Just in case you were wondering, no Mercedes-Benz didn’t just introduce a small new roadster called the SLC, which looks strikingly similar to the SLK. And no, this particular SLC has no relation to the awkward looking 2+2 coupé version of the SL Bobby Ewing drove.This new SLC is the facelift version of the third-generation SLK-roadster, and the latest model in Mercedes-Benz’s stable to assume a new identity in its mid-lifecycle transition, following the company’s recent move to streamline the naming convention of its model range.
According to Mercedes-Benz the reason for giving the SLK the SLC moniker was to ‘acknowledge its traditionally close relationship with the C-Class’, though we all know that it is meant to establish some room for additional sports car models to elbow their way in the near future. Perhaps an Audi TT-rivalling donning a theoretical SLA title, but I digress.
It is this ‘close relationship with the C-Class’ that is sad part of this story. Unlike Mercedes’ compatriots who use numbers to draw out the segmentation, their model names held meaning. Each collection of alphabets was the essence of each model’s original purpose and intent. It was borne from a bygone era when car manufacturers christened a brand new car with whatever name they thought had a nice ring to it. Or for some, particularly those who were to busy building race cars just in time to get it into parc fermé, just take whatever designation the previous car they were working on and add one increment to its name.
The previous SLC was a coupe version of the SL, which earned it the ‘C’ designation at the end, a sub-designation used to mark out a Coupe or Cabriolet, not link it to the ‘junior executive’ model of the range as is the case now. Benzes with the main ‘S’ designation meant ‘Sonderklasse’ or ‘special class’ for flagships such as the S-Class.
These names were handed down like a doting father to their newborn child, with the sincerest of hopes that the model will live up to expectations. You can’t help but feel there is a bit of romance to the way Mercedes does things.
But around the dawn of the new millennium Mercedes’ nomenclature steadily devolved into an incomprehensible mess with model after model adopting their own take on the alphabetical designation. And with the emergence and widespread proliferation of the crossover, Mercedes clearly had to abandon the old ways if people were to make sense of what they were offering.
After all, it made little sense for the M-Class SUV to share the same category as the GLK and GL, or having the S-Class’ two-door offshoot christened as the CL, while the four-door coupe spin-off of the E-Class ended up as the CLS. And let us not forget the CLC, the dreadful second-generation C-Class hatch that wore the skin of a third-generation model to attract unassuming customers to its tedious mediocrity.
In the meantime Mercedes-Benz’s rivals were having a far easier time communicating where every one of their models are placed in relation to each other. BMW conveniently formed the ‘odd-numbers standard models and even-numbers sporty coupes’ modus operandi, whereas Audi spaced out their alphanumerical designation well enough for people not to question how an A7 relates to the rest of the range. A method that is just as sexy as naming your suburb after its postcode as it is effective.
In light of that, Mercedes’ new naming convention is a whole lot more understandable, and you can see why they were willing to forgo tradition in favour of making it more germanic and categorised for convenience.
In a weird way some of that magic and allure of the brand has been lost in the process, particularly with the SLC, whose new name doesn’t roll off the tongue as nicely as the SLK did. ‘K’ sounds exquisite in Mercedes-Benz’s speak, even if it means ‘Kruz’ or short in its case. And for the nerdier amongst of us, it does make one think of the SSK, one of Mercedes-Benz’s great pre-war icons.
Strangely while the SLK gets a name change, its big brother, the SL, doesn’t. Even though it was given a facelift while Mercedes was in the midst of turning the SLK into the SLC, the M-Class into the GLE, and the GL into the GLS, the SL is still the SL. And why not? After all the SL name is the embodiment of Mercedes’ glam and star-appeal. Its snob appeal and upper crust imagery that paints its driver as a member of the aristocracy typifies the tri-star emblem’s captivating allure.
Should the SL adhere to the new naming convention, it ideally should assume the top-tier ‘S’ designation, as befitting of a flagship model. However doing so would put it in relation to the SLS, AMG’s loud and proud two-finger salute to Ferrari, which is a far cry from the SL’s demur, boulevard-cruiser image.
Despite being the chalk to the SLS’s cheese, assuming the former’s mantle would bring the series full circle, ironically. Considering that the SLS drew heavily from the original SL’s form, gullwing doors and all, renaming it the SLS wouldn’t be putting a full stop to its lineage. Furthermore AMG isn’t going to build an SLS successor since they have committed to taking on the Porsche 911 with the GT, rather than baiting Ferrari 458s and Lamborghini Gallardos with the SLS, leaving the SLS name vacant for the time being.
Would replacing the SL with the SLS be a step too far for the traditionalist amongst us? Maybe, but perhaps in time as we accept the new naming convention, just as how the days before Mercedes started classifying their model range in ‘-Class’ are consigned to the history books. Perhaps then the SL would be reassigned as the SLS. Hopefully way before reviving the CLC again.