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Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class 2020 review

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz SLC Class in the latest Motors.co.uk Review

£22,896
Average Price
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3
Out of 5

Pros

  • Well-built
  • Stylish
  • Good engine choice

Cons

  • Cabin showing its age
  • Limited cabin space
  • Rivals offer better dynamics
  • MPG

    34 - 42

  • CO2

    153 - 185 g/km

Model Review

The first modern two-seater sports car to be launched by Mercedes was the SLK back in 1996, and it was designed as a modern take of the 190SL. It proved to be a massive hit with one of its big selling points being that it offered all the delights of open top motoring combined with the benefits of an electric folding metal roof. That meant improved security, safety and refinement. 

As you’d expect for a Mercedes, it was littered with equipment including electric seats, dual-zone climate control and alloy-wheels, not to mention safety equipment like front, side and passenger airbags, ABS and electronic stability control. While you could give your SLK a sportier treatment by adding AMG styling, a more powerful SLK 32 AMG was launched in 2001 to rival the BMW M Roadster. 

In 2004, the second generation was unveiled and like its predecessor it had a front engine, rear wheel drive layout with an electric retractable roof. While it had a more modern look, it was now longer and wider, with a bigger wheelbase. It also featured a new seven-speed automatic gearbox, as well as a heater in the headrests called the Airscarf that would blow warm air onto the occupants neck – handy for any winter, open-top driving fun.

Production of the second generation ran for just over seven years until 2011 then the third-generation – codenamed R172, was launched.

Latest model

The most noticeable change with the current model happened during its mid-life facelift in 2016. Out went the SLK name and in came the ‘SLC’ badge, to fall in line with the new Mercedes model naming strategy. 

Little changed with the overall concept; however, the styling was much more modern than we’d seen before. The front end looks like a baby version of the highly-acclaimed SLS AMG supercar and overall it just looked much sharper than most of the competition.

It wasn’t just its appearance though that made it so popular, there was a good spread of engines too, including an efficient four-cylinder SLC 180 so you could look cool while still having affordable running costs, and that even carried through to the top-of-the-range with the AMG SLC 43, which replaced the SLK 55 AMG. It was capable of averaging over 30mpg which isn’t bad for a car that can do the 0-60mph dash in under five seconds. 

At the time of writing, the SLC was nearing the end of its time – Mercedes giving it a final send off with a ‘Final Edition’. With demand for two-seat roadsters not being what it once was, no immediate replacement is expected.

Value for money

They say beauty doesn’t come cheap, and that could be said for the SLC. Prices start at just over £37,000, however you’re likely to be able to scoop a good discount on the outgoing model. Needless to say, with the SLC you’re getting a well packaged two-seater sports cars with the build quality and luxury you’d expect from a car with the three-pointed star on the bonnet.

If you’re looking to buy new, the only options that are available are Final Edition models that come with alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control and infotainment screen with Bluetooth phone connectivity.

Looks and image

The SLC is one of the best-looking cars in this class and even though this generation is five years old, it still looks pretty fresh on the exterior.

The original SLKs may have been a bit goofy at the front and wedge-shaped overall, but it’s evolved into quite a pretty thing with a purposeful stance, helped by styling that’s shared with models higher up the Mercedes range. That means you are getting a car that really does turn heads, especially if you go for the Sun Yellow paint finish that comes with the Final Edition model. The AMG models also offer more aggressive styling to suit their greater performance.

However, while the outside of the SLC might look the part, the same can’t be said for the interior. While it still has a really upmarket feel to it, it’s really starting to show its age. That’s no huge surprise given Mercedes has hardly changed it since the third-generation SLK debuted in 2011. Next to an Audi TT Roadster and BMW Z4 – and even Mercedes’ own line-up – you’re likely to be a bit disappointed.

Space and practicality

The SLC is a strict two-seater, which means it’s really best suited for couples or a second car for parents who want to escape from the kids for a weekend. With the roof in place, there’s more than enough space for two adults with the panoramic sunroof option only eating a few millimetres of headroom.

It’s been designed for driving enjoyment rather than its load carrying ability, though it does have a decent-sized boot for a car in this class. With the roof raised, it offers 335-litres of room, however the bulky roof significantly eats in the room on offer – reducing it to 225 litres. There is a useful separator, though, to make sure your bags don’t get squashed by the roof.

Engines

The SLC has been available with plenty of engines throughout its time, with the firm initially offering a 154bhp 2.0-litre petrol (SLC 180), and even a 201bhp 2.0-litre diesel (SLC 250d), though both of these have since being discontinued.

So, the current range kickstarts with the 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol SLC 200. It’s available with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, however a nine-speed automatic is available as an optional extra.

While it’s still capable and fun – reaching 60mph in 6.8 seconds – if you want more spirited driving, then you’re best looking at the two models at the top of the range. The automatic SLC 300 uses a 241bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit and feels much quicker thanks to its low-down pull and sports exhaust, that reaches 60mph in 5.6 seconds.

Sitting at the top of the range is an AMG-tuned SLC 43, which comes with a turbocharged V6 engine, rather than the V8 of its predecessor. Needless to say, for any Mercedes tuned by AMG, it’s quick. It’ll do the 0-60mph dash in 4.5 seconds and keep going to a top speed of 155mph. 

Running costs

For anyone looking at a two-seater sports car, running costs aren’t generally a major consideration, but if you find they are, then the SLC might be cheaper to run than you might expect. The entry-level SLC 180 will return a healthy 48.7mpg with emissions of just 132g/km of CO2, while the more powerful SLC 300 will manage 37.2mpg. Even the economy for the range-topping AMG isn’t too bad, returning a claimed 32.5mpg and emissions of 199g/km of CO2. 

If you really value low running costs and do a lot of miles each year, it could be worth looking for the diesel option. Mercedes claims this will return more than 70mpg, while CO2 emissions of 114g/km are exceptionally low for a car of this. Just be aware that the clattery diesel engine won’t provide the best top-down experience.

Things to look out for

While the early days of the SLK coincided with the nadir of Mercedes' reliability, the SLK itself seems to have been largely unaffected. This good form has continued to the latest cars, produced at a time when Mercedes itself is enjoying a return to its bulletproof reputation.

Some recalls have affected the SLK though, largely centring on engines it shares with other Mercedes products, so ensure that these have been attended to. On the latest cars, a recall was issued in 2016 for almost a thousand vehicles with the 9G-Tronic automatic as a battery fault could prevent park from being selected and allow the vehicle to roll away.

Check the roof mechanism closely for reliable operation and check for signs of abuse on SLK55 AMG models. One optional extra was a driver training course which came with a speed limiter lift to 175mph, so take extra care with those models.

Rivals

The key rivals for the SLC also come from Germany. Audi's TT gets the style vote, while the Porsche Boxster heads the class for brand prestige, driving thrills and performance – although with the SLK55 AMG it's not likely that it'll get too far away.

Probably the most direct fight is with the latest BMW Z4 which hits the same marks but – because of its partnership with the Toyota in producing the Z4 and Supra – it doesn’t have all the benefits of a folding metal roof. Some might say that a cloth hood is lighter, simpler and easier to package though. 

At the lower end of the price range you might consider a Mazda MX-5 RF with just about every box ticked, but it's not likely to quite match the performance figures. At the other end of the scale, the SLK43 AMG is about the same price as the stunning Jaguar F-Type.

Depreciation

The Mercedes badge is a big draw for a lot of buyers which does help when it comes to depreciation. However, when the SLK reached the end of its life in 2016 those cars will have suffered the largest slide in value they’d ever experience. 

The same could be said for the current model, with the model being discontinued shortly, depreciation will hurt for anyone buying new, which is why it’s important to make sure you buy the right model.  

Which SLC Class to Pick

Cheapest to Buy When New

SLC 200 Final Edition 2dr Special Edition

Most MPG

SLC 200 Final Edition 2dr 9G-Tronic Special Edition

Fastest Model (0-60)

SLC 43 [390] Final Edition 2dr 9G-Tronic Amg Special Edition

Trims Explained

Trims explained

Final Edition

Starting the line-up is the Final Edition run out model of the SLC. It features 18-inch five spoke AMG alloy wheels, as well as AMG body styling. Inside, is a Nappa leather interior, Airscarf neck-heating system and Garmin Map Pilot sat nav system with smartphone integration.

From £37,130

Final Edition Premium

Go for a Premium-spec car, and this adds a panoramic glass sunroof, LED headlights, reversing camera and AIRGUIDE wind deflectors and mirror package, which includes electrically folding mirrors and auto-dimming mirrors.

From £40,926

Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 Final Edition

Needless to say, anything with AMG on it, and it’s going to have a sporty element to it as well as a hefty price tag. It includes features such as AMG body styling and high-performance brakes. Inside, it gets Nappa leather, performance steering wheel, an AMG instrument cluster and Harman Kardon sound system.

From £50,305

Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 Final Edition Premium

This benefits from all the updates of the standard ‘Premium’ model, such as a panoramic glass sunroof, a reversing camera and LED headlights.

From £54,101

Summary

  1. Excellent build quality
  2. Good cabin space – for a sports car
  3. Strong performance on AMG model
  4. Upmarket interior
  5. Iconic image
  6. Outdated interior
  7. Good driving position
  8. Expensive to buy
  9. Sporty looks on AMG model
  10. Reasonable running costs

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