Bark's Bites: The Good, The Not-as-Good, and the Ugly: Part One

Mark "Bark M." Baruth
by Mark "Bark M." Baruth
bark s bites the good the not as good and the ugly part one

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:


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— 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.


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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  • Felix Hoenikker Felix Hoenikker on Mar 31, 2015

    With regard to Mazda, the 6 was on my short list when I was car shopping last summer. I ended up with a four cylinder Accord for the following reasons: 1. Mazda options - the base model Accord had more on it than the mid level sixer. 2. Pricing - no incentives at all at Mazda. Strangely enough, Honda was willing to deal. 3. Service - Mazda has only three dealerships in a 20 mile radius. One of my wife's coworkers husband had a two year old six that developed issues. None of the three local Mazda dealers could fix it. That was it for me.

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Mar 31, 2015

    I really want to like the Mazda6. It looks perfect on paper until we sit in one. The curvature of the headrest in the front seats just make my wife's neck hurt. It might be ok in a Miata or even a 3 for unmarried guys, but once you are married with kids (why else would you buy a mid size anyways), you are forced to consider the comfort and practicality as well.

  • Stuart de Baker I didn't bother to read this article. I'll wait until a definitive headline comes out, and I'll be surprised if Tesla actually produces the Cybertruck. It certainly looks impractical for both snowy and hot sunny weather.
  • Stuart de Baker This is very interesting information. I was in no danger of buying a Tesla. I love my '08 Civic (stick), and it feels just as responsive as when I bought it 11 years ago with 35k on the clock (now 151k), and barring mishaps, I plan to keep it for the next 25 years or so, which would put me into my mid-90s, assuming I live that long. On your information, I will avoid renting Teslas.
  • RHD The only people who would buy this would be those convinced by a website that they are great, and order one sight-unseen. They would have to have be completely out of touch with every form of media for the last year. There might actually be a few of these people, but not very many. They would also have to be completely ignorant of the Hyundai Excel. (Vinfast seems to make the original Excel look like a Camry in comparison.)
  • RHD This was awesome, in 1978. Now, it's very much obsolete - thirsty, slow, ponderous, noisy, rough, and dated design even in its time. Still, someone who wants to recreate some distant memories will buy it and restore it and enjoy it, and the seller just has to find that particular individual.
  • BEPLA Cybertruck may have made some kind of weird sense had it been brought on market on time, ie: before Rivian and F150 Lightning.But the market has progressed.If this were any normal company it would be ditched for a more competitive product.But in Elon's narcissistic dreamworld - well, we'll just see how it flops.