2009 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

Just in time for summer, Mercedes-Benz has freshened its aging yet strong-selling SLK hardtop convertible.

Subtle surface changes for the 2009 model include a revised front air dam with a Formula 1-inspired divider; a larger, higher-mounted Mercedes star on the grille (the previous badge wasn't big enough?); attractive new sideview mirrors; and bigger tailpipes straddling diffuserlike ribs. Inside, the C-class sedan has donated its steering wheel, which controls Mercedes' new variable-ratio "direct-steer" rack that has a firmer, sportier feel and reduces required steering angles by an average of 22 percent.

The '09 SLK is also an early adopter of Benz's fresh, ergonomic-wheel-less navigation unit that tries its best to mimic the excellent system that debuted in the S-class. Aluminum trim has been added in the cabin, while some tacky silver buttons have been jettisoned.

More important than any cosmetic update is the SLK350's extra 32 hp and 7 lb-ft of torque, thanks to the 3.5-liter V-6's higher compression ratio, enhanced pistons, revised intake manifold, modified valvetrain, and raised redline. Expect this sonorous, more efficient version of the V-6-which slices the SLK's 0-to-60-mph time by two-tenths to 5.3 seconds - to migrate soon to other 350 Benzes. (At the top of the SLK-class pile, the SLK55 AMG carries on basically unaltered, aside from minor cosmetic changes; AMG engineers chose not to shoehorn their stunning 6.2-liter V-8 into the two-seater, so the SLK and the Triassic G-wagen are the only AMG models still using the 5.4-liter V-8. The base SLK's output is unchanged, too, although its name has inflated from SLK280 to SLK300.)

True, the SLK's updates aren't earth-shattering, but if you're going to get a face-lift, you may as well have it done before summertime.

Click the links below for high-resolution SLK images.

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