Renamed SLK proves that you don’t need a day off or a mid-life crisis to enjoy a roadster
Back in the day, the Perodua Kancil was a college student staple. Those who had one glorified it by calling it an SLK, a cheeky reference to the then popular Mercedes-Benz roadster when the acronym actually stood for Small Little Kancil. Many of these party-going teens have probably swapped their cyber cafes and nightclubs for office cubicles or boardrooms. And we’d like to think their SLKs have been accordingly replaced with something along the lines of a Honda City, if not a Civic. No wonder Mercedes-Benz calls its roadster an SLC these days…
Okay, it’s highly unlikely for the bigwigs in Stuttgart to base a name change on those grounds. Just like how the M-Class became the GLE, the SLC is the latest recipient of a new moniker that falls in line with Mercedes-Benz’s new naming convention that makes it easier for the average Joe to relate a letter to a size.
The C, in this case, tells you the SLC is as small as a Mercedes-Benz roadster gets. But there is a lot more to this weekend toy than a new alias which still doesn’t roll off our tongue all too naturally.
The biggest difference, or rather improvement, is the fact the SLC is no longer a car reserved for Sunday drives, not even in SLC300 configuration which lays 245bhp and 370Nm onto the rear axle.
When paired with the prospect of top-down driving, these are the kind of numbers that will whet the appetite of even the most seasoned driver, especially when a spirited convoy up to Genting Highlands is on the cards. But you don’t need to wait for such a specific opportunity to arise to enjoy the SLC now that it’s strapped with a new 9-speed automatic that adds a whole new dimension of versatility to its broad range of talents.
Used to great effect in larger vehicles brandishing the three-pointed star, the 9G-Tronic gearbox is the Harvey Dent of transmissions – two-faced, but in an oddly likeable way. Most of the fun inhabits the first four gears that encourage a stab of the throttle which in turn agitates the growly exhaust to the benefit of the driver’s ears. Play along with a heavy right foot and the SLC300 will leap into motion at a rate of 5.8 seconds to 100kph.
There’s some real talent in the ride and handling department to go with the peppiness too, provided you stick the Dynamic Select in Sport, which tightens up the steering and suspension nicely.
Once you’ve had your kicks, let the revs subside and you’ll find that every gear from fifth feels like overdrive. With a simple change of throttle operation, the SLC transforms from an overzealous B-road tackler to a more civilised Benz that can do 100kph cruises in ninth gear without having to nudge the four-pot turbo past 1,500rpm. That’s the average highway pace at only twice the engine’s idling speed, hence the impressive 5.8L/100km claimed by the spec sheet.
The option of efficient cruising is one of many features uncharacteristic of roadsters that makes the SLC a solid proposition for daily driving. Its overall refinement and practicality – the boot lid hides a whopping 335 litres of cargo volume – are other key components to the SLC’s distinct formula which some purists may fault for being, well, impure. Yes, you will feel and hear the elements around you a lot more in a Mazda MX-5, which is a more raw and honest machine from headlight to taillight. But that doesn’t mean the SLC isn’t a good roadster. It just happens to be a better Merc.
Engine: 1,991cc, 4-cylinder turbo, 245bhp, 370Nm
Economy: 5.8L/100km, 134g/km CO2
Performance: 0-100kph in 5.8 secs, 250kph
More than practical for a solo driver’s daily grind, well-refined too. Thrill of top-down driving still a key selling point at which the SLC excels