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3/4 Front Glamour 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

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Introduction

By some estimates, the first U.S. baby boomer turned 50 in February 1996. Coincidentally (or maybe not), a trio of new roadsters was introduced, the BMW Z3, Porsche Boxster, and Mercedes-Benz SLK. The midlife crises of the oldest boomers breathed new life into the roadster, a segment that had long been dead. The Mercedes SLK, was welcomed to the U.S. with open arms in January 1997 (after being introduced in Europe), and immediately captured awards from the automotive media, including the prestigious 1998 North American Car of the Year, presented by an independent jury of the top 50 automotive journalists in the U.S. and Canada. Sales, which Mercedes hoped would hit 6,000 a year, increased to a peak of nearly 13,000. Mercedes sold more than 66,115 SLK models in its first seven years of production, with more than 300,000 sold around the globe. Advance the clock eight years, and baby boomers, whose ranks number 78 million, are turning 50 at a rate of one every seven seconds, and they now have a host of sports cars to choose from, including the Nissan 350Z, Audi TT, Honda S2000, and Cadillac XLR to name only a few. And the earliest entries are now appearing in next-generation form. The Mercedes SLK is among those entering their second generation. With its extreme makeover for the 2005 model year, the SLK seeks more men suffering midlife crises, with its bolder, more macho appearance, added horsepower and technical innovations. The original proved too popular with women making it less desirable for men, Mercedes marketers say.

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