Mercedes SLC 180

FIRST UK DRIVE We see if new petrol en­gine can re­vive baby road­ster

Auto Express - - Contents - Ja James Brodie Jame James_brodie@den­ @Jim­my­brods

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

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