This SLC roadster is an imperfect and slightly confusing way to introduce Mercedes-AMG’s new range of medium-hot ‘43’ models for one very good reason: it’s rear-wheel drive.

The similar-engined V6 saloons, coupés and estates due to follow it will all feature not just nine-speed automatic gearboxes but also all-corner 4Matic drivelines.

You get a bit of red trim on the engine cover — which is genuine aluminium, according to AMG. Doesn’t add much in my book

The cornerstones of AMG’s ‘43’ mini-brand will be defined as performance value, all-weather usability and decent real-world fuel economy. That’s largely virgin territory for AMG in every instance.

Nevertheless, the SLC 43 has the same twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 engine that will power the upcoming C 43 Coupé and E 43 in saloon and estate guises, here producing 362bhp and 384lb ft of torque.

That’s gutsy enough for a 0-62mph acceleration claim of 4.7sec. The outgoing SLK 55’s V8 was good for 416bhp, 398lb ft and 0-62mph in 4.6sec – but the SLK 55 was also a £55,000 car and always felt to us somewhat overpriced and better endowed than its chassis truly deserved.

A subtle repositioning on price and a reappraisal of sporting ambitions were in order, then.

Top 5 Sports cars

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

The new 43 engine, codenamed M276DELA30, is made up of six slightly oversquare cylinders in a 60deg V shape. Unlike AMG’s V8s, it’s not hand-assembled by AMG in Affalterbach but built at Mercedes’ main engine plant at Bad Cannstatt, Untertürkheim.

But the motor has been engineered by AMG and contains special internals and control software and dedicated injection, ignition and exhaust systems.

The standard SLC’s suspension is made up of multi-link arrangements front and rear. The body structure is a mix of aluminium and steel, with a folding steel roof powered by an electrohydraulic motor.

AMG’s overhaul involves the fitment of special firmed-up engine and rear subframe mountings, as well as stiffer steering knuckles, new wishbone guide bearings and forged track rods at the rear.

New suspension kinematics also feature, with more negative camber for all wheels.

Lowered, stiffened, passively damped sports suspension is standard on UK cars (with adaptive dampers to come), as is a mechanical limited-slip differential and an additional radiator.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week