Thinking outside the Boxster: Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 review (2016)

Published: 26 July 2016

► New Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 driven
► Twin-turbo V6 replaces monstrous V8
► Still no Boxster but improved in places

The previous Mercedes SLK 55 AMG was a bit of a blunt instrument – Daniel Craig to the Porsche Boxster’s smooth, precise Roger Moore.

Although dynamically it didn’t hold a candle to the Porsche it was undeniably effective, in a ‘hammer down the straights on a rowdy V8 wave before standing on the brakes’ kind of way. 

AMG’s roadster wears an SLC badge now thanks to Stuttgart’s freshly confusing naming structure, and features stiffer engine and suspension mounts, plus upgraded steering, brakes and axles to help sharpen it up.

A new 3.0-litre V6

It’s less lumpen in the engine department – gone is the 5.4-litre V8, replaced by a cleaner 3.0-litre V6, promising 36mpg. This new engine is boosted by a pair of turbos to 362bhp, which is, err, less than the old car. Still, there’s a good punch of torque (384lb ft) from 2000rpm helping to make the SLC feel alert and responsive, and powering it from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds.

On challenging French switch-backs it delivers plenty of thrills, the rapid-action of the newly-adopted nine-speed automatic ’box firing through its ratios. However, while the uprated steering is sharp and accurate there’s a pervading numbness from the chassis, so you don’t feel encouraged to find the limit – especially with the traction control cutting the power on uphill hairpins.

The SLC 43 feels more fun within its comfort zone. Brake early and turn in gently to avoid upsetting the chassis, then power out of the corner to soak up that trademark AMG racket – not as barrel-chested as the old Donkey Kong V8, but its raspy character and crackles between gearshifts can still delight.

Merc SLC: a very switchable kinda roadster

This aural drama mainly comes into play when you select Sport+ from the Dynamic Select menu, and even then most of it comes from the exhaust rather than the engine, so you’ll want the roof down to hear it properly. Things are still flawless here – the metal-folding arrangement combining both Boxster and Cayman. Roof-up refinement is exemplary, and you sit low down, so even the tallest driver can go top down without a hat. It’s more practical too, with an automatic boot separator and (optional) glass mid-section featuring variable tint levels for rainy days.

It’s no longer a V8 hot-rod and still lags behind the Porsche 718 Boxster when it comes to driving dynamics. However, as a pose-mobile with a firecracker soundtrack, it’s a considerably cheaper Jaguar F-type Convertible, with a nicer interior too.

The specs: Mercedes-AMG SLC 43

Price: £46,355
Engine: 2996cc 24v twin-turbo V6, 362bhp @ 5500rpm, 384lb ft @ 2000rpm  
Transmission: 9-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 36.2mpg, 178g/km CO2 
Weight: 1595kg  
On sale: Now  

Love: Full of the old car’s feel-good factor… 
Hate: 
…and most of its dynamic shortcomings
Verdict: 
Cheaper SLC 300 feels like a better buy
Rating:  ****

By Adam Binnie

Contributor and new cars editor on our sister website Parkers.co.uk

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