People form lasting impressions at an early age. This might explain why, among the general population over 35, neither Audi nor BMW can match the mystique of a Mercedes. Even the bottom-of-the-US-range C300 raises eyebrows from people who’ll give an Audi A7 nary a passing glance (and who’d view spending an extra $8,000 for a hatchback as lunacy). But will this continue to be the case with subsequent generations, or will Mercedes follow in the footsteps of Cadillac? A brand is only as strong as its weakest link. Does the C300 justify the cachet attached to its three-pointed star?
Luxury roadsters have always been niche vehicles. With the economic implosion over the last decade, that niche has become even smaller. Last year the Mercedes SLK and BMW Z4 each sold less than 3,500 units on our shores, down from over 10,000 each back in 2006 and Canadian sales are roughly a tenth of that. While Mercedes is likely crying in their delicious geflügelsuppe, roadster shoppers benefit by being able to drive one of the most exclusive Mercedes models available on our shores. While the last model awkwardly aped the unholy union of a Mercdes F1 car and a bottlenose dolphin, the new model sells itself with sexy new sheet metal, 29 MPG on the highway and a $54,800 base price.
I appreciate the novelty of a new design as much as the next guy, but have never understood the four-door-coupé. I mean, aren’t these terms mutually exclusive? A coupé can’t have four doors and a car with four doors can’t be a coupé? Mercedes started this conundrum with the CLS back in 2004, and then Volkswagen decided to jump on the bandwagon to bolster Passat sales with the CC in 2008. It was only a matter of time before VAG decided to compete with the CLS head on with the A7. After all, Audi has had model envy for years, and if they are to stay on track with world domination, they need to attack the mainline Germans at every body style. Not one to rest on laurels, Mercedes has redesigned the CLS for 2011. Michael Karesh wrangled an A7 out of Audi back in July, and Mercedes let me take theirs for a week. Let’s see if the CLS has what it takes to reign supreme in this extremely small niche.
The Mercedes CL550 is one of the most exclusive Mercedes models sold on our side of the pond. With the highest base MSRP of any non-AMG product, and rarer on American roads than all but the boxy G-class and the incredibly rare SLS AMG, the CL plays in quite a different league than the S-class on which it is based. I am told that Ford sells more F150s in a day the CL’s yearly sales figure and judging by the number I see on the road, I am inclined to agree. The CL was separated from the S-Class line in 1998 to help aid in the exclusive reputation of the model. For those that wonder, CL supposedly stands for Comfort Leicht (or Comfort Light in my native tongue). The comfort is obvious (and mandatory at this price point), but “light” must truly be a relative term as the CL tips the scales at a biscuits-and-gravy fed 4,700lbs. Does this matter? Let’s find out.
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The new Mercedes B-Class has been extensively discussed here, it was shown at the Shanghai Auto Show, where it found itself upstaged by the requisite Chinese copy. Slowly, it is time to show the production model. Which will happen at the Frankfurt Auto Show. After the rest of the world has seen the B-Class, now Germany can too.
To highlight the “BMW difference,” the marque traveled from dealer to dealer with not only the redesigned X3 but a few competing compact crossovers as well. Among the bunch, one stuck out as not like the others. But it was the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, not the BMW. Different in a good way? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.
Luxury means many things to many people, but nobody doubts luxury cars should be crammed full of the latest technology… and what says “technology” in today’s car market quite like “Hybrid”? In a strange inversion of history, Lexus created the world’s first hybrid luxury flagship from a vehicle that was clearly inspired by the Mercedes S-Class, and now Mercedes is fighting back with its first hybrid sedan, the S400 Hybrid. So, is Lexus’s hybrid head-start enough to fend off a challenge from the vehicle that inspired its birth over a twenty years ago? The only way to find out is in TTAC’s most expensive comparison test ever.
From the surface, the C63 looks like it has the goods to compete with the big boys in the Euro performance club. Boy racer styling? Check. Monstrous V8? Check. Ginormous tyres? Check. Manual transmission? Not so much. Also not along for the party is a coupe or convertible version of the C63. Mercedes’ decision to make the C63 auto-only is perplexing enough, but the fact that they also decided to ignore the rest of the M3 portfolio is truly baffling. Consider the competition: the M3 coupe and convertible [combined] outsell the M3 sedan almost five to one. This halfhearted approach to a hotly contested and prestige-generating segment truly defines the experience with the C63: you constantly feel like this could have been a great car.
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Germany 1958: Women are allowed to take a job without asking their husband for permission. Europe makes its first baby steps to an EU. Elvis Presley arrives as a GI in an army barracks in Friedberg. Mercedes is in its fourth year of the gullwinged 300SL, one of the finest automobiles of all times.
The last perhaps was car journo hyperbole, expected from someone who was just handed the keys to a sports car fully restored by the Mercedes Classic Center in Stuttgart. Juan Perón had one, Porfirio Rubirosa had one, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Zsa Zsa Gabor had one. Now Sajeev Mehta has one, if only for a day, and if only for the benefit of the readers of Thetruthaboutcars. Read More >
Imagine it is thirty years in the future, 2039, and you are driving in a hard top convertible made in 2009. It has had three owners, and sports a healthy six-figures on the odometer. Would you expect it to leak, rattle, and/or squeak?
Would you expect it to look dated and out of place as we approach 2030 when cars (finally) fly and run by garbage-powered fusion generators?
In 2029 there will be 1970s-era Mercedes-Benz cars still on the road though. By then they might rattle, leak, and/or squeak. They may even look a little dated. But not today. I drove this 1979 450sl to a dentist appointment this morning. Two weeks before I drove it from coast to coast, through rain, snow, and sun. It doesn’t rattle. It doesn’t leak. It doesn’t squeak. It is as solid today as the day it rolled out of Stuttgart thirty years ago. This thing is built like a tank.
When my dad hit middle age in the ‘70’s, his first reaction was to park a Mercedes in our garage – a ’75 450SE, which my mom nicknamed “Heinrich.” The Mercedes sedans of that era weren’t beautiful cars, but damned if Heinrich didn’t turn heads – it was obvious that someone important was driving it. By the time I learned to drive in 1979, mom had inherited Heinrich, and we had another German blitzkrieg machine – a BMW 733i. The two cars couldn’t have been more different – on the winding roads around my house, the BMW was a jock, but Heinrich was a Panzer tank of a car that sternly replied “nein” if you tried to force him into back-road calisthenics. But Heinrich always impressed the general public – only dedicated gearheads did a double-take when they saw the BMW, while Heinrich was still getting looks into the late 1980’s. Flash forward three decades, and little has changed: the BMW in this test is still an athlete with no fashion sense, while the all-new E350 is an imposing power suit of a car.
I’m old enough to remember when Mercedes used the tagline “engineered like no other car in the world,” and no one questioned it. When the 1986 W124 E-Class was introduced, Car & Driver proclaimed it “the best car in the world.” In the quarter-century since, Mercedes’ position in the automotive pecking order has become less certain. Lexus came out of nowhere, and BMW has managed to successfully expand upward from the 3-Series and to become a provider of luxury as well as sport. For 2010 Mercedes has totally redesigned the E-Class. Any chance it’s 1986 all over again?
The year was 1997. As a bright eyed, recently minted med school graduate, I had two glorious weeks in Europe before the torture of internship began. One very memorable moment was in the parking lot of the MB museum in Stuttgart, where I spotted a prototype 1998 E50 AMG sulking behind a security gate. That thing looked evil, hunkered down on its 17″ alloys. It was so far removed from my Opel Astra rental car reality that I could scarcely imagine unleashing the 350 HP AMG-fettled V8 on the ‘Bahn at 170 mph in the latest heir to the Hammer.
They don’t build them like they used to. Really. I have yet to come across an car as solid as an old Mercedes, say pre-1998, before the Chrysler – DaimlerBenz AG “merger of equals.” If I had to choose one car to represent the pinnacle of—and benchmark for—Mercedes’ build quality, it would be the W116 S-Class. Hence my decision to restore a barn-found 1975 280S.
Summer 2005. My plans for a Vintage Car Rally Vacation evaporate. Rebuilding a very poorly rebuilt engine vacuums funds allocated for the purpose out of my wallet. What started as an odd knock became a horror show. My fussy ex-pat Yorkshireman mechanic in Chilliwack, B.C. removed the head and found the forensic remains of a car-related massacre not seen since Pol Pot rode around in his ’73 Mercedes. Just when I had given up on my dreams of a vintage vacation, the phone rang with an offer to co-drive an event in what many have called the world’s first supercar: the Mercedes-Benz 300SL. I accepted the offer faster than Mr. Fangio could frustrate Mr. Ferrari.
Review: 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster Car Review Rating
Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars