Mercedes-Benz SLC (2016 – 2020) Review

Mercedes-Benz SLC (2016 – 2020) At A Glance

3/5

+Folding metal hard-top roof offers security and refinement, performance AMG SLC 43 delivers pace to worry Porsche, optional Airscarf allows open-top motoring even when temperature drops.

-Boot space is heavily compromised by lowering the roof, ride quality is harsh on all models, and worse with AMG suspension, dated dashboard betrays the age of the car underneath.

New prices start from £31,140
Insurance Groups are between 41–46
On average it achieves 78% of the official MPG figure

The Mercedes-Benz SLC offers a rare combination of a folding metal hard-top roof in a compact two-seat roadster. This makes it a rarity, when rivals like the Porsche 718 Boxster and Audi TT use a fabric roof. The SLC has a strong range of engines, plus the option of an excellent nine-speed automatic gearbox. However, the interior feels dated alongside newer models, with an old-fashioned media system. That folding roof also has a major impact on practicality, and the SLC’s driving experience is less involved than some might expect.

Mercedes-Benz kickstarted a trend for convertibles with folding metal roofs in the 1990s. In 2020, this is a tiny section of the new car market, with the SLC remaining a stalwart. The advantage of extra refinement over convertibles with fabric roofs is hard to ignore, but such luxury does come at a cost. 

From the outside the SLC has all the right looks, with an imposing front grille showing off its three-pointed star badge. It certainly adds to the premium feel, and goes some way to justifying the higher price tag. The story inside is less impressive, with a button-tastic dashboard – a legacy of the SLC’s dated design.

At least the two occupants of the SLC will feel accommodated in the cabin, with plenty of room to get comfortable.

A low seating position adds to the sporting feel, and features such as cruise control and air conditioning are standard. Higher-specification models add leather seats and fancier trim, but the overall level of equipment is impressive. 

Opening the boot reveals one of the SLC’s major drawbacks. A complex metal roof needs more space than the soft-tops of the Audi TT Roadster or Porsche 718 Boxster. The SLC has to store the folding parts in the space usually reserved for luggage. It means boot space with the roof down drops to a diminutive 225 litres. Owners must learn to pack light.

The benefits of the metal roof can be felt instantly when driving the SLC. With the roof raised, road noise is much lower than fabric-roofed rivals, and there is also the added security benefit of a solid top. Lowering the roof takes just 20 seconds, and refinement is still impressive when topless.

An optional Airscarf system uses vents built into the seats to blow warm air at neck level, keeping occupants cosy with the roof off.

Engine choices for the SLC range from four-cylinder turbo petrols through to a zesty twin-turbocharged V6 in the AMG SLC 43. Performance stretches from mild to wild, plus there is also a diesel option for those doing longer journeys. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on lower models, but the impressive nine-speed automatic is worth hunting down. 

Despite its bold styling and powerful engines, the SLC makes more sense as a cruiser rather than outright sports car. More enthusiastic drivers will find the steering lacking in feedback, but this is unlikely to bother the majority. A stiff ride, made worse on cars with 18-inch wheels, will be a bigger issue for those wanting a relaxing experience. 

Aside from the Mazda MX-5 RF, which lacks the premium cachet of a Mercedes-Benz, the SLC is in a class of its own. If you want a classy, compact two-seat roadster with a folding metal roof, this is your only option. While it may not be perfect, the Mercedes SLC delivers exactly what those in the market for a car 

Ask Honest John

Should I be concerned about outstanding recalls when buying a new car?
"I've been looking at a 2016 Mercedes-Benz SLC for sale for £15,950. It has everything I wanted but has 60,500 miles. Would this be considered high? Can I haggle the price stating that this is more mileage I was looking for? I also see there are two outstanding recalls for this model, one being quite a serious fire hazard. Would it be on the independent dealer or me to sort that out? Would Mercedes fix that?"
The seller should have paperwork for the recall work. If they don't, walk away from the sale. The SLC is a complicated car that will quickly become a financial nightmare if basic maintenance has been neglected. The pricing you quote is on par for a private sale: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/used-prices/Mercedes-Benz/SLC/2016/ However, if you want my honest opinion, I wouldn't buy a Mercedes-Benz SLC. The Audi TT is a far better car to drive. The interior is a set above the SLC too, and it doesn't have a metal folding roof that will require a second mortgage to fix if it goes wrong. A 2016 Audi TT convertible will set you back roughly the same money: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/cars-for-sale/search/Audi/TT/shape-Convertible/?l=0&p2=20000
Answered by Dan Powell
What steel-roof convertible would you recommend with reasonable running costs?
"I'm looking at buying a convertible under £25,000 that is comfortable on the motorway, fun to drive with reasonable running costs and ideally a steel folding roof to cut down on motorway noise. I think the choice is between a Mercedes-Benz SLK or BMW Z4. Is there anything else to consider? What is your recommendation?"
They are the only 2 seaters with electric folding hard tops. Z4 tested here (a while ago): http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/bmw/bmw-z4-sdrive-2009-road-test/ Carbycar entry and updates here: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/carbycar/bmw/z4-2009/ Confusingly Mercedes-Benz changed the name of the SLK to SLC and a diesel version of that is tested here: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/mercedes-benz/mercedes-benz-slc-250d-2016-road-test/ I simply can't imagine driving a diesel sportscar so for me it would have to be petrol and probably the BMW. The other contender is Mazda's new MX-5 RF: http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road-tests/mazda/mazda-mx-5-rf-2017-road-test/
Answered by Honest John

What does a Mercedes-Benz SLC (2016 – 2020) cost?