Mercedes SLC 180
FIRST UK DRIVE We see if new petrol engine can revive baby roadster
Can new petrol engine give roadster a boost?
MERCEDES sold over two million vehicles around the globe last year, but the SLC roadster (formerly known as the SLK) remains a small part of that success. In fact, sports cars accounted for just 27,000 Mercedes sales in 2016, representing a seven per cent drop year-on-year.
To inject some life into the class, a new entry-level SLC 180 has joined the line-up. Equipped with a 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine linked to a six-speed manual gearbox, it offers a lower starting price of just £32,439. An equivalent SLC 200 is £2,500 more.
While that list price seems unlikely to trouble cars like the Mazda MX-5 RF, Mercedes now offers its baby roadster with enormous dealer deposit contributions. It means you can get an SLC for less per month than you can a hard-top MX-5. The SLC is now only offered in AMG Line spec, but that means every model comes with a bodykit and 18-inch wheels.
Of course, the big news with this car is the engine, which in this guise produces 154bhp. It’s not a new unit, and already features under the bonnet of the A 200 hatchback. Claimed fuel economy is strong, with the 1.6 delivering 48.7mpg and CO2 emissions of 132g/km. The stifled fourcylinder doesn’t have the most exciting engine note, but throttle response is fine thanks to the unit’s 250Nm of torque being delivered at low revs. Progress isn’t fast, however, with 0-62mph taking 7.9 seconds.
That’s because the SLC 180 is quite heavy; an MX-5 RF is almost 400kg lighter. The power-to-weight imbalance means that the SLC isn’t an exciting car. The weight of the steering is fine and the nose is willing to turn in, but like any SLC, it lacks the feedback needed to goad you into faster driving.
AMG Line is the only trim level, so sports suspension and selectable driving modes are standard. However, we found the different settings do little to change the way the car drives, and the stiff suspension set-up means that while the SLC feels comfortable at speed, the ride is quite firm around town.
The six-speed manual gearbox doesn’t redeem the driving experience, either. While the throw is short, it’s springy and the shifts aren’t quitee as slick as you’d like. It feels as if it’s positionedtioned too far back in the cabin, too, so tallerler drivers might struggle to get comfortable.rtable. Regardless, most buyers willll skim over this and pick the nine-speed auto – a worthwhile £1,600 option. tion.
“A power-to-weight imbalance means the SLC isn’t an exciting car” ar”
NEED TO KNOW The cheaper Sport trim has been dropped from the SLC range, with AMG Line now the only option