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Poetry in motion

April marks the 10th annual observance of National Poetry Month, established by the Academy of American Poets to increase the visibility, presence and accessibility of poetry in our culture. In that spirit, Dan Neil has written his weekly column in verse.

Attend me well, lords and ladies,

And my song of brave Mercedes,

A company that’s struggled a bit, of late,

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With reliability most unfortunate.

Though recent reports from J.D. Power

Have been as depressing as Schopenhauer,

One thing our fathers found,

You can’t keep a German in a lab coat down.

Recently, models like the CLS

Have wowed the inky motor press,

And returned a luster to Stuttgart’s star,

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And made us exclaim, “Ja, wunderbar!”

And now comes Mercedes’ revised two-seater,

A dream for the O.C.'s lotus eaters.

SLK350, a name most alphanumeric,

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Tho’ I would have preferred something more Homeric.

With a style borrowed from the F1 paddock,

Sweeping, aggressive, dramatic, pneumatic.

The new car is handsomer than one could hope,

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Making the former look like homemade soap.

Not quite a coupe, roadster or cabriolet,

The problem is what to call the SLK.

“Retractable hardtop” is an ugly phrase,

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There ought to be better nowadays.

How about “morph-top” or “flexi-lid”?

Or “variable parasol” -- God forbid!

Call it what you like, one thing’s for sure,

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We’re not in canvas anymore.

For those who have struggled with the limp salute

Of British cars’ leaky bumbershoots,

The Benz’s top cannot compare

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With anything other than Tupperware.

It takes 22 seconds, more or less,

To peel back the aluminum firmament.

One touch of a button and a ballet ensues,

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A dance of servos, augers and screws.

Although convertibles are quite debonair,

They can wreck your carefully constructed hair.

But the Benz’s clever aero sculpts a space

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To keeps one’s artful coiffure in place.

Should you have an extra dollar,

And suffer from a chilly collar, may I suggest

the (optional) headrests, vented,

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For drop-top comfort unprecedented.

Under the hood of the old car’s replacement

Is 3.5 liters of high-tech displacement,

Arranged in a “V” -- offering more cams, valves

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and horsepower than previously.

No blowers this year, no Germanic “Kompressors,”

No teakettle whistles to mark the aggressors.

Just naturally aspirated torque, and lots of it,

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That thing among car geeks that is most beloved.

If five manual gears seem too paltry to touch,

The mini-Merc offers six and a clutch.

Dropping said clutch with proper esprit

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Will get you to 60 in 5.3.

The cockpit is warm, cozy and sleek,

Tho’ if I may suggest so boldly a tweak,

Lose the silver finish on buttons and controls

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And other drossy rigmarole.

Tho’ power, braking and handling are cool,

They mean little in Malibu’s motor pool.

It’s all about style, mo’ hotter, mo’ better,

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To flatter some studio’s fast-talking go-getter.

For this the K car is admirably suited,

And for anyone whose sentence is commuted

along the 5, or the 10, or the 405,

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Or anywhere in the L.A. hive.

If you should long for the car of last year,

There’s really no cause for shedding of tears.

You can still find the car you so much admire.

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It’s under the skin of the Chrysler Crossfire!

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

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Base price: $45,500

Price, as tested: $50,150

Drivetrain: 3.5-liter, naturally aspirated 24-valve, dual-overhead cam V6; six-speed manual transmission; rear-wheel drive.

Horsepower: 268 at 6,000 rpm

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Torque: 258 pound-feet at 2,400 to 5,000 rpm

Curb weight: 3,231 pounds

0-60 mph: 5.3 seconds

Wheelbase: 95.7 inches

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Overall length: 160.7 inches

EPA fuel economy: 18 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway

Final thoughts: Ode to the open road

Auto critic Dan Neil can be reached at dan.neil@latimes.com.

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