- Borrows styling from the more expensive SLR McLaren and SL
- Great seats
- Very settled ride, for a roadster
- Well-designed retractable hardtop
- More than adequate acceleration (SLK350 and SLK55)
- Doesn't feel as light and agile as "basic" roadsters
- Trunk space is compromised by the top
- Cabin can get quite turbulent with the top down
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class combines the romance of a small roadster with grand-touring comfort, as well as the poise and performance of a larger sportscar.
The SLK is Mercedes-Benz's small convertible sportscar, or roadster, that offers a power-folding hardtop arrangement, one of the most comfortable interiors among the smaller roadsters, and V-6 and V-8 power.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes in three different models, each now with a very different driving personality. The SLK280 has been renamed the SLK300, although its engine remains a 228-horsepower, 3.0-liter V-6. In the middle is the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK350, which gets a 3.5-liter V-6 good for 300 horsepower—32 hp more than last year. And at the top of the lineup is the exclusive SLK55 AMG, bringing 355 horsepower along with exclusive AMG performance tuning and components throughout. A six-speed manual transmission is available only in the SLK280 model, while the remainder of the models comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission and manual control. All SLK models have rear-wheel drive.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 remains the centerpiece of the lineup, with its 300-hp engine helping to take better advantage of the SLK's quick handling response and good dynamic balance in tight corners. Most notably, due to a series of engine improvements, its sound is a bit more aggressive. The seven-speed automatic shifts smoothly but isn't always as responsive as you might expect from a high-performance roadster. That's remedied in the high-performance 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG, which adds a special paddle-shifted SpeedShift seven-speed.
The SLK was last redesigned for 2005, but 2009 brings some more extensive changes, including restyled front and rear ends. The instrument panel also has some subtle changes, and the steering wheel bears a new design. The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG model gets similar visual updates, along with bigger wheels and brakes, additional aerodynamic bodywork, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
In addition to the revised look and more powerful engine, there's a new, so-called Direct Steer system on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK models that quickens the steering ratio in tighter corners—reducing the amount you need to turn the steering wheel—yet increases stability in the straight-ahead position; it also has speed-sensitive power assist.
The SLK's interior is one of the most comfortable and luxurious of any of the small roadsters, with very generously proportioned sport seats that have plenty of lumbar support to hold you in place in the corners—although the seating position is quite low. And though the suspension is tight, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has a relatively smooth, composed ride. One issue with the SLK is trunk capacity; when the top is down, it takes up extra space in the trunk, leaving barely enough room for a light weekend's worth of luggage.
The single best feature available on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK that's not offered on a rival vehicle in its class is Airscarf, which gently blows hot air around your neck from behind the headrest area, making cold, sunny days so much more enjoyable with the top down.
The standard features list on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has been expanded to include a Bluetooth hands-free interface and an upgraded audio system. The options list is extensive, including a SmartKey system that allows raising or lowering the top remotely, a Harman Kardon sound system, a navigation system, the latest version of the company's COMAND screen-based interface, bi-xenon headlamps, dual-zone climate control, and an attractive burl walnut trim. An iPod interface is newly available, and the optional sound system comes with an SD memory card slot.
The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK has not been crash-tested, but its list of safety features is unparalleled among roadsters. Head-and-thorax side-impact airbags and a knee airbag are standard, as are anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.