For the 2009 version of its SLK-class roadster, Mercedes-Benz made some styling changes and updated the electronics in the cabin. The car can be had as an SLK300, SLK350, and SLK55 AMG. The SLK350 features a newly refined engine.
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Mercedes-Benz emphasized the point more at the front of the car, which makes the badge stand out more. As they are only attached at the center, fins bisecting the grille look like wings.
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The engine in the SLK350 is a 3.5-liter V-6. Mercedes-Benz upped the engine speed red line to 7,200 rpm, which increased the horsepower to 300. Our as-tested mileage on the car came in at the low 20s.
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As a roadster, there isn't a lot of room in the SLK350, but it is very fun to drive. Our test car, without the Sport package, didn't deliver extremely sharp performance. Everything felt a little softened, better for standard driving conditions.
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The retractable hard top takes 22 seconds to raise or lower, and is a nice feature when you want to button up for bad weather.
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The retractable hard top affords a real rear window, but forces some design cues. The antenna gets mounted to the side of the car, which looks a little odd, and the gap for the trunk panel comes all the way up to the B-pillar.
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To lower the top, this protector has to be in the down position. It limits trunk room severely, with room for just a couple of small suitcases.
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The cabin is tight, but fairly well-appointed. We found the seats very comfortable for even longer drives.
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The SLK350's steering response is good, but it gives you some latitude, making it so you don't have to constantly make adjustments.
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The seven-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly, so that you hardly notice it. The transmission actually revs the engine a little when it downshifts to match the engine speed better.
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The gauges use a very clean design, while the display in the middle shows a variety of useful information, from the standard trip data to current song playing.
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These controls heat the seats and turn on the Air Scarf feature. We were impressed to find that the heating in the seats runs up the backs. The Air Scarf blows warm air from the head rest onto your neck.
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Here is the vent for the Air Scarf feature, set into the head rest pad. We drove the car on a cold and foggy day around San Francisco, and found that it kept us very comfortable.
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As the cabin is cramped for space, Mercedes-Benz mounts cup holders high up on the instrument panel. These work fine for short cups, but anything particularly tall will interfere with the driver's view.
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Mercedes-Benz makes an iPod adapter available in the SLK350. The cable plugs into the glove compartment, next to the auxiliary audio input.
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The track screen shows what source the music is playing from, as well as any other available information, such as song title and artist name. Choosing music from any audio source is done with the set of buttons to the lower right of the screen.
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The iPod integration lets you choose music by artist, album, and genre, although we found in our testing that you have to drill down through many menus.
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The stock audio system was too shrill with the high notes. Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz makes a Harmon Kardon Logic7 system available.
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The in-dash six-disc changer can play MP3 CDs, and lets you browse through the disc's folder structure.
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Mercedes-Benz has embraced Bluetooth cell phone integration, and offers a good interface for the SLK350. The list of compatible phones is limited, though, with mostly Nokias, Motorolas, BlackBerrys, and the iPhone.
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