The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class is the only premium compact roadster with a power-retractable hard top. Which makes it pretty special. But there are other reasons why the SLC is a remarkable ride.
Let’s be subjective for a moment and say that the SLC looks good. Even though is has that folding roof, the rear section doesn’t look awkward and out of proportion with the rest of the car. With the roof down and stowed away, the lines are still pleasing. And the nose is just the right length, enough to be sporty but not trying too hard.
Although it’s not the sharpest-handling premium roadster (the more expensive Porsche 718 Boxster probably takes that accolade), it’s still talented in the dynamics department. It also has an air of effortless class and luxury that seems absolutely appropriate for a Mercedes-Benz.
What’s New for 2018?
Mirror logo headlamps are now standard. The AMG SLC 43 gains blind spot monitoring as standard. A sport steering wheel covered in leather and simulated suede (Dinamica) becomes available. And there are two special RedArt editions that are mostly cosmetic packages, but the SLC 300 version also has heated seats and the Airscarf neck-warming feature as part of the deal. See the 2018 Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class models for sale near you
What We Like
Marvelous retractable hardtop; great engines; unruffled high-speed demeanor; capable handling; high-quality interior; great fuel economy; Magic Sky Control
What We Don’t
Limited occupant space, even for a compact; a lightly used SL is about the same price
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fuel consumption is estimated at an incredibly reasonable 25 miles per gallon city, 32 mpg on the highway and 27 mph combined.
The 2018 Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 developing 362 hp and 384 lb-ft of torque. This also has a 9-speed automatic transmission, tuned by AMG (the high-performance division of Mercedes-Benz) for quicker shifts. Every other AMG vehicle using this engine has all-wheel drive. The SLC 43 is the only one where it drives just the rears. Fuel use is estimated to be 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz SLC-Class comes in SLC 300 and AMG SLC 43 versions.
The SLC 300 ($49,395) has 17-inch alloy wheels, a glass panel in the folding roof, mirror-logo headlamps, LED running lights/taillights, rain-sensing wipers, simulated leather upholstery, heated/power-folding side mirrors, 8-way power-adjustable seats with memory settings, drive mode selection, rearview camera, a 7-in display and an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth, two USB ports and HD radio.
The first options bundle is called, unsurprisingly, the Premium 1 package. This brings keyless entry/ignition, remote control of the folding hardtop, Airscarf (a neck-warming feature that uses vents built into the seats), heated seats, blind spot monitoring, satellite radio and a Harman Kardon 500-watt/11-speaker surround-sound system.
This is all standard in the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 ($62,345). But this variant also has the bigger engine, stronger brakes, plus aerodynamic additions, sport-tuned suspension, sport exhaust system, 18-in AMG-design alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, some real leather in the upholstery and powered adjustment for the steering column.
This model is eligible for the AMG Handling package, which brings a mechanical limited-slip rear differential. An IWC-designed analog clock and a sport steering wheel wrapped with a mix of leather and synthetic suede are also included. These latter items don’t help with handling, but help justify the extra money.
Both variants are eligible for the Premium 2 package of active LED headlights with automatic high beams, dual-zone automatic climate control, multi-colored LED ambient cabin lighting, analog dashboard clock, navigation, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, SD card reader, voice control and blind spot monitoring (this last feature is standard in the SLC 43). Premium 3 has all the contents of the first two packages, plus driver aids like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, parking sensors front and rear, along with a self-parking feature and an adjustable suspension.
One cool option is Magic Sky Control, which turns the glass panel in the roof transparent or opaque by the touch of a button. It’s well worth having since there isn’t a sunshade for the regular glass panel. Special leather upholstery that reflects the sun’s rays is also available.
Total trunk space is an adequate 10.1 cu ft., which contracts to 6.4 cu ft. when the roof is stowed away.
The SLC-Class comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, 10 airbags, active headrests, aluminum roll bars behind the headrests and a driver-drowsiness monitor. An array of advanced driver aids (mentioned above) is optional.
Each SLC also comes with the Mbrace2 safety telematics suite, which connects the car, a computer and/or a compatible smartphone to both cloud-based and GPS technology for faster emergency response times.
Like many luxury vehicles, the SLC has not been subjected to crash tests by any American agencies.
Behind the Wheel
At speed, the SLC could almost pass for an SL, it’s so stable and composed. And the cabin materials are similarly upscale. Unlike its big brother, though, the SLC also feels at home on twisty roads, attacking corners with enthusiasm.
Over rough surfaces, the SLC’s short wheelbase can’t reach ultimate levels of comfort, but structural rigidity is exemplary, so the top can come down (which it does in under 20 seconds, up to 25 miles per hour) without any worry about shakes and rattles. Mercedes-Benz also has decades of experience with convertible aerodynamics, so there’s minimal wind buffeting. Keep the top up, and the SLC turns into a luxury cruiser, allowing normal conversation even at higher speeds.
Steering feel hasn’t always been great in the old SLK, but the SLC 43’s system is wonderfully responsive and provides excellent feel for what the front wheels are doing. Naturally, the superior thrust from this engine is also a welcome sensation.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Audi TT — The regular version comes in coupe or roadster form, while the hot 292-hp TTS (there’s also a hotter TT RS with 400 hp) only comes with a fixed roof. But the tech is impressive and so is the driving experience.
2018 BMW 2 Series — Available as a small coupe or convertible. Superb driving manners meets high class.
2018 Chevrolet Camaro — Seriously, the Camaro’s range of engines and excellent suspension makes this a contender even if it doesn’t have the cachet of something exotic and German. Again, like the rest of these alternatives, it’s a choice between hard or soft top. That’s what makes the SLC so compelling.
2018 Porsche 718 Boxster — The Boxster uses a soft top, so it does not have the SLC’s serene character when the roof is up. But serenity is hardly the point of a Porsche.
Used Mercedes-Benz SL-Class — Along with the company’s big luxury sedans, the SL-Class is the car that really means "Mercedes-Benz." It’s gone beyond class and status symbolism to become an icon.
While the SLC 300 is quite entertaining, the SLC 43 comes with more equipment, more power and more thrills. It would be a shame not to get the best version.