Cape Town - Now don’t get confused.
Yes, there has been a SLC model Mercedes-Benz before (the C107, a coupe version of the SL convertible produced from 1971 to 1989), but essentially this derivative preceded the current SL models.
So, no, the new SLC isn’t its successor. It actually is Stuttgart’s compact SLK roadster, just by another name.
Why the change in nomenclature? Well, three reasons: Firstly, to align the smallest drop-top Mercedes-Benz with the company’s new model naming protocol, and secondly, it coincided with the 20-year anniversary of the SLK.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most convincing, is that beneath its shell it still uses a lot of technology from the previous C-Class. Oh, and because it has a hard-top vario-roof it technically can also be classified as a coupe.
So, the two-seater sports car was relaunched in April with its new name, but also with an enhanced look and significantly optimised technology.
New front design, new lights
The SLC now boasts a completely new, more masculine front section, with the new, steeply raked radiator grille á la SLS elongating the appearance of the arrow-shaped bonnet, and all the models now featuring the diamond radiator grille as standard.
It also received re-designed halogen headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights, and the rear LED lights are now standard on all the models. Also carried over from its third generation predecessor (launched in March 2011) is the unique panoramic vario-roof.
READ: Mercedes' new SLC stunner for SA: We have prices!
Magic glass roof
The electro-hydraulic roof is easy to operate, and can be opened at speeds of up to around 40km/h – if you started the process when at a standstill, which kind of defeats the purpose of it. Our beautiful Fire Opal red SLC 300 test car also came with the Magic Sky Control glass roof (a R28 000 option) which can be lightened or darkened at the touch of a button, as well as a boot separator which is automatically moved down when the roof is opened.
Besides the interesting roof option our SLC 300 with AMG Line trim was also fitted with Merc’s LED Intelligent Light System (for an extra R20 000) option which automatically adapts to all light and driving conditions.
It also includes Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus, which allows main beam to remain switched on without dazzling other road users - a feature that was very useful in rainy conditions on twisty roads at night.
Besides these extras the SLC comes standard with systems such as Active Brake Assist (previously known as Collision Prevention Assist Plus), Attention Assist, and a multifunction sports steering wheel in nappa leather, and the light carbon-grain interior trim is attractive and quite sporty.
Engine and dynamics
The SLC 300’s engine - the higher-powered version of Benz’s trusty turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder delivering 180kW and 370Nm - is carried over from the SLK range. So nothing new there.
However, mated to the 9G-Tronic ’box it also gets a new sport exhaust system, with chrome-plated twin exhausts (with quite a rorty sound when selecting the fast buttons on the Dynamic Select system), and, yes, a remote boot lid release.
The AMG Line package also endows it with good-looking 18” multi-spoke alloys – all the better to extract the best from the Dynamic Handling package. Pottering around in Eco mode the SLC is subdued and docile, but select Sport mode and it instantly perks up – the engine, transmission, steering and suspension becoming much more eager and responsive.
It’s quite quick too, reaching 100km/h in only 5.8 seconds (putting it on par with BMW’s Z4 sDrive28i, but still a tad slower than Porsche’s new, more powerful 718 Boxster) and a top speed of 250km/h (limited). Still, even in Sport mode it doesn’t feel all that sporty and taut, and its chassis is starting to show its age.
That said, it’s still a fine sports car, suitable for those who appreciate refined, more relaxed open-top motoring, and not necessarily performance and dynamism, but then the smaller SLC200 actually makes more sense. Not only is it more affordable, it’s also as comfortable, if you load it with some of the kit available on the 300-model.
But, if speed and performance is your preference, rather go for Mercedes-AMG SLC43 with its 3.0-litre V6 biturbo engine, modified AMG sport suspension and AMG ride control with adaptive damping.
The SLC300 can be yours for R756 136 (carbon tax of R2736 for its emissions of 144g/km added), but with AMG Line trimmings, the fancy roof and the light system it’ll cost you over R800k, compared to R748 700 for the Z4 sDrive28i with M-Sport package, and R868 000 for the 718 Boxster, with three-year maintenance plan only.
Why, at that kind of price it probably makes more sense to fork out a bit extra for the new C-Class Cabrio, and score two seats to boot…
Key figures: Mercedes-Benz SLC300
Engine: 4-cylinder, in-line, turbocharged
Power output: 180kW at 5 500rpm
Torque output: 370Nm at 1 300-4 000rpm
Consumption (combined): 5.8 litres/100km*
Combined CO2 emissions: 144g/km*
Acceleration 0-100 km/h: 5.8 sec*
Top speed: 250km/h (restricted)
Price (no options, excl. CO2 tax): R753 400