The ongoing assault of the SUV is claiming yet another victim. In recent months, we’ve seen mainstream automakers steadily pare back their sedan, coupe and sports car lines and now, it seems, even luxury manufacturers are feeling the impact of the most dramatic industry shift in decades.
Mercedes-Benz is the latest throwing in the towel, getting ready to banish the once-popular SLC roadster originally known as the SLK. The good news for fans is that there’ll be an appropriately named Final Edition rolling into showrooms before the SLC drives off into the sunset.
The German automaker isn’t abandoning the sports car market entirely. It’s been rolling out more versions of the Mercedes-AMG GT in recent months and, for roadster aficionados, there’s a new Grand Edition that adds even more high-line touches to the familiar SL line.
The original SLK debuted in 1996, drawing its designation from the German words for “sporty,” “light,” and “short,” or “sportlich, leicht und kurz.” It was one in a wave of German roadsters that also included the BMW Z3 and Porsche Boxster. The SLK was seen as a modern incarnation of the legendary Mercedes 190SL, and provided a more affordable alternative for young buyers than the costly SL line had evolved into.
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Mercedes decided to rename the little roadster SLC a few years back to help make more sense of its increasingly confusing alphanumeric nomenclature. It rejiggered the designations used for its SUV and CUV models at the same time.
Demand for what was then the SLK peaked out in 2005, with U.S. sales of 11,278, and European volume hitting 38,417. Last year, combined global sales barely hit 10,000, and the trendline has continued pointing downward, sealing the little roadster’s fate. But the Final Edition at least gives loyal buyers one more chance to say goodbye.
The farewell model is really an appearance package for both the Mercedes-Benz SLC300 and the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43. The “base” model will reach U.S. showrooms exclusively in Selenite Grey with a gloss-black finish on the mirror caps, door handles and roll hoops. But they also will get a number of AMG-influenced features, including the bumpers and 5-spoke light aluminum alloy wheels with a gloss black finish.
The sport suspension, meanwhile, is dropped 0.4 inches, while those AMG-inspired wheels barely conceal larger brakes with cross-drilled rotors.
Inside, the SLC300 Final Edition will feature black and silver Nappa leather and carbon-like leather trim. There’s a three-spoke, flat-bottom steering wheel and silver-finish paddle shifters.
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The SLC 43, meanwhile, will arrive exclusively in a Sun Yellow paint scheme, along with the same black accents as the SLC300, here added to the fender strakes, intake fins and front splitter. The AMG model also gets larger, 18-inch wheels. It also comes loaded with a range of high-line features, including the Air Scarf neck heater.
The European versions of the SLC Final Edition go on sale this coming Friday, with a starting price of 41,536.95 euros. The U.S. model won’t reach showrooms until later this year, with pricing set to be announced closer to launch.
Mercedes isn’t the only automaker struggling to keep its roadster line alive. Mazda – which kicked off the two-seat ragtop revival 30 years ago – was forced to work up a joint venture with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to come up with the latest-generation Miata. FCA is offering its version as the Fiat 124 Spider. BMW, meanwhile, took a similar route to come up with the newly updated Z4 roadster. It shares its underpinnings with the revived Toyota Supra.
Roadsters aren’t vanishing entirely, as Mazda and BMW have demonstrated, but low volumes generally mean manufacturers have to focus on higher-priced options. And that’s the route Mercedes will take going forward.
The SL Grand Edition will be offered on several trim levels which will feature unique paint treatment “complemented by standard appointments for an even more luxurious driving experience,” the automaker said in a statement.
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These will include not only the Air Scarf system but active seats, Active Parking Assist and an array of advanced driver assistance systems. The suspension, meanwhile, will be lowered by 10 millimeters and tuned more aggressively. The European version will also go on sales shortly.