The Truth About Cars » Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/mercedes-benz/ Mercedes: Maybach Trim To Potentially Grace GL-Class http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-maybach-trim-to-potentially-grace-gl-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-maybach-trim-to-potentially-grace-gl-class/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 10:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=861473 2013-Mercedes-Benz-GL450-4MATIC-main_rdax_646x396

Not content with only the S-Class receiving the Maybach treatment for a potential shout-out in Lorde’s next jam, Mercedes-Benz wants to take the Maybach trim line to the next level: The GL-Class.

Motoring.com.au reports the automaker wants to give a super-luxury makeover to the seven-passenger premium SUV as it seeks to make Maybach to luxury what AMG is to performance. Should this indeed follow the upcoming S-Class by Maybach — based upon the two-row W222 sedan over the three-row pullman at the top of the class — the GL will retain its architecture while receiving styling tweaks and S-Class technology, such as semi-active suspension with body-roll control.

Mercedes board member in charge of research and development, Dr. Thomas Weber, sees potential in the growing super-luxury SUV segment — led by the likes of Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Lamborghini — for his employer to mount its own offensive, opining that it’s only a matter of “how fast and how parallel” Mercedes can bring the GL-Class by Maybach into production.

As for where the new SUV would turn up, the Middle East, Russia and the United States are among the key markets up for consideration.

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BMW Mexico Plant To Build 150,000 Annually http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/bmw-mexico-plant-to-build-150000-annually/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/bmw-mexico-plant-to-build-150000-annually/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857249 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-8

Though BMW may announce Thursday where in Mexico it will build its second North American plant, sources close to the matter said the plant will pump 150,000 units annually into auto trains bound for the United States.

Automotive News Europe also reports a Mexican government official claimed the new plant would come with a €1 billion ($1.36 billion USD) investment, and may either be located in the state of Hidalgo just north of Mexico City, or in San Luis Potosi in central Mexico.

The plant — following on the heels of a new Daimler-Nissan small-car factory to be built in Aguacalientes, as well as an Audi factory in San Jose Chiapa — will likely be used to build MINIs and the FWD 1 Series, with localized 3 Series assembly also speculated based on the automaker’s potential need to better compete against the U.S.-assembled Mercedes C-Class on price.

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BMW To Announce Second North American Factory Before Summer Break http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-to-announce-second-north-american-factory-before-summer-break/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-to-announce-second-north-american-factory-before-summer-break/#comments Thu, 26 Jun 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=852977 2012_BMW_328i_sedan_--_2012_DC_1

Still mulling over where to build a second North American factory, BMW CEO Norbert Reithofer stated his company would have an answer before the automaker goes on summer break.

Automotive News Europe reports the automaker is considering countries who have signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, including Canada, United States and Mexico, for a factory where it may build the 3 and 1 series, as well as MINIs.

BMW is doing this in order to properly battle Teutonic competitors Audi and Mercedes, both of whom have or will have factories in place to meet demand, as well as better handle currency challenges by producing popular vehicles in the same market they are bought. All three are also battling it out on record deliveries for 2014, with China and the U.S. as the battleground.

Meanwhile, BMW is spending $1 billion to expand its Spartanburg, S.C. plant to 50 percent increased production capacity by 2016, when the full-size X7 will be among the 450,000 X Series SUVs to leave the line annually. The outgoing record holder in Dingolfing, Germany produced 342,000 3, 5, 6 and 7 series models in 2013.

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Daimler-Nissan JV To Build Next-Gen CLA, Unnamed A-Class At Mexican Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/daimler-nissan-jv-to-build-next-gen-cla-unnamed-a-class-at-mexican-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/daimler-nissan-jv-to-build-next-gen-cla-unnamed-a-class-at-mexican-plant/#comments Tue, 24 Jun 2014 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850794 2014 Mercedes CLA

Aside from Infiniti sharing engines with Mercedes, the Daimler-Nissan joint venture will also lead to production of the next-gen CLA and an A-Class sedan at Nissan’s plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Automotive News Europe reports Daimler’s board will approve the decision within the next two weeks. Although the GLA crossover was supposed to go over to Mexico originally, insiders claim that the CLA and the unnamed A-Class will take its place.

Production is set to begin in time for exportation to the United States in 2017, with an Infiniti compact — built upon Mercedes’ FWD bones — to join the CLA and A-Class. Annual output is expected to be around 100,000 to 150,000 units.

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US Nissan Plant To Supply Engine For Euro-Special Infiniti Q50 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/us-nissan-plant-to-supply-engine-for-euro-special-infiniti-q50/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/us-nissan-plant-to-supply-engine-for-euro-special-infiniti-q50/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=842922 2014 Infiniti Q50

In its fight against the big premium brands in Europe, Infiniti is calling upon some German-designed American firepower for its Japanese-made, Euro-market special Q50 sedan.

Automotive News reports the Q50 will receive a 2-liter turbo-four from an $319 million Infinti-only line inside Nissan’s engine plant in Decherd, Tenn.; total overall production is expected to reach 250,000 annually while employing 400. The same engine will be used by Mercedes in its next-generation C-Class launching this year from the German automaker’s factory in Vance, Ala.

The plan, set to begin in late June, is part of a product-sharing agreement between parent companies Renault-Nissan and Daimler, as well as a checkbox for Infiniti’s to-do global portfolio expansion list.

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UAW Will Spend Less On Transplant Organization Campaigns http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-will-spend-less-on-transplant-organization-campaigns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/uaw-will-spend-less-on-transplant-organization-campaigns/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 13:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840466 UAW + UniteHere Protest June 2014

Though the United Auto Worker’s fight for organization of the transplants in the Southeastern United States rages on, the union will not be taking as much from its war chest to fund the fight than in previous years.

The Detroit News reports UAW Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel informed reporters at the end of the 36th UAW Constitutional Convention that there would be news this week of the union’s plan to organize the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, Ala. despite the lack of support for the UAW. He also says he will remain in Tennessee to help with the renewed fight for the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, where the union lost in a contentious election back in February amid allegations of anti-union interference.

As for what those plans entail, or how much less the union was willing to spend on them, Casteel did not offer specifics; the UAW spent $15 million under the term of former union president Bob King, whose term ended with the election of new president and former secretary-treasurer Dennis Williams. He also said his union would not be affected by Canadian labor union Unifor’s efforts to organize Toyota’s plants in Ontario, nor did he believe if Chattanooga had been won, all of the remaining transplants would soon follow:

I don’t really believe in the domino effect. If Volkswagen had been successful, I didn’t see this domino effect with the other transnationals and vice-versa.

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European-Backed UN Amendment Brings Autonomous Vehicle Future Closer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/european-backed-un-amendment-brings-autonomous-vehicle-future-closer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/european-backed-un-amendment-brings-autonomous-vehicle-future-closer/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 11:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826642 Mercedes-Benz S500 Autonomous Limo

While autonomous vehicles are still in the early stages of testing, a few of the European members of the United Nations have laid the groundwork for the self-driven future to come sooner than later.

Reuters reports the U.N. Working Party on Traffic Safety received last month an amendment to Article 8 of the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic backed by Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Austria that would allow drivers of autonomous vehicles to take their hands off the wheel so long as as the vehicle’s system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver” at any time.

Should the amendment pass through the myriad of red tape within the organizing body, 72 countries — the United States, China and Japan withstanding — would have to work the new legislation into their law books.

The European-backed amendment now means automakers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW can move beyond testing their autonomous and semi-autonomous offerings toward delivery to showrooms throughout the continent, all without waiting for Google and other U.S. interests to bring the technology to market. Mercedes in particular delivered an S-Class limo in response to the search engine giant’s own efforts last August which drove the Bertha Benz route between Mannheim and Pforzheim, Germany without driver input.

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Shudder To Think: New Transmissions, Bad Friends and the DaimlerChrysler Merger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/shudder-to-think-new-transmissions-bad-friends-and-the-daimlerchrysler-merger/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 20:38:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817698 Dodge Challenger chromed T-shifter automatic transmission knob

I never would’ve known about the WA850/NAG1 transmission if it weren’t for that dead-beat roommate I had in Miami. It was desperate times for Chrysler and myself —we both just needed a friend.

16 years ago today, the Chrysler Group found an abusively negligent partner in Daimler AG. The “merger of equals” proved to be anything but, as the German camp rapidly oscillated between ignoring the American’s input and engaging in full-blown Teutonic pedantry. Rumor has it they even insulted the American’s taste in typeface by forcing them to get new business cards.

My friendship wasn’t nearly as toxic. I had been living in Miami for a few months, but had failed to adapt to the social scene. He was also a transplant from the North Atlantic so he understood my pain. He had friends that I admired, so I stuck by him. Despite his professed love for the BMX bike and only the BMX bike, he was in possession of a hand-me-down 2003 Mercedes-Benz E500. This example was a former Enron fleet-car his mother had purchased at auction in late 2006, just months before Daimler offloaded their American bedfellow. He didn’t keep up with the maintenance; it was in poor shape but I loved it. It was everything my Miata wasn’t: heavy, powerful and smooth.

It was equipped with the WA850 transmission, or as it is more commonly known, the 5G-Tronic. A five-speed automatic of Mercedes design, one of Daimler’s first acts after the merger was to force this part on Chrysler. It was clearly a superior gearbox than Chrysler’s ubiquitous 545RFE, but it was the principle of the matter. Chrysler was saddled with what they perceived to be needless logistical complications. The official Chrysler designation for the part was “New Automatic Gearbox Version 1” or NAG1. Very funny Chrysler.

In theory it was an excellent transmission, but there were serious qualms about its reliability on American roads. It wasn’t about road quality; rather it was its needy maintenance schedule and complex service that was out of line with American ownership habits. Anything less than perfectly precise handling by a tech and the thing would shudder and shake for the rest of its days.

Like Chrysler, My friend had forced something on me as well: the pointless pursuit of fun at a time in my life when I should have been saving money, exercising, and improving my craft. An apt comparison because like the WA580, a life of partying works on paper, but without the discipline to perform proper maintenance you are end up shuddering and leaking fluid in public.

The Daimler-Chrysler merger was a clear failure, and so was my friendship. Both partnerships could’ve been successful, but they required more compromise and hard work than either party was prepared for. That’s not to say the respective mergers were complete failures. Chrysler walked away with an excellent transmission that’s still in use today, and I learned how to have fun and not take myself so seriously. What we both learned was that in business like life, you can only rely on yourself for meaningful improvement.

 

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2017 Mercedes G-Class To Be Effectively “All-New” After Major Makeover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/2017-mercedes-g-class-to-be-effectively-all-new-after-major-makeover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/2017-mercedes-g-class-to-be-effectively-all-new-after-major-makeover/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 10:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=816665 2013 Mercedes-Benz G550

For 35 years, the Mercedes-Benz G-Class has seen tours of duty with United Nations peacekeepers, the Pope, various hardened soldiers from Germany to Canada, and a few celebrities now and again. In that time, the SUV has changed its overall appearance once, when the W463 began leaving the factory in Graz, Austria in 1990; the previous W461 is still available for military and civil service. However, the current Geländewagen will get its second major revision come 2017 while retaining the W463 chassis code.

Autocar reports the changes will be so extensive that Mercedes claims the new G-Class will effectively be a new SUV, though it will still retain its classic look according to SUV chief Andreas Zygan:

We have to be careful with our heritage. We offer something really special. Last year — the 34th — was the best ever for G-class sales. It’s amazing, and one of our idols.

Changes for the 2017 W463 include a wider track for greater stability on- and off-road, more aluminium to reduce around 440 pounds from the current model, and a new front three- or four-link suspension setup mated to a modern electro-mechanical steering system.

Under the bonnet will either be a 3-liter diesel producing over 300 horsepower or 3-liter gasoline engine pushing over 360 horses, all going through Mercedes’ nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic as standard as a way to improve overall fuel economy. The two engines will debut a year earlier under the hood of the 2016 E-Class.

As for inside, more space will be offered alongside increases in comfort and quality, with a boost in technology for improved safety and assistance.

Finally, AMG variants — which account for half of all G-Class sales — are set to follow the newly revised SUV sometime down the road.

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French Court Overturns Sales Ban Of Daimler Vehicles Using R134a http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/french-court-overturns-sales-ban-of-daimler-vehicles-using-r134a/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/french-court-overturns-sales-ban-of-daimler-vehicles-using-r134a/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815986 aclass

France’s Conseil d’Etat announced Monday that it has overturned the government’s ban of a handful of Mercedes-Benz vehicles over parent company Daimler’s refusal to cease usage of R134a coolant currently under phase-out by the European Union.

Reuters reports the ban — issued by France’s ecology minister Ségolène Royal — was overturned after the court found her order unjustified, stating the vehicles affected did not show “a serious threat to the environment.”

Though vehicles sold in the EU were mandated to use R1234yf beginning in 2013, Daimler cited potential, unacceptable safety issues with the new coolant. Instead, the automaker continued to use R134a in its A-Class, B-Class, CLA and SL models, which were the vehicles banned from being sold in France. Daimler plans to replace the outgoing coolant with CO2 systems by 2017.

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FCA, Daimler Buy Greenhouse Credits To Meet EPA Emission Limits http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/fca-daimler-buy-greenhouse-credits-to-meet-epa-emission-limits/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/fca-daimler-buy-greenhouse-credits-to-meet-epa-emission-limits/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 11:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=811506 Ferrari_458_Speciale

The Environmental Protection Agency said Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler and Ferrari divisions, as well as Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit, bought greenhouse gas (GHG) credits to remain in compliance with the agency’s 2025 twin goals of 54.5 mpg and halved greenhouse gas emissions.

The Detroit News reports Honda and Tesla sold 90,000 and 35,580 greenhouse credits — each one measured in 1 metric ton of emissions, or megagram — to Ferrari and Mercedes respectively for the 2010 model year, while Chrysler bought 500,000 such credits from Nissan for 2011. In addition, Mercedes purchased 250,000 credits from Nissan and 177,941 credits from Tesla for 2012; the EPA does not disclose how much the automakers paid for the compliance credits.

As for what the three divisions are doing to come into compliance with EPA and CAFE standards outside of the credit market, Ferrari — which FCA petitioned the agency to classify as an independent automaker, allowing the brand to enjoy the same conditional exemptions as Aston Martin, Lotus and McLaren due to its low production output — “is working to boost fuel efficiency while improving performance,” while Mercedes is looking into stop-start and other fuel-saving technology. Chrysler, for its part, is experimenting with flex fuels and using turbocharged four-cylinders in some of its offerings.

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New York 2014: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe Debuted http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mercedes-benz-s63-amg-coupe-debuted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mercedes-benz-s63-amg-coupe-debuted/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:34:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799778 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-01

For the well-moneyed customer who likes the Accord but prefers a German badge, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the S63 AMG Coupe at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

Under the bonnet lies a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 driving 577 ponies through all four wheels while providing 644 lb-ft of torque to any driver feeling the need to take down a redwood forest or two. Air suspension, lighter weight and optional ceramic brakes add to the performance alongside the usual AMG enhancements.

As for how much to pay for this experience, look forward to spending somewhere around $150,000 when the S63 AMG Coupe arrives in showrooms.

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Mercedes-Benz To Support First Responders With “Rescue Assist” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mercedes-benz-to-support-first-responders-with-rescue-assist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mercedes-benz-to-support-first-responders-with-rescue-assist/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:15:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793425 Benz Jaws Of Life Demo Courtesy www.autoevolution.comWith little fanfare Mercedes-Benz recently announced a claimed first-of-its-kind program designed to help firefighters and EMTs at sites of severe accidents involving Mercedes-Benz vehicles.  With Rescue Assist, the company is installing QR code stickers on their cars so First Responders will be able to use a Smartphone to bring up a schematic of the vehicle showing where airbags, the fuel tank, and other critical structural components are located. Their intent is to make the accident scene safer for rescue folks and passengers, particular in cases where the “Jaws Of Life” are needed.

The QR code stickers will be applied to the inside of the fuel filler cover and the B-Post on the opposite side of the fuel tank. All Mercedes-Benz vehicles produced after October 31, 2013 have had the QR code adhesive labels installed at the factory. Rescue Assist retrofit kits were shipped to U. S. Mercedes-Benz dealers last week. Owners of 1990 to present models will be offered the product for free when they come in for service while more enterprising Benz stores may reach out to its eligible customers via direct marketing campaigns.

The following video includes supposedly unscripted comments from firefighters about Rescue Assist.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Naturally, the ultimate assessment of the validity of Rescue Assist will be to hear from the B&B, particularly those of you who are employed as First Responders…

 

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BMW May Build Second NA Plant To Fend Off German Rivals http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/bmw-may-build-second-na-plant-to-fend-off-german-rivals/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/bmw-may-build-second-na-plant-to-fend-off-german-rivals/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 14:04:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791289 BMW Spartanburg

In its battle against Mercedes-Benz and Audi for record sales, BMW is mulling over the possibility of a second plant in North America.

Bloomberg reports the automaker would place its second factory in Mexico, with two sites under consideration. The decision to expand will take a few months according to BMW production chief Harald Krueger, Should the move be given a green light, the Mexican plant is likely to build the 3 Series.

The second factory would add to the long-term growth strategy BMW is using to fend off its German premium market competitors in a heated battle for records global sales, fueled by growing demand in the United States and China. Mercedes will add the C-Class to its Alabama facility in June with a new plant in North America due near the end of this decade, while Audi is in the middle of setting up shop in Mexico with a $1.3 billion plant set to produce crossovers beginning in 2016.

Previously, BMW announced it would invest $1 billion to expand its South Carolina plant by 50 percent in 2016, as well as add the X7 large SUV to the X Series lineup currently produced in the plant.

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BMW, Mercedes Downsize Number Of Architectures For Future Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-mercedes-downsize-number-of-architectures-for-future-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/bmw-mercedes-downsize-number-of-architectures-for-future-vehicles/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:01:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773881 bmw-2-series-active-tourer-11

In order to accelerate development of new models while also cutting costs, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are downsizing the number of architectures to be used in future vehicles in their respective lineups.

Automotive News Europe reports Mercedes will be down from nine platforms five years ago to four platforms by 2016, with the first — the MFA — already in showrooms as the CLA; the MFA-underpinned B-Class and GLA will arrive in United States showrooms later this summer. The move would allow Mercedes to move safety systems from their flagship S-Class to lower classes more quickly than in previous years.

Meanwhile, BMW will go from five to two platforms — one for RWD, one for FWD –between its namesake brand and Mini. The latter debuted with the redesigned Mini not too long ago, and will also underpin the 2-Series Active Tourer officially unveiled in Geneva last week.

As for the RWD platform, BMW R&D board member Herbert Deiss says it will arrive in 2016 under the next-generation 7 Series. Both consolidations were brought to life to allow more affordable expansion of each brand’s lineup.

BMW’s i Series will not take part in the consolidation, nor will Rolls-Royce.

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Geneva 2014: Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-mercedes-benz-s-class-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/geneva-2014-mercedes-benz-s-class-coupe/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:23:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=765457 2015-Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-Coupe-10

 

Just to be sure that nobody would confuse it with the Acura CL, Mercedes is now calling it the S-Class Coupe.

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Mercedes Adding New Sprinter Models, Dealers As Van Sales Rise http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mercedes-adding-new-sprinter-models-dealers-as-van-sales-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/mercedes-adding-new-sprinter-models-dealers-as-van-sales-rise/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 06:18:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=759977 2014 Mercedes Sprinter

With European vans such as the Ford Transit Connect and the Fiat Ducato-based Ram ProMaster finding overwhelming success in the United States commercial van market, Mercedes is preparing its Sprinter to show the competition how it’s done on Floral Shop Lane.

Automotive News reports Mercedes-Benz Vans USA — part of the overall global van division Mercedes created last year during an internal reorganization resulting in three self-contained units for vans, cars and commercial products — will be adding new models to the Sprinter lineup alongside more dealerships to sell the lighter and taller new generation van, all in an effort to capitalize on an evolving U.S. commercial van market as MBUSA vice president and MB Vans USA managing director Bernie Glaser explains:

The Sprinter is the benchmark and the norm of the Euro-style vans. There is a revolution happening in the segment and big changes coming that were caused by the Sprinter — vans with a smaller footprint but big cargo volume.

Changes planned for the Sprinter include: a new four-pot turbodiesel from the E-Class mated to a seven-speed transmission; electronic stability control standard with options available for collision prevention, blind-spot assistance and crosswind stabilization; an all-wheel drive model due in 2015; and a small 12-passenger variant under consideration.

Meanwhile, the sales channel for the Sprinter will expand from 188 to 218 within five years; 57 Freightliner dealers will also be added. Stronger marketing tactics are in the offing, aimed to move more Sprinters into the wrap shop in 2014 than the 21,816 sold in 2013. However, the unit saw 1,288 vans sold in January as small business owners coming out of the Great Recession with more confidence in the market headed to the nearest dealer.

As for 2014, the new Sprinter uses a base 2.1-liter BlueTEC I4 driving 161 horsepower and 320 lb-ft torque through its seven-speed transmission, whose fuel economy is 20 percent better than the optional 3-liter BlueTEC V6/five-speed transmission combo. The latter pairing gets 25 mpg on the highway from the supplied 188 horses and 265 lb-ft torque. Prices range from $35,920 for a Sprinter 2500 with 144-inch wheelbase and standard roof, to $45,400 for the same model with a 170-inch wheelbase and high roof.

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UAW VW Road Map Guiding March To Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-road-map-guiding-march-to-mercedes-benz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/uaw-vw-road-map-guiding-march-to-mercedes-benz/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=741377 MBUSI

Following the same road map that led to the ongoing organization efforts at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., the United Auto Workers have allied with German union IG Metall and Daimler’s works council on their march toward Mercedes-Benz’s MBUSI plant in Vance, Ala.

Reuters reports the UAW are doing card checks and distributing propaganda at MBUSI with help from the two German organizing bodies in the former’s ongoing march to unionize the South; other efforts include those at two Nissan plants in Tennessee and Mississippi.

Furthermore, the UAW has gone after Daimler via the National Labor Relations Board over allegations of interference and intimidation of MBUSI workers in exercising their right to organize; the hearing is scheduled for April 7.

Leading the Southern march, UAW regional director Gary Casteel explained how the union was paying attention to globalization and its effect on workers’ rights:

“The companies globalized a long time ago, and workers’ rights didn’t follow suit. It’s time that the workers’ rights caught up, and that’s the reason you see all the interaction between international unions and a global strategy.”

Said interaction comes as the result of the UAW gaining representation with Daimler’s World Employee Committee, whose role is to “strengthen and deepen the dialogue and information transfer between the various employee representatives and unions” according to Daimler in a statement.

While union leaders on both sides of the Atlantic want to see representation at MBUSI, not all of the plant’s 3,000 workers are on board. Elizabeth Kelly, who works as a team leader in quality control during the plant’s overnight shift and is opposed to the UAW, sees no link being what the union is doing with VW and Mercedes:

“The UAW supporters believe that if a union is voted in in Chattanooga, it will help their cause here. I tend to believe that it doesn’t really affect us one way or the other. It’s two totally different companies.”

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2015 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 to Bow at 2014 Detroit Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2015-mercedes-amg-gla45-to-bow-at-2014-detroit-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2015-mercedes-amg-gla45-to-bow-at-2014-detroit-auto-show/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 15:08:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=694977 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG (X 156) 2013

Aimed at the same younger audience the CLA was designed to attract, Mercedes-AMG will debut their GLA45 at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

Under the hood of the compact SUV is Affenbach’s twin-scroll turbocharged 2-liter four-pot driving 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft torque through a dual-clutch seven-speed transmission to all four wheels. The power plant is capable of pushing the GLA45 from nil to 60 in 4.8 seconds, topping out at an electronically limited 155 mph.

Regarding the transmission, drivers can select from four modes of power management, ranging from full control in Manual and Sport modes (similar to the SLS AMG GT), to Momentary M Mode (found in the SLS AMG Coupé Black Series) and Controlled Efficiency, the latter for those times when fuel efficiency and comfort are a greater need than all-out speed. Stop-start function is also available in Controlled Efficiency mode.

Though biased toward the front pair of wheels, the GLA45′s performance-oriented 4MATIC system can send more power to the back when driving in anger, especially upon launch through the fully integrated power take-off unit. Meanwhile, the SUV’s electronic stability program now includes a Curve Dynamic Assist so as to prevent understeer while diving into a switchback.

The GLA45 will arrive in showrooms later this year.

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Mercedes Unveils Grown Up 2015 C-Class http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/mercedes-unveils-grown-up-2015-c-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/mercedes-unveils-grown-up-2015-c-class/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 05:34:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=681770 Mercedes-Benz C250, AMG Line, Avantgarde, Diamantsilber metallic

Though the CLA has enough fans to merit a warning about supply shortages until after June of 2014, Mercedes-Benz still knows the C-Class is its bread and butter. As such, the automaker has unveiled their latest and greatest generation of the former “baby Benz” to the world.

The new C-Class is larger than the outgoing generation — adding 3 inches to the wheelbase, 3.7 inches in overall length, 1.6 inches in overall width, and a total of 17 cubic feet of trunk space — but is also 220 pounds lighter thanks to its hybrid aluminium body and other weight-saving tech. The sedan’s new nature-inspired styling provides a lower drag co-efficient and quieter interior.

In the United States, the C-Class will arrive in two models: The C300 4MATIC — powered by a 2-liter directly injected turbo-four pushing 235 horses and 273 pounds of torque through all four wheels — and the C400 4MATIC — powered by a 3-liter turbo V6 churning out 329 ponies and 354 pounds of stump-pulling power. Directing the power will be the automaker’s 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven-speed automatic transmission.

As far as technology is concerned, the CLA leesees will miss out on goodies such as the AIRMATIC air suspension — a first for the segment — which allows drivers to adjust their ride and handling through four presets and one personalized setting, adaptive braking, collision detection/prevention, lane-keeping, even attention assistance to keep you awake on long drives.

No price has been announced as of this time, though speculation states an announcement could occur as early as the upcoming Detroit Auto Show next month.

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Mercedes to U.S. Dealers: Expect Fewer CLAs For Now http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/mercedes-to-u-s-dealers-expect-fewer-clas-for-now/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/mercedes-to-u-s-dealers-expect-fewer-clas-for-now/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 06:22:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=681290 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA

Due to high demand from customers jumping aboard the CLA bandwagon, Mercedes-Benz has warned dealers in the United States that supply of the new four-door coupe will be limited for the first half of 2014.

The popularity of the CLA helped the Stuttgart automaker widen its lead in the U.S. over the Bavarians at BMW while also bringing in a younger demo to the showroom; the median age of a CLA lessee is 46, while 57 is the age of majority for Mercedes overall.

In the meantime, supply of the front-driven coupe will be tight up through June 2014 as the factory screwing them together is at maximum capacity.

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BMW Focused On i Subbrand Over Short-Term Monetary Gains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-focused-on-i-subbrand-over-short-term-monetary-gains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/bmw-focused-on-i-subbrand-over-short-term-monetary-gains/#comments Tue, 05 Nov 2013 14:25:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=642577 02-2014-bmw-i3In lieu of short-term monetary gains over their competitors at Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen (via Audi), BMW is spending its earnings on building up their i sub-brand through the city-focused i3 and the plug-in hybrid supercar i8.

As a result of their focus on the cutting edge, and in spite of demand for the brand’s 3 Series, the German automaker posted a 3.7 percent decline in third-quarter earnings, pulling in $2.6 billion this time around. In an effort to stay ahead of their hard-charging competition (both of whom aim to bury BMW in the sales war by the end of this decade), BMW will introduce 25 new models during the 2013 and 2014 model years, 10 of whom are completely new. In contrast, Mercedes aims to release a baker’s dozen of all-new Teutonic goodness by 2020, while Audi plans to add a few more numbers to its Q series of SUVs.

Regarding the i3, 8,000 orders have already been sent to dealers in the United States, Europe and China, prompting BMW to make more of the EV in time for its debut in European showrooms November 16; American and Chinese customers will get theirs sometime in the first half of 2014. The price of admission for the i3 on our shores will be $41,350, with an optional 650cc 2-cylinder engine — whose sole purpose to keep the electric power going for an additional 80 to 100 miles on top of the 80 to 100 miles the electric-only model travels — priced around $4,000.

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Review: Mercedes CLS550 (By: R. Farago) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-mercedes-cls550-by-r-farago/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/review-mercedes-cls550-by-r-farago/#comments Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:15:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=620537 rf

What unalloyed pleasure it gives me to welcome TTAC’s august founder, Robert Farago, back to these pages. Robert’s a little too busy with what might be the biggest firearms news site in the world to give us much more than this review of Mercedes’ four-door-not-really-a-coupe, but to paraphrase John Mayer, it’s hard for me to take a stand when I will take his work any way I can. Go visit Mr. Farago at his new digs and say hello… and enjoy this review! — JB

When the heat breaks in Texas Hill Country the air is as dry as an Oxford grad’s sense of humor. And when my ML350 broke blasting across four lanes of traffic my Mercedes dealer passed me the key to a CLS550. And so I found myself behind the squared-off wheel of Germany’s lowered limo on a starry Texas night, contemplating cats’ eyes roller-coastering into the distance. I felt an old yet welcome urge to press my luck with local LEOs.

So I stood on the CLS550’s accelerator, whose brand-faithful response brings to mind nothing so much as player piano pedals. With apologies to Johnny Lieberman, the acceleration was volcanic. Not like the business end of an eruption—a comparison that applies to various Ferraris and a Nissan GT-R that I’ve had the pleasure of surviving. The Merc’s forward urge was more like a fast-moving lava flow: seamlessly unstoppable. Yes, I know: Princess Diana proved the limits of that particular Mercedes metaphor. But as the CLS550 passed 60mph—a 5.1 second sprint accompanied by a bad ass big bore bellow—I knew it was just a waypoint. This tank-like limo wants to hunker down, spool-up and unwind on an endless autobahn. It doesn’t much care for all the speeds between minimum and maximum velocity.

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Don’t get me wrong: Mercedes’ E-Class chop-top isn’t just a straight line bahn burner. The portly sedan does an admirable job of staying on the road through the sinuous bits—although that’s not saying that much given Austin’s glassine pavement. Even so, the CLS550 is another fine example of German engineers’ ongoing and surprisingly successful war on basic physics (cough rear-engined Porsche cough). In this case, a trick Airmatic suspension and super-sticky Pirelli P-Zeros tie down a 4425lbs automobile motivated by 4.6 liter bi-turbo V8 generating 406hp @ 5000 rpm and 443 lb-ft. of twist @ 1,800 rpm.

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The CLS550‘s electronically-assisted steering helps best the beast. The more you ask of the helm the more heft the electronic brain adds to the equation. Initially, it feels as if someone’s placing a series of increasingly heavy stones on the chassis’ chest. Eventually, the CLS550 is as precise as you wanna be, with more on-center feel than Bill Clinton demonstrated in his second term. Whether that holds true when the car’s shod with Michelin all-season tires and weighed down with optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive is another question. What happens to the car’s handling in the wet is anyone’s guess (Austin hasn’t had sustained rainfall since the Cretaceous period). I suspect the $70k CLS has an app for that, involving a flashing light and a sudden loss of power.

The CLS550‘s tri-mode transmission is no boon to the handling equation. Under hard acceleration, the seven-speed torque-converter automatic’s frantic, jarring hunt for an appropriate gear simulates confidence-sapping turbo lag. Once that’s sorted out, ladies and gentlemen, lunge is served. Unless you put the seven-speed box into Sport. In which case lunge is served as well, only all day long, from any speed, without delay. Works for me.

Jack Baruth could make mince meat out of race track with this thing (TTAC’s founder-approved jefe tried, unsuccessfully, to buy an Indium Grey CLS63 AMG that had been used as a traveling on-track demo.). For me, cornering the CLS550 at its limit of adhesion is like asking Scarlett Johansson to direct a Brazzers video. Scary, exciting, pointless and, ultimately, self-defeating. Caning the car at seven-tenths? All day long. Why are we talking about this? As it was in the beginning so it is forevermore: the CLS550 leads the style-driven life. Despite the engine, chassis, brakes, suspension, transmission and tire upgrades to ye olde E, the CLS is no sports sedan. It remains an eye candy car for buyers who (rightly) consider the E-Class’s sheetmetal is bit too pedestrian, a bit too Eurotaxi. But don’t want to leave the German brand’s embrace. The kind of people who can spot the difference between an Armani and a Brioni suit. And know that most people can’t. And like that.

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The CLS550‘s newly sculpted shark-nose, unnecessarily athletic haunches and low roofline give these Ray Donovans both the uberholprestige and cut-and-thrust cachet they crave. The fact that the CLS550‘s rear end design is what the Brits call a dog’s breakfast is neither here nor there. They’re more interested in the toys: Active Lane Keeping Assist, PARKTRONIC with Active Parking Assist, Active Bling Sport Assist. I mean Blind Spot Assist. I mean, I love the thing that ratchets the seatbelt down on your shoulder before take-off. Who cares what it does? It feels hi-tech. While the big Merc’s cabin is as well screwed-together as anything Audi assembles the CLS550 suffers in comparison to Ingolstadt’s ergonomic excellence. The only snick you hear is the snickering of Audi’s interior design team as they contemplate the silver-effect plastic deployed for the CLS550‘s steering wheel and buttons.

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Siri kicks Mercedes’ ass in the sat nav department. While the carcoon known as the rear passenger compartment now offers plenty o’ legroom there’s only slightly more side visibility than an M1 Abrams tank. Still. On the flip side, holding the IMG_0555CLS550’s chunky steering wheel is like holding your father’s hand. And there’s a small, square, white, hugely anachronistic
analogue clock in the middle of the dash (a sign that Mercedes can’t best British design, either). The CLS’ bog-standard boom box beats all that audiophile stuff I shoehorned into various whips before I could afford a proper car. Which brings us to the CLS550’s trump card: the engine note.

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The CLS550 doesn’t burble like an E39 BMW M5, the first German car to ditch sonic refinement for multi-decibel muscle car machismo. But it’s not unlike the V8 M5’s sonic signature either. And holy Bolivian blow Batman, is the latter day luxobarge’s engine note addictive! You can almost hear the guy in the tux announcing “Let’s get ready to rummmmmbbble!” And then you hear the rumble. All. The. Time. Can someone PLEASE fire-up the AMG version of this thing for me? Wait! Don’t! My cash flow can’t float that boat. But tell me the engineers built-in that wind roar to enable the engine sound’s entry into the cabin. No? Just lucky I guess.

After using FM 2244 as a runway in a fun but fruitless attempt to reach rotation I rocked-up to my local pizza place to secure my customary glass of (What’s Up) Languedoc. I cruised the upmarket strip mall. Windows down, I clocked the big Merc’s burble bouncing off low-slung limestone walls. I swear the CLS550 was skulking through the parking lot. Shark nose indeed.

A woman of a certain age (and timeless beauty) occupying the terrace looked over her date’s shoulder and smiled. Whether she smiled at me, the car or simply because that’s what Texas women do on the first crisp night after an oppressive summer doesn’t really matter. The CLS550‘s soundtrack had etched the moment into my memory. That’s what a great car can do. And some not so great ones too, as long as they have greatness in them. Which, strangely enough, this one does.

What was it that Enzo used to say? We sell them an engine and throw the car in for free. Like that.

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Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz C250 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2013-mercedes-benz-c250/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2013-mercedes-benz-c250/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 13:05:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=513393 IMG_3732 (Medium)

Here’s a little secret: ever since the folks at No Longer DaimlerChrysler decided to pervert their previously sensible nomenclature in order to better suit the lowest common denominator of California housewives, the replacement for the 190E has been known within Mercedes-Benz dealerships as the “Cheap-Class”. It’s a particularly common phrase in Service and Parts, but from time to time a salesperson will let it slip as well, although certainly not in front of the customer.

There’s something ungracious about calling a vehicle that sells for a minimum (and as-tested!) price of $36,725 the “Cheap” anything, but from the perspective of its manufacturer the sobriquet is legitimate. Set the Wayback Machine for 1975, and you can find a W115 240D selling for $9500. That’s $38,000 in today’s money, and it got you a German taxi with roll-up windows, no air conditioning, sixty-four horsepower, and M-B Tex seats. The new car offers more — a lot more — for less. So, Cheap-Class it is.

My recent trip to Napa for the VW Intramural League test offered me a chance to kill a couple birds with a single stone. By renting my own transportation, I’d be free to avoid the $100 dinners with various Heffalumps Of The Industry. And by paying an eye-watering $354 for three days including airport tax, I’d be able to review a Mercedes for the B&B. Done and done. To paraphrase Jerry Orbach in Dirty Dancing, let’s see what my money bought.

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Don’t look now, but this car’s a bit of a media darling. I couldn’t find a bad review of it anywhere I looked. Had it just been the American press giving it props, I’d have suspected that the gilded hand of recently-deposed superstar Mercedes PR person Geoff Day had been hard at work. The Brits like it just as much, however, and they’ve been singularly unkind to the Baby Benz in the past. Although this is fundamentally a facelift of the 2007 model, the accolades for interior quality, styling, and dynamics have come thick and fast from sources as different as Car and Driver and Top Gear.

My initial impression of it was slightly different, and it was this: small, and crappy. Somehow, the “W204″ has avoided the unsightly swelling that has afflicted its cousin from Munich. The 190E was 175 inches long; this is 180. The E30 and F30 are 175 and 182 inches, respectively, but the numbers don’t properly communicate how tidy the Benz feels compared to the Bimmer. This is still a compact car. I suppose that’s a brave thing, and Mercedes gets away with it because it’s not their core product the way the Three is for BMW.

What’s impressive about the interior: The evergreen M-B Tex seats, long may they wear. The LCD screen in the centrally-mounted speedometer is extremely high-resolution and contains many beautiful fonts and images. The steering wheel’s about as good as what you get in a VW GLI, and that’s not damning with faint praise. The shifter feels solid.

The rest of it’s pretty low-rent, and perhaps deliberately so, because this is, after all, the Cheapest of the Class. I had to keep telling myself, “This doesn’t cost any more than a Ford Fusion with the goodies,” to which my self responded, “That would be a bigger car with more power and more stuff and a nicer interior.” Fortunately for my mental health, I was interrupted by the infotainment system’s decision to pretend my iPod Classic didn’t exist. After some fussing, I paired my Galaxy S3 and cued up the Amazon Cloud Player. Gotta have the Player to hear that Mayer, dontcha know. There was a Hertz NeverLost (aka “NeverRight”) GPS goiter mounted on the center console, which seemed odd until I remembered that thirty-six grand doesn’t get you GPS. Oh, Mercedes! You so crazy! First it was optional air conditioning on your luxury car, and now it’s optional GPS.

In just moments, it was time to hop on the 101 and press the throttle pedal to the carpet. Hmm. Thus began my three-day experience with the World’s Most Charmless Engine. It’s a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged to a fairly stout 201 horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque. Or at least that’s what I’ve been led to believe. On the move, however, it has no characteristics of an internal combustion powerplant whatsoever. When full-speed-ahead is requested, it hesitates for a moment while the 7G-TRONIC negotiates the proper gear. Then it emits an odd sort of drone and begins shoving the C250 forward. This shove does not vary as the tach needle climbs. It’s like an electric motor. When a gearchange is called for, there’s a brief pause and then the unchanging push continues. The electric Mercedes luxury sedan may be a thing of the future, but its indifferent, uninspiring power delivery is here today. Next to this thing, the Jetta 1.8TSI might as well be a Ferrari F355, character-wise.

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My schedule required multiple trips from San Francisco to Napa over the course of three days. During that time, I came to appreciate a few things about the C250. Thing one: the seats, driving position, and feedback from the controls are efficient and relaxing. I could dimly sense the vestigial tail of my 190E’s forged-steel approach to the open road in its great-grandchild, even though it was dulled by the modern requirement for a few hundred pounds of Dynamat. After driving the Passat and CC, neither of which was significantly less expensive than this car, I was relieved to find myself back in the Cheap’s black-vinyl-and-aluminum-trim confines.

Thing two: what features the car has do in fact work well. The Bluetooth integration is flawless and hands-free chatting is acceptably hi-fi. The climate control dealt with heat and cold to my satisfaction and without adding a lot of blower noise to the quiet cabin. The cruise control has an extremely intelligent feature: move it a little bit in either direction and it adjusts your speed by one mile per hour. Push it farther and it adjusts to the nearest multiple of five. Leaving a 50mph zone for a 65? Three quick pushes and you’re speeding by the same amount. A dyed-in-the-wool M-B fan (which I am not; I’ve only had two in my driveway out of the 25+ cars I’ve owned in my adult life, with a third likely to arrive in a few weeks) would likely have something to say about the company’s ability to intelligently engineer a vehicle for stress-free high-speed operation and blah blah blah and at that point I would grab that person by the shoulders and scream “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE S430? HUH? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT PIECE OF CRAP?”

The C250 grows on you with time. It really does. If you sit in one at the auto show, you won’t be impressed. If you test-drive it for twenty minutes, it’s likely to convince you to buy something else. It takes time to respect the car. I’m not talking about the old hundred-mile rule here. This isn’t a case of becoming inured to its faults. Rather, you become fond of its virtues.

Over the course of nearly three hundred miles on the trot, much of it stop-and-go traffic punctuated by frequent calls for all 201 psuedo-electric ponies, the little Benzo was claiming 28.9 miles per gallon. This would not do. Plus, I had a mind to step into the ocean for a minute. I set a course that would take me from Napa to Stinson Beach and from there to the Golden Gate Bridge overlook. I borrowed a passenger for the trip whom I felt it might be amusing to frighten. Along the coast we flew, obtaining all available speed from the tiny four-cylinder, stomping the brakes into ABS with the approach of each hairpin. On corner exits I would let the tail run wide, kicking pebbles from the shoulder surface into a thousand-foot freefall down to the midnight blue of the turbulent waves below. I made each and every pass the moment it seemed likely that it might be possible to do so. As the miles rolled on, I found myself daring fate again and again; once, as the C250 was snagging fourth towards an uphill right-hander, with only the sea and the horizon visible ahead, I stamped the carpet twice, loud enough for it to be audible over the moaning from the engine compartment, and said, “NO BRAKES!” before calling upon the deus ex anti-blockier for real and staccato-squeaking our way around the blind face of the rock to the next open straight at the last possible minute. This was not well-received, I must say.

By the time we reached the overlook for the big orange bridge I’d formed my true opinion of the C250, and it is this: Other cars offer more features, more power, more space, more convenience for the same money. You should probably buy one of those. This is not a W126 and it’s not going to last a million miles. The purchase of a Mercedes-Benz can no longer be justified on longevity or durability. But what you get for the money, in exchange for giving up the nav and the leather and the usable rear seats, is a car that is properly engineered on an excuse-free chassis. It is tangibly more satisfying to operate than a Camry or a Passat or a Fusion. On a fast road the gap between it and the jumped-up front-drivers is considerable.

That stupid, charmless turbo four-cylinder rewarded my irresponsible operation by returning 22 miles per gallon during that last drive. In circumstances like that, I’ve seen my Boxster return half that. Ugh. How I disliked the 1.8 turbo. but the numbers are pretty good. I’d spring for the big-power V-6 in the C350, and certainly Mercedes wouldn’t be unhappy were I to do so. Still, the 1.8 is okay. Nobody’s ever going to look forward to hearing it rev, but the same was true for the diesel in the 240D.

So. Relatively cheap. Not too many features. The engine is blah but the chassis is sound and it works over the long haul. I don’t know about you, but that sounds about like what I expect from a Mercedes-Benz. If any modern car deserves to wear the star, then I suppose this one does.

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Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-mercedes-benz-cls63-amg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-mercedes-benz-cls63-amg/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 21:34:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490290 2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
My statement “BMW is the new Mercedes” may have ruffled the most feathers, but the second thing that gets thrown in my face is: “what then has Mercedes become?” I’m sorry if the forum fanboys can’t adjust to the new normal that is a softer, more civilized, more luxurious BMW that puts comfort over balls-out performance. Sometimes you just have to let the ostrich keep its head in the hole. If you think the M6 is the best thing since sliced bread, read no further. This isn’t about BMW, this is about the German luxury company. What of them?  To find out we were tossed the keys to a six-figure beast for a week.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The first generation CLS wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps it’s because I like the traditional profile of the E-Class with the high greenhouse and excellent rear headroom. Perhaps it’s because I’m a stickler and in my world a “coupé” can’t have four seats. Perhaps it’s that the first generation CLS looked like it had been laid, and I’m not referring to an egg. That’s probably it.

But that was then, this is now. Up front we get one of the more attractive and aggressive grilles I have seen lately. The side profile has ditched the “half-moon” character line that I disliked for one that I would call “American muscle,” especially those rear haunches. Out back we have a more traditionally shaped trunk lid which finally puts an end to any CLS vs suppository comparisons. Whew. That’s not to say the CLS has become more upright, quite the opposite, it just isn’t trying as hard as it used to.

Mercedes’ naming scheme needs to be explained. If you take an S and remove two doors, you get a CL. Yet the CLS is not created by adding two doors back. Instead you take an E, delete the fifth seat, squash the profile, remove the window sashes and add a whopping $20,200 to the price tag (base E vs base CLS). By having the CLS, Mercedes has been able to keep the E-Class’s upright profile while increasing profits by charging huge sums for a more stylish four-seat version. When it comes to the high performance models, the CLS is a slightly better value. Starting at $109,150 it is “only” $19,350 more than the E63 AMG. It’s good to be king.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

There is a common problem with performance models: all the cash goes to making the car go faster, handle better and stop shorter. While there are some interior tweaks to the CLS’ interior for AMG duty, they boil down to AMG badging, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and unique AMG controls in the center console. There is another problem for the CLS in general; it shares a large portion of its design and components with the $51,900 E350. It’s not that the E-Class and CLS-Class parts are low rent by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that they are a bit too popular. This doesn’t apply only to the Mercedes, the Audi A7, S7 and RS7 have the same thing going in inside with parts from the A6. The BMW 6 on the other hand has a much steeper base price of $74,900 (640i coupé) so your $113,000 M6 Gran Coupé won’t be sharing dash parts with the $599 lease special. Based on my personal likes and dislikes, the M6 Gran Coupé is the interior winner, but with a decently larger price tag, it should be.

Front seat comfort in the CLS63 is excellent thanks to a large range of motion in the seat bottom cushion, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel that will practically telescope into the back of the seat if you wanted it to. As part of the $3,690 “Premium Package,” our CLS included MB’s “active multicontour” driver’s seat. This is what separates the CLS from the truly expensive Benz models which can have the same system applied to the passenger’s seat. The active throne massages your back, offers more adjustibility to the seat contour and has dynamic bolsters that inflate and deflate to keep you in your seat on winding roads. The active bolsters feel like someone is slowly groping you from behind as you drive, something I missed after the car left us.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

No coupé, even a four-door model, is about rear seat comfort. They are about looking good while carrying a pair of people to the opera and masses of luggage to your vacation chateau. This point was proved when I repeated my role as “prom chauffeur” for my godson. I suggested that his 6’4 frame would fit better in my ginormous long wheelbase and decidedly upright Jaguar Super V8, but the angry face and demonic burble of the CLS stole his heart, so he and his date jammed themselves in the back. Legroom isn’t the problem, it’s headroom. The CLS isn’t alone here, headroom is a precious commodity in the A7 and 6 Gran Coupe as well. The 15.3 cubic foot trunk doesn’t sound terribly large at first, but when you consider it’s a trunk for two, and the rear seats fold the CLS turns into a fairly practical vehicle (oddly enough). The A7 sports more cargo room and the hatchback lid means you can jam a barbecue in there should you need to, but it also means more road noise coming from the rear. The BMW Gran Coupe has a hair more trunk space but the rear seats don’t fold as flat as those in the CLS and the integrated headrests made front-seat room a bit tighter when the seats were folded.

Infotainment

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but I’d take a snazzy infotainment system any day, so would many luxury shoppers by all accounts. This is where the sharp dressed CLS looses in a big way. Mercedes hasn’t rested on their laurels as some would suggest, COMAND has been updated continuously, you’d just be hard pressed to notice. COMAND still uses a 7-inch LCD set high in the dashboard surrounded by a plastic bezel seemingly designed to accentuate the small dimensions of the screen. Audi uses a large 8-inch screen that pops out of the dash and screams “look at ME!” while BMW has gone for a ginormous 10.2-inch wide screen system. While I find Audi’s MMI system frustrating to use and overly complicated, BMW’s iDrive has evolved into a relatively intuitive system that I have been able to get anyone off the street to figure out. COMAND lands somewhere in the middle being fairly simple to use but looking a little old school. Part of Mercede’s modernization efforts have gone into integrating smartphone apps and internet connectivity into COMAND, but the system’s processor seems to slow to take full advantage of the improvements. Voice commands are one thing this system has always done well and Mercedes has expanded the system to now offer SYNC-like voice control of your USB/iDevice. Notably, the system lacks the annoying “talk now” beep that most systems use making it more natural to interact with. For in-depth infotainment commentary, check out the video.

M157 EngineDrivetrain

Ah, the section we’ve all been waiting for. For RS7 duty, Audi took the existing turbo V8 and punched up the boost. For M6 Gran Coupe duty BMW did the same thing to their 4.4L V8. (Yes, I know that there were a few other changes but my point is they are the same basic engine.) Based on the competition, AMG could have very easily done the same thing to their twin-turbo 4.6L “M278″ V8 engine. Instead the AMG built a larger 5.5L V8 off the M278′s design and dubbed it the M157. No, I don’t know why they didn’t call it the M279 or just Thor’s Hammer. The RS7′s 560 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and the M6′s 560 ponies and 500 twists sound impressive as do the CLS63′s base 518 horsepower and 516 lb-ft. But for $7,300 Mercedes will toss in a re-tuned (read: stiffer) suspension, sportier steering wheel, 186MPH top-speed limiter and bump the engine to 550 horses and 590 lb-ft of diesel-like pull. Still not enough? (Why should it be?) The engine puts down 664 lb-ft in a variant of the CL63 AMG and there are tuners that will happily flash your ride to get you there too. Why the big difference in torque? It’s all about displacement.

The difference in the way the Audi/BMW and the Mercedes engines behave is also quite different. Thanks to the large displacement, low end torque is much more pronounced than the smaller V8s. While there is still a bit of turbo lag, you’d be hard pressed to notice on your way to a 12 second 1/4 mile at 123 MPH. In a 4,300lb sedan. While burning unbelievable amounts of rubber. For the record, that’s the same speed we clocked in the M6 drop-top. With this much power, traction is the CLS’ Achilles heel, something Mercedes is planning to rectify in 2014 with the addition of AWD to the performance pack CLS63. I’d like to compare the Panamera to the CLS, but since Porsche won’t return my calls I have to rule the CLS superior.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Engine, 5.5L twin-turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Since every silver-lining is wrapped in a cloud, we need to talk about the AMG Speedshift MCT transmission. If you take a look at the cut-away above, you’ll notice something. What Mercedes calls a “multi-clutch” transmission isn’t the same as a “dual-clutch” unit. BMW’s M-DCT transmission is two robotically shifted manual transmissions inside the same casing. One does the odd gears, the other handles the even gears. The Mercedes unit is a variant of their regular 7-speed slushbox with a wet clutch replacing the torque converter. The MCT acronym refers to the multiple clutches and bands used in the planetary gearsets.

I haven’t been a huge fan of this transmission since it launched, because in some ways the MCT combines the “slow” shifts of an automatic and unrefined feel of clutches in one unit. Thankfully the 2013 software has made the transmission much more liveable but the way the transmission shifts is an issue for me. My complaint is simply software, Mercedes chose to not allow the car to “queue” shifts. So two pulls on the steering wheel paddle does not take you down/up two gears. You have to wait until the transmission shifts before commanding the next gear. Holding the “down” paddle will get the transmission to scoot to the lowest gear possible (except for first), but going down 5 gears takes an eternity compared to the BMW M-DCT. When the high-rev fun is over, you’ll find there is no command for going “up” to the highest gear possible. Mercedes has improved the speeds of the shifts which now come in around 170ms in “Comfort” and 100ms in “Manual” with Sport and Sport+ slotting in-between those times but the 20-80ms shifts of the BMW/Getrag DCT are lightning fast in comparison.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Brakes, Wheel, Caliper, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

When you get the CLS on the road, complaints about the MCT fade thanks to a positively devilish V8 burble that is 100% authentic rather than computer generated like in recent BMWs. The steering comparison is somewhat similar, with the CLS feeling light, but more accurate and transmitting more feel than the M6. The Audi on the other hand has that Quattro system to interfere with steering feel, something I notice many reviews fail to notice. I’m very torn about AWD in a high performance car. AWD’s ability to put power down more effectively is usually worth the steering feel penalty as long as it doesn’t change the car’s neutral handling characteristics. Next year you will be able to have this debate as 2014 brings standard 4MATIC to the CLS AMG. At 150lbs, 4MATIC adds less weight than Quattro and will have a nearly 70% rear bias. If however RWD shenanigans are more important than grip, snag a 2013 while you can/

When it comes to driving dynamics this becomes a two-way fight between the BMW and the Mercedes. Aside from the fact that the RS7 isn’t officially out yet so few have driven it, we have to keep Audi’s platform designs in mind. The A6/A7 platform was designed with FWD base models in mind and that cause some inherent compromises most namely the weight balance. Although Audi has not officially said, I doubt the RS7 has improved much upon the S7′s 54.5/45.5 percent weight distribution. I recently had the opportunity to drive the S6 and a number of BMW and Mercedes models on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the impact that Audi’s engine layout has on handling is obvious on a track. The S6 felt nose heavy and less willing to change direction than the other Germans. Some of that has to do with the AWD system but more has to do with where the weight is located. (And remember, Porsche wouldn’t lend us a Panamera which means it looses by default.) Weight balance is important with performance cars because big engines usually equal a heavy nose. This is the case with the 6-Series Gran Coupe in which the 640i model is a near perfect 50/50 but the M6 version bumps the numbers to 52.3/47.7 % and in the CLS as well with the CLS63 having a 52/48% distribution. You might think “there’s little difference between the S7 and CLS in distribution” which is true, but the difference combined with tire choices and suspension dynamics made the S6/S7 feel decidedly front heavy in comparison.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Our tester had the performance package suspension which turns the CLS63 into the best handling and the best feeling four door coupé. With precise steering, tenacious grip and excellent feel, the CLS is quite simply a willing dance partner. The M6 on the other hand comes off as a little artificial at times and a little less connected the rest of the time. That being said, I prefer the ride in the M6 because it’s not as punishing as the CLS63 with the stiffer springs. If you don’t get that $7,300 performance package, then the softer CLS63 gives a little away in performance to the M6 Gran Coupé, but has a ride more fitting of a Mercedes in my opinion. The performance package is without a doubt breathtaking, but in my mind it is at odds with the “mission” of a Mercedes-Benz.

While we’re talking options, if you plan on exercising your CLS63 on a regular basis, the $12,625 carbon ceramic brakes are a must. The stock brakes do a fine job keeping up under normal circumstances, but with this much power and 4,300lbs it is possible to overreach the ability of the stock stoppers. Also, the $2,030 limited slip differential is an absolute must have if you’re serious about applying this much power from a stop. That jacks up the price of the CLS63 to $127,247. If that price shocks you, just stick with the CLS550 since the RS7 and M6 are more expensive.

2013 Mercedes-Benz  CLS63 AMG Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The CLS63 that Mercedes lent us is a serious performance machine, but it’s more than that, it’s the first AMG product I have driven lately that’s a better performance machine than BMW’s M line. I have long preferred AMGs to Ms because they were slightly softer, slightly more luxurious and easier to live with on a daily basis, but the CLS63 isn’t that Mercedes. While the 2014 AWD model might tame the beast, this 2013 model hustles with the M6 coupé, handles with greater precision than an M5 and the sense of urgency that 590lb-ft of torque bring to the party must be experienced to be believed. Is this the new Mercedes?

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Endless torque.
  • Did I mention the torque? Yea, it’s that good.
  • Impeccable road manners and the last stand against numb steering.

Quit it

  • Mercedes needs to snag someone’s dual-clutch transmission or swallow their pride and buy ZF’s 8-speed.
  • COMAND needs to be replaced, stat.

 

Mercedes-Benz provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12 Seconds @ 123 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy over 740 miles: 19MPG

 

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