Test Drive: 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 Roadster

Welcome to 2017. Our little corner of the world experienced its wettest spring in recorded history and our summer – worse. Given what’s happening in the rest of the world, I shouldn’t complain but desperately want to at least this once. Why? Every time I tried to photograph the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 Roadster with its roof down, the skies grew black and carpet-bombed us with God’s wrathful, wet vengeance. Which is a pity because this roadster deserves beauty shots in glorious sunshine. It’s so pretty, even people who’ve hated you for decades treat you like a long-lost sibling.

The SLC 300 is so pretty it can even make a creepy parking garage a destination you look forward to revisiting.

On the day I returned it, the weather was predicted to be stable with a miniscule chance of showers. Instead we enjoyed a spontaneous monsoon. Seemingly out of nowhere, a month’s worth of rain flooded unprepared drivers in underpasses (and in the ravine valley 300 metres east of Mercedes-Benz Canada’s head office, where the latest addition to Toronto’s subway system is finally being built… twenty years late).

So, anyway, forgive the jury-rigged indoor photography for roof-down pictures. As you’ll note, the SLC 300 is so pretty it can even make a creepy parking garage a destination you look forward to revisiting.

Anyway welcome to 2017 and the consequent newly dubbed SLC.

Despite this year’s ubiquitous rain, Mercedes-Benz optimistically released the SLC, a new name replacing the much-loved SLK. The “C” is a hat-tip to the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the supplier of much of this sweet roadster’s very sweet tech. The moniker adjustment also accompanies a facelift to the car. Note that even-sleeker beak and the explosive design of the radiator grille with lines emanating outwards from the epicenter/logo like a shockwave. Very cool.

The view is just as pretty inside whether the roof’s up or down. Note the thin red lines of ambient lighting, accenting details and suggesting motion while you’re still in park. The instrument cluster spreads logically from the most needed dials and buttons nearest outwards. The leather-wrapped sport steering wheel is perfectly proportioned, inviting grip and caresses like a favourite lover’s backside.

Yes, forgive any purple prose. The SLC 300’s weeklong test loan began immediately after three full days of testing big, bigger, and biggest SUVs – Plain Janes mostly. Anyway, pretty as it is, the SLC 300 would only be your first choice if you’re a devoted performance fan, not just a sun worshipper. So let’s talk about the ride before getting too carried away by design.

It handles magnificently – especially in wet weather.

The sporty tuning of this SLC 300 is like a stripped-down version of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: tight, dynamic, and thrilling. The speed-sensitive direct steering moves the driver (and with the driver) at the speed of thought. That is, you’ll believe you’re a better driver than you probably are. So corners are better than steak for breakfast. The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and adjustable seats let you customize your fit like a cocoon – one that just happens to blast off from zero to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds.

We were fortunate to take it not only on Ontario’s boring-as-Canadian-politics Highway 401 but also into the hills of the Kawartha Lakes Region, where it gripped tightly to both the twisty tarmac and curvy dirt roads better than a hungry pitbull on a noisy chihuahua. The summer performance tires on the 18-inch AMG five-spoke wheels – part of the sport package, which we’ll discuss more soon – held heroically in dry and rainy and near-underwater conditions.

Soaking wet, so to speak, this vehicle’s curb weight is 1,625 kg, all built around a four-cylinder engine with nine-speed automatic transmission. You can upgrade to a V6 engine, but you really don’t need to. The SLC 300’s gutsy four-cylinder puts out an impressive 241 hp at 5,500 rpm and 273 ft-lb of torque at 1,300 to 4,000. It can achieve a top speed of 210 km/h. Note the italics in the previous sentence. Tempted as I was – my wife and I even drove past Ontario’s legendary Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the way to the Kawarthas – I did not test the SLC 300 to its limits. Manufacturers always remind us, “It’s our car but it’s your ticket.”

Still, all that power is a useful option to have at your feet. Straightaways, no matter how jealously guarded by rude truckers refusing to surrender entry space, almost magically present opportunities. Put the foot down – not even that hard – and it’s like you’ve beamed yourself a few seconds into the future. What fun!

The government-approved fuel consumption estimates are 9.5 L/100 km in the city, 7.2 on the highway and 8.5 combined. Put the roof down, though, and best of luck to you achieving those numbers.

Whether with the roof up or down, the ride is well-insulated. (And leak-proof: the display warns you if you haven’t completed the process of opening or closing it.) You feel the engine growl more than hear it.

Several interesting features – some included, others part of packages.

With Japanese, Korean, and American manufacturers ostensibly bribing shoppers with marvellous standard features these days, the Europeans have begun putting plenty into the base price too. Take the mirror package with heated, power-folding exterior mirrors. It costs $0 more, there listed on your bill of sale.

Heated front seats are included too, though Airscarf is part of the Premium Package. Airscarf? It sounds like an ’80s electro-synth band from working-class Manchester but is actually a source of heat for your neck, blown through a minute vent fitted into the base of your headrest. So if you wish to keep the top roof down but either one of you is feeling chilled (probably her) you tap the headrest icon and choose any of three levels of warmth, like your heated seat.

The Premium Package also includes the automatic “vario-roof”. You pull up or push down an A-shaped lever that’s cached beneath a lid in front of the armrest. The roof unfolds, rises overhead and re-shuffles its configuration like a Vegas dealer with a pack of cards before refolding itself.

When down, the roof snuggles into a blocked-off section of the trunk; indeed, it will only retract if you’ve pulled out and clamped the compartment separator into place. With the roof down, the available cargo space is reduced from 335 litres to 225. Translation? Pack light.

The outside temperature display is a useful feature for frostbitten Canadians. How else would you know whether to pull over and put the roof down on a glorious-seeming day?

The eco-friendly automatic stop-start function is hard to argue against as a good standard, though some people do. Roadster enthusiasts of a certain vintage will have been raised driving standard transmissions – aka stick – which this car does not have or offer. Such drivers may find the engine suddenly quitting at stoplights too akin to those gut-wrenching stalls they experienced in traffic when they were first learning to drive. For such drivers, this feature can be turned off without even fully extending your arm. Just don’t forget that the engine only drinks top-shelf premium gasoline and you’ll need to extend that same arm much deeper into your pocket.

This tester included $8,600 worth of upgrades.

NB: Some of the options can get confusing. If you come across discrepancies in price, trust the packages listed on the Canadian Mercedes-Benz website.

Speaking of trusting your eyes, relax. You’re not actually in Park when the blue-boxed P appears onscreen. It’s ParkTronic, a feature that you select to automatically steer you into your spot. Look ma – no hands! It costs an extra $900. If you have teen drivers or get nervous in tight parking lots it may be worth your while. Look ma – no scratches!

The $1,800 sport package includes Airguide, a windblocker for a quieter roof-down ride; the sport brake system; silver steering paddles for the truly engaged driver who loves that extra bit of control; the aforementioned 18-inch wheels, plus some AMG-branded bits.

The $5,900 Premium Package provides lovely grace notes like the aforementioned automatic roof but, almost as important, the Harman Kardon surround sound system. With the roof down and windows up, you can still enjoy your music, courtesy of speakers even behind the headrest. satellite radio, Apple CarPlay and Google Android come with the package, as does the voice-prompted COMAND navigation system, which understands Canadian accents at least 75 percent of the time. It also includes the rear-view camera, which makes the $900 ParkTronic less necessary.

The base SLC 300 is priced below the BMW 4 Series Cabriolet (2017 from $61,250) and Porsche 718 Boxster ($65,100) – but even without those few thousands, it’s pretty enough to demand a spot on your testing list.

2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 Roadster
Engine Displacement: 2.0L
Engine Cylinders: 4
Peak Horsepower: 241 hp
Peak Torque: 273 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 9.5/7.2/8.5 L/100km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 335 L/225 L roof down
2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 Roadster
Base Price $58,800
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,695
Price as Tested $70,195
Optional Equipment $8,600 – Premium Package $5,900; Sport Package $1,800; Parktronic $900
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 8.0
10 Styling
9 Powertrain
9 Quality
9 Comfort
4 Practicality
8 Drivability
9 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
7 Features
8 Value