Nice is nice. Lightly frosted with a dusting of Saharan sand, le Côte d'Azur shimmers in the Mediterranean sunshine, a paradise and a playground. What you want here is a convertible, something that'll really let you bask in the surroundings as you pop out of the city and up into the mountains above the city. That'll be the new Mercedes-Benz SLC then.
It's both a rebadge and a facelift for M-B's smallest cabriolet this year. SLK becomes SLC to fit in with the rest of Mercedes' nomenclature, and the car gets a reworked front grille and hood. It's now like an SL, Compact.
First up for sampling was the SLC 300, now powered by a 2.0L turbocharged engine. If the front is gruffer, then the back three-quarters of the car remain one of the more feminine offerings in the Mercedes range. This particular model looked especially fetching in bright red, with optional 18-inch alloys.
Part of the reason to opt for a convertible over a coupe is of course the ability to put the top down. The SLC aims to give you the best of both worlds with a power folding hardtop; snug in cold weather and more secure in dodgy parking spots than a soft-top would be, the hardtop comes down relatively briskly. If you start lowering it at a stoplight and traffic moves off, you can continue the operation up to 40 km/h.
The hilly mountain roads above Monaco are a real test of a car's sporting intent – it's here that the challenging Rally Monte Carlo is held. And the locals all seem to drive like they're holding informal practice days to hone their speed. Stir up the SLC 300's turbo four and...
Acceleration is pretty brisk, actually. The four-cylinder makes 245 hp at 5,500 rpm and 273 lb-ft from 1,300 to 4,000 rpm. Despite a curb weight that's far heftier than any Mazda MX-5, the SLC displays enough straight-line verve to justify its red paint.
But as for the sport seats and the bright red seatbelts, well, perhaps these are sporting aspirations the SLC doesn't quite live up to. Even with the variable dynamic modes set to their sportiest, the SLC 300 feels like a baby SL, and thus a cruiser first. The nine-speed automatic transmission is quick if left to its own devices, but occasionally won't give you the paddle-actuated downshift you desire.
And, despite being updated, the interior of the SLC is still very much the old SLK. Displays are bright and good looking, but it's still an older feel when you see what's available in the new E-class.
So, slow your roll and treat the SLC for what it is – not a damn-the-torpedoes cornering machine, but a delightful travelling companion with a useful (335L) trunk when the top's up. Besides which, if sporty driving is your thing, there's another option.
Here it is, the Mercedes-AMG SLC 43. With an AMG-tuned suspension, available adaptive dampers, bigger brakes, and twin-turbo V6 power under the hood, this is certainly a quicker way to see the sights along the coast.
However, don't be fooled by the Mercedes-AMG badging on this little car. The SLC 43 doesn't fall into the full AMG category, and its twin-turbo V6 is mass produced rather than hand-assembled by a single craftsman. Part of Mercedes' new brand strategy, the idea is to provide an easier entry point for AMG intenders.
Even if it isn't a fully-fledged hand-built AMG engine, the twin-turbocharged V6 puts out some pretty solid numbers. Displacing 3.0L, it makes 367 hp from 5,500-6,000 rpm, and a grunty 384 lb-ft of torque from 2,000-4,200 rpm.
That's good enough for a scoot from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, or just a hair off the old V8-powered SLK AMG's time. Domo arigato, Mr. Engine-building Roboto.
Since it's not a full AMG product, the SLC 43 also gets a bit of a tamer exterior treatment. There's no wildly bulging bodywork, just a few mild flares. Those looking for slightly more punch in their SLC won't be put off by too much AMG craziness.
Left in standard mode, the SLC 43 feels much like the SLC 300, just with more punch. Selecting Sport+ in the dynamic mode and putting the traction control into sport mode as well, it's time to charge hard down a couple of switchbacks and see what's what.
There's straightline speed and passing power aplenty, and the new SLC 43 seems friendly enough to drive. The engine also sounds very good firing out the exhaust, though it doesn't have that characteristic AMG V8 crackle.
However, like the SLC 300, it's not really a canyon runner. While the SLC 43's pace feels like it could hang with a V6-powered Jaguar F-type, it doesn't have the pavement-scorching thrust that we've come to expect from a full-bore AMG. It's a bit like the SL model again, with plenty of power to get around slow-moving traffic, but not really egging you on to push the limits.
Given the surroundings, this is no bad thing. The SLC is sized and priced with an eye to the Boxster, but it's more a sporty car than a full sports car. However, with beautiful surroundings everywhere you care to look, what's the mad hurry? Whether standard or with a dose of AMG flavour, the SLC makes for a fine European tourer.