2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
September 23, 2008

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.

As they put together this review covering the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, the automotive experts at TheCarConnection.com searched to find some of the best reviews on the Web. The experienced editors at TheCarConnection.com also included their driving impressions where applicable.

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.

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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.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Styling

If you're looking to impress the neighbors, parking a 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class in the driveway is one sure way to accomplish that mission.

The current second-generation Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has been available for five years, but despite its longevity, this 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK still boasts eye-catching looks.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes in three flavors, which J.D. Power lists as "SLK 300, SLK 350 and SLK 55 AMG, with the major differentiator being the model's particular powertrain." Mercedes-Benz aficionados might notice that the SLK280 is no longer available, as its name has been changed to SLK300 for 2009. The Mercedes-Benz 2009 model year brings exterior updates to the SLK-Class, which Motor Trend says includes "larger mesh in the grille and redesigned foglamps" up front, as well as a "nose job—trimmed back a bit, with the wings fleshed out for a more Formula 1 look." The SLK55 AMG got similar updates, but "the changes are less evident because of its larger grille," according to Car and Driver. Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com agree that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has an exciting look that calls to mind some of Mercedes' more potent racers.

The rear end of the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class has also receives a minor makeover from Mercedes-Benz designers. Motor Trend notes the "taillamps are now tinted" and "exhaust tips are squared off," while Car and Driver observes that "the rear bumper is more sculpted and adds a mock diffuser."

The exterior of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class may be stunning and more racer-like than before, but as the saying goes, the real beauty is on the inside of the SLK-Class. The interior of this 2009 Mercedes-Benz is also redesigned slightly, and Car and Driver reports that "new gauge faces and a new three-spoke steering wheel" are among the most notable changes, along with "an updated navigation system" that Edmunds says will display along an "expanded 6.5-inch LCD screen." Edmunds adds that the Mercedes-Benz's 2009 design for the SLK-Class is "beyond reproach," and Kelley Blue Book is impressed that "Mercedes has done a wonderful job of organizing the SLK's interior without losing the look and feel common to all Mercedes products."

Reviewers at Car and Driver are also pleased to find that "the choices of textures and colors in the dashboard have been streamlined," and reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the new materials look great. Edmunds in particular is impressed with the "classy interior appointments" found inside the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Performance

With some mechanical improvements for 2009, the SLK is both satisfying to drive and frugal.

Through the use of some obscure automotive witchcraft, the engineers at Mercedes-Benz have managed to improve the performance and power output of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class lineup, while also increasing fuel efficiency in the process. The result is an improved driving experience over the already-exhilarating 2008 SLK-Class.

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class comes in three flavors, all of which move quickly thanks to either V-6 or V-8 engines. Edmunds reviewers report that "under the SLK300's hood is a 3.0-liter V6 that makes 228 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque," while "the SLK350 packs a 3.5-liter V6 good for 300 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque," and the uber-quick "SLK55 AMG comes with a beastly 5.4-liter V8 that cranks out 355 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque." Motor Trend observes that some of the changes for this 2009 Mercedes-Benz include "lighter pistons, stronger valves, and conical valve springs, as well as a redesigned intake manifold and higher compression ratio (11.7:1 versus 10.7:1)." Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that all Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK models get off the line quickly, and Edmunds claims that "even the base SLK300 provides sprightly acceleration." Car and Driver reviewers state that their last SLK350 "ran from 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds," and "the additional 32 horses" in the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK350 "should knock a few 10ths off that time."

Most versions of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class feature a Mercedes-Benz "seven-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control," but Edmunds notes "the SLK300 can be had with either a six-speed manual" or the aforementioned auto. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com hold significant praise for the automatic, which Car and Driver calls simply "excellent." Cars.com also gives high marks for the "smooth shifts that can't be felt most of the time." However, reviewers also love the six-speed manual, which offers a more interactive driving experience, and they agree with Popular Mechanics, which comments that "a six-speed manual gearbox is available—but only in the SLK300 model. Bummer."

As mentioned earlier, the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class offers surprisingly good fuel economy, at least for the level of performance the engines deliver. The EPA estimates that the SLK300 will get 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with the manual transmission, while the automatic ups those numbers to 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. The Mercedes-Benz SLK350 gets 18 mpg city and 26 mpg on the highway, while the SLK55 AMG's two extra cylinders drop the fuel economy to 14 mpg city and 22 mpg highway. However, some reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the real-life numbers might be even better than those cited by the EPA; in a Cars.com road test of "about 150 miles of mostly highway driving," they found that "the SLK350 averaged 29 mpg."

One thing that the Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class was maligned for in previous years was that it offered tons of class and style, but lagged behind its competitors in terms of driving excitement. Fortunately, Edmunds reviewers report that "when the folks at Mercedes set about redesigning the SLK a few years ago, they had evidently grown tired of playing second fiddle to their Bavarian rival in the minds of discerning drivers." The result is a capable performance convertible that, as Cars.com declares, "proves to be a decent touring car" as well. Popular Mechanics says that "a new, all-mechanical direct-steer system tightens the steering ratio when the wheel is turned a mere 5 degrees off-center," which improves overall handling significantly when combined with the "speed-sensitive power assist."

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK lineup also boasts "large disc brakes" that do an admirable job of scrubbing off excess speed in a hurry, according to J.D. Power.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class will pamper you, but convertibles, by their nature, are not the right choice if you need to carry a lot of people or gear.

The Mercedes–Benz 2009 SLK-Class is simply a top-notch vehicle when it comes to comfort and luxury, as one would expect from Mercedes. However, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class loses some points in daily practicality.

Edmunds reports that the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is a two-seat "luxury roadster" that offers a "power-retractable hardtop" and extraordinarily comfortable seats, provided you aren't too tall. Kelley Blue Book reviewers love the "supportive bucket seats" on the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class, while Edmunds mentions the "power heated sport seats." However, Cars.com notes that the "cabin is definitely cozy if you're around 6 feet tall," and that "even though [they] were able to get relatively comfortable, [they were] never able to put the seat exactly" where they wanted to.

Cargo space is one of the few areas where the 2009 Mercedes-Benz isn't a class standout. Unlike most of its competitors, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has a retractable hardtop, which sure looks good but also significantly detracts from the cargo room. Edmunds says that, "when lowered, the folded top naturally eats up trunk space" and leaves just "6.5 cubic feet...available." Kelley Blue Book adds that the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class's "retractable hardtop still eats up trunk space, but the design responsibly leaves some usable room for storing small luggage and valuables."

Despite complaints about the lack of cargo space, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK lineup still impresses in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com for its impeccable build quality. On the exterior, "the perfectly aligned side bodylines appear as though carved from a single block of steel," claims Kelley Blue Book. The praise for the manufacturing of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class extends to the inside, where Edmunds says that the interior "materials are generally beyond reproach," with "soft, high-quality plastics" throughout.

In addition to the commendable build quality, the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class offers good isolation from road noise, at least with the top up. Popular Mechanics says that "top-up motoring is appropriately insulated thanks to the folding hardtop." Cars.com reviewers find "a little bit of wind noise can penetrate the cabin on the highway with the top up," but when the top comes down, the experts at TheCarConnection.com are disappointed to register a bit more wind turbulence than one would expect from a Mercedes-Benz.

A pitchy, harsh ride is considered par for the course in a small roadster, but reviewers' comments suggest the SLK has exceptional ride quality compared to its peers. Kelley Blue Book contends that the "ride has definitely been improved," and Edmunds reports the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class is "comfortable and compliant enough to appeal to the average driver."

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2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Safety

The long list of safety features on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class should inspire confidence, but visibility can be troublesome.

While the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class has yet to be crash-tested by either of the testing authorities in the U.S., its long list of safety features and its Mercedes lineage are enough to earn it high marks in the safety category.

Mercedes-Benz vehicles have long been praised for their advanced safety features, and the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class proves to be no exception. Reviews read by TheCarConnection.com invariably praise the numerous safety features on the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class. J.D. Power reviewers first notice that "all 2009 SLKs will carry integrated roll bars," a critical safety element that provides head protection in a convertible in the event of a rollover. Cars.com adds that "standard safety features" on the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class "include antilock brakes, side-impact airbags, knee airbags and an electronic stability system." In addition, Edmunds reports that a "brake assist" feature is included, along with Mercedes-Benz's "TeleAid emergency call system," which is also standard on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK lineup. Finally, ConsumerGuide mentions that all 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class vehicles come with "daytime running lights" and a "tire-pressure monitor."

Unfortunately, despite the wealth of safety features included on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK line of roadsters, there is nothing to compensate for the poor top-up visibility. Edmunds is perhaps the most vocal in its criticism of the visibility, reporting that one major "drawback involves the SLK's inferior sight lines, as the intricately constructed roof unavoidably creates significant blind spots." However, a quick press of the roof release solves that problem, as the visibility from within the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class with the top down is, understandably, vastly improved.

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2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK Class

Features

If you ever plan on driving your 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class in nontraditional convertible conditions, the Airscarf is a must-have feature.

What's a luxury sportscar without incredible options? Definitely not a Mercedes-Benz, that's for sure, and the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class includes innovative features that reviews read by TheCarConnection.com absolutely love.

The engine under the hood may vary between the different models of Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class, but the standard features are, for the most part, standard on all three. ConsumerGuide reports that all 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class roadsters include "air conditioning w/dual-zone automatic climate controls" and a "leather-wrapped steering wheel w/radio controls," along with "height-adjustable bucket seats" and a "six-disc CD changer." Edmunds adds that "a premium audio system with a five-inch LCD screen" is also standard on all three versions of the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK line. J.D. Power reviewers note the "new generation audio system includes [a] hands-free phone link."

The standard features are all well and good on the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK-Class, but the real features standouts are found on the options list. Easily the most talked-about optional feature in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com is the Airscarf, which Edmunds says "channels warm air to your neck and shoulders via dedicated ducts in the headrests" and "makes the SLK a true four-season convertible." Kelley Blue Book notes that some of the other options include "dual eight-way power seats with memory, [and] heated seats," and they praise the "Improved Clear Coat paint," which they describe as "40 percent more durable, helping to resist small scratching that appears after repeated washing and waxing." Various options packages are available as well, including the Multimedia Package, which ConsumerGuide says will add a "navigation system w/voice recognition" and the "COMAND control screen," along with an upgraded "Harman/kardon sound system" and "hard drive." Other minor options on the Mercedes-Benz 2009 SLK-Class roadster include "HID headlamps and several different designo designer trim packages," according to Kelley Blue Book.

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