It’s a new week, and I’m back with another German car Rental Review for your enjoyment! Today’s rental is one of two American market entrants into the premium compact five-door liftback segment, and not a car one expects to find in an Enterprise lot. Presenting a 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, two years and 50,000 rental miles later.
As a fan of the midsize luxury sedan class, it’s sad to see how many manufacturers have given up on the segment. The German trio still has their stalwarts, but Japan gave up in 2020 (RIP Lexus GS), the only American still in the ring is the Cadillac CT5, and its outlier status is accompanied by newcomer Genesis with the G80.
It’s a dying class, which is why your author was especially pleased to spend the Memorial Day weekend with a longstanding headliner of the German luxury sedan genre: A 2021 BMW 5-Series.
Sort of like the Cimarron we covered in our last edition of Abandoned History a couple of months ago, today’s vehicle is pretending to be more than it is. It’s the luxury X-Class truck Mercedes-Benz sold in markets outside the USA. Can you tell what it actually is?
While Porsche provided the (relatively) inexpensive 914 and 924 to American buyers during the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the debut of the 944 here in the 1983 model year resulted in the price tag on the cheapest possible Porsche starting at $18,980 (about $52,240 in 2021 dollars). While the white-powder-dusted 928 S listed at $43,000 that year (about $118,360 today), it must have pained the suits in Stuttgart to have nothing to compete for sales with the likes of the affordable Mitsubishi Starion and Nissan 280ZX. So, for the 1987 and 1988 model years, American Porsche shoppers could buy a 924 with a detuned version of the 944’s engine, keeping the cheap(-ish) price tag of the 924 while ditching the VW engine that— humiliatingly— went into American Motors economy cars and even DJ-5 mail Jeeps. This car was known as the 924S, and I’ve found this one in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard.
Recently Rare Rides featured a very clean example of the DKW Schnellaster van from 1956. The front-drive and transverse-engine layout of the Schnellaster previewed in the Forties the basic format of the family minivan that would arrive over three decades later.
Among the standard Schnellasters produced, there was an even rarer variant: An electric version, as DKW experimented with the possibilities of early EV tech.
In 2000, shortly before the ill-fated revival of the Maybach brand into a gauche purveyor of S-Class Baroque Editions, the 12-cylinder S 600 resided at the top of the Mercedes-Benz model hierarchy. This example in particular was ordered with a unique feature at the behest of a very well-heeled original owner.
Mercedes-Benz has been committed to building many of its vehicles in North America for some time, and has bestowed an important and ultra expensive new version of the GLS upon its plant in Alabama. At around $200,000, it will be the most expensive passenger vehicle produced in the United States. It’s an on-trend holiday gift for your spouse in The Current Year!
Today’s Rare Ride was the ultimate display of Germanic automotive wealth in the early Nineties. Always rarer than its sedan brother, the SEC was the S-Class with two doors and no pillars.
Let’s check out a hardtop from the arguable height of modern Mercedes-Benz engineering.
Before Audi revolutionized rallying and four-wheel drive cars with the Ur-Quattro circa 1980, the company made front-drive vehicles underpinned by Volkswagen platforms (some things never change). Today’s Rare Ride 5000 hails from the waning days of Audi’s front-drive era, not long before an all-new 5000 set the template for aerodynamic sedan design.