- Published: Tuesday, 18 October 2016 00:05
The Mercedes-Benz SLC 200 is an old master with a new name
SINGAPORE — What’s a Mercedes SLC? Well, a casual glance reveals a two-seat, two-door roadster, and one with classically pretty styling that befits cars with the three-pointed star logo.
But the thing to note here is that the SLC isn’t an all-new car, but a heavy facelift of the SLK, a car built to the same recipe. Meaning, of course, that the SLK name has retired.
As part of the re-styling, the glamorous diamond-studded grille from Mercedes’ more fashionable models has been added, along with a revamped interior that has sleek LED lighting and a bigger infotainment screen. The rear has tidy trapezoidal exhausts and a neat chrome-ringed panel between them.
Why no more SLK? Because the facelift coincides with an ongoing revamp of Mercedes’ naming system. The “SL” part tells you that this is a Mercedes roadster, and the “C” tells you what car it’s based on, as in “C-Class”. Changing your name and undergoing a bit of cosmetic surgery might be a way to break into the porn business if you're a person, but in the world of cars it's just known as product planning.
Anyway, two versions of the baby roadster are on sale in Singapore, with a SLC 180 starting the range off. It has a 1.6-litre turbo engine with 156 horsepower and costs $254,888 with COE. Then there’s this, the SLC 200.
It’s $29,000 dearer, but better endowed under the bonnet, with a 2.0-litre turbo tuned for 184hp. That’s enough to create a meaningful performance gap between the two cars. The SLC 200 zips to 100km/h in 6.9 seconds while the SLC 180 takes 8.1 seconds, which is enough of a difference for your bum to feel.
In fact, it might feel a little lazy in its Comfort and Eco driving modes, but once you select Sport the SLC 200 wakes up noticeably, and rushes around like a puppy on a sugar high.
In spite of that, however, the SLC 200 is not a car to take you to driving Nirvana. It doesn’t quite have the pin-sharp handling or agility you’d expect of a little sportscar, and it’s not particularly grippy around bends.
That might be down to weight (it’s a good 400kg or so heavier than a Mazda MX-5), but then the Mercedes is easily among the comfiest and most spacious cars in its class.
It doesn’t feel cramped with the roof overhead, and when driven that way the Mercedes is quiet inside and feels solid. There’s room for essential items like parking coupons and your smartphone, and backpack or handbag will fit behind the seats. But groceries will have to go into the boot (which, incidentally, Mercedes says is the biggest in its class, although only when the roof is up).
Even when you stow the roof (which you can now do on the move at up to 40km/h), the SLC is still a comfortable car. There’s a neat new wind deflector that you can just twist into place, and there’s a fundamental cushy-ness to the nicely-padded seats. The suspension tackles bumps neatly, and it doesn’t sacrifice a civilised ride on the altar of perceived sportiness.
But as with any roadster, driving without a roof overhead intensifies the sensations of motion, so the SLC is at its core a hugely enjoyable car. That assumes you dig the convertible experience to begin with (not everyone does, naturally); just as al fresco dining isn’t for everyone, open top motoring doesn’t have universal appeal.
Yet, that only makes it easy to decide whom the SLC is for. You can buy a roadster that’s faster (Porsche’s Boxster) or more agile (the Mazda MX-5), but the Mercedes is peerlessly refined and brilliant at escaping the limitations of a convertible roof.
Assuming you only want the roof down some of the time, the fact that it works so well as a coupe makes it a clear choice. This folding-hard-top stuff is supposed to deliver the best of both worlds — the solidity of a coupe with the fun of wind-through-what’s-left-of-your-hair motoring, and the SLC is basically the pioneer of the format. The new name doesn’t change that one bit.
NEED TO KNOW Mercedes-SLC 200
Engine 1,991cc, turbocharged, 16V in-line four
Power 184hp at 5,500rpm
Torque 300Nm at 1,200 to 4,000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 237km/h
0-100km/h 6.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.1L/100km
Price $283,888 with COE