Mercedes-Benz is on fire right now, as all its new cars have been entirely impressive. With beautifully and luxuriously crafted interiors, excellent driving dynamics, obsessive attention to detail, and all the tech you could ever want, these Benzes wholly deserve that three-pointed star.
Engine: 2.0L turbo 4-cyl
Output: 241 hp, 273 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 9-speed auto
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 25 city, 32 hwy, 28.5 combined
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 9.5 city, 7.2 hwy, 8.4 combined
US Price: Starts at $48,400
CAN Price: Starts at $61,295
(All pricing includes destination)
The storied German brand’s older cars, however, are getting left behind and don’t get to benefit from all the new gee-whiz features or swanky interiors found on the newer cars. This is especially true for the SL and SLC roadster lineup and it makes a lot of sense since roadsters aren’t exactly huge moneymakers for the brand or the industry in general.
But even though the 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 Roadster may not be the newest droptop on the market or the freshest Benz in the family, it still has a lot to offer.
For one, the convertible Mercedes experience is one that shouts your social standing to the world, and people generally respect that. Stepping into a droptop Benz is still pretty fancy pants, but not in a way that is shouty or in-your-face. Classy and subdued, this is a car that you can drive confidently without be labeled something unsavory starting with a D and ending with a bag.
Although it is way heavier than a soft top, having a hardtop is a nice touch, as it makes the roadster a bit more practical and gives it a prettier coupe profile with the top up. The top takes less than 20 seconds to stow away and can even operate while the car is in motion at speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h).
One convertible-specific feature I love that’s unique to Mercedes droptops is the AirScarf, which blows hot air at your neck and shoulders from a vent in the seat back. As someone who is always cold but never drives with the top up unless it’s raining, this feature is worth the price of entry alone.
The SLC 300 is powered by a punchy turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission. Although there is some very noticeable turbo lag when you put your foot down, the hesitation isn’t enough to be a deal-breaker. Once you get going, acceleration is snappy, making passing people and getting up to highway speeds easy. The exhaust even sounds somewhat sporty, although perhaps more restrained and less snarly as a four-cylinder Jaguar or Porsche. The engine stop/start is also way too rough, so I ended up turning it off every time I got into the car.
The biggest issue with how the SLC 300 drives is its old chassis. The SLC really starts to show its age with a suspension that is overly stiff even in its most comfortable setting and not very adjustable. Rough roads result in a very choppy ride and a pothole or break in pavement is met with a loud bang from the car, but the stiffer suspension does pay dividends in a corner.
The car is refreshingly small and although it feels quite heavy, it does feel balanced to drive and is easy to park. Its small size also makes it feel more nimble, something that is always welcome. The roadster also has a staggered tire setup and torque vectoring to help curb understeer that brakes the inner rear wheel when you’re chucking it into a corner, which helps it feel more precise, lively, and willing to pivot when driven aggressively. Steering isn’t very communicative, but it has a nice weight, a good on-center feel, and feels precise.
I drove the SL 450 recently and was quite disappointed by it, especially because it was quite expensive for what it was. Think of the SLC 300 as the budget version of the SL — it gives you about the same experience for a lot less money, and that’s very impressive.
Besides the aging chassis, another area that needs a huge update is the interior, which is very dated compared to the beautiful interiors in Mercedes’ newer cars. This is an old car and it really shows inside with the hard plastics and out-of-place telephone buttons that seem to dominate the center stack.
Mercedes has beautiful interiors these days and this SLC misses out because roadsters are a dying segment, so there’s no real motivation to give this droptop the updates it deserves. The SLC also has an older infotainment setup, which is a shame because the newer ones are much more user-friendly. Visibility is good, however, the seats are comfortable, and there are plenty of luxurious touchpoints in the cabin that help elevate how expensive it feels, but still, it can’t hide its age well.
Although there is some droptop competition from within Mercedes’ own lineup, the most obvious competitors for the SLC 300 (US$49,395/CAD$61,295) are the Audi TT Roadster (US$47,450/CAD$59,195), Jaguar F-Type (US$63,995/CAD$74,122), and Porsche 718 Boxster (US$58,450/CAD$66,350). All these European droptops have four-cylinder engines and offer a mix of sport and luxury. All benefit from being much newer than the SLC, which means more tech and nicer interiors.
In Canada, Mercedes owners and leasees have access to Mercedes-Benz Star Access, in which they can use a dedicated concierge to help them buy concert tickets. As part of a partnership program with Live Nation Canada, I was able to email the concierge (you can also phone them) to get Lady Gaga tickets for premium seats that were specially reserved for Mercedes customers. If you love live music, this is a huge perk, as it makes getting good seats wonderfully easy.
The Verdict: 2017 Mercedes-Benz SLC 300 Roadster Review
For a little bit more money, I’d skip the SLC 300 and instead opt for the C300 Cabriolet. Looking like a smaller S-Class, this Benz not only looks equally if not more swanky from the outside, but the interior is more upscale and modern, and it has two extra seats as a bonus. The performance of the two Benzes are about the same, but because the C300 is newer, it’s better at giving you the full Mercedes experience, which is something the older SLC, unfortunately, struggles with.