mounts, and changes aimed at improving the stiffness and stability of the rear suspension. Paired with that is the SLC43’s parlor trick: a limited-slip rear differential.
More sports-car inspiration
And it’s those latter few changes that give the SLC43 far more sports-car inspiration than you’ll find in the SLC300—and maybe even more than was in the more blunt instrument that was the SLK55. Since there’s less weight in front, the SLC43 is more willing to rotate. Engage Sport+ mode, which allows more leeway, and because of the better weight distribution and the new differential it’s predictable and reproducible—and far less of a white-knuckle affair.
As we found in some of the spectacular, zig-zagging mountain roads north of Nice and Monte Carlo, near the Italian border, there’s just enough body lean to give warning of pending weight transfers and slip angles, yet not so much that you have any uncouth behavior in quick back-and-forth esses.