The Truth About Cars » mercedes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 30 Aug 2015 23:20:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com QOTD: Parts-bin Hero or Excessive Future Crapwagon? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-parts-bin-hero-excessive-future-crapwagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-parts-bin-hero-excessive-future-crapwagon/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1146609 News on Tuesday that Jeep could be building a Renegade Trackhawk was equal parts infuriating and fantastic. I never turn down horsepower, and more often than not, bigger engines solve all of life’s problems. But I’m growing older, and turning into an asshole. After writing about cars for years, I know enough to know that […]

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News on Tuesday that Jeep could be building a Renegade Trackhawk was equal parts infuriating and fantastic. I never turn down horsepower, and more often than not, bigger engines solve all of life’s problems.

But I’m growing older, and turning into an asshole.

After writing about cars for years, I know enough to know that business cases come first; enthusiasm comes second. Which is why when automakers announce “hot” versions of their cars, it’s usually because a bloated market can usually be struck once or twice more before John Q. Carbuyer says, “OK, that’s enough. I won’t buy that.” Those “hot” cars rarely move the needle on anything, and become interesting automotive historical footnotes for Murilee Martin to write about later.

I don’t mean to take aim on the current Mercedes-AMG GLA45 — but I will.

Mercedes-AMG’s soft-roader may not make the automotive hall-of-fame tomorrow, but it makes sense (and dollars) today. The lasting legacy for that car may be that its small four cylinder was boosted to epic proportions — and did or didn’t survive — but the same mill powers the more conventional CLA45 and that car doesn’t look like a juiced-up bee. (P.S. All is forgiven if Mercedes turns it into a WRC car.)

I find myself wondering “Should they?” aloud more and more rather than “Could they?”

Jeep could build the Renegade Trackhawk tomorrow, I’m guessing. There are enough parts laying around FCA factories to piece together a sub-compact off-roader with more than 300 horsepower and sell to the public for $35,000, which would probably eagerly buy it. There’s probably a relatively sane business case for it as well. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the best-selling SRT vehicle, and increased production for their uber-powered Hellcats means buyers have money to burn — literally and figuratively.

But part of me wants special edition cars to feel special again. The Juke R comes to mind, an insane car for a small subset of buyers crazy enough to tempt fate and burn through ridiculous amounts of money. The Porsche 959 was a homologation special that’ll live forever on my bedroom wall. And even less extreme: The new Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition was a car they could have made all year, but limited its run just to piss me off. I kind of like that.

I guess that’s why value and cost sometimes isn’t the same thing. But I could be wrong.

What do you think B&B? Are hi-po special editions over saturated? Or am I just missing the point?

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First Photos of Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe Leak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/first-photos-mercedes-amg-c63-coupe-leak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/first-photos-mercedes-amg-c63-coupe-leak/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 22:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144265 Leaked photos of the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe from a presentation have found their way onto the Web, from Zero2Turbo (via Carscoops). The photos are in line with the official photos of the coupe we saw this weekend, and earlier “leaks” from Mercedes-AMG’s official Facebook page. The coupe will likely follow the sedan and offer 470- and 503-horsepower […]

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Leaked photos of the Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe from a presentation have found their way onto the Web, from Zero2Turbo (via Carscoops).

The photos are in line with the official photos of the coupe we saw this weekend, and earlier “leaks” from Mercedes-AMG’s official Facebook page.

The coupe will likely follow the sedan and offer 470- and 503-horsepower versions of their 4-liter turbocharged V-8 shifted through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The car will be shown to the public at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September and unveiled online August 19.

The leaked photos show slight variations from the C-Class coupe, including a black rear diffuser and spoiler, and beefier, quad-tipped exhausts.

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2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

Mercedes-AMG will unveil its C63 online ahead of the Frankfurt Auto Show.

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Mercedes-Benz Removes Two Doors from C-Class, Creates Real Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/mercedes-benz-removes-two-doors-from-c-class-creates-real-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/mercedes-benz-removes-two-doors-from-c-class-creates-real-coupe/#comments Sat, 15 Aug 2015 15:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1142849 Some may argue that Mercedes is responsible for the prevalence of four-door coupes on the market thanks to the popularity of the CLS. While the tri-star brand might be found guilty in the court of public opinion for slagging upon us such an abomination, it’s refreshing that the German brand still knows how to make a real, […]

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2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

Some may argue that Mercedes is responsible for the prevalence of four-door coupes on the market thanks to the popularity of the CLS. While the tri-star brand might be found guilty in the court of public opinion for slagging upon us such an abomination, it’s refreshing that the German brand still knows how to make a real, honest-to-goodness coupe — and this is the latest one: the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe.

Up front, the C-Class Coupe looks almost the same as its four-doored sibling. The large disco ball grille is similar to that found on the CLA, while new headlights and remaining front body work is pulled almost directly from the C-Class sedan.

2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe

As soon as you get to the roofline, everything changes. The silhouette — already swooping toward the rear on the sedan — shows a tightened rump and much more horizontal rear lamp wrap around sections. At the rear, the C-Class Coupe looks to have more in common with the Mercedes-AMG GT than the C-Class sedan. That’s sharp, Herr Geschäftsmann.

The new two door will go on sale in the spring of 2016 as a 2017 model, available in C 300 and C 300 4Matic guises. Expect the usual levels of AMG-ness to follow shortly thereafter.

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Volkswagen Planning Hot Tiguan R Coupe Because Why Not http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-planning-hot-tiguan-r-coupe-not/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-planning-hot-tiguan-r-coupe-not/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 17:27:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141338 Volkswagen may build a three-door version of its compact crossover to compete against the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 and Audi RS Q3 because hot hatches are now hot crossovers, Autocar (via AutoGuide) is reporting. According to the report, the Tiguan R would be powered by the Golf R’s 300-horsepower turbocharged four. It could go on sale as […]

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Volkswagen may build a three-door version of its compact crossover to compete against the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 and Audi RS Q3 because hot hatches are now hot crossovers, Autocar (via AutoGuide) is reporting.

According to the report, the Tiguan R would be powered by the Golf R’s 300-horsepower turbocharged four. It could go on sale as early as 2018 in the UK. It’s unclear if it would go on sale in the U.S. around the same time.

Autocar reported that insiders say the Tiguan R would come with VW’s six-speed dual-clutch gearbox and an electronic torque vectoring to manage all the boost so you don’t understeer and die.

The Tiguan R is expected to join the second generation of bigger Tiguans that will go on sale starting in 2017. In 2018, it’s expected that VW will sell the Tiguan in a “coupe” form, with the Tiguan R to follow.

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Cadillac Slowing its Plans to Sell Cars in Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/cadillac-slowing-plans-sell-cars-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/cadillac-slowing-plans-sell-cars-europe/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 22:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1140154 Cadillac likely won’t push to sell more cars in Europe before 2020, the company’s CEO Johan de Nysschen told analysts on Tuesday. “We’ll go to that market when we have the right powertrains and the right cars,” he said Tuesday, according to the Detroit News. Previously, Cadillac had planned some right-hand drive models and diesel powertrains […]

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Cadillac likely won’t push to sell more cars in Europe before 2020, the company’s CEO Johan de Nysschen told analysts on Tuesday.

“We’ll go to that market when we have the right powertrains and the right cars,” he said Tuesday, according to the Detroit News.

Previously, Cadillac had planned some right-hand drive models and diesel powertrains to help it gain a foothold in European markets. According to the report, Cadillac has sold only 838 cars in Europe so far this year. Cadillac wants to sell 500,000 cars globally by 2020, de Nysschen said.

Instead of Europe, de Nysschen told J.P. Morgan Auto Conference attendees (we guess our invitation just got lost in the mail, or something) that Cadillac would focus on strengthening its position in China, Russia and the Middle East.

The report didn’t detail how Cadillac would combat crumbling or slowing economies in China or Russia, but it’s clear that Cadillac is going to wait until its portfolio is much, much stronger before it attempts to seriously compete with the Germans in their own backyard.

Global sales of Cadillacs are up 1.5 percent, led by a 7.4-percent rise in China, and despite a 2.4-percent slowdown in America.

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How Can You Have Two Flagships? Lexus Explains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-two-flagships-lexus-explains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/can-two-flagships-lexus-explains/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137290 Last week, Lexus division general manager let slip that his company was thinking that it needed a paragon as the luxury division for Toyota. “We need a flagship. It doesn’t have to be a sedan,” Jeff Bracken, Lexus division general manager, told Reuters. What about the LS!? Is that chopped liver now? Oh, right. “In addition […]

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Last week, Lexus division general manager let slip that his company was thinking that it needed a paragon as the luxury division for Toyota.

“We need a flagship. It doesn’t have to be a sedan,” Jeff Bracken, Lexus division general manager, told Reuters.

What about the LS!? Is that chopped liver now? Oh, right.

“In addition to the LS (a large sedan), there could be another flagship in our lineup,” Bracken said. “We’ll define what it is in January.”

Sheesh.

The “flagship” should be something that resembles the LF-LC concept, a gigantic coupe in the vein of the Mercedes S63 Coupe, hopefully with V-8 motivation (or perhaps the LF-A’s V-10 sometime?) and rear-wheel drive.

According to Automotive News, Lexus trademarked the names “LC 500″ and “LC 500h” last year in preparation for the coupe, which could arrive as soon as 2017.

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Which begs the question: How do you have two flagships? Isn’t that like two best friends? Or two favorite flavors of ice cream?

Apparently you can have two flagships when you revise your previous statement.

Perhaps old Rice football coach Jess Neely put it best when he said: “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any.”

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2015 Mercedes S550 4Matic Review – The Luxury “Tweener” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-mercedes-s550-4matic-review-luxury-tweener/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-mercedes-s550-4matic-review-luxury-tweener/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130945 Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price […]

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Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price tag on the S spans from just under $100,000 to nearly a quarter of a million. Like the new C-Class, the redesigned S-Class is restoring my faith in the premiere German luxury brand.


Exterior
The S-Class has been the pinnacle of the Mercedes line since 1972. There have been long ones, short ones, coupés, sedans and limos. Regardless of the shape, the S-Class has long been the standard by which full-size luxury cars are judged. That was a little bit of a problem for the previous generation Merc which had a somewhat dowdy exterior with a plain profile, small grille and headlamps that looked like Shrinky Dinks that had spent too long in the oven.

The new S-Class receives Mercedes’ latest exterior design cues from the CLS and CLA with a bolder grille and angry headlamps blended with the quaintness of a tri-star hood ornament. As you’d expect from a car destined to chauffeur diplomats, royalty and heads of state, the side profile is upright and traditional, and the greenhouse bends slightly rearward to allow your royal personage a better view of your subjects.

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At rear, Mercedes blended the corporate style-book with classic S-Class cues we’ve seen since 1991, such as tail lamps that won’t wrap onto the trunk lid. This particular style choice has a notable downside: the trunk opening is smaller than many of the other luxury sedans.

Although the new S-Class may look like a re-skinned W220 S-Class, the W222 is an entirely new animal. The biggest change is a new body that is nearly half aluminum. Rather than going all-in on Alcoa like Jaguar and Audi, Mercedes took the more cautious approach by strategically using aluminum to adjust the car’s weight balance as well as shed a few pounds. The result is an S550 that tips the scales at 4,600 pounds and has a weight balance closer to 50/50 than ever before (a hair better than 52/48 we’re told.)

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Interior
Mercedes is a conservative company when it comes to interior style, so this generation doesn’t bring any massive design departures. Although restrained, everything is undeniably premium and this interior escapes the “upscale Buick” vibe the last generation gave off. Our tester has a nearly $6,000 optional leather package which undoubtedly helps. The option consists of premium two-tone hides and contrasting piping throughout the cabin, from the dashboard to the door panels. Even the portions of the door panels that are hidden when the doors close are perfectly stitched cow-hide. Laser cut metal speaker grilles are scattered throughout the cabin, a look that is also featured in the new C-class at more affordable prices.

European shoppers will likely be confused by this statement: Legroom is excellent but not epic in the S550. While the S-Class is ginormous by European standards, it is only 3.6-inches longer than a Ford Taurus and less than one inch longer than a Lincoln MKS. As a result, the 41.4 inches of front leg room is actually slightly lower than some large American sedans. Rear legroom is generous, but not much more than the large sedans by GM, Ford and Chrysler. The back seat is unquestionably comfortable, especially in our tester which came with the reclining rear seat option. However, folks taller than 6-foot-2 won’t be able to stretch completely out on the foot rest. (Your writer’s modest 6-foot frame fit like a glove.) Disappointed? Consider that the XJ, A8 and 7-Series are all available in two lengths and their long-wheelbase models are equivalent to the base S-Class in rear accommodation. Need more room? For a cool $189,350 you can get the S600 Maybach which stretches the S-Class by 8 inches, improving both leg and headroom in the process. Sadly, however, the champagne refrigerator and comfy rear thrones also eat into the trunk space, dropping the S500’s trunk down to a slim 12.3. Tell Jeeves to pack light.

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Mercedes-Maybach
Maybach was to be the German answer to the soaring popularity of Rolls Royce and Bentley. Unfortunately, Mercedes tried competing head-on with a previous generation S-Class stretched to an insane 244 inches that wore a price tag stretched even further to nearly $400,000. It’s no wonder the Maybach 57 and 62 failed to light the sales charts on fire. As of 2013, Maybach as a brand ceased to exist and a new strategy was born. Since the old Maybach was instantly recognizable as a stretched S-Class, they applied the Maybach label to the longest S available and thus the Mercedes-Maybach S600 was born. With a stretch of a more modest 8 inches (versus the three feet that was added to make the Maybach 62) and a similarly more modest price tag, think of the Mercedes-Maybach as a limo version of the S-Class. Oddly enough, the Maybach is not the most expensive S — that’s where the S65 AMG comes in starting at a cool $220,000.

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Infotainment & Gadgets
No luxury car would be complete without a bevy of gadgets and gizmos to entertain and protect (and brag about).

The first thing you notice when you get inside are the twin 12.3-inch LCDs spanning from the center of the car to the driver’s door. The right LCD runs the latest Mercedes COMAND infotainment software while the left handles the gauges and night vision display.

Although the software interface looks familiar, it has been significantly updated for the W222 with a faster processor and more features. The speed difference and smoothness of the graphic transitions is easily noticeable when you compare the S-Class to the E-Class sitting next to it on the dealer lot. Mercedes has improved the voice recognition system in this generation and voice commanding specific tracks on your USB/iDevice is easier and more reliable. Sadly, the online functionality is not as “fully baked” as iDrive or MMI at this point. There is Google Earth driven satellite imagery, but it’s not integrated into the default navigation screen. Likewise, the streaming radio and Yelp location finder apps could be better integrated. Also on the gripe list: there is no dedicated track forward/backward button which makes changing tracks more complicated than other vehicles.

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I am often disappointed by LCD instrument clusters. They offer so much theoretical potential, yet no manufacturer has fully exploited this yet. So far, Cadillac is the only brand whose LCD cluster allows limited customization from a selection of different gauge layouts, colors and themes. The Mercedes display, like essentially everyone else, shows you two views. One with and one without the night vision camera display.

On the gadget front, Mercedes has packed in everything but the kitchen sink. We have an optional split-view screen (right side LCD only) so the passenger can watch a movie while in motion, and a rear seat entertainment system for the rear passengers that can display an airline-esque slideshow of your location, the elevation profile of your journey and the weather at your destination. The front seats massage, the rear seats recline, the shades are all powered and even the rear folks get 3-position seat memory. Sound systems start at impressive and head to “do you really need that?” with a 24-speaker system pumping out 1,940 watts (because 2,000 was too opulent).

More radar sensors than Frankfurt Airport, a bevy of ultrasonic sensors, all around cameras, a separate stereo camera system for forward 3D imaging, and an infrared night vision camera all combine to give the S-Class a bionic view of the road. The radar sensors allow adaptive cruise control functionality, tell you about cross traffic and prepare safety systems for impact when the car behind you decides not to stop. The S-Class will parallel park itself, detect pedestrians and brake to keep from hitting them, and highlight deer and select other animals in the night vision system. Magic Body Control will scan the road ahead and program the suspension to handle a road imperfection before you encounter it. Sadly the snazzy multi-beam LED headlamps don’t make it to the USA because of some silly headlamp regulations on our shores, but the system that automatically injects air freshener into the HVAC system is America bound.

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Drivetrain
Instead of making the hybrid a range-topping model like you see with the Lexus LS 600hL, Mercedes continues to view the S550 plug-in hybrid as more of a volume option. For the same price, shoppers can choose a 449-horsepower, 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8, or a 436-horsepower hybrid system built around a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. (The turbo six makes 329 horsepower on its own.) The 449 ponies and 516 lb-ft of torque in the V8 model combined with Mercedes’ latest 7-speed automatic transmission and optional 4MATIC AWD allowed out tester to scoot to 60 in an impressive 4.6 seconds.

If you need to get to The Hamptons faster, the S600’s twin-turbo V12 spools up 523 horsepower and 612 lb-ft, but sadly can’t be had with AWD. The S63 AMG gets a 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V8 making 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft and, thanks to standard AWD, will get the German tank to highway speed in under 4 seconds. The range topping S65 AMG makes the most oomph at 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque (88 more twists than a Dodge Hellcat) but because AWD is not offered, it’ll take slightly longer to run to 60 than the S63. Even if you can’t afford the top-end trims, all S class owners can bask in the opulence of a transmission that has two speeds in reverse. Why? Just because.

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Drive
I was a bit skeptical about the Magic Body Control system and, as it turns out, I was right to be. The system uses a stereo camera system to scan the road ahead, but aside from damping speed bumps to the point where it feels like running over a garden hose, I didn’t notice much difference in a dealer provided car. The system seemed to have little or no effect out on the rough highways or potholed streets in the Bay Area. Some of this has to do with the way the system detects the road (it is camera based), but most has to do with the standard air suspension already being very compliant.

Although the S550 has lost weight, it is still one of the heavier options in this segment. The contrast with the Jaguar XJ is sharp. At 3,854 lbs, the English entry is the lightest, beating even the aluminum A8 by 511 pounds. Jaguar ditched their four-corner air suspension in the latest XJ model (the rear has load leveling still) which, combined with the light curb weight, makes it by far the most athletic entry in this segment. However, the XJ isn’t just light for this segment, it’s also 147 pounds lighter than an E350. The S550 on the other hand offers a more traditional large luxury attitude. The air suspension creates a ride that’s like a pillow floating on a cloud.

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Funny thing about clouds: If you pay attention, you realise they’re moving pretty darn fast. Seemingly in defiance of physics, the S550 scoots to 60 mph as fast as a BMW M235i and, thanks to some serious rubber at all four corners, matches a run-of-the-mill 335i in the skidpad. Keep the pedal down too long and you’ll hit the 1/4 mile in 12.8 seconds while doing 110 mph. In silence. In a 17-foot long sedan. The cabin of the S550 is eerily quiet at all times.

The steering is isolated but surprisingly accurate, the body tips, dives and rolls with the best of the luxury set but never feels upset or uncomposed. Thanks to the all-wheel drive system and a near 50/50 weight balance, the S550 is extremely neutral and confident on practically every road surface. A statement like that wouldn’t be surprising when talking about a compact luxury coupé, but we’re talking about a nearly two and a half ton sedan.

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Pricing – Why is it a “tweener”?
I’ve touched on this already, but the most unique thing about the S-Class is the fact that it sits almost in a segment of its own. The 2015 S550 starts at $94,400, which is about $20,000 higher than a base 2015 BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS 460, Jaguar XJ or Audi A8. (For 2016, the 7-Series and A8 rise to just over $80,000 and we should expect a slight increase from Mercedes keeping the distance around 15-large.) A lightly configured S550 can easily sticker for $115,000 and our tester (which lacked a number of options) came in at a cool $137,500. Keeping in mind this is simply where the S550 starts. The sticker on our S-Class with the base engine was already higher than possible for most of the competition.

The next step up is the $141,450 S63, which is about as expensive as an A8 gets. Want a 12-cylinder engine? That’s at least $166,900, about a loaded Honda Accord more than an A8 W12. The Maybach stretch is $189,350, and if you want one of the most powerful 12-cylinder engines made, that’ll be $220,000. The only other vehicle with this kind of price range is the Porsche Panamera. The Porsche has a slightly more premium interior but it’s mission is quite different. The Panamera is more direct, more engaging, but less comfortable, less roomy and I’m told by the old guard in Atherton that it’s too flashy as well. Looking for something spendier? The S65 AMG ends around where Bentley starts.

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The new S-Class has restored my faith in the Mercedes brand. Is it the best value in the luxury car segment? No. But that’s an asset in this category. (If you don’t like that statement, then you’re not the S-Class demographic.) If you want a “value luxury sedan” this size, check out the $60,000 Kia K900.

The S550 4Matic is exactly what I want out of a big luxury sedan. I want it to be big and bold but avoid brash by a hair. I want it to be impossibly quiet, perfectly smooth, insanely powerful, able to stop on a dime (okay, so that part is a little lacking), handle like a sports coupé and get silent nods from the folks at the country club. You can get some of those things in the competition, but this big Merc succeeds at all of them in a way no other sedan does.

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

0-30: 1.99 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 110 MPH

Fuel Economy: 18.2 MPG over 782 Miles

IMG_0706 IMG_0708 IMG_0710 IMG_0711 IMG_0728 IMG_0730 IMG_0731 IMG_0733 IMG_0734 IMG_0738 IMG_0739 IMG_0740 IMG_0742 IMG_0745 IMG_0746 IMG_0748 IMG_0749 IMG_0750 IMG_0752 IMG_0758 IMG_0759 IMG_0760 IMG_0762 IMG_0764 IMG_0765 IMG_0768 IMG_0772 IMG_0774 IMG_0777 IMG_0778 IMG_0779 IMG_0782 IMG_0784 IMG_0786 IMG_0789 IMG_0791 IMG_0793 IMG_0795 IMG_0796 IMG_0832 IMG_0835 IMG_0836 IMG_0844 IMG_0846 IMG_0856 IMG_0857 IMG_0860 IMG_0862

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There Once Was a Dream That Was 1000SEL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/there-once-was-a-dream-that-was-1000sel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/there-once-was-a-dream-that-was-1000sel/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2015 15:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1135138 Here’s a question for the B&B: When, exactly, did Mercedes-Benz completely lose its famous sense of aesthetic restraint? Was it the arrival of the Panzerwagen W140 S-Class, with its Bismarckian bulk and its little pop-up parking guides? Was it the debut of the two-tone Maybach 57 and 62, complete with their burl-walnut power window switches […]

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1000sel

Here’s a question for the B&B: When, exactly, did Mercedes-Benz completely lose its famous sense of aesthetic restraint? Was it the arrival of the Panzerwagen W140 S-Class, with its Bismarckian bulk and its little pop-up parking guides? Was it the debut of the two-tone Maybach 57 and 62, complete with their burl-walnut power window switches and sliding curtains? Was it the day that the CLA45 AMG proved that the company had no philosophical objection whatsoever to building what was basically a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution?

Whenever it was, it’s certainly happened. Those days of squared-off, buttoned-down diesel sedans and sensibly-sized S-Classes are long gone. But this is one of those rare cases where the reality was equal to the legend. There truly was a time when the W126, in V-8 SEL form, was simply the best car in the world. It was rapid, silent, safe, trustworthy, classic, and supremely comfortable. It existed in a space utterly beyond any but the most picayune criticism.

But it simply wasn’t enough. Wasn’t brash enough, wasn’t trash enough, wasn’t gold-plated enough, wasn’t gull-winged enough. Enter, therefore, the 1000SEL.

100sgs

It wasn’t that Mercedes-Benz was averse to making pimp chariots for plutocrats. Some readers will remember the 600 “Pullman” with its vacuum-operated power windows and limo-style wheelbase extension. There was also some chap named Hitler who liked to ride around in big Benzes well before Sir Mix-A-Lot ever thought to rap about the S-Class. But with the energy crisis of the Seventies striking justified fear into the hearts of oil-less Europe, the company declined to update the 600 concept for the Eighties. Instead, the company revealed the W126, the car that would effectively replace the W116 S-Class and the 600. It was unapologetically aerodynamic, weight-conscious, deliberately efficient, powered by small, all-aluminum V-8s in addition to the usual inline-six in both gas and diesel form that made up the bulk of sales outside the United States.

To drive the W126 was to realize the apex of automotive accomplishment up to that point. It seemed utterly silent, particularly at high speeds. It steered and stopped like a sports car. In 5-liter 500SEL or US-market 560SEL form, it was capable of embarrassing a Porsche 911 of the day once aerodynamics entered the high-speed equation. You could drive it all day and night. No important control was out of the reach of a five-foot woman or a six-three man. Of course, it couldn’t match a modern Chevy Sonic for “telematics” or electronic features but it did have ABS before almost everyone else and it was an early airbag adopter as well.

Mercedes-1981-Mercedes-500SEL-a

It’s hard to think of what could be improved in a W126, but it’s not hard to understand why the car’s relentlessly functional presence seemed a little, shall we say, tame for some markets. Its predecessors had possessed nice big grilles and upright profiles. They looked like the kind of car an Idi Amin or Robert Mugabe could own without blushing. (John Updike made such a car a central character in his African novel of the period, The Coup.) The 600, of course, had an undoubted appeal just due to its stature — but the W126 was actually lower and more modest-looking than the cars that had gone before it.

Enter the tuners, most famously “Styling Garage” and Gemballa. You can read all about Styling Garage on the 1000SEL fan site but suffice it to say that they weren’t playing. They built the “1000SEL”, a pimped-out W126 that could be adjusted to suit the wildest fantasies of the shahs and the sheikhs. They even put the nose of the old car on the new one:

SGS-1000SGS-03

Imagine you were the engineer responsible for the 0.36 drag coefficient of the 380SEL and you saw that God-damned monstrosity on the road ahead of you. How would you feel? Certainly the lawyers didn’t like it, which led to the “1000SEL” being renamed the “1000SGS”.

But if Styling-Garage was the master of vandalizing the outside of a W126, surely Gemballa was the undisputed champion of interior pimpology.

interior

Only the position of the dashboard trim stripe and the shape of the steering wheel really gives this car’s origins away.

1001sel1

What’s going on with that small screen on the passenger side? Is is a tracking device for stolen nuclear submarines or a way to watch The Cosby Show in black and white? But the greatest horror was yet to come. The 380SEC and 500SEC were not unqualified successes. They were heavier and slower than the nearly flawless sedans on which they were based. In the United States, where emissions equipment strangled the 3.8, this was particularly upsetting. But for some customers, the most upsetting part of W126 coupe ownership was the regular doors. So…

gullwing

That’s right. A Testarossa-straked gullwing W126 coupe. And there was more than one of them.

image50931

Many of these cars disappeared into garages in Brunei or Saudi Arabia where they promptly rusted into worthlessness, often without having been driven any more than their delivery miles. But the arrival of the W140 put the kibosh on much of this extremely profitable and tasteless activity. To begin with, the new car was massively complex and far harder to modify. Just the thousand-mile-long biodegradable wiring harness alone was an insurmountable challenge to most tuners. But there was also the sense that Mercedes-Benz had returned to the idea of the Grosser Benz, a car that was too big to ignore for plutocrats of all stripes who were (usually) too big to fail or jail.

Eventually, Mercedes implemented all but the worst excesses of the tuners in their production vehicles. Some of those vehicles, like the sublime AMG SLS Black Series, are among the finest German cars ever made. Others, like the misshapen and depressed-looking Maybach 62, are not. But it’s fun to look back and see that there was once a brief shining moment where Germany’s best automaker really was the kind of austere, emotionally monochromatic, technically focused company that its owners always claimed it to be. So when you’re in your CLA or GLA or GLE Coupe or whatever and you see some slick dude or bearded hipster in an old W126, have some respect, okay?

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German Automakers Buy Mapmaker, Maybe for Robot Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/german-automakers-buy-mapmaker-maybe-robot-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/german-automakers-buy-mapmaker-maybe-robot-cars/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1132577 Audi, BMW and Daimler have joined forces to buy map-making company Here from phone-maker Nokia for an undisclosed amount, the automakers announced Monday. The purchase of the company, which provides cloud-based maps and location services to more than 200 countries, could help the automakers develop further technology for autonomous cars that use the crowd-sourced maps instead of unreliable […]

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Old Map

Audi, BMW and Daimler have joined forces to buy map-making company Here from phone-maker Nokia for an undisclosed amount, the automakers announced Monday.

The purchase of the company, which provides cloud-based maps and location services to more than 200 countries, could help the automakers develop further technology for autonomous cars that use the crowd-sourced maps instead of unreliable and outdated humans to steer.

In a statement announcing the purchase, the automakers said the company would be jointly held by all three automakers and would operate independently from the consortium. Pending approval, the sale would become final early next year.

The automakers hinted that the mapmaking company and the cars could work together by relaying traffic or road conditions from each car to a centralized server that could redistribute the information to other cars. So-called “swarm technology” would help other drivers avoid accidents or icy roads.

”HERE will be able to offer users a continuously improving product, bringing highly automated driving and location based services a step further. As the volume of anonymized data from the vehicles increases, services will become more convenient, more connected and further tailored to the users’ individual requirements,” the automakers said in the statement.

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Average Gas Engine Specific Output Isn’t Quite 100 HP/L, Yet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/average-gas-engine-specific-output-isnt-quite-100-hpl-yet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/average-gas-engine-specific-output-isnt-quite-100-hpl-yet/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 16:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126465 It was nearly 15 years ago that Honda was touting their magic number — 118.5 hp/L. This was the specific output for the U.S.-spec Honda S2000 powered by a high-strung, 237-horsepower, 2-liter engine and it was a marvel of engineering, trumping the Viper and many other more expensive machines. Fast forward to today and there […]

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Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

It was nearly 15 years ago that Honda was touting their magic number — 118.5 hp/L. This was the specific output for the U.S.-spec Honda S2000 powered by a high-strung, 237-horsepower, 2-liter engine and it was a marvel of engineering, trumping the Viper and many other more expensive machines.

Fast forward to today and there are only a few naturally aspirated vehicles that top Honda’s claim to fame, but many that easily beat it with some form of forced induction. Yet, even with this plethora of new high-output, small-displacement engines, the average specific output of gasoline and flex fuel vehicles in the United States is still below the record set by Honda back in 1999.

Thanks to data provided by iSeeCars, we came up with some interesting data when it comes to specific output for 2015 model year vehicles.

For one, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 (pictured above) and the GLA45 with which it shares its turbocharged, 2-liter, four-cylinder engine are the top performers with specific outputs of 177.5 hp/L. It should be no surprise that turbocharged engines dominate the top 100 engines ranked by specific output, but there are some exceptions. The top naturally aspirated mill in the mix — the 597-hp, 4.5-liter V-8 in the Ferrari 458 Speciale — has a specific output of 132.7 hp/L. Porsche’s 911 GT3 is solidly mid-pack with 125 hp/L.

On the other end of the scale, trucks score quite low on the specific output meter, as the Ford F-350 equipped with a 316-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 struggles to make 51 hp/L. The lower output may not be representative of a behind-the-times engine, but rather it could be characteristic of their applications. Trucks need torque more than horsepower to do the work they were built to do.

Overall, the average for specific output for non-hybrid, gasoline and flex fuel engines sits at 93.3 hp/L, just 25.2 hp/L shy of the naturally aspirated benchmark set by the Honda S2000. However, as more automakers downsize their engines and boost output with turbocharging, we may just see the overall average crest this high-water mark in the coming years.

Below is a list of the top and bottom 10 vehicles available on the retail market for the 2015 model year ranked by specific output.

Top 10

  1. Mercedes-AMG CLA45/GLA45
    2-liter turbocharged I-4, 355 horsepower
    177.5 hp/L
  2. McLaren 650S Coupe/Spider
    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 641 horsepower
    168.7 hp/L
  3. Nissan GT-R NISMO
    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 600 horsepower
    157.9 hp/L
  4. Volvo S60/XC60
    2-liter twincharged I-4, 302 horsepower
    151.0 hp/L
  5. Porsche 911 Turbo S
    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged H-6, 560 horsepower
    147.4 hp/L
  6. Audi S3/Volkswagen Golf R
    2-liter turbocharged I-4, 292 horsepower
    146.0 hp/L
  7. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
    2-liter turbocharged I-4, 291 horsepower
    145.5 hp/L
  8. Nissan GT-R
    3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, 545 horsepower
    143.4 hp/L
  9. Bentley Continental GT3-R
    4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 572 horsepower
    143 hp/L
  10. Ferrari California T
    3.9-liter twin-turbocharged V-8, 553 horsepower
    141.8 hp/L

Bottom 10

  1. Ford F-350 Super Duty
    6.2-liter V-8, 316 horsepower
    51.0 hp/L
  2. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 3500HD
    6-liter V-8, 322 horsepower
    53.7 hp/L
  3. Nissan Titan/NV Cargo/NV Passenger/Armada
    5.6-liter V-8, 317 horsepower
    56.6 hp/L
  4. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (Cargo/Passenger/Cutaway)
    6-liter V-8, 342 horsepower
    57.0 hp/L
  5. Volkswagen Jetta
    2-liter I-4, 115 horsepower
    57.5 hp/L
  6. Ram Chassis 3500
    6.4-liter V-8, 370 horsepower
    57.8 hp/L
  7. Toyota Tacoma
    2.7-liter I-4, 159 horsepower
    58.9 hp/L
  8. Toyota Tacoma
    4-liter V-6, 236 horsepower
    59.0 hp/L
  9. Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana (Cargo/Passenger/Cutaway)
    4.8-liter V-8, 285 horsepower
    59.4 hp/L
  10. Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra 2500HD/3500HD
    6-liter V-8, 360 horsepower
    60.0 hp/L

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The Small Luxury Convertible Is Probably Dead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/the-small-luxury-convertible-is-probably-dead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/the-small-luxury-convertible-is-probably-dead/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123801 I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that? Allow me to explain what I mean. Back […]

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I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that?

Allow me to explain what I mean. Back in 1989, Mazda came out with the Miata and taught everyone that maybe the two-seater convertible wasn’t quite dead yet. So all the luxury automakers decided they wanted a piece of that sweet droptop action, and they all scrambled to the drawing board to make expensive Miatas with steering wheel volume control buttons.

They all came out right in a row. First there was the BMW Z3, which went on sale for the 1996 model year and starred in a James Bond movie soon after. I remember how cool this thing was, because I remember how much of a departure it was for BMW to build it in the first place. Here’s an automaker who has only offered sedans and one slow-selling large coupe for the last few decades, and now they’re coming out with a fun looking, two-seat convertible that’s kind of affordable? THIS IS SO COOL! Eight-year-old me had a model Z3 sitting on a shelf in my room.

Then there was the Porsche Boxster. Oh, the Boxster, an enormous sales success when it first came out; the car that made Porsche realize that maybe, just maybe, they can continue in the business of selling cars without going into the business of declaring bankruptcy. The first Boxster models came out in 1997, and the first few years were their best-selling of all-time.

Then there was Mercedes. The first-generation Mercedes SLK came out for the 1998 model year with a totally new idea: a retractable hardtop. A retractable hardtop on a small Mercedes convertible, while the brand’s flagship SL-Class still had to make do with a normal old folding cloth top and a removable hardtop that was about as easy to move as a Great Dane who’s asleep on the remote control.

Like the Z3, the SLK was also so damn cool when it came out. The retractable roof was in all the ads. It was the first time anyone had ever seen such a thing outside the Mitsubishi 3000GT, which sold approximately 11 total units. And most importantly, it was a strong competitor to the brand-new rivals from BMW and Porsche. Back then, this segment was heating up like the compact crossover segment is today.

And then, yet another challenger emerged: the Audi TT. Originally on sale for the 2000 model year, the front- or all-wheel drive TT caused quite a stir when it debuted by being the first Audi ever not to completely suck. And then the stage was set: Audi had the TT. Mercedes had the SLK. BMW had the Z3. Porsche had the Boxster. And then the redesigns came.

First the Z3 was redesigned in 2004 to become the far more aggressive, bolder, sharper looking Z4. Next, the SLK and Boxster were updated in 2005, both with more modern appearances. Clearly, the automakers thought this segment still had some legs. And finally, the Audi TT got a full redesign for the 2008 model year, bringing everyone back into close competition once again. And then…

Half-heartedly, most of these models have since been redesigned once again. The Z4 lost its flame surfacing and gained sort of a “me, too” appearance designed to offend precisely nobody, and inspire the same number. The SLK received another redesign, though nobody knows this outside of spouses of Mercedes dealers. The Boxster, admittedly, earned an excellent redesign — though its price point has taken it well beyond the level of the original 2-seat roadster. And Audi’s hemming and hawing about a potential TT redesign has been one of the most reluctant things I’ve seen from the auto industry in decades.

The reason for all this is that this segment has completely died out, and nobody wants these cars anymore. Back in the ‘90s, convertibles were all the rage, and people loved the idea of hopping in a BMW roadster and going for a spin. Now, sedans are back. We want functional. We want practical. And we don’t want to pay fifty grand for an SLK250 with something called the “Airscarf.”

For proof, some numbers. Back in 2005, with its last redesign, the SLK hit nearly 12,000 units in America. With its most recent redesign in 2012, it didn’t even manage to reach 5,000 sales. The Z4 did almost 20,000 U.S. units in 2003. Last year, just barely 2,000. And the poor Audi TT has dropped from more than 10,000 sales in its first year to just over 1,000 last year. Even the Boxster is down from well over 10,000 U.S. sales in the late 1990s to just over 4,500 after its most recent redesign.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I’m currently predicting the death of the luxury roadster segment. When it happens officially, remember that you heard it here first. Even James Bond can’t save it now.

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Infiniti Confirms Compact Q30 for Frankfurt Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/infiniti-confirms-compact-q30-frankfurt-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/infiniti-confirms-compact-q30-frankfurt-auto-show/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 15:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1121177 Confirming their June confirmation, Infiniti will bring a production-ready version of their compact Q30 to the International Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The compact, which will be built in the United Kingdom, powered by the same 2.0-liter, turbo four that powers the Mercedes GLA and CLA under a joint agreement between Mercedes and Renault-Nissan. The […]

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Infiniti Q30

Confirming their June confirmation, Infiniti will bring a production-ready version of their compact Q30 to the International Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

The compact, which will be built in the United Kingdom, powered by the same 2.0-liter, turbo four that powers the Mercedes GLA and CLA under a joint agreement between Mercedes and Renault-Nissan.

The related compact crossover QX30 shouldn’t be far behind.

The Euro-centric compact hatch and crossover may not have been originally slated for sale in the United States, but the recent success of similar models from Mercedes and others may have changed the minds at Infiniti. That, and the sedan may be the new horse carriage.

The Q30 is one of several joint Renault Nissan-Mercedes ventures that will emerge in coming years. The Renault Twingo and Smart Fortwo will share a common platform, and the automakers will swap engines (Renault’s smaller for Mercedes’ larger) in coming cars.

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Mercedes-AMG Bumps Up Power in 2016 CLA45, GLA45 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mercedes-amg-bumps-power-2016-cla45-gla45/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mercedes-amg-bumps-power-2016-cla45-gla45/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 17:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116633 Mercedes-AMG’s incredibly busy 2.0-liter turbocharged engine will be busier next year. The performance division of Mercedes-Benz announced Tuesday (via AutoGuide) the 2016 CLA45 and GLA45 engines would get horsepower bumps from 355 hp to 375 hp. That boosts the horsepower-per-liter output from the little Affalterbach mills to 187.5 hp/l. In addition to the horsepower bump, Mercedes announced the cars’ transmissions have been […]

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Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

Mercedes-AMG’s incredibly busy 2.0-liter turbocharged engine will be busier next year.

The performance division of Mercedes-Benz announced Tuesday (via AutoGuide) the 2016 CLA45 and GLA45 engines would get horsepower bumps from 355 hp to 375 hp.

That boosts the horsepower-per-liter output from the little Affalterbach mills to 187.5 hp/l.

In addition to the horsepower bump, Mercedes announced the cars’ transmissions have been updated to haul compact ass. The 7-speed, AMG dual-clutch gearbox now has shorter ratios from third through seventh gears. That may not do a whole lot for the CLA’s 4.2-second run up to 60 mph (4.4 seconds in the GLA), but it will do more for runs beyond 60 mph — if that’s legal in your area, of course.

The cars will also get minor package tweaks. Mercedes-AMG has added a Dynamic Plus package to both cars that adds a mechanical, front-axle locking differential and two-stage adaptive adjustable damping.

Pricing for the 2016 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 and GLA45 will be announced in October, the automaker announced.

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Mercedes Teasing C63 Ahead of Frankfurt Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mercedes-teasing-c63-ahead-frankfurt-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mercedes-teasing-c63-ahead-frankfurt-debut/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 21:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113065 Pictures of the next-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe are making the rounds on the Internets after Mercedes teased the coupe previously in a video dubbed “Something Fast Is Coming.” Mercedes revealed the new photos on its Facebook page, which most people believe will be the coupe to be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in September. If […]

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Pictures of the next-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe are making the rounds on the Internets after Mercedes teased the coupe previously in a video dubbed “Something Fast Is Coming.”

Mercedes revealed the new photos on its Facebook page, which most people believe will be the coupe to be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in September.

If the C63 Coupe adopts the same engines as the C63 Sedan, the 4.0-liter biturbo under the camouflaged hood should pump 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque in normal guise. The C63 S bumps those specs up to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both engines propel the sedan to 60 mph in 4 seconds or less.

Details are few and far between in the photos. A new nose looks to grace the alleged C63 Coupe along with super quick, wide 255/35 Z-rated 19-inch front tires.

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No Fixed Abode: Does It Really Take Privilege to Own a Cheap Car? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fixed-abode-really-take-privilege-cheap-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/no-fixed-abode-really-take-privilege-cheap-car/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104433 If so, how much? In February, Baruth asserted, “You Gotta be Rich to Own a Cheap Car” — which is a contradiction of my entire experience as a youthful vehicle owner. But the meat of the article adjusts “rich” to a definition of “privilege.” Furthermore, he breaks the idea into eight talking points. Adding that its not money that directly enables […]

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If so, how much? In February, Baruth asserted, “You Gotta be Rich to Own a Cheap Car” — which is a contradiction of my entire experience as a youthful vehicle owner. But the meat of the article adjusts “rich” to a definition of “privilege.” Furthermore, he breaks the idea into eight talking points. Adding that its not money that directly enables the ownership of a cheap car, a more flexible financial and employment situation combined with some acquired skills and knowledge makes ownership an easier task.

It was a thought-provoking piece and elicited 4 times the comments than the NY to LA Cross Country Record post (but the April 1st post generated almost 10 times the Facebook shares).

Now before you Baruthians get your collective undergarments in a wad, I asked Jack to use this title. He approved it, which may be the first instance of privilege I will speak to. The second is that I may have timed my request during a period I believed him to be well into a bottle of Tito’s. To center this discussion, let’s list the 8 points of privilege as they relate here:

  1. Not having a job where you will be fired for not clocking in on time.
  2. No children or an alternative reliable car to transport them.
  3. Friends or family with free time to aid a stranded motorist.
  4. Living in a decent neighborhood and driving in safe areas.
  5. Financially capable of getting whatever parts the car needs.
  6. Skills as a mechanic and ownership of tools.
  7. Time and the inclination to handle issues as they arise, or barring that;
  8. The ability to just let the car sit.

For the record, I agree with the assessment that it does take privilege to own a cheap car, but I lean more toward the Tavarish side of it in — knowing just a few things and having a little fluid funding laying around can get you a better vehicle than purchasing new. However, if you are employed at a job that maintains a zero tolerance policy of missing work due to automotive issues, do not take this advice.

Four months ago, I acquired a 2002 Mercedes 430 CLK. The same one pictured above. The price for the V-8-powered example of German engineering? $0. How can that be? Well to quote our man Jack; privilege!

IMG_6125

In 2001, my brother purchased this coupe new. It came complete with CD-based navigation, integrated phone and a 275 horsepower, 4.3L V-8. He was in real estate and life was good. The Mercedes was soon cast aside for a pair of Range Rovers, a Ferrari and a Bell Jet Ranger.

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When the market corrected in 2008, his partner was driving it. On the freeway, he encountered a solid object. It ripped the front clip, busted 2 headlights and cracked the rain-sensing windshield. In that economy there was no money to fix it, so the front bumper was duck-taped into place. There it remained while business recovered. The car was never fixed. The last time it was washed was when Michael Jackson was still alive. Now it had racked up 208,000 miles, needed tires, and there was enough pine needles under the hood to cover a flowerbed. The car was worthless. No one would pay for a 13-year-old German car with those miles. It was certain to break and the repairs would be an albatross around the neck of anyone foolish enough to own it.

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Enter…me.

I have a weak spot for old German cars and wondered how bad the car was. A trusted independent shop went through the old girl stem to stern. Seven-hundred and fifty dollars later, I had a new power steering reservoir, trans flush and rear brakes. While the partner had neglected the outside, it did see regular service and oil changes. The compression was good and none of the codes stored in the computer were repetitious or signaled impeding doom.

IMG_6124

It is worth mentioning that this is a violation of the 6th assessment of privilege. I am a competent parts replacer, but I am by no measure a skilled mechanic — so I paid for this work. But it is an affirmation of the 5th assessment. Not only did I have $750 without impact to my budget, I also had the cash needed for the bodywork, paint and tires.

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Which is where the Merc went next. I researched the replacement parts. Knockoffs could be had on EBay for under $500 shipped. Installation would have taken me a day and I could have cleaned the car. The windshield would be beyond most shade tree mechanics. Aside from the equipment required just for installation, the rain-sensing feature put it out of my limited mechanical ability. I have also never had the patience for automotive paint.

IMG_6129

So I had it all done to the tune of $3700. Add a staggered set of closeout Sumitomo tires from TireRack.com, installed for under $500. Now I have this $5000 Mercedes coupe. There is no argument that owning an old luxury car is a luxury in itself. Aside from the lack of mechanical skill display by Tavarish and his friends, I possess all 8 aspects privilege Jack mentioned in his original piece. Even more so, I don’t have to worry about 15 degree temps and I have outstanding roadside assistance through USAA.

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The question I am posing 890 or so words later: Is the privilege required to own a cheap car less expensive than the privilege of a BMW lease?

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Last month, my wife’s BMW X1 was totaled two years into a 36 month lease. The BMW cost me $9,061.08 but the insurance payoff gave us back $2,800. So, our total outlay for that car over 2 years was $6281.08. BMW included all maintenance with the lease, so we haven’t had to buy so much as a windshield wiper. The Mercedes has about $5,700 in it as it sits. Can it make it another 19 months without great expense? Will privilege win out, or should I have just replaced the BMW with another?

Time will tell — and then dear reader, I will tell you.

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Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, retired to Atlanta last year and thinks of Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski as a career goal. He is an idiot for driving a high-milage Mercedes when he also has a crappy, high-milage El Camino. Follow that and all his other shenaningans on InstagramTwitter and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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Mercedes Considering Introducing Convertible SUVs To Lineup http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/mercedes-considering-introducing-convertible-suvs-to-lineup/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/mercedes-considering-introducing-convertible-suvs-to-lineup/#comments Sun, 21 Jun 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1096577 Up until 2013, one could purchase a Mercedes G-Wagen with a droptop. Now, the automaker is thinking of dropping the tops throughout its SUV lineup. Mercedes sports cars and SUVs chief Wolf-Dieter Kurz says it may be possible to bring a convertible SUV to market once the market for them is found, CarAdvice.com.au writes. He […]

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mercedes-g500-convertible

Up until 2013, one could purchase a Mercedes G-Wagen with a droptop. Now, the automaker is thinking of dropping the tops throughout its SUV lineup.

Mercedes sports cars and SUVs chief Wolf-Dieter Kurz says it may be possible to bring a convertible SUV to market once the market for them is found, CarAdvice.com.au writes. He says the reason Mercedes stopped producing the G-Wagen Cabriolet after 34 years was due to a combination of volume and production reasons, adding such a vehicle exists in “a very slim niche in terms of the SUV portfolio.”

As for who might go for it, Kurz believes China would be a good start for a GLA or GLC convertible, though sales may be an uphill battle:

… China is not very good these days, or in total, in terms of convertibles, in terms of classical sedan-based coupes, in terms of roadsters. And it’s somewhat also the driving force in the meanwhile for the overall portfolio: can it be successful in China?

He adds there are “lots of discussions” and market research regarding convertible SUVs, but no decisions whether to press forward or not have been made thus far.

(Photo credit: Mercedes-Benz)

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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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Piston Slap: Panther Love Crashes a Monsoon Wedding? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-panther-love-crashes-monsoon-wedding/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066258   TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes: Hi Sajeev, Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar. Really expensive […]

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True Love = Panther Love (photo courtesy: detroitweddinglimo.com):

TTAC Commentator thirty-three writes:

Hi Sajeev,

Not sure if this fits into your usual line of questions, but I’m looking for suggestions on renting a car for my upcoming wedding. My problem is that here in Vancouver, BC, I can’t find anyone who rents premium vehicles like a Benz or a Jaguar.

Really expensive cars are available (e.g. Ferraris, Maseratis), but I just want a luxury sedan that will seat 5 comfortably. I only need it for one of the five days. Yes, it is an Indian wedding.

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Are you sure about that?

But here’s the real question: why can’t I be okay with renting a limo like every other wedding?

What makes your wedding so special?

Well for starters, it’s your wedding. And many Indian communities (especially in wealthy cities with large Indian populations) demand a big deal from their ceremonies. It’s an obligation to friends, family and the community. Special events, top drawer venues, open bars everywhere, international guests, 1000+ attendees for the reception, etc. So wanting a nice car, especially when making a show for family members that care about such things, isn’t really a big deal…right?

WRONG SON: I demand you rent a Lincoln Town Car limo.

How dare you consider true love sans riding in Panther Love?

Even more off-topic: I do not understand the cash sucking, humility negating one-upmanship present in many weddings, especially those of my people. I’m (admittedly) a horrible Indian when it comes to ceremonies, but I digress…your problem has two easy solutions:

  1. Buy a used “premium vehicle” and sell it in 2-3 months. That shows far more commitment to our ceremonies, too! Why, you could have one of those 2+ week ceremonies with the keys to a premium machine in your pocket!
  2. Embrace Panther Love and rent a Town Car Limo. Or an Escalade/Navigator limo if all else fails. Just don’t let me catch you in some abomination like an MKT: Vishnu (or whatever religion applies here) would like, totally, disapprove!

The perpetually single guy demands you rent a Limo, hopefully with white wheels. Off to you, Best and Brightest!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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QOTD: Do You Have To Be Showy To Sell Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053033 I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini. Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It […]

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Porsche-911-GT3-RS-07

I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini.

Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It had slightly different wheels, slightly updated bodywork, and a slightly enlarged wing. That was it. There was no other way you could possibly know you were dealing with a car that could run rings around any Ferrari on the race track.

Well, that isn’t the case anymore. The latest GT3 has huge wheels. Huge inlets and scoops and air intakes and cooling ducts. Major changes to the bodywork that say “Look at me! I’m a GT3!” And a giant rear wing that could – truly and honestly – double as a desk, or a park bench, or the kind of table you use to mount a circular saw and cut wood, plus the occasional finger.

The GT3 RS is even worse. Back when the 997.2 GT3 RS came out, it was already becoming clear that Porsche had diverted from its status as a formerly great purveyor of subtle sports cars. But in case you weren’t sure, they painted the wheels red, stuck an even larger wing on the back, and stuck red “checkered flag” decals down the sides. I can’t even imagine being seen in this car.

It’s not just the 911 that seems to be more ostentatious than ever before. The rest of the Porsche lineup has also embraced the changes: there are now giant wheels where there used to be average-sized ones. There are huge LED running lights on the front. The Panamera is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

But it isn’t just Porsche who’s making these changes. When I was growing up, base-model Mercedes products were really restrained. You had dull, simple wheels, and dull, simple designs, and some of them even had black plastic cladding on the bottom to remind everyone that no, this person didn’t opt for a high-performance version or the most expensive S-Class.

Well, that seems to have changed. In 2015, there is no possible way to distinguish AMG cars from non-AMG cars unless you get a look under the hood. I have especially noticed this on the CLA: I once drove the CLA45 AMG, and I thought it was amazing, so I always get very excited when I see a CLA45 on the roads. Except it’s almost never an actual CLA45. It’s usually just a CLA250, with a bigger bumper, and bigger wheels, and even factory AMG badging as part of some annoying “AMG Sport Package.”

Audi, too, is playing this game. Remember the B5 S4, the early-2000s model that offered only subtle updates — painted rocker panels and different wheels — over the standard model? Today’s Audi “S” and “RS” cars are far different. They’re subtle, but showy. They have huge grilles, and big wheels, and obvious body kits. They’re like the kid who raises his hand in class and casually mentions that his dad is a CEO.

This annoys me, because I’ve always enjoyed the automotive “sleeper.” I once had a Mercedes E63 AMG station wagon painted metallic gold that looked – to the vast majority of observers – like the kind of car your grandfather would buy once he got too old to climb up into SUVs. But to people who knew, it was a monster: 500 horsepower, giant V8, Ferrari-style acceleration. It was one of the most exciting cars I’ve ever driven, largely because no one had any idea what it was capable of.

But in today’s world, we’ve gone the other way. More and more modern cars are offering the look of a fast car without the actual goods to back it up. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And in today’s automotive world, is it really necessary to be showy in order to sell cars?

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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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Piston Slap: The One Strike Luxury Car Policy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-one-strike-luxury-car-policy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-one-strike-luxury-car-policy/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 12:57:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1047945 Sam writes: Hi Sajeev, My wife is interested in upgrading from her Subaru Legacy to a more luxurious make. Nothing crazy, we’re talking BMW 428 or Audi A5 range. Her requirements include automatic transmission and the usual ‘winter package': AWD, remote start, heated seats (and steering wheel, ideally), etc… She wants something mid-sized with a […]

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Take two… (photo courtesy: fakeposters.com)

Sam writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My wife is interested in upgrading from her Subaru Legacy to a more luxurious make. Nothing crazy, we’re talking BMW 428 or Audi A5 range. Her requirements include automatic transmission and the usual ‘winter package': AWD, remote start, heated seats (and steering wheel, ideally), etc… She wants something mid-sized with a comfortable ride. Enough punch to feel fast without needing to actually be fast.

Here’s the hitch: when it comes to car problems, she has a “one-strike and you’re out” policy, so reliability is a big concern. We’ve never had anything fancier than Chevies or Subarus, but have heard plenty of horror stories about BMW transmissions or Audi electrical gremlins or Volkswagen, well, everything.

What would you and the B&B recommend in the semi-luxury coupe range (sub $50K) that provides a modicum of Fahrvergnügen while providing the best chance of avoiding the dealership’s repair shop? Suggestions are appreciated!

Thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Your wife’s (impressive) “one strike” policy is in direct conflict with her wish for a more premium, luxurious make. But premium cars have good warranties with nice loaner cars for 4 years or 50k miles: plenty of time to reconsider the “one strike” policy!

At a macro level, I doubt any one German brand is much better than the other. Even a particular body style has variances: some power trains are trouble prone, DSG gearboxes need specialized attention at regular intervals, and in-car technology can be buggy and glitchy. Hell, do you remember the drubbing Consumer Reports gave Ford for MyFordTouch? Keep this in mind with any option you consider on any car.

Focus on the vehicle and its options. You both must test drive the ones you like, research the past history – via recalls and more importantly, model specific forum feedback – and see if you both are comfortable taking the plunge. In general, buying the most common platform (A4, 3-series, etc.) with the least unique parts will net you a more reliable, durable and cost-effective vehicle after the warranty expires.

I promise you that you’ll learn a ton about your future vehicle purchase by reading the forums for owner feedback.

Some within the Best and Brightest grimace at the usual stereotypes I (and others) spread to Germany’s latest iron, because HPFPs, Sensotronic Brake Control, etc. are the past. So let’s see what the B&B consider the ideal luxury performance whip for your situation!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-as-Good, and the Ugly: Part One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-one/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031993 Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have […]

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Thanks to our Question of the Day series, we’ve had a myriad of discussions here lately about manufacturers who have “lost their way” and whatnot as of late. My contention is that every large-scale manufacturer on the market today does things exceptionally well—the market is too competitive for them not to. Any OEM that doesn’t have a claim to at least one niche is doomed to failure (cue the BAILOUT discussions). However, each company also has some things that they do badly—and some have things at which they are complete failures.

In preparation for this week’s New York International Auto Show, let’s take a look at what each player in the market does very well, does moderately well, and, frankly, doesn’t do well at all. This first installment will focus on the smaller volume competitors.

In reverse order of market share thus far in 2015:

DAIMLER

The Good:

Mercedes continues to be the leader in the Luxury Flagship category. The S-Class is not only the consistent volume leader in its segment, it’s the benchmark for any luxobarge that wants to try to compete. The S-Class generally outsells the A8 and the 7-Series combined in any given month.

The E-Class is Daimler’s bread-and-butter car. A friend of mine had been lusting after an M5 for literally years, but when he had finally completed his residency and was ready to buy one, he decided to go in a different direction. “The E63 AMG was just better,” he told me (I’m still bugging him to do a Reader Ride Review). And while the performance version of the E-Class has become an absolute beast, the regular old E350 is still the “I’ve made it” car in most office parks around flyover country. It, too, outsells the competition by a 2:1 ratio most months.

The Not-as-Good:

Merc has never seemed to be able to get the whole SUV thing down. My pops had an ML class up until about a year ago when it was stolen from his gym’s parking lot. He was actually pretty relieved—he replaced it with a Grand Cherokee and has been much happier ever since. For whatever reason, the GL and the M just don’t have the panache of the X3 and X5. Mercedes’ SUV/CUV offerings aren’t bad, but they shout “stay-at-home Mom” much more than the offerings from the other Germans do. Since personal anecdotes are clearly the most important thing when ranking vehicles, I’ll just point that a colleague of mine nearly jumped out of his shoes to tell me that the GL he was driving the other day was his wife’s car, not his.

How do you solve a problem like the C-Class? No matter what Daimler does with it, it continuously lives in the shadow of the 3-Series. Back when I was doing a little entry-level German performance sedan shopping a few years back, I cross-shopped the C 300, the 335i, and the A4/S4. My friend who was tagging along made the following comment: “Everything about the C-Class just feels…old.” While there’s plenty to like about the C-Class, there just doesn’t seem to be any reason to pick it over the competition unless you’re a Mercedes brand junkie.

The Ugly:

The CLA. The CLA. God, the CLA. Have you ever seen another car that screams, “Hi, I’m an idiot!” on the road like the CLA 250 does? The BMW 320i and the Audi A3 can be defended as choices—particularly the A3. The CLA is a perfect car for a Delta Delta Delta whose daddy is footing the lease bill. For everybody else, it’s a wretched choice. And if you’re going to come back at me with “What about the CLA45?” then I can only assume you’ve never heard of something we in America like to call the MUSTANG GT.

MAZDA

The Good:

MX-5. It’s an icon, and I don’t think that I really need to expand much on one of the three most popular cars at TTAC. No matter what they’ve done with the newest generation, it’s guaranteed to be good.

The CX-5 is the only car that you can recommend to virtually anybody and be assured that they’ll like it. Younger people like the sportiness. Families like the versatility. Older people like the size and the ride height. Everybody likes the price. It’s the best car vehicle in its segment. Doesn’t sell like it, though.

The Mazda6 wins every comparison test it enters. Seriously. It’s the undisputed champion of the mid-sized sedan segment. It’s the best-looking, the best-driving, and the only car in CamCordima land that lets people know that you actually cared about your vehicle choice. Yet nobody, and I mean, nobody actually buys it. Every other vehicle in the segment outsells it by at least 5:1.

The Not-as-Good:

Somebody get our Managing Editor some Tums for this one, because I’m gonna have to put the Mazda3 here. Is it a very good car? Absolutely. Does it deserve to be priced the way it is? Absolutely not. While the 3’s base price is competitive, once options start being added, it gets very expensive, very quickly. For example, to move up from 155 HP to the 184 HP 2.5 liter engine with an automatic transmission, you’re looking at an MSRP of $27,415. That’s kinda insane. It’s hard to find a trim level of the 3 where the Focus, Elantra, Cruze, or Civic don’t make a little more sense. If it’s driving dynamics you’re after, I can see why you’d go for the base manual transmission car, though. Cut the price by a grand on each trim (and real-world pricing is close to that), and it goes back up to the “good” category. [No disagreement here. In Canada, it is priced much more aggressively than in the United States. My car is equivalent to a 2.oi Touring, which goes for $21k USD. I paid the equivalent of $16k USD.-DK]

The Ugly:

Mazda does everything well, save one thing: marketing. They have the worst dealer network in America—many of them are leftovers from the Ford partnership, and you can guess how many Ford stores focus on selling Mazdas nowadays. Their advertising strategy can be flat out baffling. I got my Mazda CX-7 back in 2008 because they advertised a $199 a month with zero down 36 month lease. I have no idea what a CX-5 leases for today, and neither does anybody else because Mazda never advertises it. I’m not sure how Mia Hamm or Penn and Teller help Mazda sell cars, but by the tumbleweed blowing through Mazda dealerships lately, I don’t think anybody else knows, either.

VOLKSWAGEN AUTO GROUP

I’m going to differentiate between Vee Dub, Porsche, and Audi here.

VOLKSWAGEN

The Good:

The GTI is pure wizardry. It’s like VW took all of its R&D budget and just decided, “Screw it—let’s make at least ONE good car.” The new GTI is Volkswagen at its purest—a small (for today’s standards), affordable (again, for today’s standards) car that at least makes one question whether or not the Fiesta ST is the best smiles-per-dollar value. It’s good that the GTI is so good, because…

The Not-as-Good:

Not only do I not have anything else to put in the “Good” category, I don’t have anything for the “Not-as-Good” category either. I could probably put the Golf R somewhere in this category, but I haven’t driven one, so I can’t say. I also suspect it will be rendered moot by the arrival of the Focus RS in the States.

The Ugly:

Volkswagen has made some truly bizarre decisions regarding its lineup for the US market. I don’t even consider any of the VWs in the rental aisle, anymore. The Passat, Jetta, and Golf are so far behind their competition that I honestly don’t know how VW stores are keeping the lights on. Why is it that the interior quality is so good in the GTI and so abysmal in the Jetta? I had a 1994 MK III Jetta once—I believe it might have been the first one sold in Ohio in 1993. It wasn’t a fast car. It had roll-up windows. It had wheel covers. But at least it had character. Volkswagen has managed to do the impossible—along with all of the other decontenting, it has removed all of the fun and personality from its cars.

AUDI

The Good:

Audi seems to be doing the “entry-level luxury” thing better than anybody else. The A3, while it shares the MQB platform with the rather drab Golf, shines in comparison with the 320i and the CLA 250, perhaps because it seems truer to the Audi brand than either of its main competitors do to their own. If I were in the market for such a vehicle, there’s no doubt that the A3 would be the pick.

Along those same lines, the S3 are RS7 are both compelling choices in their respective categories. In fact, if I could buy any car on sale in America right now, I would likely choose the RS7 ( I even made it the star of a short story once).

The Not-as-Good

The Audi Q line has always struck me as a bit…odd. I get the feeling that the folks at Audi know that they need a CUV/SUV line for America, but that their hearts just aren’t in it. I like the vehicle, overall. They drive well, they’re well assembled—I even knew a guy once who used a Q5 to tow his S2000 to autocrosses. I’m just not sure who the audience is for these things.

The Bad

The A4 isn’t what it once was—well, actually, that’s not true. It’s exactly what it once was. The A4 seems like it’s stuck in a time warp, riding on a platform that is going on seven years old. The only reason to choose the A4 over a 328i or C300 is price, and I think Audi knows it.

PORSCHE

The Good:

I haven’t driven a Porsche in aggression since about 2008 (except for when I drove David Walton’s GT3 for about five miles and missed third gear every. single. time.), so I might be a bit out of date here. That being said, I have heard nothing about the Cayman GT4 that doesn’t make it seem like it’s the second coming. So that’s good.

I trust the guys at R&T when they say that the 991 is the best new Performance Car for 2015, too.

The Not-as-Good:

The Cayenne is probably the vehicle most responsible for the shark-jumping of the luxury SUV craze. Once Porsche did it over a decade ago, it no longer seemed (quite as) strange for manufacturers like Lamborghini, Bentley, and others to make a crossover. It’s still Porsche’s best selling model, even if it doesn’t seem as ubiquitous as it once did—certainly it has lost some sales to its own internal competition, which leads me to…

The Ugly:

The Macan is just a straight-up cash grab by a manufacturer whose nameplate used to actually mean something. I find it hard to believe that Porsche is willing to sully its once-proud name for 600 units a month of Macan sales, but apparently, they are.

But even the Macan makes the Panamera look bad. Panameras are really only sold in three parts of the country—LA, NYC, and Atlanta (to Porsche executives). With the exception of a mild facelift in 2013, the Panamera has been essentially the same since launch, making it look old and tired in comparison to cars like the RS7, the BMW M6 Gran Coupe, or the CLS63 AMG. And in order to get a Panamera that will compete with those cars on the track, you’ll need to step up to the Panamera Turbo, which means you’ll have spent enough money to buy almost two RS7s.

 

See? It’s not that easy to simply exclude a manufacturer. It will get even harder in the coming days, as we move into some higher-volume automakers. Next up: A trio of Japanese companies (Nissan, Honda, and Subaru) as well as the Korean conglomerate of Hyundai/Kia.

 

 

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1973-mercedes-benz-280c-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1973-mercedes-benz-280c-2/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023561 There’s a lot of talk going around about how every restorable example of the Mercedes-Benz W114 coupe is worth plenty these days. Five grand? Ten grand? The junkyard tells me that the real-world prices for these cars in non-perfect condition is still quite low, because I see them regularly. Here’s a solid, fairly complete ’73 […]

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15 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s a lot of talk going around about how every restorable example of the Mercedes-Benz W114 coupe is worth plenty these days. Five grand? Ten grand? The junkyard tells me that the real-world prices for these cars in non-perfect condition is still quite low, because I see them regularly. Here’s a solid, fairly complete ’73 without a speck of rust that I saw in a Northern California junkyard a few weeks ago, and this car comes on the heels of this ’71 250C, this ’73 280CE, this ’74 280C, and a bunch of W114 sedans that I haven’t even bothered to photograph. I’m sure that the cost to restore one of these things is just breathtaking, which is why those in the know rarely take on such projects.
12 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIn their time, these cars made just about every conceivable competitor look like a shoddily-built, frivolous rattletrap, built for idiots who didn’t understand the value of a Deutsche Mark.
04 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow’s this for dignified air-conditioning controls?
10 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car listed at $11,530 new, which was about 61 grand in 2015 bucks. Meanwhile, the much bigger, cushier, more powerful 1973 Lincoln Mark IV cost just $8,694 (just for fun, how about a brand-new Citroën SM— about the least sensible car you could buy in 1973, yet also the most beautiful— for $13,350?), while the Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado— with five hundred cubic inches under the hood, no less— could be purchased for $7,360.

01 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 280C Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Mercedes-Benz CLA And Audi A3 Are Selling At An Identical Pace In The U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/mercedes-benz-cla-audi-a3-selling-identical-pace-u-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/mercedes-benz-cla-audi-a3-selling-identical-pace-u-s/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 13:30:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988234 The Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and Audi A3 attained almost identical levels of popularity in the United States in 2014. True, Mercedes-Benz sold 27,365 CLAs over the last twelve months; Audi sold only 22,250 A3s during that period. That’s 23% more CLA sales than A3 sales. • GLA arrival didn’t slow down CLA • A3 and CLA […]

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A3 vs CLA sales chartThe Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class and Audi A3 attained almost identical levels of popularity in the United States in 2014.

True, Mercedes-Benz sold 27,365 CLAs over the last twelve months; Audi sold only 22,250 A3s during that period. That’s 23% more CLA sales than A3 sales.


• GLA arrival didn’t slow down CLA

• A3 and CLA increasingly popular, but not yet top sellers


But you’ll remember that the CLA arrived at the end of 2013’s third-quarter. The A3 sedan, a replacement for the A3 hatch which never sold as often as this new car, began trickling into dealers in February of this year but wasn’t readily available until April.

Over the final three-quarters of 2014, Audi USA reported 21,387 A3 sales, 151 more than the figure achieved by the CLA over the same period.

CLA250With great frequency, the vehicles marketed by rival German luxury brands aren’t necessarily direct competitors. The CLS, for instance, is a $66,000 sedan with no diesel option; Audi’s A7 is a $66,000 hatchback with diesel availability. S-Class pricing starts 28% beyond the BMW 7-Series’ base MSRP. The E-Class Benz is available as a wagon; BMW’s 5-Series is sadly offered as a ghastly hatchback instead.

The members of this entry-level duo, however, could hardly target the other with greater precision. They are closely aligned in terms of pricing, are available with turbocharged four-cylinders, and send power to the front or all four wheels.The fact that they sell at the exact same pace speaks volumes about the differing tastes of consumers who are looking for the same type of car. 50.184% of the clientele goes Audi’s conservatively-designed direction; 49.82% head to the Mercedes-Benz showroom for swoopier styling.

Mercedes-Benz made greater headway at the end of 2014. Q4 sales, at 9158 units, accounted for one-third of the CLA’s year-end total. Granted, year-over-year volume in the fourth-quarter plummeted 22% compared with the same period one year earlier when the CLA was the freshest produce on the shelves. But fourth-quarter volume rose to the highest level of the year, as if to clarify that the arrival of the GLA crossover/hatch was not going to have an impact on the CLA’s success. The GLA went on sale in September. Q4 volume for that vehicle totalled 5893 units.

At Audi, the fourth-quarter also represented the best period yet for the A3, though at 7581 units, the Audi was well back of the Benz. Audi’s GLA-fighting Q3 went on sale in August. 1092 were sold in September but monthly volume in the fourth-quarter predictably fell from that high. 2319 Q3s were sold between October and December.

2015 Audi A3 sedanAs for other potential competitors, the more performance-oriented BMW 2-Series (including leftover copies of the 1-Series) earned the business of 7345 U.S. customers in 2014, the second-lowest year ever for the 1-Series/2-Series family. More than 13,000 1-Series’ were sold in 2010. Buick Verano volume slid 4% to 43,743 units. Acura ILX sales dropped 13% to 17,854.

Top-tier luxury nameplates are both more expensive and significantly more common. BMW’s wide-ranging 3-Series/4-Series family generated a 19% increase to 142,232 sales in 2014. Mercedes-Benz sold more than 75,000 C-Classes and more than 66,000 E-Classes in a down year. The Lexus ES, BMW 5-Series, Lexus IS, Audi A4, Infiniti Q50, Lincoln MKZ, Cadillac CTS, and Cadillac ATS each produced more U.S. sales in 2014 than either the CLA and A3, as well.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Cain’s Segments: Compact Luxury Crossovers In October 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cains-segments-compact-luxury-crossovers-october-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cains-segments-compact-luxury-crossovers-october-2014/#comments Sun, 16 Nov 2014 13:47:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=944937 In the span of two months, the BMW X1 went from possessing no true direct German competition to finding challengers on two fronts. That’s not to say the X1 was never a viable, though slightly smaller, challenger to the rivals of BMW’s own X3. But the X1 was sitting on the bottom rung of the […]

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mercedes-benz-gla-2In the span of two months, the BMW X1 went from possessing no true direct German competition to finding challengers on two fronts.

That’s not to say the X1 was never a viable, though slightly smaller, challenger to the rivals of BMW’s own X3. But the X1 was sitting on the bottom rung of the ladder, and it’s no longer resting their on its own.

Audi USA sold 243 Q3s during the month it which it first went on sale in the United States, August 2014. Another 1092 were sold in August. October results, visible in the accompanying table, position the Q3 at the bottom of the three-car category.

(Want to add the Buick Encore into the mix? It sells far more often than any of these cars – 4780 copies in October; 41,213 year-to-date – but it’s 26% cheaper than the Q3 in base form, 22% less costly than the X1, and 26% less expensive than our final subject, the Mercedes-Benz GLA.) Sales of the Q3’s big brother, the Q5, were up 6% to 3571 units in October. 2014 appears set to be the Q5’s fifth consecutive year of annual U.S. sales growth.

Auto
October 2014
October 2013
% Change
10 mos. 2014
10 mos. 2013
% Change
Audi Q3
683 2,018
BMW X1
 2,073 3,059 -32.2% 17,801 21,407 -16.8%
Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
2007 2,998
Total
 4,763
3,059  55.7%  22,817  21,407  6.6%

The BMW X1 reached a sales peak of more than 4300 units in March of this year but has averaged fewer than 1800 monthly sales, down from more than 2200 last year. The X1 is part of a five-pronged SAV lineup at BMW that’s enjoyed a 6.5% sales increase in 2014 despite significant declines from the X1 and X6. X3 sales are up 26% to 28,808 this year. X5 sales have risen 9% to lead the range with 36,376 sales. As you can see, X1 volume fell by nearly 1000 units in October, but the Q3 and GLA did much more than make up for those losses.

The GLA, a Mercedes-Benz CLA-related tall hatchback that you can call an SUV or a crossover or a CUV if you like, is also part of a five-member SUV/crossover lineup. The GLA, along with the more costly and larger G, GL, GLK, and M-Class, generated 39% of the Mercedes-Benz brand’s non-Sprinter sales in October. The GLA’s presence may have had an impact on the GLK’s total in October, the GLA’s second month, but if so, it was only the slightest of impacts. (Mercedes-Benz reported 991 U.S. GLA sales in September.) GLK volume slid 4%, a loss of just 107 units, after rising 21% during the first three-quarters of 2014. But GLK inventory of late hasn’t been as strong as it was earlier in the year, and the GLA therefore may have had little to do with the decline.

The lesson? If “luxury” automakers are going to sell more new vehicles, they’ll do so with less costly vehicles. And if they’re going to sell more of these less costly vehicles, the easiest way to do so will be to turn those vehicles into high riders, or at least vehicles with the appearance of increased ride heights. They’re not huge sellers – yet – but nearly one out of every 20 Audis soldnin October was a Q3. BMW has relied on the X1 for 7% of the brand’s U.S. volume this year. Likewise, 7% of the vehicles sold in Mercedes-Benz showrooms last month were GLAs.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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