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, 05 Jul 2015 18:22:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » mercedes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 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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Piston Slap: Get Ready to Lose Much More! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-get-ready-to-lose-much-more-c-class/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:33:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943113   TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes: Sajeev, I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm. Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The […]

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Know what that triangle is for? (photo courtesy: www.drive.net)

TTAC Commentator LordMurdoc writes:

Sajeev,

I’m finally ready to lose my BORING 2002 Geo Prizm.

Checking eBay for older Lexus LS or a Mercedes C-class(about 2004-2006) . If I went with the Merc with the gasoline V6, what type of Gremlins might I expect to attack me when my wallet is most vulnerable? The Prizm is turning my brain to mush and my right foot is in despair!

Thanks for your excellent advice.

Sajeev answers:

That’s a good question, insofar that I’m answering the question I heard you to ask…not your actual question.

“Why yes, the 2003+ Lincoln Town Car with an SCT tune, a cop car air box/rear sway bar, late model Mustang GT mufflers and a quicker axle ratio is PERFECT for you!  Considering otherwise is foolish, and thank goodness you are no such fool.”

But somewhat more seriously, these questions are fun: the OP knows he’s about to do something stupid.

Like buying a neglected Lexus LS with an explodey timing belt. Or the litany of little things to drive you nuts on most W203 C-class Benzes. Or big things, like certain V6s with balance shaft issues. But, on the plus side, the C240 looks more robust, perhaps even having less body mounted electric gizmos to fail as it’s a lower level model. Maybe even with super durable MB-Tex coverings!

I’d go with the C240, for the stout motor.  The rest of it? 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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Mercedes Will Expand Alabama Factory With ML-Coupe Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mercedes-will-expand-alabama-factory-with-ml-coupe-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/mercedes-will-expand-alabama-factory-with-ml-coupe-production/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=847849 Good news for the people of Alabama: Mercedes-Benz is hiring. Bad news for car enthusiast. This abomination is going into production. Mercedes will expand capacity at their Alabama plant, from about 185,000 cars, to an undisclosed level. Automotive News Europe reports that BMW is expanding American production to 450,000 units, though there’s no indication if […]

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450x298xmercedes-concept-coupe-suv_web-450x298.jpg.pagespeed.ic.MiR3pxGn9V

Good news for the people of Alabama: Mercedes-Benz is hiring. Bad news for car enthusiast. This abomination is going into production.

Mercedes will expand capacity at their Alabama plant, from about 185,000 cars, to an undisclosed level. Automotive News Europe reports that BMW is expanding American production to 450,000 units, though there’s no indication if Mercedes-Benz will follow suit, though the expansion will apparently be a “significant number” above current levels. With the addition of the C-Class and the new ML Coupe (shown in concept form above), Mercedes will likely expand in a big way, since these models offer the potential for big volume and big profit. Mercedes once built the R-Class in Alabama, but the new models should have no trouble absorbing that capacity.

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Piston Slap: The I’s Have it? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-the-is-have-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-the-is-have-it/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 12:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832618 TTAC Commentator bpscarguy writes: I need some advice – I am struggling with a decision on what to do with our daily driver. It’s a 2002 Infiniti I35. 140,000 largely trouble-free, easy, no fuss miles. It does everything we want, has some creature comforts, is in very good, clean condition. The problem is, last month […]

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TTAC Commentator bpscarguy writes:

I need some advice – I am struggling with a decision on what to do with our daily driver. It’s a 2002 Infiniti I35. 140,000 largely trouble-free, easy, no fuss miles. It does everything we want, has some creature comforts, is in very good, clean condition.

The problem is, last month I put on new front brakes to the tune of $245.00. At that time my mechanic told me of some looming items that will likely need addressing in the next month:

  • Leaking head gasket – $535.00
  • Front axle boots – $385.00
  • Front wheel bearing – $620.00 ( I did the other one last year)

This car has been the most trouble-free I have owned, but I also understand that it is getting on in age and will likely start needing more and more attention. I am very tempted to sell it and get something newer (not new) with less miles on it. Likely another Infiniti or possibly an A4 or older E class Mercedes.

Or should I repair it and just chalk this up to bad timing that all of this is happening at once, and therefore making it seem worse than it is?

Thoughts? Many thanks!

Sajeev answers:

Isn’t it funny how one decision can cause a chain reaction? Or-if you choose wisely-not?

Here’s the deal: if you buy a used A4 or E-class (lacking a handy CPO warranty) you’ll regret not dumping a pile of cash on I35 reconditioning.  The I is certainly an older car needing constant frequent attention, but it’s not a money/time sucking Pit of Disappointment. With those nasty German parts costs and labor rates, that perhaps you aren’t considering.

Perhaps one day we can say a 4-10 year old vehicle from this part of the world is a fair proposition for people living in the USA: perhaps time will tell.

A newer Infiniti is the smarter choice: it keeps you in the premium luxo-sedan game and is less likely to punish your wallet than the German alternatives. But newer Infinitis lack the I35’s inbreeding advantages with the Nissan Maxima. With that in mind, dare I suggest a Camry-bred Lexus ES?

Generalizations are all fine and dandyit’s at the core of the Internet in general and Piston Slap in particularbut what does it boil down to?

It’s about your time value of money.

Is the I35 gonna leave you stranded more often than a newer car?  Likely. Will it be cheaper to fix those unexpected surprises and the normal wear items? Most definitely.  So will you miss the I35 if it goes bye-bye?

If you replace it with an out-of-warranty Benz/Audi, I can almost guarantee it.

 

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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Junkyard Find: 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450SLC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1977-mercedes-benz-450slc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1977-mercedes-benz-450slc/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817017 The value of a Mercedes-Benz R107/C107 goes down to a hair’s-breadth over scrap price once it becomes non-perfect, and so it’s no surprise that these things have been quite common in American self-serve wrecking yards for the last couple of decades. We’ve seen this ’80 450SL, this ’74 450SL, and this ’78 450SLC so far […]

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10 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe value of a Mercedes-Benz R107/C107 goes down to a hair’s-breadth over scrap price once it becomes non-perfect, and so it’s no surprise that these things have been quite common in American self-serve wrecking yards for the last couple of decades. We’ve seen this ’80 450SL, this ’74 450SL, and this ’78 450SLC so far in this series, and here’s a ’77 450SLC that I spotted in the San Francisco Bay Area last year. Such luxury, such status! It almost makes me want to pick up a cheap SLC for myself.
01 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf you were a fairly successful cocaine dealer in Los Angeles, circa 1977, this was the car made for you. About the only competition was the new BMW E24.
05 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car racked up a mere 182,138 miles during its 36 years on the street. The body is completely rust-free and the interior probably wasn’t bad before junkyard customers started prying parts off it.
06 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNobody ever buys these OHC V8s at junkyards. Poor unloved old Mercedes.

01 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1977 Mercedes-Benz 450 SLC Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: Fear No Polar Vortex! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-fear-no-polar-vortex/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/piston-slap-fear-no-polar-vortex/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 11:47:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=785057 Joel writes: My family is a Volvo family. Volvos are from Sweden and they take winter very seriously. There are a number of ‘winter’ climate options that were, at least at one time, available on Volvo’s cars. For instance: Parking Heater Sometimes known as a ‘Fuel Driven Heater’ or after one of the popular brands […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Joel writes:

My family is a Volvo family. Volvos are from Sweden and they take winter very seriously. There are a number of ‘winter’ climate options that were, at least at one time, available on Volvo’s cars. For instance:

  • Parking Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Fuel Driven Heater’ or after one of the popular brands Webasto, Espar, Eberspacher.
    This is essentially a tiny gasoline or diesel (from the car’s fuel tank) furnace, mounted under the hood, that is plumbed into the car’s cooling system and hooked up to the climate controls. You start the heater remotely, and it heats the coolant and pumps it through the system, heating the engine and supplying heat to the cabin heat exchanger. Some can even use the car’s climate systems to turn on the blower fan and fully heat the cabin.
  • Pause Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Residual Heater’ or “Rest Heater’ on BMWs. This is an electric coolant pump, plumbed in with the cabin heat exchanger. When you turn the car off there is a lot of heat stored in the coolant, but only a tiny amount of it is left in the cabin heat exchanger. You press the ‘Rest’ button and the electric pump moves the coolant around so you can run the cabin heater for about 10 minutes after the engine is turned off.
  • Electric Cabin Heater
    This is an electric space heater that you place inside the cabin. Of course it’s got over-temp and tip-over systems so it won’t catch anything on fire.

Are any of these options available on ANY car sold in North America now?

Sajeev answers:

Questions like these remind me why I am so fond of the comments from the Best and Brightest in this series.  Because my knowledge of this topic is weaker than most, and PR folks aren’t lining up fancy new press cars in my driveway. But I got a plan, son. I got me some Google and we got the Best and Brightest, baby!

So anyway:

  1. Parking Heater: Well, Volvo’s still got it! But it’s a dealer installed accessory, if that matters.
  2. Webasto still makes one, fitting many a VAG product in Europe. I’d be shocked if manufacturers in North America follow suit, even if the concept’s proven itself in American RVs and 18-wheelers. No matter, Webasto’s own video implies it’s somewhat universal:

    Click here to view the embedded video.

  3. Pause Heater:  The BMW Rest system is/was a neat hallmark of the brand, but there’s conflicting info on the ‘net about whether it still exists in this age of i-Drive, start-stop equipped BMWs.  Perhaps a trip to your local dealership to question the i-Drive skills of a sales expert is in order!
  4. Electric Cabin Heater:  These are standard fare in every Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, as they have no internal combustion to feed you hot air!  Cuz hot air is the job of their greenwashing-marketing departments! I kid, I kid!
  5. Even the darling of the Hybrid world, the Toyota Prius has an electric heater. It’s entirely possible that super-uber luxury cars use this electric helper and a conventional heater core from the cooling system.  But, but, BUT…many cars sport seat heaters, steering wheel heaters and (drum roll please) the new S-class has armrest heaters!

Considering the electrical load of trying to heat an entire cabin, don’t be surprised if heating your ass, your back, your hands and your elbows does the same thing but far more efficiently.  Get into those warm items and soon enough the conventional heater will have your back. And everything else. Literally.

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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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the […]

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2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

Exterior

2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

DG014_043DU

Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

DG014_030DU

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-014 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-013 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-009 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-004 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-003 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-001 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-006 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-007 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-008 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-012 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-011 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-010 DG014_058DU DG014_057DU DG014_051DU DG014_043DU DG014_030DU

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Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686066 It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not […]

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2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001

It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not everything was rosy. The original CTS drove like a BMW but lacked charm and luxury fittings. The XLR was based on a Corvette, which made for excellent road manners, but the Northstar engine didn’t have the oomph. The STS sounded like a good idea, but the half-step CTS wasn’t much smaller and ultimately shoppers weren’t interested in a bargain option. That brings us to the new ATS and CTS. Ditching the “more car for less money” mantra, the ATS has been created to fight the C/3/IS leaving the CTS free to battle the E/5/GS head-on. Can Caddy’s sensible new strategy deliver the one-two punch fans have hoped for? I snagged a CTS 2.0T for a week to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I found the outgoing CTS a little discordant, but 2014 brings an elegant more aggressive refresh. GM’s Art and Science theme has matured from “cubism gone wrong” to shapes that flow and jibe with a larger grille and softer creases. The 5-Series continues to go for elegant and restrained, I find the XF and A6’s design a mixture of plain-Jane and snazzy headlamps while the Infiniti Q5o and Lexus GS are going for flowing elegance.

The demur side profile continues with a simple character line to draw your eye from front to rear. One thing you’ll notice during that eye-movement is the distinct RWD proportions that separate the CTS, E, 5, GS, XF and Q50 from the long-nosed Audi A6 and near-luxury FWD options. Out back the CTS’ rump is a bit less exciting but employs all the latest luxury cues from hidden exhaust tops to light piped tail lamps. I was hoping Caddy’s fins would be further resurrected,  but the “proto fins” on the XTS are absent. Pity. Obvious from every angle is an attention to build quality absent from earlier generations with perfect panel gaps and seams.

Structurally, the CTS has jumped ship to a stretched version of the Alpha platform the smaller ATS rides on. Thanks to the automotive taffy-pull, the CTS is now 2.3 inches longer than a BMW 5-series. However, because of the Alpha roots, the CTS has actually shrunk for 2014 by 3 inches in length while getting 2 inches wider and a 2 inch roof height reduction.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006

Interior

GM has proven they are able to create a car that drives competitively and looks sexy on the outside, but interiors have always been a mixed bag. The last gen CTS felt as if it was built with a mixture of custom parts and Chevy hand-me downs. No more. Like the ATS, the Caddy shares little with the rest of GM’s mass market-rabble. It is hard to find fault in the CTS’s dashboard’s combination of injection molded soft touch plastics, leather, faux suede, real wood, carbon fiber and contrasting stitching. Cadillac continues their dedication to shiny touch buttons on the dash and no luxury sedan would be complete without a little gimmicky drama. The CTS’s motorized cupholder lid ties with the XF’s automated air vents for the feature most clearly designed to brag about. I’m not sure how long that little motor will crank away, but it can’t be any less reliable than Jaguar’s theatrical air vents.

Because of the way Cadillac chose to stretch the CTS’ donor platform, cargo and interior space aren’t the primary beneficiaries. This means that rear legroom actually shrinks for 2014 to the smallest entry in this segment by a hair. Trunk volume also drops from a competitive 13.6 cubes to 10.5 which is a 20% reduction compared to the Lexus and BMW and 30% smaller than the Mercedes. The CTS makes up for some of this with comfortable thrones all the way around and when equipped with the optional 20-way front seats the CTS ranks #2 in the segment just behind BMW’s optional 24-way sport seats in comfort. Taller drivers and passengers beware, dropping the CTS’ roof height made the profile sexier but cuts headroom to the lowest in the segment.

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

There is one glaring flaw. The decidedly dowdy base instrument cluster is shared with the ATS (pictured above) and the XTS. Our Facebook followers were so put-off by Caddy’s base dials, the fervor spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. While the ATS is saddled with the four-dial layout, the CTS and XTS have a savior: the most attractive LCD disco dash available. (My tester was so equipped.) Perhaps it is this dichotomy that is so vexing about the base CTS models. If you don’t fork over enough cash, you’ll constantly be reminded that you couldn’t afford the Cadillac of displays.

The 12.3-inch cluster offers the driver more customization than you fill find in any other full-LCD cluster. Unlike the Jaguar and Land Rover screens that simply replicate analogue gauges, you can select from several different views depending on whether you feel like analogue dials or digital information and the amount of information overload you prefer. (Check out the gallery.) My preferred layout contained a high res navigation map, digital speedo, fuel status, range to empty, average fuel economy, audio system information with album art and track information and the speed-limit on the road I was traveling on.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001

Infotainment

I have been critical of Cadillac’s CUE system but 2014 brings some important software fixes resolving the random system crashes and demon possessed touch controls I experienced in the ATS and XTS. After driving the CTS for 852 miles, the CUE system proved rock solid in terms of reliability. Unfortunately, little has been done to address the sluggish response to inputs, unintuitive menus and old-school nav graphics. Despite the still flaws, I have to stick by my words when MyFord Touch landed: I’d rather have slow infotainment than none at all. BMW’s iDrive still ranks 1st for me because the interface is intuitive, attractive, responsive and elegant. BMW continues to add new features to their system and, unlike other systems, the new features in general operate as smoothly as the rest of the iDrive interface. You may be surprised to know that CUE ranks second for me.

CUE’s graphics are more pleasing to my eye than MMI, COMAND, Sensus, MyLincon Touch, Enform or AcuraLink. COMAND’s software should have been sent out to pasture long ago. The graphics are ancient and trying to load any of the smartphone apps is an exercise in frustration. Instead of reinventing their software, Lexus reinvented the input method taking their system from most intuitive to least in a single move. Senus isn’t half bad but Volvo’s screens are small and the software lacks the smartphone integration found in the competition. MyLincoln Touch is well featured but lacks CUE’s more modern look and the glass touchscreen.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

The scratch resistant glass touchscreen and proximity sensors used by Cadillac are part of what give the system a clean modern look. Most systems use resistive touchscreens which are pressure sensitive and require that the surface of the screen actually move to sense your touch. This means they need to be made of a ductile plastic which is several layers thick. The consumer comparison is to think of your iPhone or Android phone vs a color Palm Pilot from years past. Cadillac uses the screen to allow intuitive finger-sliding gestures and the proximity sensor to reduce visual clutter when your finger is away from the screen. Move you hand closet to the screen and the less critical interface buttons reappear.

Cadillac continues their relationship with Bose, giving the base model an 11-speaker sound system that brings everything but navigation to the party. Our model was equipped with the up-level 13-speaker Bose sound system, navigation software and the optional single-slot CD player hiding in the glove box. Compared with BMW’s premium audio offerings, the Bose systems sing slightly flatter and lack the volume capable in the German options. However compared to Lexus’ standard and optional systems the Cadillac holds its own.

Ecotec 2.0L I-4 VVT DI Turbo (LTG)

Drivetrain

Thanks to the new GM Alpha platform, all three engines sit behind the front axle which is ideal for weight balance. Base shoppers get the 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder worth 272 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, besting BMW’s 2.0L by 32 HP and 35 lb-ft. On “Luxury” trim and above you can opt for GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L V6 (321HP/275 lb-ft) for $2,700, but I’d probably stick to the 2.0L turbo if I were you. Aside from being lighter, the turbo delivers more torque at lower RPMs and has a more advantageous power delivery which make it a hair faster to 60.

Shoppers looking for more shove and willing to part with $59,995 can opt for a 420 horsepower twin-turbo V6 in the CTS V-Sport that cranks out 430 lb-ft. Despite sharing thee 3.6L displacement of the middle engine, GM tells us that only 10% of the engine components are shared. Sending power to the pavement in the 2.0T and 3.6 models is essentially the same GM 6-speed automatic transmission BMW used to use in certain models of the 3-series until recently. Optional in the 3.6L and standard on the twin-turbo V6 is an Aisin 8-speed automatic that is essentially shared with the Lexus LS.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014

Drive

Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll notice out on the road is the coarse sound from under the hood. GM’s 2.0L engine is no less refined than BMW or Mercedes’ four-bangers, but the difference is you can hear the engine in the CTS. In fact, based on the overall quietness of the cabin (a competitive 67 dB at 50 MPH), I can only conclude that Cadillac designed the engine to be heard. I don’t mind hearing the 3.6L V6, but most luxury shoppers would prefer not to be reminded they chose the rational engine every time they get on the freeway. On the bright side, because GM does not offer start/stop tech, shoppers are spared the inelegant starts and stops that characterize 528i city driving.

While I’m picking nits, the 6-speed found in the 2.0T and most 3.6 models lacks the ratio spread and shift smoothness of the ZF 8-speed automatic found in most of the competition. While I prefer GMs 6-speed to the somewhat lazy 7-speed automatic in the Mercedes E-Class, the rumored 8-speed can’t come soon enough. The 8-speed used in the V-Sport (optional on the 3.6L) solves the ratio and marketing issue, but the Aisin unit feels just as up-shift happy and down-shift reluctant as it does in the Lexus LS 460. As a result when you use the shift paddles, your actions feel more like suggestions than commands.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013

The reason I label those flaws as mere nits is because of how the CTS accomplishes every other task on the road. Acceleration to 60 happens a 4/10ths faster than an E350, a half-second faster than the 528i,  a full second faster than a GS350, and practically years ahead of the A6 2.0T. Part of this has to do with the engine’s superior torque curve and higher horsepower numbers, but plenty has to do with curb weight. At 3,616 lbs, the CTS 2.oT is 200lbs lighter than the BMW or Lexus, 400lbs lighter than an E350. The comparable Audi A6 would be the front-wheel-drive 2.0T model with the CVT at 3,726. If you think that’s an unfair comparison, the 2.0T with Quattro is 3,900lbs and does little to correct the A6’s front-heavy weight balance.

As a result of the CTS’s near perfect 50.3/49.7 % weight balance and the light curb weight, the CTS feels more agile and responsive on winding mountain roads, especially when you compare it to the V6 competitors. The steering is as numb as anything on the market thanks to electric power steering, but you can get faint whiffs of feedback now and then and the steering weight is moderate rather than strangely firm in the 528i. Admittedly we’re splitting hairs here when it comes to steering feel, as there is precious little difference between the CTS, GS and 528i. Even the hydraulic system retained in BMW’s 550i doesn’t feel as crisp on the road. Helping out the handling is a standard moderately firm spring suspension or an optional MagneRide active suspension as our tester was equipped. The adaptive dampers feel more refined than in previous versions, despite them not changing the vehicle’s personality much from regular to sport mode. The CTS never felt out of sorts on rough or uneven terrain and despite being moderately firm, never felt punishing. This places the CTS right in line with the modern Germans. Toss in standard Brembo brakes and the CTS is far more willing to hike up its skirt and dance than the establishment competition.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007

For 2014, Cadillac added $6,035 to the MSRP and put “value” on the back burner. At $45,100, the CTS starts $4,400 less than the 528i and $2,600 less than the GS350. Of course the Caddy’s base model has fewer features, so an apples-to-apples comparison brings the delta up to around $1,500 less than the BMW. That’s a much smaller window than there used to be, and it’s not surprising when you consider the CTS’ interior is finally equal to or better than the Germans. The pricing deltas get more interesting as you go up the ladder. The CTS 3.6 is a few grand less than a BMW 535i. In that mash-up, the BMW provides superior thrust but when the road gets winding the CTS is more enjoyable. Then we get to the CTS V-Sport. The V-Sport brings a twin-turbo V6 to a twin-turbo V8 fight. At 420 HP and 430 lb-ft the numbers are stout to be sure, but trail the 443 HP and 479 lb-ft from BMW’s 4.4L V8 and most importantly, the V8 delivers a far superior torque curve delivering all of its torque 1,500 RPM earlier. Still, the Cadillac is 325 lbs lighter, handles better, is $4,830 cheaper and by the numbers gives up little in terms of straight line performance.

The two sweet spots for the CTS are a nearly loaded 2.0T with the LCD disco dash and a moderately well equipped V-Sport. The 2.0T offers the best road manners of its direct competition at a reasonable value. The V-Sport on the other hand offers BMW shoppers an interesting alternative. At an $1,800 up-sell over a comparably equipped 535i and $4,800 less than a 550i, the V-Sport is probably the best value in the luxury segment for 2014. After a week with the middle child Cadillac, GM seems to finally be on the right path with their luxury brand. As long as the XTS is replaced with a large rear driver sedan soon I might even say that the American luxury brand is on a roll. While I can think of a few reasons to buy a BMW 5-Series over a CTS (the base CTS instrument cluster is a good reason), shoppers have no reason to dismiss the CTS as they might have done in the past. Although the CTS is still 20lbs of sound deadening and an 8-speed automatic away from being the Cadillac of mid-size sedans, it is a truly solid competitor.

 

 GM provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 24.8 MPG over 852 Miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 67 dB

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-002 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-003 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-004 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-005 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-006 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-008 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-009 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-010 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-011 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-012 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-015 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-001 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-002 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-003 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-004 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-005 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-007 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-008 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-009 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-010 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-011 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-012 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-002 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-003 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-004 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-005 2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

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Correction: Not All A-Class Diesels Are French http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/correction-not-all-a-class-diesels-are-french/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/correction-not-all-a-class-diesels-are-french/#comments Sun, 06 Oct 2013 23:45:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=611337 They don’t call you guys the Best&Brightest for nothing, I tell ya. When I complained that Mercedes-Benz was using Renault-sourced diesel engines in its small cars, one of our Deutschland-based readers disagreed with my “facts”. Which is fair, because I got my facts from a variety of US-based auto media, and he’s getting his from, […]

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They don’t call you guys the Best&Brightest for nothing, I tell ya.

When I complained that Mercedes-Benz was using Renault-sourced diesel engines in its small cars, one of our Deutschland-based readers disagreed with my “facts”. Which is fair, because I got my facts from a variety of US-based auto media, and he’s getting his from, well, Germany.

diesels

The “OM651″ referred to in that image is the new-ish family of four-cylinder Benz diesels, which appears in at least three different variants across the A-class range. The “OM640″ diesel is the Renault one, available in the A180 hatchback as a relatively low-output one-and-a-half-liter. Alright, so it turns out that you can still rock in America get a Mercedes diesel in the cheap Mercedes sedan. Where things get a little strange, however, is with this fact: the E250 diesel that’s arriving on our shores now packs a 2.1-liter OM651 and is fully EPA-compliant. So this isn’t even a matter of figuring out how to make the engine work over here; it’s simply a matter of adding a urea tank somewhere in the CLA.

How about the trunk?

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Review: 2014 Lexus LS 600hL (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-lexus-ls-600hl-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-lexus-ls-600hl-with-video/#comments Wed, 25 Sep 2013 11:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=520497 The LS 600hL is the pinnacle of Toyota and Lexus engineering. It is the largest Lexus sedan, the brand’s most expensive model, the most expensive hybrid in the world and, with the death of BMW’s V8 ActiveHybrid system, it is once again the most powerful hybrid on sale. Yet the LS 600hL hasn’t had an […]

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2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The LS 600hL is the pinnacle of Toyota and Lexus engineering. It is the largest Lexus sedan, the brand’s most expensive model, the most expensive hybrid in the world and, with the death of BMW’s V8 ActiveHybrid system, it is once again the most powerful hybrid on sale. Yet the LS 600hL hasn’t had an easy time of things. The large luxury sedan has been lambasted for being the antithesis of green thanks to its EPA combined 20 MPG score. Critics also question whether the 600hL’s enormous premium over the LS 460L can ever be “justified.” I too questioned the logic behind the 600hL at first, but then I spoke with someone who changed my mind. Before we dive in, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. The 600hL starts at $119,910. With all the options checked, you land at $134,875. Without destination. Put your eye balls back in their sockets and click past the jump as we dive into an alternate universe.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I don’t live in a world filled with chauffeurs, champagne and caviar. Heck, I don’t even live in a world with indoor plumbing. (Seriously, my house doesn’t have an indoor shower, but that’s a story for a different time.) This meant I needed help in order to view the 600hL through the right lens. Fortunately I have a family connection with a guy in Atherton who is exactly the kind of guy I was looking for: one with deep pockets. Being the private jet/vacation mansion owning guy I was looking for, I expected him to be put off by the LS 600hL’s simple lines and unmistakably “discount” $71,990 LS 460 roots. Instead he had an opinion I hadn’t considered.

In a town where the money is piled high and deep, but paradoxically being flashy is considered tasteless, the LS 600hL strikes the right balance. Or so I am told. By looking like a lesser LS, it doesn’t scream “I spent twice your salary on my car,” but at the same time your neighbors will know your trust fund is still returning 15% a year. While he agreed that a similarly expensive 2014 S-Class was far more attractive and exciting, he felt it was too “nouveau riche.” From the mouth of babes…

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior
$119,910 doesn’t buy you a leather-clad dashboard standard, if you want that you have to add a few options to your spendy hybrid. No matter what package you add, the age of the LS platform shows in the front seats. Sharing the same mechanisms with the pre-refresh 2012 LS, the seat fails to contort in the same variety of directions as the Germans, or even the cheaper Lexus GS which has more modern seat frames. Still, 600hL buyers are likely to only experience the front seats when Jeevs has a day off.

Because 2013 is more of an extensive refresh than a clean-sheet design, the LS 600hL doesn’t get a fancy LCD instrument cluster, opting instead for a four-dial arrangement with a “wine glass” shaped multi-function display in the center. A full-disco-dash arrangement isn’t a requirement for me as there are plenty of traditional gauges in this segment but I had hoped for more from a luxury car designed in a country obsessed with electronic gadgets. The same thing can be said for the large 12-inch display in the middle of the dash. The display is bright and crisp but the software hasn’t been significantly re-worked for some time making it feel dated.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-009

Gadgets & Infotainment

No 600hL would be complete without the $7,555 Executive Package. For the cost of a used compact car Lexus adds an Alcantara headliner, deletes the middle rear seat for a fixed console, covers the dash in leather, wires up a 120V inverter, and installs the best rear seat available in America.

That seat is the 600hL’s raison d’être. It is also so mind-blowingly insane, I have decided it will hence forth be known as the “Lexus throne”. The 600hL’s throne contorts in 10 ways via controls in the substantial center console and boasts manual butterfly headrests. If that isn’t enough it will also vibrate and massage your royal personage while you put your feet up on the power ottoman. The massaging function isn’t like the systems employed by the German competition in the front seat. Those systems use a series of air bladders that inflate/deflate in a pattern to initiate a massage. The result feels more like a rodent trapped between the foam and the upholstery. The Lexus system uses a system more similar to the pneumatic rollers you find in airport “massage station chairs.” Only classier. And without the stench of the peasantry.

Activating the massage is easy once you get the hang of the 17-button remote control nestled next to the 26-button infotainment remote inside the 45-button console. If you rank your rides by button count, we have a winner. Lexus tosses in a blue-ray DVD player, wireless headphones and a single LCD that drops down from the ceiling. Although the Lexus Remote Touch joystick lives on up front, those being coddled in the rear can forget about the clunky controller and can control many of the car’s functions via the button bank. On the one hand this is less integrated than BMW’s iDrive for rear passengers that allow them top play with the nav system, but it does shield the owner of the LS 600hL from dealing with the evil that is Remote Touch.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

The wealthy are frequently in a hurry and have the resources to pay Texas-sized speeding tickets. Unfortunately for them, Lexus hasn’t updated the 600hL’s hybrid system for the new model. While I still think of the 600hL’s setup as one of the most advanced hybrid systems in the world, I just can’t call it “powerful” anymore. Rated at 438 system horsepower, it is outclassed by a wide variety of V8s in everything from a Dodge Super Bee to the German’s base V8 options. That’s even before we talk about the V12 luxury barges Lexus is attempting to target. The “old” S65 AMG cranked out 631 horses and enough torque to cause the earth to rotate in the other direction. What will 2014 bring? You can bet the answer will be: more.

Operating much like a Prius hybrid system on steroids, a 385 horsepower 5.0L V8 engine is mated directly to a planetary gearset employing two motor/generator units. The larger motor is capable of 221HP on its own, but the battery pack in the trunk of the LS can only supply 53 HP at a time limiting the EV mode to around 30 MPH. The engine and motors work together to provide seamless and linear acceleration unlike anything on the market save a Tesla Model S. This design is quite different from the pancake motor sandwiched between the engine and transmission that you find in the German hybrids. Lexus won’t comment on how much torque the combined unit is good for, but my gut tells me it is around 450 lb0-ft combined.

Lexus continues to use a 288V Ni-MH battery pack that is similar to the one used in the Lexus RX hybrid. The 1.6kWh battery pack isn’t as space efficient as the more modern Lithium based batteries but had a proven track record and allows high current discharges with a smaller number of cells. Unfortunately it’s not as slim as the trendier cells and occupies a large portion of the trunk. Combined with the plumbing for the four zone climate control and the massaging throne, they slice trunk capacity from 18 cubes to 13 making it difficult to fit large luggage in the rear.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

With 5,500 pounds of luxury sedan riding (yes, you read that number correctly) on an air suspension, you can cross corner carving off your list. I suspect that such activities are frowned upon when the help is driving you anyway, but the weight and relatively narrow 245/45R19 tires mean stopping distances are long as well. Dynamically the LS has always been an excellent vehicle with a well controlled chassis, nearly perfect weight balance and a solid feel. When scaled up to the 600hL, you can tell those traits are still there but they are masked by the weight and the standard adaptive air suspension.

If I might digress for a moment, the LS platform is the perfect vehicle to experience an air suspension in on a test drive. There aren’t many cars that have a standard steel-coil suspension and an air suspension available in the same car and the LS is one. Air suspensions have an entirely different feel to them so when you compare an S-Class with Airmatic with a 7-Series that had only a partial rear air suspension it’s difficult to compare unless you’ve experienced what the air bags do to the feel of the car. I encourage anyone looking in this segment to give the LS a spin with and without the air suspension so you can really be familiar with the changes these systems make to the feel of a car.

Back on topic, let’s talk thrust. At the stoplight races the LS 600hL accelerates faster if the engine is already on. This is fairly logical since some of the motor’s twist would be consumed by starting the engine. Our numbers were taken with the engine “stopped” by the hybrid system which is the normal state of affairs. Thanks to the massive torque from the electric motor and the 5.0L V8, we hit 30 MPH after a scant 2.36 seconds. After this point the heavy curb weight comes into play with 60 MPH happening after 5.44 seconds followed by a 13.96 second quarter-mile. A BMW 750 and Mercedes S550 scoot to 60 about a half second faster while the V12 BMW 760 is a full second quicker. On the flip side even the new 8-speed ZF transmission feels like a farm tractor compared to the Lexus Hybrid Drive system. Acceleration in the 600hL is extraordinarily linear, unbelievably smooth and eerily silent. Comparisons to the Tesla Model S in terms of acceleration linearity and feel are entirely appropriate. All of a sudden the hybrid drivetrain combined with the throne in the back make sense: if I’m being driven, I want a smooth experience. Forget about the driver having fun, it’s all about the party in the back.

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

After a week with the LS 600hL I still have problems looking at the expensive cruiser in the “right” way, but I am closer to understanding the point. That point is less about fuel economy (which was 21.8 MPG over all by the way) and more about silently and smoothly cruising below the radar. If that’s your mission, then mission accomplished. The LS 600hL is also the least expensive vehicle that I know of designed with the chauffeured set in mind. Except that makes the LS 600hL the oddest duck I’ve met. Being obviously designed for owners with drivers it makes a value proposition that logically shouldn’t matter to the intended audience. If you’re being driven, the smallest part of the expense structure over the life of a vehicle is the price of the vehicle. Your driver and his benefits are likely to eat the bulk of your budget. My sounding board in this process is still trying to convince me that looking at the LS 600hL in this light is missing the point. Perhaps, but it does explain why the LS 600hL sells in such small numbers. It also explains why he still has a 2010 XJ8.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Best. Back. Seat. Ever.
  • Avatar on Blue Ray never sounded so good.

Quit it

  • Everyone will wonder why you didn’t buy an S-Class.
  • 438 ponies is hardly class-topping in 2013.
  • Despite being told otherwise, 21.8 MPG still seems to be missing the point.

 

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

0-30: 2.36

0-60: 5.44

1/4 Mile: 13.96 @ 105 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 21.8 MPG over 623 miles

2014 Lexus LS 600hL Engine 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-002 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-003 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-004 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-005 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-006 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-007 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-008 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Exterior-010 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-001 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-002 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-003 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-004 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-006 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-007 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-008 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-009 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-010 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-011 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-013 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-014 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-015 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-016 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-018 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-019 2014 Lexus LS 600hL Interior-020

 

 

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/junkyard-find-1973-mercedes-benz-220/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/junkyard-find-1973-mercedes-benz-220/#comments Wed, 11 Sep 2013 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=515273 Most of the time, I don’t photograph junkyard-dwelling Mercedes-Benzes unless they’re coupes, SLs, or really old, but today’s W115 sedan was just so complete that I had to shoot it. A car like this just isn’t worth enough to warrant restoration, especially when the interior smells like a genetically-engineered mildew experiment gone terribly awry (it […]

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09 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinMost of the time, I don’t photograph junkyard-dwelling Mercedes-Benzes unless they’re coupes, SLs, or really old, but today’s W115 sedan was just so complete that I had to shoot it.
02 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA car like this just isn’t worth enough to warrant restoration, especially when the interior smells like a genetically-engineered mildew experiment gone terribly awry (it takes a serious strain of mildew to thrive in Denver’s single-digit humidity).
16 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s not very rusty, although the wheelwells probably have a bit of an oxidation party going on.
05 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith just 103 horses from the 2.2-liter four-cylinder, this fairly substantial car wasn’t going to be quick.
06 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEspecially once the York air conditioning kicked in.
08 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, these cars were built when Mercedes-Benz obliterated all comers in the build-quality competition, and they deserve our respect.

01 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1973 Mercedes-Benz 220 Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Piston Slap: Affalterbach’s A-faltering Headlight! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-affalterbachs-a-faltering-headlight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/piston-slap-affalterbachs-a-faltering-headlight/#comments Thu, 01 Aug 2013 12:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=497677 Martin writes: Hi Sajeev, I’m writing you because I’ve searched and asked model-specific forums, and mechanics, to no avail. I have the last of the 1st Gen SLK AMGs. I love this car, and I’ve loved it since the first non-AMG launched in the late 90s. Overall, it’s well maintained – a trend which I […]

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SLK32AMG_front1

Martin writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m writing you because I’ve searched and asked model-specific forums, and mechanics, to no avail. I have the last of the 1st Gen SLK AMGs. I love this car, and I’ve loved it since the first non-AMG launched in the late 90s. Overall, it’s well maintained – a trend which I continue – and I’ve had it for a few years. I have one major issue.

The Xenon headlights will blink out randomly – the issue is solved by flicking the lights completely off, and then back on…it almost always happens on my passenger side headlight, but I’ve seen it happen on the driver’s side as well though this is rare. It usually happens on a bump, or on impact of some kind, like a speed bump, braking, or closing the hood, and can occur every few minutes (usually in wet weather – thought doesn’t ALWAYS happen in wet weather) or not at all for several months (usually dry weather).

Mechanics have diagnosed it as anything ranging from a bad ballast (doesn’t make sense to me as ballasts either work or the don’t) to a faulty bulb. One mechanic put some kind of lubrication on the contacts with the bulb and the problem went away for several months – even in wet weather, but I’m not sure if this was a solution or coincidence. Due to two factors – higher incidence of occurrence in wet weather – and the presence of condensation in the passenger’s side bulb (the worst offender) – I think there’s a short somewhere. I’ve checked the wiring and it seems ok. No one can give me a convincing reason as to why I should just replace the whole headlight assembly (an expensive proposal) – and although I realize AMG cars are pricier to maintain and I don’t mind spending, I also don’t want to do it unnecessarily just to discover that it’s a short in some kind of control module or peripheral piece.

Have you ever heard of this? Looking forward to your input.

Sajeev answers:

Not an easy question, but luckily you want what’s best for the car. Which isn’t cheap for a German car of this era. I still have nightmares about attempting to fix anything on my Father’s former 1996 BMW 750iL…beautiful, glorious nightmares I tell you!

Proper Mercedes-Benz shop manuals for this car are a must…but first…give this a shot:

A problem this intermittent, normally happening on one side means there’s an easy diagnostic route: switch headlights (first) and ballasts (second, assuming there are two, so RTFM) between left and right headlights and see if the flickering pattern changes.  If so great…you probably found your offender.

If not…well…

I am somewhat confident that voltage irregularities in failing ballasts can cause this, but the bulbs themselves aren’t free from guilt.  I worry because you flick’d them off/on: hot re-strikes on many older HID bulbs is a big no-no.  BIIIIIG no-no, as I learned when converting the horrible headlights on my 1995 Mark VIII to the HIDs of the 1996 model: this shortens HID lifespan significantly.

If the HID bulbs are original, perhaps they need replacement after the hot re-striking and from age. Or maybe the ballasts are no longer up to par internally, perhaps a lighting specialist can load test them to verify. I doubt you have wiring problems, but who knows…I haven’t checked myself!

Who really knows how to arm-chair this query? What say 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.

 

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Überholprestige: BMW Makes Audi And Mercedes Eat Dust http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/uberholprestige-bmw-makes-audi-and-mercedes-eat-dust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/uberholprestige-bmw-makes-audi-and-mercedes-eat-dust/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 13:25:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494540 Members of the media are still speculating why Audi’s R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer was sacked and replaced by Volkswagen’s engineering rock star Urlich Hackenberg. Today, the market delivered the reason:  With BMW in the passing lane in China and America, global sales of the roundel brand keep rising faster than those of Audi and Mercedes. […]

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Members of the media are still speculating why Audi’s R&D chief Wolfgang Dürheimer was sacked and replaced by Volkswagen’s engineering rock star Urlich Hackenberg. Today, the market delivered the reason:  With BMW in the passing lane in China and America, global sales of the roundel brand keep rising faster than those of Audi and Mercedes.

Sales at BMW’s core brand were up 9.4 percent in June to 153,000 units, while sales at Mercedes rose 8.3 percent and Audi slowed down to 5.5 percent r growth, Reuters says.

For the half year of 2013, global sales of BMW are up 7.7 percent to 804,000 units, with Audi up 6.4 percent to 780,500 units , and Mercedes also up and 6.4 percent to 694,000 autos.

Envied by other European carmakers Germany’s three leading premium manufacturers are maintaining production in July and August to meet soaring export demand, while the rest of Europe is going on – often extended – summer vacations.

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Super Piston Slap: New Tricks For an Old Car Phone? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/super-piston-slap-new-tricks-for-an-old-car-phone/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/super-piston-slap-new-tricks-for-an-old-car-phone/#comments Fri, 21 Jun 2013 11:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492815 It started innocently enough: Derek Kreindler posted the above photo on Facebook for nothing more than a few social media lulz. Which triggered a memory on my end of Al Gore’s Internet: of a cellular phone residing in the console of my Lincoln Mark VIII. Even worse, it reminded me of the way-cool hack to […]

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It started innocently enough: Derek Kreindler posted the above photo on Facebook for nothing more than a few social media lulz. Which triggered a memory on my end of Al Gore’s Internet: of a cellular phone residing in the console of my Lincoln Mark VIII. Even worse, it reminded me of the way-cool hack to make it work in the digital age. The conversation went downhill from there, and the boss man suggested I blog all about it. Won’t you join me in the cellular madness?

Before I start: my Mark VIII never came with a cell phone.  But I, the upwardly “mobile” (tee-hee, get it?) junkyard dog that I am, grabbed most of the functional bits from a crusher bound Mark VIII: phone-handset, the plastic cradle, and a voice activated A-pillar speaker/button assembly for about $20.  It plugs and plays, if I grabbed the module from the trunk.  Provided that black box was actually worth something. It is not, especially if you upgraded to an aftermarket stereo.

So I, much like The Esteemed Mr. Kreindler, just did it to show off. Or look stupid. Either way, this system commands attention. Especially if someone looks at the A-pillar.

The result is some sort of highbrow-historical respect: last year a friend borrowed the Mark. Upon noticing the brick inside the center console she busted out the Android, expressing glee from her first encounter with a gen-u-wine cellular car phone. Smartphone texting about an analog phone: now ain’t that some shit?

Imagine a fantabulous world where you could re-use this impressive (looking) system in today’s fully digital society! Queue the obligatory Panther Love:

Click here to view the embedded video.

Without getting into the nitty-gritty, this video shows how cell phones from the Golden (Dark?) Age of In-Car communication need not go gentle into that good night.  The obscenely talented and/or tragically bored among us can convert the analog system to digital…and still run the factory’s “hands free operation” gadgets. Like, awesome.

Which begs the question: would you make the change, teach an old dog new tricks, if you could? And would it be less annoying/obnoxious than many newer in-car entertainment systems?

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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Labor Unrest In South Africa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/labor-unrest-in-south-africa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/labor-unrest-in-south-africa/#comments Sat, 25 May 2013 08:37:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489571 South Africa’s main auto union threatened to “halt production” at a Volkswagen after union members were fired, Reuters says. “We call on the Volkswagen South Africa oligarchy to immediately stop these dismissals of workers. If VWSA fails to adhere to this demand, we will be forced to halt production until this impasse is resolved,” the […]

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Rubber bullets South Africa - Picture courtesy saudigazette.com.sa

South Africa’s main auto union threatened to “halt production” at a Volkswagen after union members were fired, Reuters says.

“We call on the Volkswagen South Africa oligarchy to immediately stop these dismissals of workers. If VWSA fails to adhere to this demand, we will be forced to halt production until this impasse is resolved,” the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa told the wire.

Tensions in South Africa are high. On Tuesday, ten striking South African miners were hit by rubber bullets, as labor strife spread ahead of mid-year pay negotiations. A Mercedes-Benz plant in the country was shut for two days when workers walked out after they were asked to remove their overalls when going outside, and not to wear them when returning..

Metal workers in South Africa demand a 20 percent industry-wide salary hike.

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Monday Longevity Champion: Long Live The Leylands! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/monday-longevity-champion-long-live-the-leylands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/monday-longevity-champion-long-live-the-leylands/#comments Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:28:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486512 Last week there was a 2003 Toyota Tacoma with 430,000 miles on it. I thought to myself, “Well this isn’t news. The quartet of GM/Ford trucks, Honda Cars, and Toyota everything is still cleaning up the charts. I won’t write about it this time”. So I waited… This week the mileage champion out of 6,945 […]

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Last week there was a 2003 Toyota Tacoma with 430,000 miles on it.

I thought to myself, “Well this isn’t news. The quartet of GM/Ford trucks, Honda Cars, and Toyota everything is still cleaning up the charts. I won’t write about it this time”. So I waited…

This week the mileage champion out of 6,945 vehicles was a 1999 Toyota 4Runner with 344,400 miles. The enthusiasts among us are probably a bit Toyonda Chevorded out at this point. So this time, let’s focus on longevity.

This 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was once owned by Kermit the Frog. It was later purchased by the guy who invented Nickelodeon’s world famous slime and has most recently been on the set of the Incredible Hulk movie. Sad to say, the scene where it was scheduled to be destroyed was cut due to a protest engineered by our own TTAC alum Paul Niedermeyer.

So now it sits with 32,973 miles.

Old Caddies are rarely a surprise at the auctions. What did surprise me this time?

Try two 1977 MGB Roadsters available at the same auction. The miles are 47,959 and 49,048 respectively. Two more garage queens. These happened to reside in Nashville, Tennessee, Elvis country, where the rust is minimal, and the classiness of car decor is often somewhere between decals that portray the act of urinating and world famous truck testicles.

These sheepskin covers aren’t so bad. In fact, I think they would be the perfect fit for the marque that finished fourth and fifth on the longevity list.

 

These were followed by two Mercedes diesels. The second of which was a daily driver that displayed an impressive 308,052 miles. This is doubly impressive since old Mercedes odometer clusters have a tendency to give out at a certain point. I wouldn’t be surprised if this daily driver had more mileage than the Toyota 4Runner.

Finally, we have another surprise. A 1982 Fiat spider. Just showing the picture of this model with 137,939 miles would not do it justice. So I have arranged for a Youtube video to accompany your Monday morning.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The seats for this model were protected in a more conventional way than the MG twins.

There you have it. The six elder statesmen out of 6,985 vehicles. All of them still run… or at least limp along the road with loose bladders.

 

 

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