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A Battle of Five Luxury Sports Sedans
The compact luxury sedan market is an interesting place. When designing a new entry, manufacturers are constantly trying to find the perfect balance between sport and luxury. Although most cars end up skewed one way than the other, these vehicles typically offer a plethora of trims and options that allow potential customers to tailor their rides with as much sport or luxury as they want.
Given a choice, we’d select maximum sport. We’d rather evaluate a car’s ability to clip an apex than by how coddled our mothers-in-law feel in the passenger seat. What better way to do this than collect a group of the latest and greatest offerings and see which one is the best? Now, we aren’t talking about the ultimate in sport luxury sedans like a C63, M3 or IS-F as they can get quite pricey. Instead, we have grabbed a more affordable group of contenders playing around the $50,000 mark.
First we sent an invite out to Cadillac. The all-new ATS seriously impressed us since coming out last year; it was a car of the year finalist after all. Next, we brought along the BMW 3 Series. If we are going to be testing luxury sport sedans, how could we not bring the vehicle that has defined the class for decades? While on the topic of German sedans, we also had to include a Mercedes-Benz and an Audi. Finally, to complete our quintuplet of test vehicles, there’s an oddball, the Volvo S60. Now, before you cry foul that the S60 is not a sports sedan, take a look at what we grabbed; the 325 hp S60 T6 R-Design.
A FEW CONTENDERS ARE AWOL
There are a few notable vehicles missing from this comparison test. Lexus didn’t have an all new IS ready for us, nor did Infiniti the all-new Q50 or Lincoln the MKZ. Finally, the Acura TL was left out because, although a great car, it is too large for this class of vehicle (a foot longer than most of the competitors here).
With the cars collected, pencils sharpened and score sheets firmly attached to clipboards, it was time to put these cars through their paces and see which is best.
This Week’s Five-Point Inspection takes a look at the soon-to-be-overhauled Mercedes-Benz E-Class, what we love about it and what we’d like to see changed.
About to become redundant, there is a mid-cycle refresh coming for the 2014 model year which will put the current E-Class out to pasture. This doesn’t mean the E-Class is necessarily a bad vehicle, but in the ever evolving world of luxury automobiles, it is either constantly improve your brand or get left behind.
With a base price of $51,905 after transportation charges, the E-Class may be the most versatile vehicle in the automotive kingdom. There are no fewer than four distinct body styles, five engine choices, three fuel options and two drivelines.
When Size Matters
Large and in charge. Big is beautiful. Size matters. Yes, there are endless clichés to support the notion that the bigger something is, the better it is. In the automotive kingdom, some vehicles not only adhere to this philosophy, but redefine it. We aren’t talking the puny realm of offerings like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry or even Dodge Charger. No, this is for the serious four wheeled hippos. The cars where it is more fun to be in the backseat than the front seat.
If you have more money to burn than the average NFL Quarterback, then there are some serious vehicles you can buy that are seriously long. How about the 220.9-inch Phantom Coupe? Not long enough for you? You could upsize to the 239.8-inch Phantom extended-wheelbase sedan, or maybe the 242.7-inch Maybach 62?
But for the rest of us mere mortals, there are some sizable vehicles out there under $100,000. Heck, two of the top ten are even under $30,000. So we will now present to you the top ten vehicles that are longer than The Hobbit.
To the casual viewer, the photos were of the typical glossy PR variety. However, upon closer inspection you are able to spot an easter egg within the images– what can only be a refreshed 2013 model year Mercedes-Benz G-wagon.
Distinguishing features include a set of LED daytime running lights that run along the bottom of the headlights as well as a pair of redesigned exterior mirrors. Although it’s certainly possible that the 2013 G-Class will receive additional updates, we are unable to determine what the other styling tweaks may be from the image available.
We expect more details and information to surface as we draw closer to the upcoming 2012 New York Auto Show.
GALLERY: 2013 Mercedes-Benz G-Class
10. BMW 750Li Hybrid: $2,641
This list, provided by Insure.com shows us the most expensive cars to insure. Whether they’re more likely to get into an accident because of their high-powered engines, more likely to be stolen, or they’re just expensive to make and maintain, these cars cost quite a lot to insure.
How can a hybrid cost so much to insure? When it’s aBMW 750Li Active Hybrid, which has a twin-turbo V8 and starts at $101,000 it’s easy to see why this big BMW lands in 10th place on the list.
Despite the majority of auto manufacturers reporting record sales and earnings this year thanks to a healthy Chinese market, the future in China may not be as bright as it was in 2011.
China as a whole is dealing with some tough economic factors with their stock market down, real estate prices dropping and now the prices of luxury cars from German manufacturers Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are selling for way below MSRP. The average price of a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C200 were sold at 16-percent below MSRP at Chinese dealerships, a continual decline from the 14-percent below in October and 3.4-percent below in July. BMW on the other hand, sold their 320i sedan 11-percent below the suggested price, more than triple the initial discount for the 2011 model.
Despite this, Audi posted a 69-percent increase in China deliveries to 29,861 units while BMW had a 9.8-percent increase in sales in China while Mercedes-Benz increased deliveries by 24-percent. But 2011′s growth in China will most certainly not replicate itself in the future to come, which could prove troublesome to many of the manufacturers that are currently undergoing big capacity expansions.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]
It appears that Brabus didn’t want to wait until the 2011 Essen Motor Show to release the details on their Mercedes-Benz CL500 and S500 4MATIC tuning programs. In fact, they decided to launch two new power kits for the 4.7L V8 twin-turbo engine, taking the stock 435-hp and 516 lb-ft of torque to all new heights.
The more mild of the two power kits, the Brabus B50 – 490 PowerXtra, takes the CL500 and S500 4MATIC to 490-hp and 575 lb-ft of torque. The B50 – 520 PowerXtra however will give the 4.7L 520-hp and 604 lb-ft of torque. Both power gains are achieved through an ECU retune.
Brabus is also offering the CL500 an aerodynamic package, featuring a new front lip, side skirts with LEDs, a rear bumper and a rear spoiler. No styling package was announced for the S500.
As usual, Brabus has a variety of 18-, 21- and 22-inch wheels available for various Mercedes-Benz models including the CL and S Class. No pricing for the power package of the aerodynamic package was announced.
GALLERY: Brabus CL500 4MATIC
It’s time to buckle up as Mercedes-Benz‘s tuner AMG confirms that they are working on three halo projects for their halo SLS AMG.
No greater truth has been spoken than when Head of Vehicle Development at AMG, Tobias Moers, says, “We absolutely have to do a Black Series.” Yet to be officially confirmed, chances are likely that the SLS Black Series will make it to the U.S. market.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for the other two projects. In order to fulfill regulatory homologation requirements, AMG has confirmed a street-going version of the SLS AMG GT3 race car. As its motorsport efforts are focused in Europe, AMG has no plans to bring this hardcore version to other markets.
AMG’s third project, and perhaps its most ambitious of all, is to bring the SLS E-Cell electric sports car to market by 2012 as a 2013 model.What makes the project so ambitious is that it will not have the handbuilt V8 that AMG is famous for. Instead, the SLS E-Cell will take on electric motors and a battery cell that will add another thousand pounds to the car’s curb weight. In order to manage the issue, weight saving measures were taken to lighten the SLS elsewhere in order to bring the weight difference from the standard model down to a more manageable 200 odd pounds. Tobias Moer assures us that the lower center of gravity benefited from the battery will alleviate the handling shortcomings caused by the extra heft. Power is taken just as seriously, as the electric motors produce an estimated 525 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque.
Unfortunately, chances are slim for the SLS E-Cell to make it into the American market as well. Mercedes-Benz is concerned that the cost to certify the car for the United States wouldn’t make financial sense given the SLS E-cell’s production volume will be extremely low.
Tobias Moers adds, “AMG does not do money losing projects. We can’t afford to.”
GALLERY: Mercedes SLS AMG GT3
Mercedes-Benz has just released detailed photos of its new second-generation B-Class, which is set to debut at the upcoming Frankfurt Motor Show. Last month we were teased as to what the new B-Class would look like, and now that we’ve got the full picture, well, it’s not so clear that it’s any less of a stain on Merc’s impressive design history as of late.
Several models of the B-Class will be available to European buyers, with the B180 sporting a 1.6L turbocharged engine with 120-hp and 147 lb-ft of torque, while the B200 will have 154-hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Europe will also receive a 1.8L diesel, delivering 107-hp and 184 lb-ft of torque in the B180 CDI, while the B200 CDI will feature 134-hp and 221 lb-ft of torque.
Mercedes has also announced that it is looking at producing a limited production F-Cell variant that will hopefully be released in 2015.
GALLERY: Mercedes-Benz B-Class
After having revealed the SLK350 model, Mercedes‘ AMG division has just announced the new SLK55 AMG. Like the previous SLK55, this model gets a 5.5-liter V8 engine, but that’s where the similarities stop. Making 415-hp and 398 lb-ft of torque, this motor is a naturally aspirated version of the twin-turbo 5.5-liter found under the hood of the E63 AMG, CLS63 AMG and S63 AMG.
But much like its biturbo counterpart, this 5.5L V8 also features a start/stop system in order to save fuel. In the Controlled Efficiency mode, the V8 will manage its cylinders by cutting off cylinder-two, cylinder-three, cylinder-five and cylinder-eight between 800- and 3800-rpm, helping conserve fuel while still offering enough performance for day-to-day driving. The powerplant is mated to a seven-speed AMG Speedshift Plus transmission, enabling a 4.5 second 0-60 mph time.
Standard brakes are 14.2-inchers in the front while the rear features 13-inchers while suspension enthusiast looking for a true driving experience can opt for AMG’s Handling Package that features stiffer tuning, rear differential lock, two-piece front disc brakes and a leather/Alcantara-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel.
To help the SLK55 stand out from the crowd, the AMG model features a special body kit and badging. The SLK55 AMG plans to make its grand debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show next month and should be at the dealerships by early 2012. No pricing was announced, but look for it to be in the $70,000 range.
GALLERY: 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG
The closest most of us will ever get to piloting a true DTM race car would be in Gran Turismo 5, and even then the results aren’t always pretty. Those that have unlocked some of the rare collectible race cars in any Gran Turismo knows what it’s like to try to control it for the first time.
Naturally when we heard that MotoGP champion Nicky Hayden strapped himself behind the wheel of a Mercedes DTM race car, we were curious to see what would happen. Obviously we weren’t the only ones, as he had no problems letting the cameras roll.
Hayden, also knock as The Kentucky Kid, won the MotoGP World Championship in 2006 and there’s no doubting his prowess on all things two-wheeled. Tack on another two wheels, a whole lot of horsepower, a wet track and cold tires and the results are pretty similar to what we experience the first time we try to pilot a supercar in Gran Turismo. We can’t laugh at Hayden though, as he’s the one that was fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of Mercedes’ DTM race car while we’re still waiting for the loading screen to finish on our PS3.
Check out the video after the break.
Renntech is known to maximize performance out of every Mercedes-Benz model imaginable, and this time they’ve taken their talents to the SLS AMG supercar. Their new long tube headers adds 20-hp and 20 lb-ft of torque to the factory 563-hp and 480 lb-ft values. These long tube headers were engineered within Renntech’s state-of-the-art facility and features tri-metal, 200-cell catalytic converters and are ceramic coated to reduce heat in the engine bay.
In addition to the horsepower and torque gains, the SLS AMG gains a much throatier note from its naturally aspirated 6.2L V8 powerplant. The result is a finely tuned addition to the SLS AMG’s already remarkable performance and with Renntech’s brand name behind the product it’s guaranteed to last.
Check out a video of Renntech’s SLS AMG after the break.
GALLERY: Renntech SLS AMG
Prior Design is now giving owners of Mercedes-Benz‘s SL-class the option to convert their model to mimic that of an AMG SL Black Series body. The bold, widebody and aggressive design that has made the Black Series famous can now be had from Prior Design in the form of their Black Edition aerodynamic kit. Though no pricing was announced, the kit does come complete with everything required to do the transformation.
Doing the conversion will involve swapping out a majority of the factory body parts, outfitting the SL’s body with all new front fenders, front bumper, front lip spoiler, hood, side skirts, rear fender arches, rear bumper and diffuser and rear trunk spoiler. Lastly, a replacement windshield water tank is included to fit with the new front end.
GALLERY: Prior Design Mercedes-Benz SL R230FL PD Black Edition
ASMA has developed a reputation for doing very special things to cars, mainly ruining them by going way over the top with their styling packages. From their Panamera project to their widebody CL and even the exotic SLR, ASMA has become notorious for accomplishing feats in design that many of us couldn’t even fathom. And always out to satisfy, their release of several color variants of their Mercedes-Benz G-Class almost leaves us speechless.
Almost. As odd as the G-Wagon’s styling is, ASMA has somehow found a way to make it even more absurd and out-of-this-world, especially when presented in outlandish colors such as hot pink. The complete body kit comes with the insane front bumper that would probably look better on a Cayenne, the multi-vented hood, widebody fender extensions, rear lip spoiler and roof spoiler.
The renders show off the available color choices that ASMA is willing to do for both the inside and the out. Truth be told, this is one of their more acceptable packages, but we’re just surprised people actually buy their product.
GALLERY: ASMA Mercedes-Benz G-Class
In a pleasantly surprising move, Mercedes-Benz has announced pricing for the new 2012 M-Class SUV, stating that its starting price will remain the same as its 2011 model, despite offering more than its predecessor. At launch, Mercedes will offer two different models in North America, the ML350 4MATIC and the diesel BlueTEC ML350.
For its third generation, the 2012 M-Class sits .75-inch lower than the previous model, is nearly an inch longer and a half-inch wider. In addition, the SUV gets a styling refresh all around, most noticeably in its front end with a bolder yet more elegant design. The newly refreshed headlights are flush-mounted in the fenders and daytime LED running lights find their way onto the front bumper.
The standard ML350 4MATIC will come powered by a 302-hp 3.5L V6 engine with 273 lb-ft of torque. That’s 13-percent more power for 2012 at an MSRP of $49,865. The diesel BlueTEC features a 3.0L V6 powerplant with 240-hp and an impressive 455 lb-ft of torque with 30-percent better fuel economy than a gasoline counterpart. The ML350 BlueTEC starts at a very reasonable $51,365.
Tech-heads will be happy to hear that the new M-Class also features an all new iPad docking station behind the headrests of the front seats. The docking station can be rotated up to 90-degrees and tilted while being charged through the vehicle.
Look for AutoGuide’s 2012 M-Class review soon.
GALLERY: 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
BMW has a pretty good thing goin’, believes Mercedes. Their car-integrated app store brings together Pandora Internet radio, BMW Connected, and room for more apps within BMW’s mobile Internet service. Now, Mercedes is looking to develop their own.
The system they’ve proposed sounds remarkably similar to BMW’s: it will offer entertainment options like streaming radio, roadside assistance and services, and ways for owners to connect with the company.
“We have our own telematics research and graphics pre-development operation in Palo Alto,” says Gorden Wagener, Mercedes chief designer. ”In addition, we can imagine developing a so-called ‘Mercedes App Store,’ with apps that make the life of the Mercedes driver even more comfortable.”
With Mercedes’s whole host of driving aids, self-guided technology, and automatic warnings, this iPad-integrated system will help owners more effectively avoid that whole pesky driving business.
[Source: Motor Authority]
It seems like Mercedes-Benz‘s new SLK-Class has barely rolled off the lots of dealerships and now the aftermarket already has tuning packages available for the German convertible. Carlsson, a popular Mercedes-Benz tuner, has revealed its tuning package for the new SLK-Class, which will comprise of a styling kit, suspension kit, new wheels, interior accessories and engine upgrades for various models.
On the outside, the SLK gets a 1.2-inch lower stance thanks to Carlsson’s suspension kit. The lowered convertible can then sit comfortably on a set of 18- to 20-inch wheels from Carlsson, depending on your preference. Complementing the new lower profile is an aerodynamic styling kit featuring an aggressive front apron while the rear is outfitted with a diffuser as well. The front grille is also swapped out for a polished stainless-steel counterpart.
Engine power can be boosted anywhere from 27- to 40-hp. By utilizing Carlsson’s C-Tronic, the various SLK-Class powerplants can be upgraded to several stages of horsepower gains. The SLK 200 CGI can go from 184-hp to 211-hp or 224-hp, while the SLK 250 CGI can be upgraded from 204-hp to 239-hp.
No pricing was announced.
GALLERY: Carlsson Mercedes-Benz SLK
The third generation of Mercedes-Benz’s wildly popular M-class has been unveiled, and it sports a wider, cleaner new grille and a new V6 diesel engine.
The ML350 BlueTEC gets a newly massaged 3-liter V6 diesel engine that’s 50-state compliant and features 55-lb/ft more torque than the last engine, bringing that figure up to 455. It also has 240 horsepower, an increase of 30hp over the previous engine. As far as mileage goes, the increase is far more subtle: 20/25 instead of 18/25 city/highway mpg, but the torque is a far more entertaining trade-off.
The other engine is a 3.5-liter V6 engine with direct injection, which features 302 horsepower and 2743 lb/ft of torque. Both of these are available with a seven-speed automatic transmission with a new oil thermal management system. Underneath, the M-Class features what Mercedes calls AGILITY CONTROL, but what normal people call active damping: the shocks can firm up based on current driving conditions, enhancing stability.
Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but it shouldn’t be too far off the mark of the current M-Class’s starting MSRP of $47,365.
Gallery: 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class
The legendary Unimog has been a Mercedes-Benz workhorse for the past 60 years—a truly rugged, no-frills vehicle that can go anywhere and do anything with neither affluence nor pretension. This Bizarro-World lime-green concept? Not so much.
Mercedes-Benz unveiled this crazy Unimog concept as a symbol of what might happen for the next 60, with LED projector headlights, lime-green paint drawn from the poison dart frog (Mercedes’ words), and ”an impressive, dynamic and extremely expressive ‘face’” that more resembles a mustachioed platypus than a workhorse.
The Unimog concept keeps the coil-over springs and chassis from the current Unimog U5000 (and therefore tradition), and claims the open top is a homage to the original square-jawed Unimog from 1951. But if its designers have their say, the future of the Unimog lies in chrome wheels and . If John Deere built cars for Wiz Khalifa’s entourage, this would be it.
Those that have been waiting for a roadster variant of Mercedes‘ SLS AMG supercar can start heading over to their nearest Benz dealership to drop off a deposit. The 2012 SLS AMG Roadster is now official and will make its North American debut in Fall of 2011. The AMG-powered 6.2-liter V8 powerplant puts out 563-hp and 479 ft-lbs of torque while drivers will now have the versatility to conveniently lower the fully automatic, weight-optimized soft top to further enjoy the tone the V8 emits.
The roadster will have the ability to open its soft top so long as you’re traveling under 31-mph, and does so in a mere 11 seconds. The roof control unit is nicely integrated at the front of the center armrest making it within easy reach. To complement the SLS AMG’s nine exterior and eight interior colors, the soft top will be available in three different colors: black, red and beige.
For the rest of the SLS AMG, it’s standard Mercedes-Benz operating procedure which includes a staggered set of 19- and 20-inch wheels, AMG Drive Unit (which also allows controlling of the optional adaptive AMG sport suspension), Bang & Olufsen BeoSound AMG sound system, and optional AMG ceramic high-performance two-piece braking system.
No pricing was announced on the SLS Roadster, but with the coupe retailing for $183,000 it’s likely to approach or even exceed the $200,000 mark.