Why the 2017 Mercedes AMG SLC43 is the best roadster on the road right now

The 2017 Mercedes AMG SLC43 (MB)

The 2017 Mercedes AMG SLC43 (MB)

You don’t buy a roadster because you need to actually get something  done. It won’t deliver more than one kid to soccer practice, haul groceries with the top down, or haul much else for that matter, top down or not, or cruise the highway like a well appointed yacht on the high seas.

No, you buy a roadster for the experience of driving, it’s not the destination, it’s simply getting there.  Because a good roadster is one that begs you to drive it, “c’mon, get off the couch and on the road.” It’s like having the best companion you could ever imagine.

We’ve all fallen in love with someone at some point. Those early days are filled with giddy feelings of desire, longing, and general contentment.  Yup, that’s the one, the person who makes us complete, our “better half.”

How we choose that “better half”, the person we will spend the rest of our life with depends on many factors.  Not long ago, a man chose a woman for reasons that would be shocking today; good child bearing hips, the ability to cook, till the field with a baby strapped to her back.

Today, it’s more about Tinder, Match, compatibility, a pretty face, or whether she’ll even give us her real phone number or not.

Our relationships with cars are still a bit old fashioned.  What we need, is what we get.  Growing a family in suburbia? Time for a minivan or SUV.  Middle aged executive? A luxury sedan, something that screams, “Look at me!” Retired? A big SUV perhaps or a big land yacht that gives a comfortable ride.

It’s almost like dating a woman simply for her mind though, or because she can till the field.  Good hips you have there ma’am.

A roadster however is like choosing a companion who can’t cook, would never have dirt under her fingernails, and only likes to be called “baby” not actually bear one.

Roadsters then serve only one purpose, a driving experience that really can’t be matched in anything else.

And in my mind, no other roadster can deliver that experience better than the Mercedes AMG SLC43 can.

I’ve had the occasion to drive several roadsters in the recent past; the fabled Miata,  the Fiat Spider, a TTS, Z3, Boxster, and the 370z to name a few.  All good, capable roadsters, loved them all.

But the AMG SLC43 is the class of that field.  Even though some accuse it of being a somewhat hollow shell of its former self, the 2017 AMG SLC43 I spent a recent week with is far from that. The loss of its naturally aspirated V8 in favor of a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, means very little to anyone other than the purest of the Mercedes purest.

The first clue that the 43 would be something different came prior to delivery when told that Mercedes didn’t want any more than 400 miles put on the odometer the whole week.  “Sure”, I thought to myself, I rarely exceed 250 miles in a good week; 400 miles would be a number I would never come near.

I was so wrong.

The Mercedes-Benz SLC was formally the SLK, that was until just last year. For nearly two decades, the SLK was the Mercedes two-seat roadster meant to compete with the Boxster and Z3. In 2016, the SLK became the SLC.  The V8 option was dropped, and the model received a slight facelift. The lineup now has two variants: the Mercedes-Benz SLC300 and the Mercedes-AMG SLC43.

The SLC300 is the entry-level model with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder under the hood.  The SLC43 has had the treatment from the wild Germans in Affalterbach; in place of the V8, there is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 with 362 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque.  In addition there are dynamic driving modes, a sportier suspension, high-performance brakes, a mechanical limited-slip differential rear axle, and styling cues that include 18-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels, painted in high-gloss black with a high-sheen. There are also sport seats with red piping and topstitching, carbon fiber accents, Nappa leather, and a flat-bottomed multifunction sports steering wheel with Nappa leather.

Roadsters are known for top down driving and the SLC43 is no different. There are a few additions however that help it stand above the rest. The hard top does fold at speeds up to 25mph, but has something not seen in the others, a standard panoramic glass roof. The roof can have the optional Magic Sky Control. Not only have I never seen a seen a sunroof on a convertible, but with this Magic Sky control the glass can be lightened or darkened with the touch of a button.  How, I’m not quite sure, it’s just, well, magic.

The 2017 Mercedes AMG SLC43 (MB)

The 2017 Mercedes AMG SLC43 (MB)

Normally when delivered my car for the week it’s the middle of the day. I set it up (navigation, satellite radio, seat position, etc), then head back inside the office to finish the day.  When delivered the SLC43 however, I just couldn’t do that.  So strong was the allure, that I spent the first hour simply driving.

It soon became clear why Mercedes limited the press car to only 400 miles during the week. If not I would have driven 4000 miles.

With the top up, the cabin, small as all roadsters are, was quiet. The top down experience was the same as other roadsters; however, thanks in part to the innovative Airscarf feature the top down experience need not be restricted to warmer times.  In addition to the heated seats, a blower near the headrest gently wafts warm air around the neck.

My tester had the optional AMG RIDE CONTROL suspension with adaptive adjustable damping and the Handling package.  On the road the horsepower was nothing short of a lit rocket; the 9G-TRONIC transmission with double-declutching function on downshifts gives nice short response times in Sport mode with a pleasing engine crackle.  I did 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, and as for the top speed, let’s just say the AMG SLC43 is limited to a top speed in America of 155 miles per hour and leave it to that.

That first hour left me wanting more. Like a new love the week was filled with giddy feelings of desire, longing and the need to simply drive, anywhere.  In fact, it was hard to keep the mileage under 400 miles. Reluctantly, however, I did.

Yes, being a Mercedes, the interior is well festooned and has all the bells and whistles, a new 7.0-inch media display inset in the dash, Bluetooth, sat-nav, satellite radio, rain-sensing wipers, surround sound stereo,  keyless entry-ignition,  cross traffic and blind spot monitoring, rear view camera, and so on so forth, but all that was secondary.  It was the on-the-road experience that left me ready to drive some more.  At the end of the day that’s what a true roadster should do; leave you wanting more . Explore roads less traveled, twisty mountain passes that really go nowhere, go somewhere just to drive there.

The AMG SLC43 is the companion who doesn’t cook, has perfectly manicured nails, and will always be called “baby”.  It’s what a roadster should be; a perfect companion that will always leave you wanting more.

Others may come my way in the future, but for now in my opinion, the AMG SLC43 is the best roadster on the road today.

The 2017 AMG SLC43 Roadster
MSRP: $30,300
MSRP (as tested): $75,375
Engine: AMG-enhanced 3.0L V6 biturbo, 362hp @ 5,500–6,000, torque 384 ft-lbs @ 2,000–4,200 rpm
Transmission: 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic, w/paddle shifters
Fuel Mileage (EPA est):  20 city, 29 highway, 23 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions “heavy foot”):  21 mpg

Exterior Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase: 95.7
Length: 163.1
Width: (w/o mirrors) 71.3
Height: 51.3
Track (front / rear): 61.0 / 61.7
Ground Clearance: (max load) 4.1
Curb Weight (lbs): 3,541

Interior Dimensions (in)
Passengers: 2
Headroom: 38.0
Legroom” 42.5
Shoulder room 52.2
Trunk Volume  6.4

Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance:4 Years/50,000 Miles
All specs can be found here (PDF)

Greg Engle