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Mercedes-AMG SLC43 (2017) review

The SLC43 version of Mercedes' baby roadster costs 3 million baht less than the Porsche 718 Boxster. Is it really a cut-price alternative?

What's new?

Just a quick refresh: the Mercedes-Benz SLC is merely a midlife update of the SLK roadster with a new name, hence the SLC300 that's currently sold in Thailand with a 245hp 2.0-litre petrol-turbo engine.

Now there's another variant in the Thai SLC lineup, although it isn't just another one designed to chase more sales. On the contrary, it's one that's fettled by Mercedes's AMG division to boost the SLC's image.

The so-called Mercedes-AMG SLC43 now sits on top of the range with a 367hp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, although it isn't exactly a proper replacement for the previous-gen SLK55 AMG, which ran a more powerful 5.4-litre naturally aspirated V8.

The SLC43 goes for 4.99 million baht, which is exactly a million baht more than the SLC300. The SLC43 may sound like decent value given the power it has to offer at such a price level. Better even is its three million baht advantage over the Porsche 718 Boxster.

What's cool?

Seats are both supportive and comfortable to sit in.

Armed with such a power plant, there's no doubting about the SLC43's straight-line performance. The two-seat roadster, which shares its engine with the C43 Coupe, is remarkably quick on the move and hits its top speed with no sweat in the right conditions.

And should you engage the drive selector into Sport, the bi-turbo V6 becomes more lively. Go further into Sport+ and the exhaust starts to raise its voice and make crackling noises during gear changes and throttle lift-off.

Some mechanical modifications made to it guarantees that others on the road will hear you coming.

Despite being a little numb in feel, the steering turns directly in corners. The chassis, as well, offers decent intuitive adjustability when you catch the rear end going out. Yes, there are modified brakes and some special suspension components to cope with all those 367 ponies.

The SLC itself is getting a little old, but the exterior still looks cool, be it roof up or down. The interior also feels solidly made, comes with supportive yet comfy seats and is trimmed with all the right materials to make this a true AMG car.

What's not?

In spite of those chassis mods, the SLC43 clearly suffers from an overly firm suspension making the ride bouncy on uneven road surfaces. It would have been great if the passive dampers were replaced by adjustable ones.

The same goes for the lack of a limited slip differential for the rear axle, which should help tame all those mad colts in a more effective manner when accelerating away enthusiastically from standstill or when exiting out of slow corners.

And while a mean-sounding exhaust is a good thing, there isn't a separate switch to turn it off or on. This means that if you want to enjoy the pops and crackles it makes during city driving, you have no other option than going into Sport+ where the transmission setting is too aggressive and crude at low speeds.

Buy or bye?

Unlike in the comfort-oriented SLC300, the SLC43 feels far quicker, sportier and rawer to drive -- even a little too crude when measured against the more refined and composed 718 Boxster. If the SLC43 had the nicer chassis balance of the C43 Coupe, it would have been another story.

In this respect, the SLC43 feels a little old-school that, however, may appeal to some hardcore drivers who don't mind some unpolished edges in the way it drives near or on the limit.

True, the SLC43's performance is quite a bargain when compared to the 718 Boxster (which has a lighter body to compensate for its lesser 300hp power). As well, the SLC43 sounds far more exciting on the ears than the industrial variation found in the 718 Boxster.

But where the SLC43 falls short of its intended rival is the way it drives because it doesn't feel as involving, polished or tame. Is it worth saving 3 million baht for the SLC43 over the 718 Boxster? Not if 5 million baht for a car is peanuts for you.

SLC43 costs 1 million baht more than SLC300.

Bi-turbo V6 feels powerful and sonorous at the same time.

Despite its age, the cabin has a solid build quality.

Unlike the regular SLCs, AMG's version feels sporty and occasionally untamed.

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