Test drive: Mercedes-Benz SLC 43 AMG

Sleek and plush too, the SLC 43 AMG means business when it comes to wind-in-hair driving fun

Merc SLC43 AMG 36

Before anything else, let’s get one thing straight: this is Mercedes-Benz’s new generation SLC, what many of you may know as the SLK. SLKs of the past had a certain ‘soft’ reputation, however the new drop-top in question is anything but.

That’s because added to its name is the brand’s magical combination of letters and digits that signify performance, those being ‘AMG’ and ‘43’. The SLC 43 AMG, if you haven’t guessed yet, is Mercedes-AMG’s answer to things like the Porsche 718 Boxster. We spent considerable time behind its wheel recently and, simply put, this one has definitely got the ‘go’ to match its flamboyant ‘show’.

Merc SLC43 AMG 2

As far as skin value goes, the SLC 43 AMG is rather understated. At a glance, most would easily mistake it for a member the lesser SLC 300 AMG Line. The absence of typical AMG styling traits such as excessive wheel arch extensions and over-the-top aerokit reinforces that view. That perception only changes when the car roars to life, its menacing soundtrack being the dead giveaway that this isn’t a regular SLC – more on this later.

This is strictly a two-seater convertible, meaning the cabin will either feel snug or somewhat cramped, depending on your size. Still, as you might expect of the three-point star marque, the SLC 43 AMG’s interior is richly lined with plenty of soft leather, glossy black trim and dashing metal brightworks. In the case of this SLC 43 AMG, there’s also a dash of racy carbon-effect trim, subtly hinting that this SLC is different from its lesser siblings.

Merc SLC43 AMG 1

The menacing soundtrack mentioned earlier comes when you twist the key and bring this drop-top’s potent heart to life. Part of the 43 AMG series line-up, it comes powered by Mercedes-AMG’s new 3.0-litre V6 bi-turbo sitting up front. The absence of a builder’s plaque on the engine cover means this isn’t your typical hand-built AMG mill. However, Merc’s performance arm has fettled this E400-derived unit enough for it to proudly wear the AMG badge. In fact, there’s 367bhp and a whopping 520Nm to power the rear wheels.

Mated with Merc’s signature 9-speed automatic, 0-100kph takes just 4.7 seconds, thus putting this lighter and sleeker drop-top on par with its all-wheel-drive siblings like the C43 Coupe and E43. Surprisingly, unlike the overpowered 45 AMG series’ four-banger or the tyre-shredding 55 and 63 AMG series’ V8s, this V6’s delivery feels more sublime, versatile and, crucially, more controllable. Peak torque comes from as low as 2,000rpm, effortlessly pulling the car off the line, while the abundance of top-end power is equally as addictive as it’s smooth and rapid in delivery.

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What sweetens the powertrain further is the presence of five drive modes – Individual, Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. It’s at its sharpest in Sport+ mode, with a much angrier sports exhaust note too. Then, the SLC 43 AMG is ready to carve up corners on any twisty B-road. Switch to Comfort and things soften up just enough for the daily drive. Should the need arise, this drop-top will sip as little as 7.8 litres/100km when driven right in Eco mode.

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Our only gripe with its driving manners perhaps lies in its chassis, which felt rather stiff, especially when driven through the urban jungle. Sure, it’s something expected of any AMG model, but the good news here is that, unlike AMGs of yore, this one has better dampers. In other words, low-and-slow cruises are still possible, but, really, that’s not what the SLC 43 AMG is built for.

The ultimate party trick of the SLC 43 AMG is its ‘Vario-roof’ retractable hard-top mechanism. It takes less than 20 seconds to either retract or extend, even on the move but below 40kph. This is where the SLC 43 AMG’s delivery of wind-in-hair driving fun comes into play, and it’s best enjoyed in Comfort mode, if we’re honest, especially when cruising down a stretch of road with a breathtaking view.

Merc SLC43 AMG 9

In the eyes of a pragmatic person, the SLC 43 AMG would be both impractical and, above all, unnecessary. It’s especially true of its rather small boot. But if you’re looking for a prime weekend toy that has style, luxury and performance, and you’ve got the means to meet its asking price, then the SLC 43 AMG will easily drive its way into both your heart and your driveway.

At RM570,888, sans insurance, registration and options, the SLC 43 AMG isn’t a cheap thrill. Nevertheless, the stellar aftersales service and coverage offered by the three-point star marque’s local arm should give all the assurance one needs, perhaps to the point of even silencing naysayers who’d sway you towards a Porsche 718 Boxster or even a BMW M2 coupe.

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Perhaps, too, the prospect of starting a mid-life crisis sounds heaps better when it involves care from a marque that promises “The best or nothing”…

Powertrain: 2,996cc 6-cylinder bi-turbo petrol, RWD, 367bhp, 520Nm
Price: RM570,888
Economy: 7.8L/100km, 178g/km
Performance: 0-100kph in 4.7 seconds, 250kph
Weight: 1,595kg

Sharp and fast enough for those who love driving something with just enough refinement and finesse. Ready for a mid-life crisis?

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Sharper and faster benchmark-setting mid-ship, but costs much more

Merc SLC43 AMG 3

Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq