There’s no denying it – the new Mercedes-AMG SLC 43 roadster is easy on the eyes. My test car’s sleek Selenite grey metallic finish is pure sophistication, and among the subtle, aesthetic revisions is a more steeply-raked grill that creates the effect of elongating the bonnet, and new LED lights. Overall, it has a svelte, yet aggressive stance that indicates its not to be messed with – and it isn’t. AMG is the high-performance division of Mercedes-Benz, responsible for transforming ordinary (no disrespect intended) Mercedes vehicles into performance-oriented machines – and the technicians are quite the artisans.
The “One Man - One Engine” philosophy means that a single technician independently assembles, manufactures and customises each AMG engine, with many hours and a great deal of love and pride going into each creation. They even leave their signature, inscribed on a metal plaque on the engine plate. When I open the door, there’s more AMG trumpeting with illuminated lettering on the sill. Sinking into the low AMG bucket seats, I’m instantly won over by the cabin, bedecked in saddle-brown Nappa leather with contrast stitching, and finished with a new-generation sports steering wheel with a perforated grip area as a standard. It feels luxurious, comfortable and stylish – no surprises there.
My test car is box-fresh, with only a handful of kilometres down the hatch, and the eau de new car scent is replaced by eau de highway once I take the vario-roof down. It’s a smooth enough process even at speeds of up to 40kph; the folding hard-top does its business with minimal sound, and tries to be a good house guest, only taking up around a third of the boot’s space. (The same cannot be said for the fire extinguisher, placed rather awkwardly beneath the driver’s seat). Rather keep your man-bun intact? Keep the roof on, and test out the panoramic MAGIC SKY CONTROL, which despite its shouty insistence for all caps, is rather innovative, the glass transforming from dark to transparent or vice versa within a few seconds. Overall, the tech experience is excellent, with a user-friendly COMAND system, controlled by a clickable rotary knob, boasting resolution comparable to an iPad.
I can also attest the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) works effectively, with my car’s lamp indicating some trouble. It vanished with a system reset, but reemerged later. A new car speed bump, if you will. Those attached to the SLK 55 may have vented their feelings about being “downgraded”, and while it’s true that a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine now replaces the naturally-aspirated V8, there is nothing soft (or less fun) about the drive. It takes just 0.1 second longer to hit 100 km/h than its predecessor (now 4.7 seconds), and the car’s 362 horsepower and 520 nM of torque is nothing to sniff at.
Nor is the standard 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission, the
upgraded steering, the cushy suspension and the safety-assisted smart
driving, which is so coddling, for a moment, I wonder whether my
presence is actually needed. No matter your mood – there’s something to
suit with Dynamic Select, which easily flicks between options
like Comfort for luxurious suspension; Eco mode to keep revs low, Sport
and Sport+ to amp up the adrenaline (hello weekend) and even Individual
for a truly personalised ride.
With the roof down, you’d have to be made of stone not to appreciate the aural pleasures. The sound of the exhaust, which pops away like muffled fireworks, is neck-tingling stuff. Speaking of necks, when fumbling with the A/C I accidentally activated the endearingly named “Airscarf”, a clever heating system that blows warm air on the driver and front passenger’s necks. Peachy in drop-top season, not so wonderful in midday Dubai heat. By the end of the weekend, I genuinely felt sorry to hand back the key. The looks, the sound, the responsive drive means the SLC should be more than capable of winning the hearts of two-seater aficionados, and the reasonably priced bang for your buck may even steal suitors away from its nearest rivals, the Porsche 718 Boxster S or the Audi TT. The verdict? An exciting drive, value for money and all-round warm and fuzzies – especially on the neck.
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo
V60-100 kph: 4.7 secs
Max power: 362 bhp
Top speed: 250 kph
Price: Starting from AED246,300 (US$67,100)