We propose and evaluate the performance of a new MAC-layer protocol for mobile ad hoc networks, called the Slow Start Power Controlled (abbreviated SSPC) protocol. SSPC improves on IEEE 802.11 by using power control for the RTS/CTS and DATA frame transmissions, so as to reduce energy consumption and increase network throughput and lifetime. In our scheme the transmission power used for the RTS frames is not constant, but follows a slow start principle. The CTS frames, which are sent at maximum transmission power, prevent the neighbouring nodes from transmitting their DATA frames at power levels higher than a computed threshold, while allowing them to transmit at power levels less than that threshold. Reduced energy consumption is achieved by adjusting the node transmission power to the minimum required value for reliable reception at the receiving node, while increase in network throughput is achieved by allowing more transmissions to take place simultaneously. The slow start principle used for calculating the appropriate DATA frames transmission power and the possibility of more simultaneous collision-free transmissions differentiate the SSPC protocol from the other MAC solutions proposed for IEEE 802.11. Simulation results indicate that the SSPC protocol achieves a significant reduction in power consumption, average packet delay and frequency of RTS frame collisions, and a significant increase in network throughput and received-to-sent packets ratio compared to IEEE 802.11 protocol.