Vintage R&T Road Test: 1972 Mercedes 350SLC – American-Style Drive Train In “Stuttgart’s Latest Interpretation Of The Super-Luxury Coupe”

This makes for a timely follow-up to our recent CC of this car’s predecessor, the W108 250SE. What a difference ten years made back then: the 250SE had a small high-revving six, a somewhat jerky fluid-coupling automatic, swing axles and none or few of that comfort accessories expected in the American market of a very expensive luxury coupe.

The 350SLC was all-too obviously created with much greater focus on meeting the expectations of Americans as well as Europeans. Its 4.5 liter V8 was only offered here, as it wouldn’t become available in non-NA markets until March 1973. Obviously, the 350 badge was not truth-telling, a curious one-year anomaly for the 350 SL/SLC in MY 1972, as they both were re-badged as 450s in 1973. And the new V8 was backed by a torque converter three-speed automatic. And it came with air conditioning as standard equipment. The times they were a’ changing.

R&T weren’t the only ones surprised to see that the successor to the long-lived W111 coupe turned out to be based on the new R107 SL. Contrary to what was commonly assumed, the SLC wasn’t just a stretched SL; it had been planned and developed alongside the two seater from the get-go. But that would be the last time this would happen, as the SLC would eventually be replace by the W126 sedan-based SEC coupe.

As to its controversial styling, that was noted right near the top of the review. R&T’s staff were split as to whether it was deemed successful or not. I’m still not quite sure which side of the fence I come down on; it’s simply a mixed bag, and it looked better to me on some days than others. And from some angles than others.

Obviously the most controversial element was the rear-most side fixed side windows with the louvers. It was almost certainly the result of Mercedes’ inability let something as critical as rear-side vision be impaired by a fat C-Pillar, since there wasn’t enough room to lower the whole rear side glass into the body. A painful compromise.


Lots of standard equipment, which given its $15,000 ($100k adjusted) price might be expected, but still no power seat adjusters. But excellent ergonomics, and all the controls were carefully thought out highly functional. The big steering wheel was so big in part as to make the instruments more visible. Assembly quality was generally excellent, although there were a some minor niggles on this early production car: door handles and one seat adjuster were sticky, and the vacuum locking system wouldn’t lock the right door.

This car was driven cross-country, and it performed very well in the wide range of conditions, including the effective air conditioner.

The Benz’ drive train was of course a major departure from the Mercedes norm. It was quite American in its smooth manners, and performance was what one might rightfully expect in this class. That’s not to say it was a quick car; 0-60 took 10.9 seconds, and the 1/4 mile took 18.4 sec. at 80.5 mph. But given the low-compression, emission controlled times, it was deemed more than satisfactory. Fuel consumption was “heavy”, averaging 15.5 mpg in normal driving, but dropping to 12-13 mpg at higher highway cruising (80-90 mph) with the a/c on.  The new automatic was deemed “outstanding”, with smooth but crisp shifts.

Ride, handling and braking were all “exemplary”. That’s pretty much to be expected from what was very much the state of the art at the times. No matter the road surface or conditions, the SLC took it all in (fast) stride. R&T summed it up succinctly: “For $15,000 one expects a lot–and in the SLC one gets it”.