The Truth About Cars » Benz The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 21:42:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Benz New Or Used? : Large Marge Don’t Want No Land Barge Edition Fri, 05 Apr 2013 10:31:53 +0000
Dear Steve and Jeev,

My girlfriend needs a car while in the midst of many other big financial decisions that severely limit her car budget. Here’s the situation.

She has access to a family owned Mercedes 380SL that has what I believe to be transmission issues. It’s dripping dark red fluid from right about where the transmission looks to be and it’s probably also leaking oil.

I’m handy, but I don’t think I’m money pit Benz convertible transmission and rear main seal handy. Then again it might not be so bad and might be a reasonable fix, until the next time it shoots itself in the foot. It currently doesn’t run and last time it was driven apparently exhibited the same problem it has for years, which is that if you don’t take it easy off the line it just dies on you.

So she needs a new car, but she needs something as close to under $4k as possible.

She also has specific tastes, though she’s somewhat flexible. (Oh boy! And here comes her laundry list! -SL)

Click here to view the embedded video.

Completely averse to Panthers (otherwise I wouldn’t have to write this email) and doesn’t want a Taurus ever (her grandmother drives one, it’s been nothing but misery).

Oh also, it can’t be a manual, which means anything remotely – Miata, 2002, Volvo wagon with ls1 swap – fun out of the question. I’ve been looking at Volvo 240s, 740s, 940s, 850s, overpriced Camrys and Accords, Corollas/Prisms and a lot of late 90s early 00s 4th and 5th gen Maximas and i30s. Also G20s and just for good measure the occasional Saab.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’m very comfortable with the Maxima/i30 as my dad had one for 10 years and it’s what I learned how to work on so I know how to do any repair imaginable and problem areas plus they’re in abundance in this price range. I’m also intrigued by the Volvo option since you could easily sell it for the same you paid for it or more if there’s anything wrong that can be easily fixed.

As I said, I feel comfortable armed with a forum and a Haynes manual to do any reasonable repairs short of transmission rebuilds but I want something that’s easy and cheap to work on as possible. I know that the whole no domestics thing and crapshoot prices don’t help but what should she do? Find out how much the SL will cost to repair? Flush the transmission and hope for the best? What other cars should I be looking for that I’m missing. I assume craigslist is pretty much the only reliable source for these and that I’m buying a car for an owner not the car. Also, should she try to wait out tax season until prices come down, I’ve noticed that even on these sub 5k cars the prices seem higher than normal.

Steve Says:

How does she feel about a minivan?

I would suggest telling her that you want to fill one of those up and your problem should go away real quick. (Childish Giggling – SM)

Here’s the rub on this. Your girlfriend needs to stop looking at the popular cars with the unrealistic expectation of low maintenance and a low price. She wants a cheap Camry? Fine. You will find that the cheap ones are cheap for a reason. I have seen unfortunate souls spending dozens of weekends trying to find a popular car at a cheap price.

Most of them wind up anteing up thousands more than their budget allowed, and buying a popular vehicle with very high miles. Some people are OK with this outcome. The truth is that a better solution is there only if she is willing to adjust her expectations.

I would sit down together in front of the computer and go through the unpopular and orphan brands first. Visit carsurvey, Edmunds, here, there and anywhere else that offers reviews from actual owners. My recommendation is a late 90′s Buick Regal with the 3.8 Liter V6 and about 120k to 150k on the miles. Either that or an Explorer if she wants a bigger vehicle.

Get an older SUV if she doesn’t drive a lot. Or get an unpretentious middle-of-the-road sedan, with a keen eye on the powertrain combination, if her driving will be 10,000 miles or more a year.

Sajeev says:

The Benz might be worth a punt, but that’s only if she doesn’t need to drive very often. My guess is that this conditional statement is rather unrealistic. So the SL ain’t happening.

At this price, tough love is better than proper indulgence. She buys the vehicle with the cleanest interior, newest tires/brakes, the biggest wad of service receipts, and a character that isn’t completely offensive to her sensibility. That said:

“[She's] Completely averse to Panthers (otherwise I wouldn’t have to write this email)”

Come on Son, don’t make jokes like that! Has she not seen the best Music Video ever made on the face of the Universe?

I simply refuse to live in the real world believe that women cannot embrace Panther Love. And I know my man Lang agrees, he came up with the title! While my advice is true, there’s a good chance that the best vehicle for the price will also be a super tidy Panther.

But seriously, get the cleanest, best maintained, late-model, non-European machine you find…buy what she wants when she has more cheddar. Because getting what you want now only hurts you in the future.

Unless it’s a Panther.

]]> 73
Review: 2011 Mercedes CL550 4Matic Tue, 20 Sep 2011 18:00:45 +0000
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.

Why is the CL so exclusive? Aside from the fact that personal luxury coupés generally sell like ice to Eskimos in the US, the answer is mostly price. The “base“, CL550 starts at $113,150. Distinction is alluring to premium luxury buyers; the price affords them a level of uniqueness that can’t be found at the $80,000 pricing level. Strangely enough, what appealed most to the luxury car shoppers I quizzed at a local luxo-barge meet, was the CL’s blend-in-ability. When the CL arrived, it did so with a much lower sense of occasion than the (cheaper) Range Rover Supercharged I had the week previously. Sure the front grille is menacing, but the overall profile is swoopy and sedate. The CL just doesn’t lend itself toward becoming “rolling bling” like an Escalade or GL and for that I am eternally grateful. Instead of bling, the CL exudes grace and large proportions. The side profile is dominated by sashless windows and absent b-pillars. For 2011 Mercedes has tweaked the exterior with a revised front and rear clip integrating the ever-so-popular LED running lamps. The real changes for this year however are under the hood.

Although the model number remains the same, Mercedes tossed out the 5.5L V8 in the CL550 in favor of an all-new 4.6L twin-turbo V8 engine. You may be wondering why the 2011 model isn’t called a CL460 (I know I still am). Nobody seems to know why the name remains, other than to placate buyers who might turn their noses up at trading in their old CL550 for a lower number. Sound silly? You’ve never spoken with a certain segment of car buyers.

Proving once and for all there is a replacement for displacement, this new smaller V8 puts out 429HP and 516lb-ft of twist (47HP and 125lb-ft more torque than the outgoing V8) and does it all with a power curve as flat as Kansas. If you own last year’s CL63, it may be time to trade-down to a CL550. Our tester served up 60MPH in 4.6 seconds, only one-tenth slower than a 2010 CL63 I was able to get my hands on. If that’s not enough of a reason here’s another: The CL550’s standard 4Matic AWD means I arrived at 60 in 4.6 seconds with zero drama on wet pavement, broken pavement, or around a corner. Try that in your CL63.

Should you be in the market for something faster and have an even fatter wallet, Mercedes offers not one but three engines above the CL550 to choose from including no fewer than two AMG trims. What’s the cost of this extra thrust you ask? The CL63 AMG is one-rung up from the CL550 at $150,250, and it gets you to 60 in 4.4 with its 536HP blown V8. If 12 cylinders are more your style, the 510HP CL600 will scoot you to freeway speed in 4.5 for $157,000. The big-daddy CL65 AMG is the king of the pack at $209,300 sporting an insane 621HP, 739lb-ft twin-turbo V12 good for a 4.2 second sprint to 60 [Ed: and is the last two-door available with this Götterdämmerung of an engine].

The CL550 may be the “cheap” CL, but in my mind it seems to have nailed the personal luxury coupé as squarely as its fire-breathing siblings have missed the mark. The CL550’s air suspension delivers a glassy smooth ride, and while it does seemingly little to quell body roll in the corners, the grip is still more than adequate. The real springs found in the other CL models may sound sporty (and they do improve the corner-carving ability) but a stiff suspension is at odds with both the [almost] 5,000lb curb weight of the V12 and the CL’s luxury pretensions. Similarly the 7-speed auto found in the CL550 suits the role of a large luxury coupé to perfection with shifts that are fairly quick and glassy smooth. This is far more than can be said of ye-olde 5-speed that connects the V12s to the rear or the herky-jerkey “Speedshift” contraption the CL63 is “blessed” with.

Aside from the mechanical differences, few technological goodies separate the CL550 from the upper-crust CLs. The CL550 still comes standard with standard navigation, stitched dashboard bits, key-less go, iPod/USB interface and all manner of standard luxury amenities. Although options like the radar cruise control, split-view video screen, massaging seats and heated steering wheel may be included in the other CL models; you can get essentially everything in the base CL as well, with the exception of the heavily bolstered AMG seats with quilted leather. If you recall my review of the S400 hybrid , I complained that the S-Class’ interior just didn’t look special enough when compared to the LS600. I was afraid the CL would give me the same let down but I was pleasantly surprised to find the CL delivers all the same shapes, but covered with stitched leather and pleather. The extra effort dresses up the interior more than I could have expected and easily brings the CL into firm competition with interiors from Maserati and Aston Martin.

Let’s talk gizmos. The Mercedes Command system is not quite as intuitive as the BMW iDrive and isn’t capable of voice controlling your music device in the same way Ford’s SYNC product can, but all is not lost for the tech weenies like me. The optional split-view screen allows the driver to see the navigation system and the passenger to see something else like watch a DVD or play with the radio. The system works far better than I had expected with the display remaining completely crisp while in operation and totally indistinguishable from the regular command system screen.

The iPod interface worked well with my iPods and my iPhone4, but it is a little strange that Mercedes doesn’t put track forward/backward buttons on the steering wheel instead making you use the in-speedometer menu and buttons to change tracks. The Navigation system’s voice command system utilizes a very natural voice and readily understood every address I threw at it, more than can be said for many luxury car systems. In addition to the usual goodies, the Command system lets you adjust all manner of strange options you didn’t know could be adjusted like the footwell temperature, how “direct” you want the air blowing on your personage, what color you like your LEDs to glow and how high you want your trunk lid to open.

So what’s it like to drive? I should first state that I have a large soft spot for large, softly sprung vehicles that go like stink. If that’s what you like in a luxury car, the CL delivers in spades. Body roll is well controlled even on the twistiest of mountain highways, and despite the porky curb weight, the wide tires deliver plenty of grip. When you do try to toss this 5,000 luxurious pillow into the corners, the chassis is very predictable and rather forgiving when you reach the limit of adhesion. In the end however there is just no denying the laws of physics; the hefty curb weight of the CL550 (the lightest CL) consorts with the numb steering to make the CL seem less than nimble than it is.

Still, I wouldn’t call a large Bentley coupé “nimble” either, and with these prices in mind, it should be no surprise that the CL competes with the likes of Aston Martin, Maserati and Bentley. A BMW 6 you ask? Too cheap. This means cross shop¬pers are logically looking for something slightly cheaper and more discrete than a Continental or Roller, and in this light the CL550 might even be considered a value. While words like “practical” and “value” should never be used in the same sentence as a $126,000 car (as tested), it is the fact that the close siblings (CL600, CL63 and CL65) are so rare and only a few tenths faster that the best “deal” under 200K might well be the CL550. How’s that for a TTAC bombshell?

Mercedes provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.
Statistics as tested
0-30: 1.91 Seconds
0-60: 4.6 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.9@106

IMG_2743 IMG_2747 IMG_2748 IMG_2752 IMG_2753 IMG_2754 IMG_2755 IMG_2758 IMG_2759 IMG_2760 IMG_2761 IMG_2762 IMG_2763 IMG_2764 IMG_2765 IMG_2767 IMG_2769 COMMAND IMG_2771 IMG_2783 IMG_2785 IMG_2799 IMG_2801 IMG_2805 IMG_2807 IMG_2808 IMG_2809 IMG_2810 IMG_2812 IMG_2813 IMG_2814 IMG_2816 IMG_2818 IMG_2819 IMG_2821 4.7 V8 twin turbo Interior IMG_2831 IMG_2832 Leg room Rear vents IMG_2836 Look Ma! No B pillar! IMG_2838 IMG_2839 Trunk Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 44
Curbside Classic: 1965 Mercedes 220S (W111) Tue, 19 Oct 2010 16:34:11 +0000

Go ahead and laugh. I did, when I first ran across this Mercedes 220S with genuine wire wheels. Yes, it’s a major cultural faux pax, if one understands the German approach to such things; it’s the equivalent to putting full wheel covers on an XK-E. But taken in the bigger context, this well-loved 1965 220S is highly symbolic of Americans’ love affair with the three pointed star that began to really bloom about then. And like most affairs of the heart, rational thinking wasn’t necessarily a predominant part of it. 

It’s not that the W111 wasn’t a superbly advanced car when it appeared in 1959. With the first crumple zones ever on a production car, disc brakes, all-independent suspension, OHC engines, fuel injection, and superb high-speed handling, it was undoubtedly the “best or most advanced sedan in the world” at the time, as well as the safest. But in typical German thinking (of the time), it was designed with German conditions foremost, if not exclusively. Ironically, the only obvious concessions to contemporary American trends were the controversial fins on the tail.

Officially in Mercedes-speak, they weren’t “Flossen” (fins) at all, but “Peilstege” (marker bars) to facilitate parking. Right. Mercedes Chief Designer Karl Wilfert eventually conceded that they were “In Rufweit der Mode” (within shouting distance of fashion). It was a somewhat controversial concession to Mode, and one that wouldn’t ever be repeated, at least not until more recent years. In any case, the fins presumably weren’t a conscious affectation to appeal to American buyers per se, which in 1959 was still a very small number.

And for obvious reasons: the 220S/SE was a compact car falling between the 1960 Falcon and 1962 Fairlane in length. The 2.2 L six put out all of 110 hp, but it took some 6,000 rpm to achieve that, along with considerable engine noise. This was a buzzy, nervous little motor, notoriously lacking in low-speed torque, and much more suited to a hot-blooded sports car than a staid sedan. The available four-speed automatic made sure you knew exactly every time it shifted, which was almost perpetually, in its struggle to cope with its none-too svelte load. The Mercedes’ structural integrity came with a hefty price, literally.

During the fifties and sixties, despite the favorable (to the US) fixed dollar-to-mark exchange rate, Mercedes were already pricey. In those decades, a mid-level 220S/SE ran about the same as a Cadillac, at a time when Cadillac still enjoyed its prestige. Obviously, the Caddy overwhelmed the Mercedes with its size, three times the horsepower, drive-train refinement, comfort, etc. For typical American drivers and their conditions, the Caddy was a logically a better choice.

Mercedes sedans back then appealed largely to those Americans that appreciated, and could afford the subtler refinements, quality, and dynamic qualities it provided: engineers, driving enthusiasts, and German ex-pats (who were also usually both). Yes, the very expensive coupes, convertibles and SL had a strong following among the truly wealthy and celebrities. But the sedans had not yet made serious inroads into the established premium sedan market.

Ironically enough, that happened exactly when Mercedes prices took a huge jump in response to the dollar’s falling value after the fixed exchange rates were abolished in 1971. In 1970, a 280S cost $6,273. By 1975, the 280S was priced at $15,057, two and a half times higher, and double the price of a Caddy. It must have been a tonic, because Mercedes sales increased strongly throughout the seventies. This increase was well above the drop in the dollar’s value; Mercedes saw an opportunity, and seized it by the pocketbook.

What exactly did they see? Several developments: between 1963 and 1988, the top federal tax marginal tax rate dropped from 91% to 28%. Those years correspond to the biggest years of Mercedes’ growth. And the ever-fickle affluent were ready too adopt a new automotive prestige symbol. It had been Packard before the war, Cadillac for the first two decades after, and now it was Mercedes’ turn. Needless to say, the general cheapening of Cadillac, especially after 1971, perfectly played into Mercedes’ hands, and the rapidly rising prices of a Benz added only added to its prestige value. Luxury goods makers of all kinds have been employing the formula for decades: higher price=more exclusivity and prestige, even if it is a 45hp diesel sedan.

Many of those folks might well have been better served in a big Detroit luxo-barge; I remember lots of complaining about the stiff-legged ride of a Mercedes around town. Of course; they were tuned for high speeds on the Autobahn, but only a small percentage of Americans would be able to appreciate that, especially during the double nickle era. The Germans wouldn’t compromise on their suspension tuning, unlike the Japanese, which sent the Lexus LS400 this way with a corresponding pillow-soft ride. Americans loved it for that, among other things.

And until the more expensive S-Class models finally got V8 engines, complaints about the overworked little sixes were very legitimate, especially when smog controls began to rapidly take their top end bite away. I was in a 250S once in the foothills of CA, and with four aboard and the A/C on, it could hardly get out of its own way. It was a bit pathetic, for an expensive luxury car, especially compared to the effortlessness of Detroit’s big-engined cars, like a 340 hp Chrysler New Yorker, which cost about 20% less.

In 1965, cars like this New Yorker offered an interesting alternative, probably the best direct competition to the Mercedes at the time. Which car would you have bought?

The Flossen Mercedes arrived in my last year in Austria, and as a seven year old, I remember vividly what a huge impression it made. It was a sensation and media event at the time, and we all kept our eyes alert for the first one on our roads. Austria was a lot poorer than Germany then, but in the summer of 1960, the annual invasion of German tourists included our first sightings. The to-do was understandable: the new W111 symbolized that Germany and Mercedes could now stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best big cars in the world, including the then still-vaunted American ones.

A neighbor in Iowa City had one just like this black sedan; he was a successful surgeon. They were quite rare then in that part of the world, and it provided a glaring contrast to our stripper ’62 FairlaneI was deeply smitten by the Benz, and loved gazing into its complex engine room full of alloy and sculpture. Obviously, the price disparity was mostly lost on me, although I had to admit our Fairlane’s little V8 went about its business in a much more relaxed manner. The 220SE engine’s raspy soprano scales may have sounded just right on a winding Alpine road, but seemed mighty high strung for the endless straight roads of Iowa. Context really does make a difference.

These cars could be picked up cheap in the seventies, if one was willing to take on the responsibility. I almost did, but then I suddenly remembered having been picked up in one driven by some kids in the Rockies a couple of years earlier. Right near the top of Trail Ridge Road, at about 11,000 feet elevation, and hours from any qualified help, it suddenly crapped out. I remember staring into the familiar engine compartment with them, and thinking this visual delight might be a bit more complicated and expensive to fix than average. What a few year’s difference makes. And I felt bad leaving them there, as I put out my thumb and went on my merry way. The lure of the Benz didn’t only hit upper-income Americans.

Now that I think about it, wire wheels on a Benz aren’t all that strange, if one ever spent time anywhere near Beverly Hills or the cultural equivalent, the nexus of Mercedes worship. I’m remembering seeing them on numerous R107 SLs, and quietly throwing up inside every time. It may well be why I harbor such deeply-rooted negative vibes about that particular car. But then, since America is the cultural melting pot, why not? They paid good money for their pleasure.

]]> 55 Review: 2010 Mercedes C63 AMG Wed, 21 Jul 2010 17:41:11 +0000
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.

When reviewing a car I often find it useful to read other reviews on the same car, usually to see what likes and dislikes other reviewers had, and then see if those same issues bother me at all. When the C63 AMG was dropped off on my doorstep, I have to admit I was giddy, not just because it looks like a mini-me version of the E63 that I routinely park next to, but because every review I have read waxes poetic about it being the answer to the M3.

Starting off inside, for a $66,500 (as equipped) car, the cheap plastics and lack of features are startling. The same options – or lack thereof – that greet you in a base C300 rear their heads in the C63. If you don’t opt for the $3,300 multimedia package, then you are stuck with a pointless microscopic screen tucked under a manually opening storage cubby. The screen shows a digital tuning dial for the radio and provides a display for the built-in Bluetooth, but it’s so small that you might as well dial on your phone. When you opt for the $375 iPod integration kit, the screen becomes an oddly placed paperweight since the iPod can only be controlled via the steering wheel.

This is good if you don’t like your passenger’s to decide what tunes to listen to, but bad if you would like to use the screen in the center of the speedo for something else like the AMG mode where you see oil and coolant temps and an alternate gear indicator. This feature is so counterintuitive that when reading reviews like Autoblog’s review of the C63, they never even worked out how to use the iPod interface and instead disconnected the iPod and manually changed songs and playlists! Our press car didn’t come with the uplevel sound system or keyless drive, a feature found on Kias these days. Electronic shocks aren’t even an option.

I drove the C63 for two days, then re-read a number of reviews on the car. I figured there must be something wrong: they must have been driving a different car. The front seats in the C63 are epically uncomfortable yet no other review mentions this; they were apparently designed for someone less than 5’10” tall and less than 8” from shoulder to shoulder. I had no less than 15 random people try the seats, nobody found them pleasant to sit in. Six feet tall and with an average build, I was incapable of finding a comfortable seating position because the upper portion of the seat is so severely bolstered that the only way my upper back could touch the seat is if I hunched forward and curled my shoulders. Otherwise it felt like I was being groped by the side bolsters, and not in a good way. Sadly Mercedes offers no alternative seats. The front seats alone are reason to avoid the C63. Don’t get me wrong, I love side bolsters, but they need to be adjustable or sized for 85% of the populace.

The C63 is a deeply conflicted car; it has the engine of a world-class sports car and an exhaust note that makes teenagers cream their shorts, yet it possesses the most dimwitted automatic I have ever experienced in a sports sedan. The C63 doesn’t get the E63’s new automatic-with-a-clutch. Instead it gets Mercedes’ “Speedshift Plus” 7-speed automatic. The name suggests that this transmission shifts quickly. It doesn’t.

The C63 may very well be faster than the M3 in a straight line at a drag strip from a stop, but in reality when you are on the freeway next to one and compete for a freeway exit, the M3 is off the freeway and on the ramp before the C63 has even shifted. Speaking of those shifts, cars like the M3 or even the portly (in comparison) XFR will queue shifts: i.e. if you are in 6th and want 2nd hear, just flip the paddle four times and most performance cars will shift directly from 6th to 2nd blipping the throttle only once in the process. The AMG will not. You have to flip the paddle once, it blips, the transmission engages 5th, once in 5th you flip the paddle again, it blips again and engages 4th rinse and repeat for gears 3 and 2.

By the time you get to 2nd gear, you have run over the bicyclist in front of you, careened over the cliff or forgotten why you wanted 2nd gear in the first place. When I asked about this annoyance, I was told that all you have to do is hold down the down paddle and “the transmission will shift to the lowest gear available.” Sounds good, right? Wrong. The transmission still blips and shifts sequentially all the way down from 7th to 2nd (that’s five blips, five gear changes) making you sound like some knob that can’t drive a stick, plus you can never summon 1st gear in that fashion, that is always one more paddle pull away.

What makes the transmission all the more infuriating is how the car handles. There is zero drama at speed. The electronic nanny reels in the fun at all the right moments and, should you tell the nanny to pack it in for the day, you can burn out and do doughnuts to your heart’s content. This car is fast, seriously fast. The forums are alight with complaints that Merc didn’t keep the 518HP tune from the E63 in the C63, but it doesn’t really matter because there isn’t enough grip to use all that power from a stop anyway. My best accelerometer tested 0-60 time was 4.8 seconds, and that was (by necessity) easing up on the throttle around 3500-4500RPM to keep from burning out in first gear.

At the end of the day, the M3 remains the better car. The BMW’s ride is more compliant, thanks to electronic shocks. Its dual clutch transmission is neck-breakingly fast. And, perhaps most significantly, its interior parts quality is light-years ahead.Every person who got into the C63 was surprised that they were not surrounded by luxury. If Mercedes ditched the M3 wannabe seats, spent some cash making the interior a better place, and softened the suspension a hair, it might just be the perfect compact Euro sports sedan. Until then it’s playing third fiddle to the RS4 [a car that is no longer even sold new] and M3.

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

IMG_0039 IMG_0054 IMG_0046 IMG_0044 IMG_0043 IMG_0051 All photos courtesy: Alex Dykes IMG_0040 Picture 276 IMG_0052 IMG_0049 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_0048 ]]> 52
What’s Wrong With This Picture: Groß und Großer Edition Fri, 07 May 2010 20:15:35 +0000

Long-wheelbase Benzes have a long and proud history, having been owned by such icons of cool as John Lennon and Hugh Hefner, as well as infamous villains like Pol Pot, “Baby Doc” Duvalier and Jeremy Clarkson. And, as Auto Motor und Sport informs us, the decline of other glandular vehicles like the Suburban has not prevented a new round of six-door Benz models. In fact, something about this picture indicates that vehicular size inflation is not completely a thing of the past… can you spot it?

If you guessed that the new Benz by Binz (yes, that’s the company’s name) is simply larger than previous Großer models, you were wrong. The original 600 Pullman of 1963 measured 6.24 meters long, eclipsing this latest model’s 5.98 meters. And at 4,630-ish pounds, the latest Großer is a mere feather compared to the 1963 Pullman’s 6,100 pound dry weight. No, the answer is slightly less obvious than that…

That’s right, this is a Großer Kleiner. A stretched, six-door version of the Mercedes E-Class. Remember, Mercedes has a whole gross, er, Groß brand dedicated to 6+ meter-long, 6,000+ pound stretched S Classes: Maybach. But then, who could picture the next John Lennon in one of those?

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Benz Will Give Beijing A (Shooting) Break Wed, 21 Apr 2010 11:02:26 +0000

The fabled Mercedes “Shooting Break” (or Brake ) is one step closer to productiondom. Gasgoo reports that the Shooting Break will make “its world debut at the Auto China motor show later this week.” Meaning Friday, the 23rd. TTAC will be there.

Say our friends at Gasgoo: “Rather than the Shooting Break just being some ambitious concept that will never see the light of day, it sounds and looks like we are being given a glimpse of how the next generation CLS will look.”

Alright. But someone explain to me why Sindelfingen insists on using names that conjure up images of shot brakes? Aren’t the reading the Toyota news?

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The Benzification Of China Thu, 18 Mar 2010 08:23:43 +0000

Mercedes-Benz continues its long march forward in China. In February, “Benz” (as the locals call the brand here) racked in a 160 percent growth. 7,200 additional Benzes graced China’s roads by end of February.

With more than 15,300 units sold in the first two months of the year, up 155 percent, Mercedes-Benz calls itself the fastest-growing luxury brand in China, Gasgoo reports.

Imports of the S-Class grew by 115 percent in February, cementing China as the world’s biggest S-Class market. The new generation S-Class is extremely popular amongst China’s well-to-do.

The all-new E-Class became Mercedes-Benz’s top-selling model in China last month, with total sales nearing 4,000 units for the first two months. The E-Class used to be locally made. Currently, it is imported until Daimler’s joint venture partner BAIC has updated their production. A long series, a favorite in China, where everybody who’s somebody leaves the driving to a driver, will be part of the E-Class lineup once production resumes in China.

The locally produced C-Class sold 1,400 sedans.

Daimler said its global sales were up 8.9 percent year on year in February to 78,700 cars, with China providing a good deal of the growth.

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Review: 2010 Mercedes E-Class Coupe Wed, 17 Jun 2009 12:01:51 +0000

I was expecting to dislike the new E-Class Coupe from Mercedes. AMG versions aside, the outgoing CLK was about as interesting to drive as a Toyota Solara, and Mercedes has already announced that there would be no AMG versions of the new car. From the early photos of E-Class Coupe, I had already determined that the large glass sunroof with its meager mesh sun protection would curry little favor with me, and the little rear quarter window spoiled the look of this frameless coupe. To make matters worse, the 2010 E-Class Coupe's engines are carryovers from the CLK. Mercedes claims our fuel quality isn't suitable for the new direct injected engines offered in Europe. (Translation: the US is a dumping ground for some old engine inventory.) The E-Class nomenclature is another sleight of hand, as the chassis is still derived from the C-Class. Harrumph.]]>

I was expecting to dislike the new E-Class Coupe from Mercedes. AMG versions aside, the outgoing CLK was about as interesting to drive as a Toyota Solara, and Mercedes has already announced that there would be no AMG versions of the new car. From the early photos of E-Class Coupe, I had already determined that the large glass sunroof with its meager mesh sun protection would curry little favor with me, and the little rear quarter window spoiled the look of this frameless coupe. To make matters worse, the 2010 E-Class Coupe’s engines are carryovers from the CLK. Mercedes claims our fuel quality isn’t suitable for the new direct injected engines offered in Europe. (Translation: the US is a dumping ground for some old engine inventory.) The E-Class nomenclature is another sleight of hand, as the chassis is still derived from the C-Class. Harrumph.

Still, the new car is attractive enough: a bulldog version of its much larger CL brother. Aesthetic joy: the louvered fairings under the rear valence hearken back to the AMG Black Series CLK. There is an exuberance of glitz in front—acres of chrome and four (count ’em) fog lights—which make for quite an entrance.

This “the CLK has moved up a notch” theme continues inside, where Mercedes has blessed the dash materials with a welcome upgrade and jewel-like gauges. The E-Class Coupe’s cabin design may be overly square, but modern and luxurious. The two-door’s seats have a wide range of adjustability. While comfy, the leather quality could use [another] upgrading. That said, the steering wheel was covered in buttery smooth leather; well worth a lengthy caress. And although the aforementioned rear opera window is ugly, it enhances the model’s existing, class-leading outward visibility.

In terms of toys, there are more than enough gizmos to tease the gods of depreciation. The standard “attention assist” is little more than an alarm clock which shows you a picture of a coffee cup after a pre-determined period. [Ed: Coffee!] The sound system is state of the art, offering power and clarity for the standard high definition radio, available satellite radio, DVD changer, hard drive music register and MP3 player, all accessible via a COMAND center lifted from the S-Class that is intuitive and easy to use. E-Class Coupe’s adaptive lighting swivels in relation to turns and automatically dims the high beams when encountering oncoming traffic.

Distronic Plus radar cruise control is available on the small coupe for the first time. You can’t fault the algorithm, but I call it the “rude driver” encouragement system. You can also order advanced parking guidance, which is as silly here as in the Lexus applications. There is a hold function for the brakes at stoplights, but its operation was buried deep inside one of the electronic menus.

If I closed my eyes and tried to guess the E-Class Coupe’s brand (closed course, no stationary objects), I would have guessed 75/25 Mercedes/BMW. The Merc’s steering offers shocking heft and directness. Under wide open throttle, the 268 horsepower V6′s exhaust note is throaty and enthusiastic. The speed matched the sonic pleasure; the E-Class Coupe can complete the 0 – 60 jaunt in a scant 6.2 seconds. The Merc’s brakes were easy to modulate and effective. The car’s engineers have dialed-back Mercedes’ typical syrupy throttle tip-in by a few notches—although it still emphasizes smoothness over sport. The transmission felt creamy and effortless on part throttle but downshifted somewhat harshly when caned.

The E-Class Coupe’s handling is much improved versus the CLK, although initial turn-in lacked the bite and encouragement compared to its BMW 3 Series competition. Overall the driving experience is impressive, more involving when you want it but with an overriding sense of luxury and composure. Softer than Audi or BMW and perhaps lacking in a pure sporting edge. In other words, it’s a grand tourer.

So Merc’s moved the CLK upscale in image and pricing and changed the name to fool the innocent. That’s about half right. The pricing on the new E-Class Coupe is about the same as the outgoing CLK: $48,050 compared to $48,100 Needless to say, the E-Class Sedan is touted as $4,600 cheaper than the E-Class car it replaces. As usual, the Mercedes E-Class Coupe is more expensive than its German rivals; the BMW 328 with automatic starts at $38,650 (good luck finding one of those). The Audi A5 with automatic starts at $42,000. Preliminary fuel economy figures are listed at 18 in the city and 26 on the highway; the BMW is slightly more fuel efficient while the Audi is slightly less.

Once upon a time, you bought BMW for performance, Audi for style and Mercedes for luxury and prestige. Without giving up any of it traditional virtues, Mercedes has dialed-up the style and sport in this new E-Class Coupe, making the choice of one of these three alternatives more difficult than ever.

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Review: 2010 Mercedes GLK 350 4Matic Tue, 03 Feb 2009 13:45:37 +0000 automaker. The Nissan's Rogue's Murano-i-cide is but one example where a new, smaller vehicle robbed Peter to pay Paul less. But that's the way it is. In Bailout Nation's new era of hunker down austerity, downsizing is almost as fashionable as having a job. Big ticket buyer meets smaller ticket price on the dark side of town. The carmakers must figure that what they lose in profit they'll recover in volume. Ask GM how well that works. In that sense the Mercedes GLK is a born win - loser. Or is it?

The ad for the new Mercedes GLK is targeted straight at owners of MB’s ML and GL SUVs. After all, the new GLK gives you the “same innovation in a smaller design.” Same agility. Same suspension. Same luxury. Same depreciation (my add). So, why bother paying more for one of Mercedes’ more much macho trucks? Sure, this baby brother routine hurts the automaker. The Nissan’s Rogue’s Murano-i-cide is but one example where a new, smaller vehicle robbed Peter to pay Paul less. But that’s the way it is. In Bailout Nation’s new era of hunker down austerity, downsizing is almost as fashionable as having a job. Big ticket buyer meets smaller ticket price on the dark side of town. The carmakers must figure that what they lose in profit they’ll recover in volume. Ask GM how well that works. In that sense the Mercedes GLK is a born win – loser. Or is it?

It takes a couple of miles to warm up to this trucklet. The Mercedes GLK’s exterior won’t fire you up on your approach. The 90s-style orthogonal body looks like it’s already due for a refresh. I’m not saying everything on the road needs to be modeled on a suppository. I love the righteous Geländewagen, a machine which shipping crates have envied for over 30 years. But the authority of the creases found on the G and GL SUVs simply doesn’t scale down. Sometimes, emulating your big brothers makes it all the more obvious that you’re the baby of the family.

The diminutive outside cons you. The interior appears so incredibly roomy A) because you’ve lowered your expectations and B) because it is. Two sunroofs help. Headroom and shoulder room are ample enough to make you forget this is the runt of the litter. The detail is stark but accentuates the safety deposit box theme. The silvery rings on the controls and the dials put you inside a Breitling chronograph. If I owned a big ad agency I’d do my office this way and everyone would respect me.

The seats are exquisite. The seat controls’ traditional door-mounted position makes them easy to use and keeps snow off the armrests.  One assumes they won’t short out. An electrical problem is not what you want in this mobile Brookstone showroom. The tester had more than $6k worth of extra electronics, including a 600-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound system; 7-inch color monitor; a 6GB hard drive with media database and an entirely superfluous in-dash six-disc changer. Everything is voice controlled.

I didn’t fiddle with all the gizmos. Who has that kind of time? My only complaint with the inside: getting inside, through the rear passenger doors. The rear side glass intrudes on the top right, making the porthole smaller than you think.  It’s needlessly awkward on an otherwise carefully thought-out design.

I approached the driving part of the Mercedes GLK program with a prejudice: I like wagons. The GLK has more suspension travel than the C-Class upon which it’s based. It’s far more supple, without being soft. I could feel the ruts in the road (Yes, ruts. I didn’t baby this thing) without being jarred. The use of hydraulic dampers and blow-by valves sounds like steampunk technology, but it works.

This is especially true when combined with the 4Matic all wheel-drive, traction and stability control and thrown about in a square mile of fresh snow. Even with all-season rubber, this was a yak. Thanks to the power-to-weight ratio, with the all the processing tech being equal, this could be the best ski trip vehicle in Mercedes’ line up . . . or on the market.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6, putting out 268 horsepower. It’s as quick as it should be. The automatic transmission was a seven-speed Zen koan. So many gears, so much wheel-spin management and suspension adjusting and brake control. In other words, I have little idea what it was doing at any given moment, but whatever it did seemed appropriate to the situation. If you consider the best transmission the one you never have to think about, you don’t need to think about this one.

The Mercedes GLK’s brakes are as expected: powerful enough to haul you down from speed before the cops can haul you off to jail. Mercedes has always taken their stoppers seriously and it shows. Everything is firm and fluid. Again, I’ve got to compliment the suspension, which sucked up inertia in ways I don’t fully understand.

And slowly, as the miles clicked by, I became a fan. I still don’t get the whole tall wagon deal. This one is derivative in intent and purpose. It won me over with genuine driving chops. The GLK was not the first to the small SUV market, but it’s the best. The vehicle will find favor amongst financially-challenged Mercedes SUV fans. But it’s also Mercedes’ best “entry level” product in decades. If it was a book, it would be called “How to Win Friends and Win More Friends.”

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