Recent theoretical work has shown that so-called pulled fronts propagating into an unstable state always converge very slowly to their asymptotic speed and shape. In the light of these predictions, we reanalyze earlier experiments by Fineberg and Steinberg on front propagation in a Rayleigh–Bénard cell. In contrast to the original interpretation, we argue that in the experiments the observed front velocities were some 15% below the asymptotic front speed and that this is in rough agreement with the predicted slow relaxation of the front speed for the time scales probed in the experiments. We also discuss the possible origin of the unusually large variation of the wavelength of the pattern generated by the front as a function of the dimensionless control parameter. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.