It is the tradition with Mercedes-AMG products to affix a plaque to the engine naming the single craftsman who assembled it. Pop the hood on this new SLC43 and you’ll find its twin-turbocharged V6 crowned by a plate that says, “Bender Bending Rodriguez.” Hey! A robot built this thing?
Relax, meatbags. It doesn’t actually say anything on the SLC’s new powerplant; instead, you get a big red stripe down the plastic engine cover, indicating that this engine is a bit special, but not quite AMG special. Think of it as AMG licht, or what used to be called AMG sport. It’s the answer to trim packages like BMW’s M-sport, Audi’s S-line, and Cadillac’s V-Sport.
Mercedes-AMG will still continue to make cars in the full Affalterbach tradition, but they’ll also have a host of mass-produced, entry-level offerings across the Mercedes range. AMG is now not just a skunkworks within Mercedes, it’s a condiment vendor allowing Mercedes to add a smidgen of flavour to their mainstream cars.
But before we get into full automotive enthusiast teeth-gnashing and garment-rending mode, let’s sample the standard SLC 300 to see what Mercedes is working with. Starting out on the sunny Côte d’Azure, we headed up into the mountains in search of switchbacks and driving joy.
The SLC is a rebadging and mild facelift of the old SLK. Like the larger, more luxurious SL, it provides a folding hardtop, two-seater convertible Mercedes experience. This experience includes sunny days, quiet driving in the rain, added security when parked, and really, really not wanting to own one five years outside the warranty expiry.
But on a day like today, the SLC 300’s red paint gleams in the Mediterranean sun like a Frenchwoman’s expertly applied lipstick, and it’s hard not to like it. The eagle-eyed amongst you will note the revised corporate front end with its bluff profile. Blunter it may be, but the SLC retains a certain femininity.
The larger SL roadster was also facelifted this year, and inside the SLC’s cabin we likewise find that much of that facelifting was only skin deep. There are a few new trim materials on offer, but this is essentially the same car as before, with the same slightly small seven-inch central screen and button-heavy COMAND infotainment control interface. Mercedes has updated the infotainment system of most of their range, and it appears the SL and SLC will be last to get an upgrade. At least this one has red seatbelts.
Separated by a letter: 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLK 300 Test Drive
It is however, a comfortable cockpit, one livened up by the presence of niceties like Mercedes’ air-scarf system, which blows warm air on your neck. Your Miata can’t do that, Barb from Accounting. So there.
The other thing Barb’s Miata can’t do is provide 335L of trunk space for a weekend getaway. With the hardtop deployed, the SLC has most of the advantages of a coupe in this regard, and also comes with a fixed panoramic sunroof that can be darkened or lightened with the touch of a button. However, should you wish to lower the roof mid-way to wine country, note that the cargo capacity drops to 225L.