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. Wed, 01 Jul 2015 12:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Mercedes-Benz http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/mercedes-benz/ A Different Perspective On The DaimlerChrysler Merger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/different-perspective-daimlerchrysler-merger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/different-perspective-daimlerchrysler-merger/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 21:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994922 My 25-plus years as a Big Time Auto Industry Executive afforded me many memorable moments. It would be difficult to single out one example, but I may be the only person on earth who has shaken hands with both Soichiro Honda and Derek Kreindler. As for the low point of my career, there is no contest: the morning of May […]

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DC Hoods Courtesy cnbc.com

My 25-plus years as a Big Time Auto Industry Executive afforded me many memorable moments. It would be difficult to single out one example, but I may be the only person on earth who has shaken hands with both Soichiro Honda and Derek Kreindler.

As for the low point of my career, there is no contest: the morning of May 7, 1998, four months after I joined Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation. That was the day it was announced Daimler-Benz had merged with the Chrysler Corporation.

I’ll never forget watching the news that morning, as Daimler CEO Jurgen Schrempp and Chrysler CEO Bob Eaton were all smiles during their press conference, deeming the alliance a “marriage from Heaven.” I was slack-jawed. I was dumbfounded. I was the RCA Victor dog with my head cocked quizzically at the television set.

I, also, was not alone. There were reports of Mercedes-Benz USA executives crying in the halls that morning. How could we do this? Didn’t we learn anything from our previous tie-up with Studebaker?

Much would be written in the following years about the culture clash between the two companies and how it contributed to their demerger in 2007. The press gleefully wrote about how the “lean and mean Chrysler” was at odds with the “slow-moving, bureaucratic Benz.” When it came to the resultant hookup between Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation and Chrysler Financial, those roles were reversed.

While it would be several years before Schrempp would admit the alliance was not a merger but in reality a takeover of Chrysler by Daimler, Chrysler Financial (CF) was in charge of Mercedes-Benz Credit Corporation (MBCC) from day one on the U.S. financial side. On the surface this made sense as CF serviced ten times the number of dealers and employed around eleven times the number of people than did MBCC.

The two banks became DaimlerChrysler Services North America and we would move our U.S headquarters from Atlanta to CF’s home, the decrepit former American Motors building in Detroit, while construction started on a permanent facility. Thus, the only American employees to truly merge and work side by side in America were us financial folks. The respective auto sales and distribution arms in Montvale, NJ and Detroit probably never even spoke.

I was hired by a year-old division of MBCC called debis Affinity, named after the worldwide financial arm of Mercedes-Benz, Daimler-Benz InterServices AG or debis. Located in the MBCC customer service and remarketing facility in Fort Worth, TX, our mission was to provide retail loans and leases to customers of non-Mercedes dealers as well as floor plan and capital loans to the retailers themselves.

DC merger signing courtesy AP

“Jurgen, did I tell you about the millions you are about to lose on off-lease Grand Cherokees?”

Starting with a clean sheet of paper, we developed a corporate culture of transparency and employee empowerment. An example of this culture occurred each morning at 9 a.m. when we would turn off the phones and gather together in a “huddle” to review the previous day’s business news and talk strategy. These lighthearted meetings would be led each morning by a different team member. We were completely transparent with our monthly profit numbers. If they were published on a day that an entry level employee led the huddle, he or she would present the numbers to the group.

Chrysler folks thought our culture and huddle were hokey, but it worked: we built a loyal, tight-knit group of employees. I worked in field sales at American Honda during the go-go ’80s and ’90s; working at debis was more fun.

Thanks to our excellent service levels and a field sales staff heavy with former retail car people, we grew quickly, signing up retailers representing all franchises. We were especially welcomed by Chrysler dealers who were not shy to express their disgust with CF’s inconsistent credit buying practices, their jumping in and out of leasing, and their overall poor dealer support.

Our philosophies could not have been more different from those at CF. At MBCC and debis we considered the dealers to be our partners; CF loathed their dealer body. To be fair, at any one time probably 15 percent of Chrysler dealers were on the verge of going out of business, while another 15 percent were dedicated to stealing as much money as possible from CF and from Chrysler. Dealers falsifying customer information on credit applications to gain loan or lease approvals occurred far more often with Chrysler than Mercedes-Benz retailers.

2000DaewooLeganza courtesy chicagoautoshow.com

Leganza! Mercedes-Benz Credit’s debis Division provided financing for U. S. Daweoo customers.

The majority of CF employees we met were motivated and as passionate about the Chrysler brand as we were about Mercedes-Benz. The problem was their layers of bureaucracy prevented any task from being accomplished on a timely basis. In contrast, we were lean enough to operate on dealer and customer time – in other words, “right now.”

A perfect example was CF’s remarketing processes for capturing and disposing of off-lease vehicles. MBCC was recognized as having the best practices in the industry – dealer and customer friendly – while maximizing returns at auction. MBCC had one centralized office for remarketing; CF passed off the responsibility to its dozens of regional sales offices. We quickly learned despite all their people assigned to CF remarketing, many were not contacting clients to arrange their vehicles return, thus, customers were happily driving for free for months after their leases were due, assuring the vehicles would be returned at far below residual value. The concept of pitching off-lease clients to buy another Chrysler product was not on their radar at all.

It was quickly decided that the MBCC remarketing department would take over CF remarketing. Our first step was to find these thousands units missing in the CF bureaucracy. Time was ticking as CF was facing two hundred thousand Grand Cherokees coming off leases with payments as low as $199/month that were about to hit the auctions. The potential residual losses were staggering. The losses would end up averaging over $2,500 per unit. We always wondered if Daimler was informed of the situation during merger negotiations.

Infiniti dumped Nissan Motor Acceptance for debis to provide leases for their customers.

Infiniti dumped Nissan Acceptance for debis to provide leases for their customers.

In 1999, debis shocked the industry when we were chosen by Japanese luxury automaker Infiniti to provide factory subvented leases for their customers in their Western and Central Regions. Infiniti’s captive finance arm, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation, was out of money and the bank’s dealer satisfaction rankings were even lower than those of Chrysler Financial. Infiniti also admitted that they did not have the channels to dispose of off-lease vehicles.

On the surface this may appear to be Mercedes-Benz helping a competitor’s sales but it is actually just the opposite. The customer had already chosen an Infiniti by the time we were involved. We would profit on the leases as opposed to Nissan capturing that money. We’d also have control of that customer at lease end, with the hopes that their great experience with us might lead them to buy a Mercedes-Benz product next time. At one point, debis was also the leading lessor of Lexus RX300s in several markets on the East Coast.

Four outlying automakers also chose debis to serve as their captive lender, all drawn in by the prestige of being associated with the three-pointed star:

Daewoo: The Korean automaker may have built crappy cars, but their retail paper performed great. The Daewoo people also were by far the easiest to work with among all of our OEM relationships.

Lamborghini: We had the pleasure of working with one of the great automotive crooks of our era, North American Lamborghini distributor Vic Keuylian, who went from hanging with Hollywood celebrities to losing the distributorship to a guilty plea for wire fraud for selling $12M worth of Lamborghinis and stiffing Volkswagen Credit on them. I recall we did some Lambo leases for actor Nicolas Cage.

Grand+Opening+Lamborghini+Calabasas+Arrivals+4LgOcYOPgsEl Courtesy zimbio.com

debis client and former Lamborghini distributor Vic Keuylian with actress Kristen Bell.

Panoz: I am not sure if we actually ever financed a single one of their sports cars but we did get to visit their Georgia headquarters and drive some of their vehicles at Road Atlanta – so the relationship was worth it.

Lotus: I do not think we ended up doing much business with this brand either, but they were also located in Atlanta so we could justify our boondoggles to Panoz by visiting them.

In three years, debis had become wildly successful. Besides the OEM accounts, we had signed up 1,600 dealers and were close to overtaking Chase in several markets as the top non-captive automotive lender.

In early 2000, our managing director was tapped to develop DaimlerChrysler’s online auto financing site. He was replaced by a Chrysler “lifer” who was openly disdainful of debis. His actions verified what was long rumored to be true: CF senior managers only communicated to employees one band level below them and all other workers were not to approach them. I was marketing manager at the time and don’t recall ever having a conversation with the man. Our independence and our unique culture began to slip away.

DC Benz sign Courtesy 2.bp.blogspot.com

Soon after, rumors began to swirl that debis was going to be disbanded. When the COO of DaimlerChrysler Financial, a long-time CF man, assured us this was not the case, we figured we we were toast. We were correct: Chrysler bombed debis at dawn on December 7 – Pearl Harbor Day – in 2000. The reason given for our closing was due to the competitive nature of the non-captive lending business as well as duplication of efforts with Chrysler dealers. In my opinion, the truth was that Chrysler Financial hated our guts due to their brand partner being taken over by Daimler, they were tired of hearing from Chrysler dealers about our superlative service levels, and they simply could not understand the empowering (and profitable) debis culture. The news of our shutting down made the front page of Automotive News.

debis folks were devastated – but there was a bright side: to the company’s credit, all 64 debis employees were offered positions within the company, the majority on the Chrysler side, a few on the Mercedes-Benz side.

In 2007, the crazies at Cerberus bought Chrysler from us (during a recession!). We had paid $35 billion for Chrysler and sold them for $8 billion. I likened the loss to the two-year residual value of a Chrysler Pacifica minivan. MBCC was quickly reborn as Mercedes-Benz Financial Services (MBFS). The Chrysler financing arm also became part of Cerberus and would eventually be bought by Canada’s TD Bank in 2011.

MBFS Logo Courtesy linkedin

In the end, the damage done was the value of the millions of wasted man hours learning Chrysler’s systems and processes we could have dedicated to improving our products and services for Mercedes-Benz customers and dealers. The amount of money spent to build new Detroit and Fort Worth facilities for the merger and a second set for the demerger was staggering.

To be fair, a lot of good did come out of the merger on the financial services side. Thanks to Chrysler’s powerful human resources department, our benefits were far better than before the alliance. MBFS also became a much more diversified workplace thanks to Chrysler’s influence. Some of the talented leaders of the current MBFS came from Chrysler, most being managers who were considered “rebels” on the domestic side. The MBFS headquarters remained in Detroit where we were able to draw from the city’s deep, laid-off automotive talent pool for years to come.

The debate will rage on as to whether Daimler-Benz nearly killed the Chrysler Corporation, but in one small corner of their financial services division it was Chrysler who dealt the deathblow to a vibrant and vital Mercedes-Benz operation.

Chronicling this story has made me decide to amend my opening statement: the day in May 2007 when the DaimlerChrysler demerger became official, and I was safely on the Mercedes-Benz Financial Services side, was the single best moment of my automotive career.

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Aus. FCA Misappropriation Case Includes Former MB, Current Crown Resorts Execs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/aus-fca-misappropriation-case-includes-former-mb-exec-crown-resorts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/aus-fca-misappropriation-case-includes-former-mb-exec-crown-resorts/#comments Sat, 06 Jun 2015 18:58:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085937 As we reported earlier, Clyde Campbell and a number of his associates, including his successor Veronica Johns and former boss Ernst Lieb by way of his Motorworld dealerships, are being named in a misappropriation case claiming $30 million AUD was funnelled out of company coffers. This weekend, more details have come to light, including how […]

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Chrysler 300 (Aus)

As we reported earlier, Clyde Campbell and a number of his associates, including his successor Veronica Johns and former boss Ernst Lieb by way of his Motorworld dealerships, are being named in a misappropriation case claiming $30 million AUD was funnelled out of company coffers.

This weekend, more details have come to light, including how Campbell was able to pilfer FCA funds without raising red flags in Detroit.

The story verges on conspiracy and includes the wife of Campbell, his successor, a formerly disgraced Daimler executive, a casino, a boat and extravagant homes paid for by FCA without its knowing. Even Campbell’s wife’s hairdresser received a free Jeep as part of the brand’s “ambassador” program.

Mark Hawthorne of The Sydney Morning Herald remarked, “It has all the makings of a Hollywood script. In Elizabeth Hurley, it even has the presence of a Hollywood star.”

According to the article published today, $20 million (all figures in Australian dollars) was spent on overpriced dealer website services, $550,000 on a “mobile outdoor floating billboard” that is allegedly a 40-foot Chris Craft boat owned by Campbell, $1 million Christmas parties that included Louis Vuitton bags as employee gifts, over $500,000 – and possible nearly $2 million – in travel expenses, and a private suite for Campbell and his friends – including former fired Mercedes-Benz USA CEO and president Ernst Lieb – to enjoy the Monaco Grand Prix.

Campbell served under Lieb
Ernst Lieb did an eighteen year stint in multiple roles at Mercedes-Benz Canada Ltd. between 1985 and 2003. It’s where he rode out the “merger of equals” between Daimler and Chrysler as he served in his final position, CEO and president, of the Canadian subsidiary.

In 2003, Ernst moved to Australia and took the same titles at the Australian arm of the newly-merged DaimlerChrysler. That’s where he became the boss of Clyde Campbell. Ernst would leave Australia in 2006 to become CEO and president of Mercedes-Benz USA, but not before Campbell signed a contract for dealer website services with Motortrak, a British digital retail marketing agency owned by Gary Pask.

By May 2007, Daimler would divest itself from Chrysler, with Cerberus Capital Management taking a 80.1 percent stake in the American business.

Starting January 2008, Campbell served as managing director of Motortrak in its Australian office. His wife, Simone, was director and company secretary starting in May 2009. During his time at Motortrak, Campbell sold a website services deal to Lieb for all Mercedes-Benz dealers in the United States.

“That was the making of Motortrak and the making of Gary Pask as one of the richest businessmen in the UK,” a former Motortrak staff member told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“The whole deal was done by Clyde.”

During this time, Chrysler received $12.5 billion (USD) from the U.S Treasury and $1 billion (CAD) from the Canadian and Ontario governments. The bailout cash was provided under the condition of a Fiat takeover.

Clyde left Motortrak in September 2010, with his wife following one month later. Two days after she left the retail marketing company, Clyde Campbell was appointed managing director of the now-Fiat-controlled Chrysler Australia.

In October 2011, Lieb was fired from Mercedes-Benz USA for using corporate funds to pay golf club fees, granting rentals for vehicles in exchange for flight upgrades, and using $100,000 in corporate money to perform upgrades in his private home – including a home theatre, gym, washer and dryer, and built-in barbecue. A later wrongful dismissal suit launched by Lieb against Mercedes in Germany was dismissed, with the court stating the claims were “so serious that any further employment [at Daimler] would be unacceptable.”

An unnamed Daimler executive at that time told German paper Handelsblatt, “Ernst was warned, but he has done it again.”

Another Motortrak contract, Lieb’s Motorworld and Campbell’s high life
Almost as soon as Campbell returned to FCA in 2010, he signed another contract with former employer Motortrak. The initial amount of $690 a month for website services per dealer would balloon to $4,100. This was charged to the network’s 184 dealers.

More than $20 million was paid to Motortrak from 2011, claims FCA, “substantially greater than the cost for similar web services provided by Motortrak itself and by competitors.”

Shortly after, disgraced Lieb would return to Australia to become co-owner of the Motorworld dealership group along with David Piva.

“After working all my life in the wholesale sector, I am now in the ‘real’ business of the Automotive Industry – the retail business!” Lieb said in a press release announcing his arrival at Motorworld.

FCA alleges it incurred some $4 million in damages in deals between the Campbell-led subsidiary and Lieb-owned Motorworld, including “marketing support and to help it buy property, specifically the Brighton dealership,” reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

Campbell was well known as one of the biggest-spending marketers in Australia. The company would end up sponsoring horse racing, soccer players in multiple leagues, events, Crown Resorts, professional sports teams, and provide vehicles to celebrities the world over.

While there were only 45 official “ambassador” program vehicles documented in 2013, staff said the number was closer to 100. The program was so pervasive, even Simone Campbell’s hairdresser, Karlose, received a Jeep for free.

Travel expenses skyrocketed. Campbell incurred $537,849 in travel expenses in his own name. However, it is believed he also incurred – in whole or in part – an additional $452,138 in 2012 and $445,556 in 2013 in travel expenses submitted under the names of employees who had no business traveling.

Part of this travel was a trip to Monaco. Campbell, along with Lieb and Pask, enjoyed multiple stays at the Monaco Grand Prix.

Lavish parties were also the norm for Christmas. Approximately $1 million each year was spent on the annual employee Christmas party held at Crown Palladium, with an estimated 100 suites booked at Crown Towers and Crown Promenade hotels for staff, guests, brand ambassadors and media. This started under Campbell’s leadership and continued under his successor, Veronica Johns.

$550,000 “mobile outdoor floating billboard”
Allegedly, in March 2013, Campbell contacted FCA’s advertising agency Maxus to direct payment on four invoices of $137,500 each, for a total of $550,000, provided by My Alfa Romeo. The invoices were for a “mobile outdoor floating billboard”.

My Alfa Romeo, partly owned by Crown Resorts’ Ishan Ratnam (a.k.a. Ishan Kunaratnam) and Campbell’s wife Simone, is said not to have delivered said billboard. Instead, FCA alleges the money was used to purchase a 40-foot Chris Craft boat valued at $400,000 owned by Campbell.

Ratnam’s lawyer, John Price, stated, “There is a contract between My Alfa Romeo and FCA and the billboard was provided. My client denies that assertion, as certainly Fiat Chrysler did receive it.”

From Campbell to Johns, the spending continued
In April 2013, Veronica Johns took over the role vacated by Campbell when he moved to New Zealand-based distributorship Fiat Chrysler NZ Limited of which he took a 50 percent stake. The other half of the NZ company is owned by Ateco Automotive executive chairman Neville Crichton.

However, the change in leadership didn’t mean the money would stop flowing from FCA.

At the time, FCA touted their new leader Johns as “the first Australian woman to head the local division of a major car company.”

After a $3.1 million renovation of the company’s Melbourne headquarters done by Madok, a construction company controlled by Mitchell Knight, the same company was contracted to perform upgrades to John’s private residence with the work invoiced back to FCA.

Three cars were purchased as prizes for two charities and a soccer club. Two of those vehicles would end up registered to Mitchell Knight and one to Gregory Hede, John’s husband. Knight sold at least one of those vehicles back to the City Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership at a $20,000 premium. FCA claims the vehicles were funnelled through the Lieb-owned Motorworld group.

A Fiat Abarth race team was funded by the FCA Australian subsidiary under Johns. It was budgeted at $500,000 but cost $800,00 in all. Clyde Campbell and Gregory Hede competed as drivers in those cars, their racing licences paid for by FCA.

Other expenses mentioned in the case include an $11,000 bill rung up by Johns at Crown Towers.

In September 2014, FCA alleges Campbell, his wife Simone, Lieb, his wife Petra and other guests took a three-day trip to a luxury golf and spa resort in New Zealand on FCA’s dime under the leadership of Veronica Johns without proper authorization.

One month later, Johns left FCA for “personal reasons” after less than two years at the post and a total of 16 years with the company.

How did it all happen?

“The spending was out of control,” told former staff member to The Sydney Morning Herald. “And anyone who questioned it was shown the door.”

When Johns left the top post, FCA appointed Chrysler parts business head Pat Dougherty as the new president and CEO of the Australian subsidiary. When he arrived, employees lined up at his door to tell the story, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, which Dougherty then reported back to Detroit.

Auditors arrived in Melbourne in late January.

How it all happened in the first place, Dougherty is keeping mum.

“FCA Australia will not engage in a running commentary on matters currently before the courts”, he told BusinessDay.

However, many think a lack of control and oversight is due to the DaimlerChrysler fiasco and Chrysler’s recent merger with Fiat. With Italian and American managers preoccupied with larger corporate matters, executives in Australia were able to operate virtually autonomously, especially as sales grew.

Campbell is stating he’s innocent through his lawyer.

“We are confident that, in due course, the allegations will be shown to be wrong and will be embarrassing for FCA,” Campbell’s lawyer Sam Bond told The Sydney Morning Herald.

[Sources: 12, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10]

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Audi A7 vs. Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class – Which One Wins The U.S. Sales Race? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/audi-a7-vs-mercedes-benz-cls-class-one-wins-u-s-sales-race/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/audi-a7-vs-mercedes-benz-cls-class-one-wins-u-s-sales-race/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068130 With a broader product portfolio and extra decades of established premium status in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA sells a lot more vehicles than Audi USA. Through the first four months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sales were up 9% to 107,344, excluding Sprinter. Audi, globally favored, was up 12% to 56,925. But again, the comparisons are […]

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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG

With a broader product portfolio and extra decades of established premium status in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA sells a lot more vehicles than Audi USA. Through the first four months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sales were up 9% to 107,344, excluding Sprinter. Audi, globally favored, was up 12% to 56,925.

But again, the comparisons are difficult to make because the lineups simply don’t, well, line up. We’ve discussed the CLA and A3 before, but even there, Audi is offering different bodystyles under one banner, which Mercedes-Benz does not. The S-Class has a significantly higher base price than the A8. The E-Class is available as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible – the A6 is sedan only. The GL is significantly pricier than the Q7; the Q7 offers more seats than the ML. The C-Class is new; we might as well wait for a new A4 to draw realistic comparisons. The SLK is a hardtop convertible; the TT is either coupe or convertible.

You get the idea. Only in a handful of zones do the two brands offer truly direct rivals. GLA vs. Q3, GLK vs. Q5, and the matter at hand, Mercedes-Benz CLS vs. Audi A7.

The CLS is a swoopier E-Class, in a sense, just as the A7 is the more style-centric A6. The CLS starts at $65,990, offerings more performance at $73,200, and is just plain crazy as a $106,550 CLS 63 AMG S 4Matic. The Audi A7 starts at $68,300, rises to $82,900 as an S7, and begins its RS7 scheme at $108,900. Similar.

2015 Audi S7

They are two German mid-rung offshoots with six, eight, or overwhelming eight-cylinder power. There’s very little to separate the two.

Yet the Audi A7 consistently outsells the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The margins are slim, but sufficient so as to be noticeable.

Audi USA sold 6,270 A7s in 2011, the A7’s first (abbreviated) year of sales. Mercedes-Benz USA, having already sold 44,389 CLS sedans in the six years before the A7’s launch, achieved a 165% year-over-year sales increase in 2011, but fell 605 sales shy of the Audi despite having an extra three months in which to sell.

The A7 outsold the CLS by 533 units in the Audi’s first full year of 2012. A7 sales then slipped 1% to 8,483 in 2013, still enough to outsell the CLS (down 0.4%) by 451 units in 2013.

Last year, A7 sales dropped 4% to 8,133 units, but the CLS’s 13% decline made an 1,152-unit victory possible for the Audi.

And through the first four months of 2015, the A7 is ahead by a scant 34 units with 1,835 year-to-date sales.

What makes the A7 so capable of staying ahead of the Benz? Both cars have had recent supply constraints that caused U.S. volume to drag: CLS sales were down 61% through the fourth-quarter of 2014; A7 sales are down 36% over the last six months. But even in those strange circumstances, the A7 stays just ahead. The Audi has outsold the Benz in 31 of the 49 months in which the Audi has been available.

Audi A7 hatchback

Could it be the tailgate?

Sure, the A7 and CLS line up head-to-head in so many ways. But Audi builds the A7 as a hatchback.

Moreover, Audi builds a diesel version of that hatchback.

Yes, America, the diesel hatchback outsells the sedan that they call a coupe. In a manner of speaking.

Audi A7 hatchback 2

Of course the diesel isn’t all that common. Only 13% of the A7s, S7s, and RS7s currently listed by Cars.com’s inventory are fitted with the V6 diesel. But that, in concert with the fact that the A7 offers 60% more cargo capacity, may be all that’s needed.

After all, the A7 is only just barely pipping the CLS on the TTAC sales-o-meter.

Where’s the CLS350d Shooting Brake when you need it?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class – New Engine Candy, Same Old Boxy Wrapper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-mercedes-benz-g-class-new-engine-candy-old-boxy-wrapper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-mercedes-benz-g-class-new-engine-candy-old-boxy-wrapper/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 18:10:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1061002 As Mercedes-Benz rolls out its all-new 4.0-liter V8, engineers in Stuttgart have decided the bi-turbo mill will fit right at home in the aging Gelandewagen, a luxo-utility military-born vehicle that hasn’t seen a major update in 25 years. The immediately recognizable box-on-wheels is due for a complete overhaul for 2017. In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz needs to keep their […]

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Mercedes-Benz G-Class (BR 463) 2015

As Mercedes-Benz rolls out its all-new 4.0-liter V8, engineers in Stuttgart have decided the bi-turbo mill will fit right at home in the aging Gelandewagen, a luxo-utility military-born vehicle that hasn’t seen a major update in 25 years.

The immediately recognizable box-on-wheels is due for a complete overhaul for 2017. In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz needs to keep their top-line SUV fresh to captivate the attention of celebrities and athletes and their conspicuous consumption. That’s not to say the updates are insignificant, however.

The new 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 in the G550 is a variation of that found in the Mercedes-AMG GT and C63. In the G-Class, the V8 is good for 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque sent to all four wheels, compared to its 5.5L V8 predecessor with 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of twist.

Other G-Class models see bumps in power as well, including the 571 hp V8 powered G63 and 612 hp V12 motivated G65 – the latter coming to the U.S. for the first time. All V8 powered models are said to improve fuel economy thanks to a new start/stop system.

One model many would love to come to North America – the diesel V6 powered G350d – will continue to be forbidden fruit for those of us in the colonies.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

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As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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Mercedes Slapped With $56M Fine in China for “Price Fixing” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-slapped-56m-fine-china-price-fixing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-slapped-56m-fine-china-price-fixing/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052089 The Chinese province of Jiangsu has levied a 350 million yuan ($56 million USD) fine against Mercedes-Benz in continued efforts to break perceived monopolies in car and part sales. It’s the largest fine given to an automaker to date. The latest fine aimed at a foreign automaker comes after similar actions against a “Chinese venture of […]

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Mercedes-Maybach-S600-Pullman

The Chinese province of Jiangsu has levied a 350 million yuan ($56 million USD) fine against Mercedes-Benz in continued efforts to break perceived monopolies in car and part sales. It’s the largest fine given to an automaker to date.

The latest fine aimed at a foreign automaker comes after similar actions against a “Chinese venture of Volkswagen and a sales unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler division” amounted to a combined $46 million, says the report from Automotive News. The specifics of the Mercedes fine point at the automaker forcing dealers to set minimum prices for cars and spare parts. The pricing regulator in Jiangsu province also fined Mercedes dealers to the tune of 7.7 million yuan ($1.25 million USD).

Mercedes-Benz China said they accept the decision taken by the provincial pricing regulator and has “taken all appropriate steps” to comply with the law in the future.

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Study: Mercedes Holds Highest Average Labor Costs Among US Manufacturers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/study-mercedes-holds-highest-average-labor-costs-among-us-manufacturers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/study-mercedes-holds-highest-average-labor-costs-among-us-manufacturers/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028817 Who among all automakers has the highest labor costs in the United States? A study points to Mercedes-Benz. According to Reuters, a study of 2014 labor costs by the Center for Automotive Research found that the automaker’s sole U.S. plant in Vance, Ala. averages $65/hour, while Volkswagen and BMW held the lowest averages overall and […]

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2015-mercedes-benz-c63-amg-11

Who among all automakers has the highest labor costs in the United States? A study points to Mercedes-Benz.

According to Reuters, a study of 2014 labor costs by the Center for Automotive Research found that the automaker’s sole U.S. plant in Vance, Ala. averages $65/hour, while Volkswagen and BMW held the lowest averages overall and among the transplants, coming out to $38 and $39 per hour, respectively.

As mentioned previously, General Motors and Ford have the highest costs among the Detroit Three, averaging $58 and $57 per hour compared to FCA US’ $48. The three automakers are also the only ones whose employees are represented by the United Auto Workers, whose 2007 contract created the two-tier wage system meant to help the trio remain competitive against the transplants, as well as to stay afloat during the darkest days of the Great Recession.

Other automakers with business in the U.S. include Honda ($49/hr.), Toyota ($48/hr.), Nissan ($42/hr.), and Hyundai/Kia ($41/hr.).

The averages in the study were based on pay for both direct-hire and temporary employees working full-time. The research group also found that Japanese transplants had the highest percentages of temporary employees, helping to cut down on labor costs.

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Review: 2015 Mercedes SLK250 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-mercedes-slk250/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-mercedes-slk250/#comments Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:30:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023105 The idea of the Mercedes SLK is just two years younger than the idea of the Mercedes SL. Of course, back in 1954 the marketing folks didn’t quite have the clout or imagination they have now, so the original SLK was simply called the 190SL. Like today’s SLK, it was based on small-sedan mechanicals and […]

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The idea of the Mercedes SLK is just two years younger than the idea of the Mercedes SL. Of course, back in 1954 the marketing folks didn’t quite have the clout or imagination they have now, so the original SLK was simply called the 190SL. Like today’s SLK, it was based on small-sedan mechanicals and shared very little with the high-end “Gullwing” 300SL. It also outsold its more glamorous relative about eight to one, mostly to the coasts where it served as respectable fair-weather transport for the well-heeled.

The 190SL extracted 104 horsepower from a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine. Even by the standards of the day, it was all show and no go — but it was handsome enough and it was also very popular with the right kind of people. The 1.8-liter, 201-horsepower junior variant of the SLK is that car’s natural descendant, so when I found myself at loose ends in Palm Beach this past Saturday, it occurred to me that renting one might be just the ticket for the weekend. Although I have extensive wheel time in the previous two generations of the snub-nose convertible Benz, including a self-funded Nurburgring test day in a second-generation SLK200, I had yet to try out the current model. This would be my chance to see if the SLK is still firmly on the “touring” side of the sport/touring continuum.

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There are two ways to look at the $50.195 as-tested price of my SLK250, which was distanced from the $44,875 base MSRP by a commendably-optional seven-speed automatic, an 18-inch wheel upgrade, and a Premium Package consisting of heated seats, a Harmon/Kardon sound system, and a few cold-weather options. You could think of it as one of the most expensive four-cylinder cars money can buy, sandwiched between the far more powerful Mustang GT convertible at $41,800 and the far more capable Corvette convertible at $59,000. But to do so is to miss the SLK’s entire reason for being. There are plenty of places in America, such as Palm Beach, where possession of a Mercedes-Benz is a sort of minimum requirement for membership in society. In a world where you can spend thirty-two grand on an Accord and nearly fifty grand on an Accord wearing a “TLX” badge, this SLK250 is a cheap way to get reasonable treatment from the valet.

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What you won’t get for that money is a particularly upscale interior. There’s a lot of brushed-aluminum trim, but MB-Tex is the standard seating and unless you want to crack open your wallet for one of the many designo upgrades your passenger is unlikely to be terribly impressed by the available accommodations. Luckily there’s a remarkable amount of space between the doors, particularly compared to the previous generations of the SLK. Another inch or two of legroom wouldn’t go amiss but the standard “Panorama” smoked-glass top has plenty of space overhead for me.

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As a vehicle for bopping between hotels and upscale dinner locations, the little Mercedes-Benz is perfectly satisfactory. The top is snug when it’s up and drops in about thirty seconds. When it’s down, cargo space is significantly restricted but there’s enough room for one rollaway bag. If it will fit in the overhead bin of a regional jet, it will fit in the trunk of an SLK. Don’t expect to fit two of them, however. The climate control would suffice for a much larger car, and the “Logic 7″ sound system is worth the modest upcharge. It’s loud enough to be heard with the top down on the freeway, so I dialed up the Miami Vice soundtrack on my phone and went for a late-night ride.

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Partnered with the standard six-speed manual, this low-pressure turbo is probably just enough motor to push the SLK250 along. With the optional seven-speed, torque-converter automatic, it takes a firm foot to stay ahead of traffic.

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Left to its own devices, the transmission starts in second in accordance with time-honored M-B practice. It’s slow to get moving but once you’re on way the shifts are quick and, on the 2-3, accompanied by a very race-y ignition cut-and-pop reminiscent of the current GTI. A button on the console can switch to “manual” control from the wheel-mounted paddles, but the delay between request and shift can be as much as a full second. I didn’t waste much time pretending to shift for myself, even though the SLK’s native algorithms have the gearbox reaching for seventh at speeds as low as thirty miles per hour, where the turbo will cheerfully puff the car along at 900rpm or so.

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As you can see, even with the small engine and the upshift-happy transmission, this is no fuel-economy superstar. Some of this has to be due to the abuse to which rental cars are typically put, but even with some deliberate throttle moderation on my part I could only manage to record 23.6mpg over 100 miles of relaxed driving. My Boxster beats that easily with a 3.2-liter, 264-horsepower flat six, and I’m willing to bet that the SLK350, with its 302-horsepower V-6, can beat it as well. Couple that with the unpleasant diesel rattle the direct-injected four emits at idle, and it becomes rather easy to make the case for the 3.5-liter model, even at a nine-thousand-dollar markup. The big-league power would be just the icing on the cake.

Nine years ago, I managed to get this car’s predecessor, a Euro-market, 163-horsepower, auto-transmission, SLK200, around the Nurburgring in 9:19 on my seventh-ever lap. (That’s what they call a bridge-to-gantry time, by the way; it was an open day.) In my opinion, that SLK was a very usable mix of handling and ride quality, better in that respect for nearly every potential customer than what you got with a Boxster or Z4. This current SLK tilts the balance farther in the direction of comfort, perhaps to the car’s detriment. The steering possesses zero feel or feedback, substituting a silken heaviness that probably communicates “sport” very well to the average Escalade owner but doesn’t exactly inspire me to attack an on-ramp. Even significant potholes are swallowed by the supple chassis and the stiff bodyshell, which makes me think that it would be possible to put in a little spring rate and maybe connect the steering to the front wheels a little better. As it is, you won’t want to take this Benz to a racetrack. It’s as biased towards comfort as the current SL has become, and it feels both larger and more inert than any previous SLK.

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It’s tempting to become frustrated with the SLK250, because even today Mercedes-Benz knows how to build brilliant sporting automobiles. If you don’t believe me, spend a day with an SLS Black Series and see if you don’t prefer it to nearly everything else for sale at any price. The nice people at M-B know how to make an SLK that stirs the emotions. They just chose not to do it. Instead, for your fifty thousand dollars you get a very faithful tribute to the original 190SL. It’s stylish enough, it’s comfortable enough, and it will get you parked near the front of your hotel even when there’s a Ferrari FF and a Rolls-Royce Ghost in the lot as well. What it isn’t — fast, capable, brilliant to drive — doesn’t matter much to the vast majority of the people who will buy one. Most TTACers would be better-served with the Boxster, even in its current wide-body form, but if you want the same things that the buyers of the original 190SL wanted, this is the only way you’ll get it.

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UAW Local 112 President Working To Organize MBUSI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/uaw-local-112-president-working-organize-mbusi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/uaw-local-112-president-working-organize-mbusi/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 15:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020505 The UAW hasn’t had the best luck unionizing the South thus far, but one man hopes to bring Mercedes around. Ward’s Auto reports UAW Local 112 president and MBUSI quality operations employee George Jones is leading the effort to organize the 2,200 full-time employees and 1,200 temporary workers in Vance, Ala. The local has support […]

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MBUSI Mercedes-Benz Alabama

The UAW hasn’t had the best luck unionizing the South thus far, but one man hopes to bring Mercedes around.

Ward’s Auto reports UAW Local 112 president and MBUSI quality operations employee George Jones is leading the effort to organize the 2,200 full-time employees and 1,200 temporary workers in Vance, Ala. The local has support from German union IG Metall and the Daimler World Employee Committee, as well as favorable rulings from the National Labor Relations Board, though Mercedes has appealed a ruling that would allow union leaflets to be distributed in non-work areas.

According to Jones:

We’re the only ones on this little island. Tuscaloosa (Vance) is a cash cow. All we’re asking for is fairness. Management has total control. It’s all about power.

The president is focused on giving a voice to the union as far as job classifications, staffing and perks go, adding that temp workers earn half of the $29 full-timers receive, with no guarantees of becoming full-time, and no benefits. He says that Mercedes also doesn’t offer a pension plan in MBUSI, while the 401(k) plan provided “is like going to the casino,” citing what happened during the early days of the Great Recession.

Jones says it will take a while for Local 112 — whose membership numbers he did not disclose — to organize the facility, with no set time to hold a vote or card check. Should the UAW win in Vance, however, it would be the first transplant-owned light-vehicle assembly plant in the South to be organized.

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Geneva 2015: Mercedes G500 4X4 Squared Arrives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-mercedes-g500-4x4-squared-arrives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-mercedes-g500-4x4-squared-arrives/#comments Tue, 03 Mar 2015 11:26:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1012698 Climbing down the Swiss Alps, the Mercedes G500 4X42 bowed at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show. The G500 4X42 rides upon 17.7 inches of ground clearance, double what one can have on the standard G Wagen, and moves over the rocky trails with help from its 4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 422 horsepower and 450 lb-ft […]

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Climbing down the Swiss Alps, the Mercedes G500 4X42 bowed at the 2015 Geneva Auto Show.

The G500 4X42 rides upon 17.7 inches of ground clearance, double what one can have on the standard G Wagen, and moves over the rocky trails with help from its 4-liter twin-turbo V8 with 422 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque.

Were it to go into production the G500 would have 22-inch alloys or 18-inch wheels mounted on 37-inch beadlock tires, providing 52- and 54-degree approach/departure angles, respectively; breakover is 47 degrees.

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Geneva 2015: Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Pulls Up To The Bumper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-mercedes-maybach-s600-pullman-pulls-bumper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/geneva-2015-mercedes-maybach-s600-pullman-pulls-bumper/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:27:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1010498 Though the festivities have truly yet to begin, a few images and details from the 2015 Geneva Auto Show are coming out from behind the curtain. First up: the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman. The big daddy of all Mercedes-based limos, the Pullman is a full 3.5 feet longer than the standard S-Class, big enough to accommodate […]

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Though the festivities have truly yet to begin, a few images and details from the 2015 Geneva Auto Show are coming out from behind the curtain. First up: the Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman.

The big daddy of all Mercedes-based limos, the Pullman is a full 3.5 feet longer than the standard S-Class, big enough to accommodate four standard seats facing each other in the back. Other configurations are available if you need more room for groupies and/or dignitaries and/or ultra-alpha Wall Street types, however.

Power for the Pullman comes from a twin-turbo V12 delivering 523 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque, though ‘Ring times aren’t this limo’s raison d’être. Aside from emphasizing luxury over everything else, it can also be had with body armor for those whose stations in life merit extra protection, and the aforementioned seats are positioned so the adoring (or blood-thirsty) public cannot see who’s inside.

As for the price, the S600 Pullman will move for $500,000 to $600,000 sans said body armor.

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Geneva 2015: Mercedes Pullman, C-Class PHEV To Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/geneva-2015-mercedes-pullman-c-class-phev-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/geneva-2015-mercedes-pullman-c-class-phev-debut/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 11:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001946 The big daddy of despot and celebrity rides will model its new suit when the Mercedes Pullman arrives arm-in-arm with a C-Class PHEV in Geneva next month. Reuters reports the new six-passenger Pullman will, like the original’s ideological successor, the S600 Pullman, be based upon the current S-Class, but will gain a meter in the […]

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Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman

The big daddy of despot and celebrity rides will model its new suit when the Mercedes Pullman arrives arm-in-arm with a C-Class PHEV in Geneva next month.

Reuters reports the new six-passenger Pullman will, like the original’s ideological successor, the S600 Pullman, be based upon the current S-Class, but will gain a meter in the length of its wheelbase to accommodate high-level dignitaries and celebrities on their way to world-affecting and/or illicit affairs.

As for the C-Class PHEV, the model will be among the first to have a plug-in hybrid powertrain, allowing drivers to head into the city for work and/or errands on just electric power alone.

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Mercedes-Maybach Lands In China With S600, S400 Models http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/mercedes-maybach-lands-china-s600-s400-models/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/mercedes-maybach-lands-china-s600-s400-models/#comments Tue, 03 Feb 2015 15:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=992938 Chinese luxury sedan consumers are the first to see Mercedes-Maybach in their showrooms, arriving in the form of the S600 and S400. CarNewsChina reports the S400 4-Matic retails for ¥1.3 million ($229,000 USD), while the S600 goes for ¥2.88 million ($462,000); for comparison, the S600 will sell for $189,350 when hits U.S. showrooms on Tax […]

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Chinese luxury sedan consumers are the first to see Mercedes-Maybach in their showrooms, arriving in the form of the S600 and S400.

CarNewsChina reports the S400 4-Matic retails for ¥1.3 million ($229,000 USD), while the S600 goes for ¥2.88 million ($462,000); for comparison, the S600 will sell for $189,350 when hits U.S. showrooms on Tax Day.

Power comes from either a 3-liter biturbo V6 with 330 horses and 354 lb-ft of torque for the S400, or a biturbo V12 with 530 horses and 612 lb-ft of torque for the S600. Both premium sedans send their respective power through a seven-speed auto either to the back or all corners, depending on model.

Other features include: Burmeister sound system; captain seats; rear-seat entertainment system; leather and wood interior; 20-inch alloys; and chrome for days.

Mercedes’ decision to introduce the Mercedes-Maybach sub-brand to China first is a play to have the country be the brand’s largest market from the start. This shouldn’t be too much trouble, as used Maybachs can be had for as low as ¥2.68 million ($430,000) and newer models hitting nearly ¥12 million ($1.9 million), showing the overall strength of the Maybach name in the market.

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Back Home Again In Indiana: Mercedes-Benz To Move R-Class Production To Its Old U. S. Hometown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/back-home-indiana-mercedes-benz-move-r-class-production-old-u-s-hometown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/back-home-indiana-mercedes-benz-move-r-class-production-old-u-s-hometown/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:13:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989242 As a tyke growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father and I would often stake out the lots behind the Studebaker factories with hopes of spotting the next generation Avanti or Lark. Too often all we spied were rows of Mercedes-Benz automobiles due to the fact that Studebaker was the U.S. distributor for the German brand up […]

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mercedes-benz-r-class-courtesy carnewschina.com

As a tyke growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father and I would often stake out the lots behind the Studebaker factories with hopes of spotting the next generation Avanti or Lark. Too often all we spied were rows of Mercedes-Benz automobiles due to the fact that Studebaker was the U.S. distributor for the German brand up until shortly before the closure of their South Bend operations in 1963.

Yesterday it was announced that Mercedes-Benz was returning to South Bend to build the R-Class crossover at the AM General plant, producer of the military Humvee and the late GM Hummer. Mercedes-Benz once moved their headquarters from South Bend to New Jersey and soon to the South (Atlanta) and now R-Class production is moving from the South (Alabama) to South Bend. Got it?

Slow sales of the R-Class in the U.S caused Mercedes-Benz to stop offering it here in 2012 but they continued to assemble the crossover in their Vance, Alabama plant for export to China. The cavernous R-Class is naturally a great fit for chauffeur-driven Chinese consumers.

Demand for Mercedes SUVs has put a strain on their Alabama factory so the automaker chose the AM General plant to build up to 10,000 R-Classes annually beginning this summer. The facility is also located a few miles from Elkhart, Indiana and its dozens of recreational vehicle factories so an experienced assembly-line talent pool is readily available. It took the UAW about 20 seconds after the Benz press release to announce that the AM General plant is already under their control, leaving the Alabama facility as the only non-union Mercedes-Benz factory in the world.

The only remaining question is: if Benz brings back the high-performance R63, will its AMG tag now stand now for AM General?

 

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NAIAS 2015: Mercedes C450 AMG 4Matic Second AMG Sport Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-c450-amg-4matic-second-amg-sport-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-c450-amg-4matic-second-amg-sport-debut/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 17:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=978449 Is the Mercedes GLE450 AMG Coupe not quite your speed? The AMG Sport line might have something else for you, in the form of the C450 AMG 4Matic. The sedan and estate models are meant to bridge the gap between the standard C300 and the Mercedes-AMG C63. Thus, power for the second AMG Sport offering […]

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Is the Mercedes GLE450 AMG Coupe not quite your speed? The AMG Sport line might have something else for you, in the form of the C450 AMG 4Matic.

The sedan and estate models are meant to bridge the gap between the standard C300 and the Mercedes-AMG C63. Thus, power for the second AMG Sport offering comes from the C400’s 3-liter twin-turbo V6, which has been re-tuned to deliver 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. Nil to 60 comes at 4.9 seconds, with top speed electronically limited to 155 mph. The power is routed to all four corners via a seven-speed automatic, the rear pair of wheels receiving up to two-thirds of said power.

Adaptive suspension is borrowed from the aforementioned C63, which offers three-stage adjustable dampers, while the front axle boasts special steering knuckles and load-bearing joints. Multi-link rear and a stiffer body shell improve overall driving dynamics.

Other features include: five-mode Dynamic Select; MB-Tex upholstery; adaptive braking; USB multimedia system; performance seats; four light-alloy 19-inch wheel options; and collision prevention. The C450 AMG 4Matic will go on sale later this year.

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NAIAS 2015: Mercedes GLE450 AMG Coupe First AMG Sport Model http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-gle450-amg-coupe-first-amg-sport-model/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-gle450-amg-coupe-first-amg-sport-model/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=977641 Those who love the AMG badge, yet aren’t ready to take the plunge, now have the Mercedes GLE450 AMG to consider [Live photos now available – CA]. The first model from the new AMG Sport line, the crossover is powered by a re-tuned 3-liter turbo V6 derived from the standard GLE. The tuning brings out […]

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Those who love the AMG badge, yet aren’t ready to take the plunge, now have the Mercedes GLE450 AMG to consider [Live photos now available – CA].

The first model from the new AMG Sport line, the crossover is powered by a re-tuned 3-liter turbo V6 derived from the standard GLE. The tuning brings out 362 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, which is funnelled to all corners — the rear corners receiving the most power — through a nine-speed automatic. Nought to 60 comes in 4.9 seconds, 0.7 seconds slower than the V8-powered Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S.

Other features include: adaptive sport suspension; five drive modes, including a mode based on the driver’s own preferences; 21-inch wheels with 22-inch wheels optional; and an assortment of interior trims, from black plastic to wood or aluminum.

Price of admission was not released at this time, but deliveries are expected to begin later this summer.

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NAIAS 2015: Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic Ready For BMW X6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-amg-gle63-s-coupe-4matic-ready-bmw-x6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-amg-gle63-s-coupe-4matic-ready-bmw-x6/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 04:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=976465 Mercedes loyalists, your X6 fighter has arrived [Live photos now available – CA]. The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic derives its power from a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 with stop-start tech. The mill pumps out 577 horsepower and 561 lb-ft to all four corners, 10 horses and 8 lb-ft of torque more than the BMW […]

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Mercedes loyalists, your X6 fighter has arrived [Live photos now available – CA].

The 2016 Mercedes-AMG GLE63 S Coupe 4Matic derives its power from a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8 with stop-start tech. The mill pumps out 577 horsepower and 561 lb-ft to all four corners, 10 horses and 8 lb-ft of torque more than the BMW X6 M. Nought to 62 comes in just 4.2 seconds, and the output is split 40:60 rear via the crossover’s AMG Speedshift Plus 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic.

Maintaining the connection between driver and road is the GLE63’s Dynamic Select system, which controls and modifies air suspension, active roll stabilization, and variable damping depending on driver preference and driving conditions. Other driver aids include active braking, tire pressure monitoring, collision prevention, and crosswind assist.

For more personalization, owners can choose from an array of options, including: carbon fiber engine cover, fragrance mister, 22-inch matt black alloys, performance exhaust, and a high-end surround sound system by Bang & Olufsen.

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NAIAS 2015: Mercedes Reveals 2016 C350 PHEV Sedan, Estate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-reveals-2016-c350-phev-sedan-estate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/naias-2015-mercedes-reveals-2016-c350-phev-sedan-estate/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 03:45:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=976369 Amid Dr. Z’s proclamation that 2015 would be “the Year of the SUV,” the Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-In Hybrid was revealed prior to its official debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show [Live photos now available – CA]. Autoblog reports the PHEV — in sedan and estate form — can travel for up to 20 miles […]

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Amid Dr. Z’s proclamation that 2015 would be “the Year of the SUV,” the Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-In Hybrid was revealed prior to its official debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show [Live photos now available – CA].

Autoblog reports the PHEV — in sedan and estate form — can travel for up to 20 miles with only its electric motor. Said motor also helps contribute to the C350’s 250-horsepower figure when paired with the 1.9-liter turbo-four under the hood, as well as a top speed of 130 mph, and the ability to go from nil to 60 in six seconds.

Aside from regenerative braking and collision-avoidance systems, not much else was revealed, especially in regards to price and estimated fuel economy. Those details are likely to come during press days this week.

The PHEV is expected to go on sale later this year in the United States as a 2016 model.

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Mercedes Brings ‘Luxury In Motion’ To 2015 CES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/mercedes-brings-luxury-motion-2015-ces/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/mercedes-brings-luxury-motion-2015-ces/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 14:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972857 The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show isn’t just the place to see the latest and greatest in gadgets and 1,000-inch Ultra 5K curved-screen Omega Definition touchscreen televisions with Minority Report-style controls, but also where some of those things will wind up in the auto industry. For Mercedes-Benz, it’s the F 015 Luxury in Motion. The carbon-fiber, […]

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The 2015 Consumer Electronics Show isn’t just the place to see the latest and greatest in gadgets and 1,000-inch Ultra 5K curved-screen Omega Definition touchscreen televisions with Minority Report-style controls, but also where some of those things will wind up in the auto industry.

For Mercedes-Benz, it’s the F 015 Luxury in Motion.

The carbon-fiber, aluminum and high-strength steel concept’s main selling point is autonomous driving and its relationship with both time and privacy, something Daimler AG CEO Dr. Dieter Zetsche believes will become the two most important “luxury goods” in the 21st century.

To facilitate this, the Luxury in Motion offers variable seating for four, perfect for conducting business meetings on the way to Google, or enjoying a weekend getaway to Las Vegas. The seats also swivel out to 30 degrees upon opening of the doors, allowing for easier exits and boarding.

The interior also boasts six display screens “harmoniously integrated into the instrument panel and the rear and side panels,” creating a “digital arena” for everyone’s convenience. The screens can be accessed via Minority Report-style gestures, eye-tracking or touch.

As for power, the Luxury in Motion “was designed to allow the impact-protected integration of an electric drive system with fuel cell”; perhaps Daimler might be interested in some patents, then? The concept also weighs 40 percent less than a standard vehicle in its segment, and is notably larger than the S-Class.

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BMW Takes US Luxury Sales Crown Back From Mercedes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-takes-us-luxury-sales-crown-back-mercedes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-takes-us-luxury-sales-crown-back-mercedes/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 12:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972809 After a year-long battle for the top position on the U.S. luxury sales podium, BMW takes back the crown Mercedes-Benz won in 2013. Reuters reports the Bavarians moved over 9,000 more units by the end of 2014 over the wonder boys back in Stuttgart, coming out to a total of 339,738 for BMW, 330,391 for […]

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After a year-long battle for the top position on the U.S. luxury sales podium, BMW takes back the crown Mercedes-Benz won in 2013.

Reuters reports the Bavarians moved over 9,000 more units by the end of 2014 over the wonder boys back in Stuttgart, coming out to a total of 339,738 for BMW, 330,391 for Mercedes. Both automakers also experienced growth in U.S. sales during the last year, though BMW’s 9.8 percent boost over 2013’s numbers raced past Mercedes’ 5.7 percent increase.

Taking third on the podium was Lexus with 311,389 units sold in 2014, though its rate of growth bested the top two finishers at 13.7 percent over 2013.

Rounding out the rest of the U.S. mainstream luxury pack, Audi took fourth from Cadillac, the latter to be the only make to see a decline in growth in 2014, falling 6.5 percent to 170,750 units; Audi sold 182,011 over the same period, 15.2 percent more than it did in 2013.

Acura and Infiniti took sixth and seventh respectively, with 167,843 to 117,300 units moved. Both also experienced the lowest rates of growth in sales in the outgoing year: 1.5 percent in Acura’s favor, 0.8 percent for Infiniti.

Lincoln finished dead last with 94,474 units sold, but had the biggest rate of growth out of its fellow competitors compared to 2013 at 15.6 percent.

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Southbound And Down: Mercedes Moving To Atlanta http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/southbound-mercedes-moving-atlanta/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/southbound-mercedes-moving-atlanta/#comments Wed, 07 Jan 2015 11:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=972777 We first mentioned this Monday evening, and now it’s official: Mercedes-Benz USA is leaving New Jersey for the old, sweet song of Atlanta. The move from Montvale, N.J. begins in July with the first group of employees heading southbound and down. Mercedes will relocate the over-1,000 employees in phases through 2017 to minimize disruption during […]

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We first mentioned this Monday evening, and now it’s official: Mercedes-Benz USA is leaving New Jersey for the old, sweet song of Atlanta.

The move from Montvale, N.J. begins in July with the first group of employees heading southbound and down. Mercedes will relocate the over-1,000 employees in phases through 2017 to minimize disruption during the transition.

As for where everyone will be working, “a new, state-of-the-art headquarters” will be constructed in or around Atlanta, with completion set for 2017. In the meantime, the transferring employees will work from the city’s Central Perimeter.

Though MBUSA CEO and president Stephen Cannon spoke in kind about his subsidiary’s 50-year history with the Garden State, he said that the decision to relocate to Atlanta allows MBUSA to be closer to its growing customer base in the Southeastern United States, its port in Brunswick, Ga., and its plant in nearby Alabama, as well as provide “the sustained, profitable growth and efficiencies” required for success in the decades to come.

More details on the impending move are expected to be announced by the end of January.

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MBUSA Looking South For New Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mbusa-looking-south-new-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mbusa-looking-south-new-home/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962394 With Cadillac getting its inner hipster on in SoHo, and Subaru trekking four miles west to conduct its American hustle in Camden, N.J., Mercedes-Benz USA is feeling the urge to heed the song of the South and go with the wind. Automotive News reports MBUSA is looking at relocating its 800 employees to either Georgia, […]

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With Cadillac getting its inner hipster on in SoHo, and Subaru trekking four miles west to conduct its American hustle in Camden, N.J., Mercedes-Benz USA is feeling the urge to heed the song of the South and go with the wind.

Automotive News reports MBUSA is looking at relocating its 800 employees to either Georgia, Florida or North Carolina, leaving Montvale, N.J. after 42 years. Representatives for the company wouldn’t confirm or deny the plans, believing it to be nothing more than rumor and speculation.

The company is currently looking over tax incentive packages, with New Jersey working on its own package in the hope of keeping MBUSA’s headquarters in Montvale. JLL Inc., the commercial real estate firm that is helping Toyota move its U.S. headquarters to Texas from California, is also lending assistance to the company.

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Seven Finalists Announced For Europe’s 2015 Car of the Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/seven-finalists-announced-europes-2015-car-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/seven-finalists-announced-europes-2015-car-year/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961993 After months of deliberation, Europe’s Car of the Year panel has narrowed down the field of 31 to seven finalists. Autoblog reports the panel has chosen the following nominees for the 2015 Car of the Year: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Citroën C4 Cactus Ford Mondeo Mercedes-Benz C-Class Nissan Qashqai Renault Twingo Volkswagen Passat The […]

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After months of deliberation, Europe’s Car of the Year panel has narrowed down the field of 31 to seven finalists.

Autoblog reports the panel has chosen the following nominees for the 2015 Car of the Year:

  • BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
  • Citroën C4 Cactus
  • Ford Mondeo
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • Renault Twingo
  • Volkswagen Passat

The winner will be announced during the 2015 Geneva Auto Show this coming March. Previous winners include the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf and Opel Ampera, with the first title awarded 50 years ago to the 1964 Rover 2000.

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Trucks, SUVs Best Premium Sedans In Over $50K US Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/trucks-suvs-best-premium-sedans-50k-us-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/trucks-suvs-best-premium-sedans-50k-us-segment/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961313 Keep those Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the garage, son: $50,000-plus trucks and SUVs are where it’s at for the ballers and players these days. TrueCar says trucks and SUVs account for six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States market, specifically the segment where transaction prices of $50,000-plus are the norm. […]

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Keep those Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the garage, son: $50,000-plus trucks and SUVs are where it’s at for the ballers and players these days.

TrueCar says trucks and SUVs account for six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States market, specifically the segment where transaction prices of $50,000-plus are the norm.

The biggest of them all? The Ford F-150, whose projected 2014 volume of 189,776 “will likely surpass total U.S. volume of luxury car benchmarks including BMW’s combined 3, 5 and 7 Series sales or total deliveries for the Audi brand this year.” The Blue Oval will see revenue of $10.8 billion from those high transactions, making up a third of an estimated $33.2 billion for the overall F-Series portfolio.

The demand for looking California and feeling Minnesota is helped in part by a recovering U.S. economy, improved vehicle quality, and a growing supply of cheap gasoline, which is helping the $50,000-plus transaction segment, as well: approximately 8.1 percent of total 2014 sales will transact at that level, up from 6.6 percent in 2013.

Finishing out the podium per TrueCar is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram truck lineup, with sales of 76,266 at the $50,000 transaction level, Mercedes taking third with its E-Class at 67,006.

TrueCar 2014 50K USD Transaction Table

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Supercars To Go: The Non-Contenders http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-non-contenders/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-non-contenders/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961009 When it comes to rental supercar tests, the people have spoken! And you’re going to get five of the original eight cars ranked between today and Saturday. But when you choose five from eight, you still have three that didn’t make the cut. I’ll explain why below. Non-Contender Number Zero: Ferrari F430 F1. Periodically, I […]

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When it comes to rental supercar tests, the people have spoken! And you’re going to get five of the original eight cars ranked between today and Saturday. But when you choose five from eight, you still have three that didn’t make the cut. I’ll explain why below.

Non-Contender Number Zero: Ferrari F430 F1. Periodically, I think to myself: “Self, you should buy a Ferrari 430. They’re under a hundred grand now and they are pretty reliable as far as Ferraris go and they are pretty cheap to maintain as far as Ferraris go and wouldn’t you like to have a Ferrari before you die?” After spending a weekend driving one and coaching in one, I can answer that with a solid “Nope.” To begin with, it’s neither vintage-charming like an F355 or fantastically competent like a 458 Italia. It has a performance envelope that sits comfortably inside that of something like a C6 Z06 or a 2005 Viper.

It’s not handsome; the proportions just don’t work on this or the 360 Modena. The F1 shift genuinely sucks. I’d rather spend my Ferrari money on a 575M, which is no faster but is a grand-touring twelve-cylinder in the classic style. Or you could buy a 328GTB and an early C6 Z06 for the same money, netting you a better-looking Ferrari and a faster track car. In isolation, it’s pretty charming, but the 458 makes it look like a used Mercury Monarch. More annoyingly for the tifosi, the Gallardo does as well.

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Non-Contender Number One: Mercedes-AMG SLS Roadster. As a Black Series gullwing, the Mercedes-AMG is the stuff of legends and it wowed the crowd at PCOTY 2013. When I took one to Toronto Motorsports Park, home of our sister publication AutoGuide’s track tests, I immediately set what would have been their all-time best lap — while I was warming up. Capable isn’t the word. It’s one of the all-time greats.

As a convertible, without the wings and things? Well, it’s still very fast. The final form of the hand-assembled “6.3” V-8 is splendid from tickover to torque peak to rev limit, carrying the eternal mail like it’s been harpooned by Queequeg before sounding for a final time. The double-clutch transmission is a nearly perfect ally and responds as if it only had a GTI’s worth of power to transmit instead of thrice that. The brakes work. After a while, you get used to the nose hanging out there, just like you do with a Viper.

Yet this isn’t truly a supercar; it’s a grand tourer that happens to haul ass. You need the laser-sharp focus of the Black Series to make it competitive with the mid-engine Italians or the Z06 Corvette. As a way to get around Beverly Hills, it’s the alpha dog, but around a racetrack it’s too big, too soft, and too relaxed. Also, and I feel I should mention this, it’s an absolute nightmare in the wet. As in, it’s the only car I thought I might scratch up during the recon laps every morning, because it oscillated heavily under power in the rain. So beware, Real Housewives and all who adore them.

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Non-Contender Number Two: 2009 Nissan GT-R Premium You’ll notice that I’ve included the year and the model of the GT-R here. There’s a reason for that. When I drove the Nismo GT-R for PCOTY 2014, I was utterly convinced by the reborn Nissan’s poise, power, and back-road fling-ability. Though it costs a pretty penny, the Nismo is worth all the money, in large part because all the pieces have finally come together. The engine is making the right amount of power and delivering it in the right fashion, the transmission and diffs have been to Senna school, and the bonded-and-seam-welded chassis feels all of a piece. Go buy one with my blessing, even if I would personally rather have a Viper TA for less money.

That Nismo GT-R represents five years of continuous effort and improvement over the original R35 GT-R, and the difference is easy to feel when you drive the old one. There’s far less subtlety and speed in the way the power gets transferred to the different corners of the car. Furthermore, while I in no way want to contribute (further!) to the computer/video-game stereotype about this car, it does feel distant and physically large most of the time. This is exaggerated, of course, when you’re coming to it from a McLaren MP4-12C instead of from, say, a Mustang or Infiniti G37 coupe. It never really shrinks around you the way a Viper does; you are always aware that you are piloting a very tall, very large, very heavy automobile.

With that said, it’s easily fast enough to get you into trouble that the computers can’t solve, so don’t believe all the hype about it being idiot-proof. With that said, we’ll leave the GT-R behind for now, because while the current version is ready for the world, this one is now about as impressive as a first-generation iPad.

That leaves us with five:

* Ferrari 458 Italia
* Lamborghini Gallardo 560-4
* Lamborghini Gallardo 550-2
* McLaren MP4-12C
* Audi R8 4.2 R-tronic.

I’ll mail a TTAC Racing shirt to the first poster who correctly guesses the finishing order. See you tomorrow!

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