Mercedes has been offering hardtop convertibles throughout the brand’s history. Models such as the SL, SLC/SLK are optioned out with the hardtop from the factory. These models have seen a steady decline in popularity due to the SUV craze, so Mercedes has decided that it doesn’t make sense to offer hardtop convertibles anymore.
Nowadays Mercedes no longer produces the SL nor the SLC model, but there are a few indications that we are going to witness the return of the SL and even the SLC in a few years.
Mercedes SL model
The Mercedes SL badge dates back to the 1950s, and some models like the 300SL are still considered as one of the most important Mercedes models of all time. Nowadays, a 300SL in good condition costs as much as a few million dollars and is widely considered the most beautiful car of all time.
So, it makes sense that Mercedes does not want to discontinue the SL entirely. Mercedes has stopped producing the SL for now, to completely redesign the SL for 2022. However, you can still buy a 2020 SL starting at $91k for the entry-level SL450 with a 362 hp 3.0-litre V6 BiTurbo.
If you want a V8-powered SL, the next model in the lineup is the SL550. Equipped with a 4.7-liter V8 BiTurbo with 449hp and a starting price of $114k. Both of these come with hardtop convertibles from the factory.
If you want even more powerful SL models, you can always opt for an AMG version, which is a lot more powerful and aimed at performance driving. These models are equipped with 550hp+ engines, faster transmission options and a sporty looking exterior and interior.
Back in 1996, Mercedes introduced a compact luxury roadster named the SLK. This model was aimed to compete with the Porsche Boxter at offering the best compact sports car with a hardtop. Later, the SLK was renamed as the SLC in an attempt at making the SLC more fitting with the rest of the model designations.
The SLC stopped being produced in 2020, but you can still buy one from some Mercedes dealerships. The range kicks off with the SLC300, which is powered by a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder turbo with 241 horsepower. The SLC300 Roadster starts at around $50k, but many dealers are offering discounts, as they are no longer being produced.
The next model in the line is the AMG-powered SLC43 AMG Roadster. This model is powered by an AMG enhanced 3.0-liter V6 BiTurbo that pushes out 385hp at a starting price of $65k. Both models are hardtop convertibles.
The return of the SL and the SLC
At this moment, Mercedes doesn’t offer any brand-new hardtop convertibles, but things are about to change because Mercedes is expected to release the new SL roadster this year or the next.
There are many test mules of the new SL, and some reports even suggest that the new SL will be offered with an 800-horsepower V8 hybrid. Mercedes is set to revive the SL as the true top-of-the-line Mercedes sports car, the way it was always intended to be.
The future of the SLC is rather more mysterious. Mercedes has not made any official statements about the future of the SLC, but some reports do suggest that the SLC might be revived in the upcoming years. If the modern-day automotive trends continue to favor the SUV, we might not see the SLC anytime soon.
Are hardtops better than soft top convertibles?
It depends. A soft-top convertible is usually lighter and cheaper to fix. A soft top also uses much less space, so it does not impede the trunk space as much.
However, the lifespan of a soft-top convertible is a lot shorter than that of a hardtop convertible.
A soft top is lighter, which benefits the performance driving scenario when the roof is down, compared to a hardtop. Even though a hardtop is heavier, it has better roof-up performance driving since a hardtop serves as a structural part of the vehicle which makes the chassis a lot more rigid.
A hardtop is also usually quieter, but some brands like Rolls Royce can reach exceptional levels of quietness, even with soft-top convertibles.
Do BMW, Porsche or Audi make any hard-top convertibles?
BMW used to offer many hard-top convertibles, but nowadays BMW offers only a few modern-day hardtops. Models like the M4 convertible come with a retractable hard-top, but the newest M4 convertible is expected to feature a soft-top convertible.
Audi hasn’t offered any hard-top convertibles for a while now, and it is not expected they will any time soon.
Porsche has the 911 Targa models. These 911 variants represent an ode to the past, as many of the older 911 models were offered with a Targa top.
Porsche also used to offer the Boxter as a hard-top, but modern-day Boxter models come with a soft-top instead. Also, the limited-edition Porsche 918 Spyder from a few years ago was a strict hardtop convertible super-sports car.
What’s the future like for hardtop convertibles?
Hard-top convertibles are slowly being discontinued throughout the car industry. Some brands like Ferrari and Mclaren usually offer hardtops and not soft tops, due to the increase of chassis rigidity which works favorably for sporty driving. Sports cars also definitely do look a lot better with hard-tops.
Convertibles are not as popular as they once were. And the future of the hardtop convertible is extremely unfavorable. That’s because even the brands that still do offer convertibles are usually soft-top convertibles, as it’s a lot easier and more cost-efficient to make a soft-top convertible.
SUVs are becoming the new standard in the modern age, and because of this, all other segments of the automotive industry are mostly seeing a steady decline in sales and popularity in favor of SUVs. Brands recognize this and relocate more and more of R&D money towards the SUV market.