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Mercedes-AMG’s last naturally-aspirated engine will retire along with the SLK name

The facelifted SLK-Class that Mercedes will introduce early next year will benefit from significant changes inside, outside, and under the hood.

For starters, Mercedes will retire the 19-year-old SLK nameplate, and the entry-level roadster will be rechristened SLC-Class. While Utah natives will undoubtedly associate the moniker with Salt Lake City, Mercedes aficionados will recognize it as a heritage-laced name that was used on a coupe version of the R107 SL built between 1971 and 1981. Much like the recently-introduced 2017 GLS is billed as the S-Class of the GL lineup, the SLC will be the C-Class of the SL lineup.

The SLC will still be based on the current SLK (pictured), but it will look markedly different because it will wear a thoroughly revised front fascia that will fall in line with Mercedes’ current design language. The updates will include more modern-looking headlights and a bigger, more swept-back grille. Inside, the SLC will adopt Mercedes’ newest infotainment system.

The SLC will be offered with four- and six-cylinder engines. At the top end of the lineup, the Mercedes-AMG SLC63 will ditch the SLK55’s naturally-aspirated, 5.5-liter V8 and downsize to a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 engine. Automakers shuffle engines on a regular basis, but the arrival of a turbo six to Mercedes’ smallest topless model line is historic because the SLK’s V8 is the last naturally-aspirated engine built by AMG. The V6’s power output will lie between 362 and 415 horsepower, and it will likely be bolted to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

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Mercedes-Benz is expected to introduce the SLC-Class next month, and the roadster will be presented to the public in early January at the Detroit Motor Show. Look for the SLC — and the hot-rodded SLC63 — to go on sale in time for the 2017 model year. While official pricing information won’t be published for another couple of months, Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers told Australian website Motoring that the SLC63 will be more affordable than the outgoing SLK55.