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PERFORMANCE | 9 out of 10
Direct-steer setup works beautifully and easily unwound the brutal (and fun) hairpin switchbacks
A compliant ride even on rough roads
Speed lovers of all stripes will be intrigued by the midlevel SLK350's newly pumped-up engine
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.
With some mechanical improvements for 2009, the SLK is both satisfying to drive and frugal.