I think I might owe the SLC a grovelling apology. I thought it lacked pace – I simply couldn’t find a road long enough around south London to open up the throttle.
Well driving back to the Cotswolds in the fog last night I finally got my chance. After a lacklustre drive up the M4 motorway I slipped the SLC into ‘sport’ mode and let rip.
Wow! It’s a flyng machine. 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds and finally, a decent crackle and pop from the exhaust too.
It’s no Porsche Boxster or Audi TT for handling (although it’s more comfortable than both) but I was afraid Mercedes had ruined everything by disposing of the naturally aspirated V8.
Now, if they could only make the handling a bit more dynamic…
About three years ago I almost bought a diesel SLK. I say almost – I paid the deposit only for the dealer to sell the car from under my nose and then offer me a more expensive one.
To say I was pissed off is an understatement. I swore I’d never drive a Merc again. Well, unless it was a W123 or a Gullwing. Then obviously I would swallow my pride, who wouldn’t.
As 2016 peters out, I find myself being the wheel of a rather pretty SLC – a folding hard-top convertible. Whether it’s, ahem, a mid-term facelift for the third generation SLK or not, the SLC is almost as cute as the second generation model (in my opinion, the best ever version).
They’ve dumped that pig ugly nose that messed up the 2011 model and given it a more steeply raked grille and prettier lights all round.
You can open and close the roof at speeds of up to 25mph and the interior is very classy indeed.
I know it’s not going to be as dynamic to drive as a Porsche Boxster, or a possibly the Audi TT either, but as November beckons, I’m rather looking forward to experiencing the thrills of a 362bhp V6 twin-turbo.
Surprising as I know I’m going to miss the old, normally aspirated V8…
Is this a gentle re-brand or a brand new Mercedes sports car? Well, take a look at the photo and tell me what you think.
The third generation SLK arrived in 2011. I wasn’t too struck with the bulky, front-end styling but the new SLC two-seater has a prettier nose, a revised folding roof operation and swanky LED lights all round.
The engine, of course, is the talking point. The turbo SLC43 has a great turn of speed but there isn’t that mighty V8 roar and pop when you hit the pedal anymore.
There’s nothing wrong with the SLC – it’s refined, beautifully put together and very classy but somehow, something seems to be missing. The fun factor, possibly?
Join us for an autumnal week in England to find out…
Hell, I really don’t know whether to suggest you opt for the MX-5, or the new Fiat Spider.
A fantastic dilemma to have but both cars offer so much and, considering they sit on the same platform, it hard to believe they are so closely related.
That said, I’m not very close to my brother, so perhaps we should just put the obvious to one side and try and work it out as if both were new cars.
In a nutshell, the MX-5 is more modern looking, needs to be worked hard through the gears but is immensely rewarding.
The Spider is subtle retro, equally well-equipped, better on a long trip than a country lane, and is also a gem to drive.
Whichever one you think you want, do try BOTH cars before putting down a deposit. The Fiat is late to the party but there isn;t much to choose between them…
From Thursday I will be testing the Mercedes SLC – yep, the ‘new’ SLK…
For those of you lucky enough to be stuck in a dilemma over whether to buy an MX-5 or the new Fiat 124 Spider (pictured) I have to say there is no easy fix.
However, I can tell you that the outcome of your deliberations may well depend on how old you are.
Why? Well, I would suggest the Fiat is the better looking car. I can’t say there’s anything wrong with the Mazda especially, just that the modern design doesn’t appeal as much as the Spider.
But then I’m a sprightly 53 and my younger friends have no idea what the original 1966 Fiat Spider looked like – or why the cool bonnet on the new version really works for me.
It is going to be fascinating to see how the Fiat sells compared to the MX-5. I think there is a place for both in this world but the Spider, it has the legs on the Mazda for me…
The Triumph Herald convertible was a bone-shaker of soft-top – it would rattle and squeak at every opportunity.
My first open top Herald was pretty knackered and the front footwells would fill up with water at the first sign of rain.
But it was where I learnt that the best place to watch shooting stars and meteorites was in an open top car on a clear night in the winter months.
And so it was last night in the MX-5. No leaks of course, just a heated seat, a bit of World Service on the radio and warm air fanning my feet.
I found another use for the Mazda then…
Anybody who can remember the woeful seats in a Citroen 2CV will recall they were probably borrowed from a picnic set and equally as uncomfortable.
Manufacturers have now turned the car seat into an art form. Mercedes pump warm air through the Air Scarf system at neck height – any number of luxury saloons boast massaging seats with heat or cool air.
We have seats that connect to the safety belt – others that electronically shift to preset positions for different drivers. Lumber supports squeeze from every angle these days.
The MX-5? Well, it has speakers hidden in the headrests. That may sound simple and quite obvious but it works exceptionally well on a telephone call.
Sometime the simple things are the most useful tools…
I’m going to cough up from the start – I love the Fiat Spider. It looks retro cool and rather more interesting than the angular and modern Mazda.
It’s all a matter of personal taste but as much as I rate the MX-5, I can’t help hankering for the long, curvy bonnet of the Spider, which reminds me so much of the original Fiat 124 convertible.
There’s no doubt that next summer Fiat and Mazda will be slogging it out for the top roadster spot. The Japanese will beef up its range with the folding hard-top version – Fiat has the faster Abarth model available now too.
There may not be a cigarette paper to choose between them but I’m going to make my mind up over the next seven days.
Can the MX-5 win me back to the fold?
I recently stayed at the Peninsula Hotel in Paris. One of the city’s finest places to book a room, it is famous for a long list of famous guests. George Gershwin composed An American In Paris there – the Vietnam peace accord was signed on the bar.
It also has some of the best loos in the world. I mean, these toilets are seriously high tech. Heated seats, multi-directional ‘wooshing’ jets and piped music to save your blushes.
The RS 7 is a pretty fine place to sit too. Multi-adjustable, heated and with a plethora of lumber supports, the quilted leather is very cool indeed.
They are certainly in Bentley territory – although I can’t find a messaging function. AAnd no heated steering wheel? There are so many functions on the wheel it’s sometimes difficult to find everything in a week (and I refuse to use the manual)…
So why do you need to pay an extra £6,500 for the Performance version of the RS7? Well, it ramps up power by another 44bhp and adds another helping of torque too.
All splendid stuff for racing down a German autobahn but I’m still struggling to understand who would pay this much for a super coupe when there are all kinds of alternatives for around £100,000.
I can’t deny the thrill of driving a car like the Audi but even with 21-inch alloys, a sports exhaust system, privacy glass and blue stitiching on the sport seats, erm, it still looks like a A7 doesn’t it?
And most of all, it’s a difficult car to connect with. There’s very little feel through the steering and countless driving aids remove the sense of thrill.
Except in a straight line with your foot to the floor. And there are only so many times you can impress the missus doing that…