Tag archives for Mercedes-Benz
Attention all college grads with an engineering degree (and a slight interest in cars): add the Renault-Nissan Alliance to your job hunting list of automotive companies that have been actively seeking and hiring talent to fill engineering and technology jobs. The group announced that in a few weeks it will open its doors to a new research office in Silicon Valley, which is home to a number of high-tech giants.
According to a prepared statement yesterday, the new Northern California office will play an important role in ensuring the group stays “ahead of trends that are reshaping the way people interact with their cars.” The office will research and develop upcoming in-car tech including advanced display interfaces and Internet connectivity. And as one the most prominent manufacturers of electric vehicles, Nissan will use the office to advance its influence in green technology.
Speaking yesterday at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, said, “The Alliance is at the vanguard of the auto industry’s shift to sustainable transportation. Having a greater footprint in one of the world’s headquarters for clean tech research will extend our lead further.” Ghosn also stated that green-tech research is having a positive impact on the economy as well as the job market in the auto industry.
Last year, more than 32,000 jobs were created in the industry including thousands of engineering positions. At the 2011 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress held last month, more than 10,000 attendees had the opportunity to check out and seek possible employment from 35 companies in the engineering field, including Chyrsler, Ford and General Motors. Back in March, we reported that the Detroit three were recruiting newly minted engineering grads for new tech jobs. Attracting graduates to apply has been a challenge, however, mainly due to the low starting wages in Detroit, especially when compared to similar positions Silicon Valley.
In addition to Renault-Nissan’s new office, a number of automakers also have a presence in the high-tech hotspot. BMW’s Technology Office in Palo Alto, California, for example, opened over a decade ago and played a big role in the inception and subsequent revisions to the automaker’s iDrive interface system. Mercedes-Benz has a Silicon Valley-based Group and Advanced Engineering office, which recently developed the smart drive app for the iPhone and has been involved in the testing of fuel-cell vehicles. The Volkswagen Group recently opened an Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Belmont, California, which will develop future infotainment platforms and driver assistance systems. Lastly, Tesla Motors, makers of the all-electric roadster and the upcoming Tesla S sedan, is headquartered in Northern California, and took over the GM/Toyota NUMMI joint-venture assembly plant in Fremont.
Is the future of the U.S. car industry moving away from Detroit to high-tech areas like Silicon Valley?
Source: Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Tesla
Richard Drew/Associated Press
Introduced on Wednesday, March 27: 2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive compact.
2013 New York Auto Show
What is it? A fully electric version of the B-Class luxury compact.
Is it real? Very definitely.
What they said: “While others are still talking about electric cars, we are building them and selling them,” said Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “We are truly committed to emissions-free driving, and providing this in a car that offers all the comfort, quality and safety of a Mercedes-Benz.”
What they didn’t say: While many automakers have canceled or pulled back on plans to produce electric vehicles, Mercedes-Benz may have passed the point of no return – especially financially – in terms of E.V. development and is going full speed ahead. The company’s E.V. line now comprises vehicles from the tiny Smart E.V. to the 750-horsepower SLS AMG Electric Drive.
What makes it tick? A power plant, developed in conjunction with Tesla, that generates 135 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque, and provides a range of 115 miles on a single charge. Mercedes promises recharging in less than four hours. 0-60? “Under 10 seconds,” Mr. Schmidt said.
How much? How soon? Available in the United States starting in early 2014, apparently through dealer order. Mr. Schmidt said orders would be accepted beginning this fall. No pricing was announced.
How’s it look? Not greatly different from the standard B-Class hatchback. The stubby B-Class styling as a whole, to the American eye, may take some getting used to.
Gran Turismo 6 is coming. In celebration of the franchise’s 15th anniversary, Sony today announced its signature racing game Gran Turismo 6 is in development, and will arrive on shelves this holiday season. A playable demo is scheduled to arrive in July.
Sony touts Gran Turismo 6 as bringing new levels of realism and authenticity to the sim racing genre. GT6 boasts an entirely new game and physics engine, the latter of which includes a new aerodynamic model, a new tire model, and a new suspension and kinematics model. Like its rivals at Forza 4 (which worked with Pirelli to help with its tire models), the GT6 team joined with Yokohama and KW Automotive to help develop a more realistic experience in the latest Gran Turismo game.
Gran Turismo 6 will reportedly be released this holiday season, though it’s probably worth noting that GT6′s predecessor, Gran Turismo 5, was the subject of multiple delays. Still, there are a few reasons to remain optimistic. For starters, all of the cars and tracks in GT5 will be carried over to GT6, which will include 1200 cars at launch (though as Motor Trend’s Kirill Ougarov joked on Twitter, “1100 of them will be Skylines”). The newest Gran Turismo will also include seven new tracks (including Silverstone), bringing the track total to 33. There will be 71 different track layouts in the game, with 19 of them new. If those grow old, the course maker function has been improved.
With the announcement of GT6, Sony is planning on continuing its collaboration with Nissan’s GT Academy, the program that turns Gran Turismo gamers into real-life racers. GT Academy returns this July, with the release of the GT6 Silverstone demo.
Speaking of the demo, Sony released a short teaser of the killer graphics and cars we can expect to see in GT6, including the 1986 Audi Quattro rally car, and the 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance.
Here are the cars you’ll be able to drive in the July demo. Bold text indicates the car is new to the Gran Turismo series:
- 1991 Acura NSX
- 2011 Alfa Romeo TZ3 Stradale
- 1968 Alpine a110 1600S
- 1986 Audi Quattro S1 rally car
- 2009 Ferrari 458 Italia
- 1971 Ferrari Dino 246 GT
- 2006 Ford GT
- 2012 KTM X-Bow R
- 1974 Lamborghini Countach LP400
- 2007 Light Car Company Rocket
- 2010 McLaren MP4-12C
- 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3
- 2008 Nissan 370Z (GT Academy Version)
- 2008 Nissan 370Z Tuned Car (GT Academy Version)
- 2012 Nissan GT-R Black Edition (GT Academy Version)
- Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 N24 Shulze Motorsport
- Nissan Leaf G (GT Academy Version)
- 2012 Tesla Model S Signature Performance
- 2012 Toyota 86 GT
It’s Car of the Year time again! Over the past two weeks we’ve been teasing new 2013 Car of the Year contenders every day. With the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year announcement coming Monday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m. EST, we thought it’d be fun to ask which contender you think will take home the golden calipers.
But since we get this question at each Of The Year event, we’d like to provide a friendly reminder that Car of the Year is only open to new or significantly updated vehicles that cost $120,000 or less. That means that the 2013 Ford Fusion is eligible for Car of the Year because it’s a full update, while the 2013 Ford Focus ST isn’t, since only one trim level is new, not the whole car. With that cleared up, let’s take a look at the contenders.
Acura ILX – We Like: Available swift-shifting manual and Honda Civic Si drivetrain. We Don’t Like: Questionable value in certain trims.
BMW 3 Series – We Like: The developed and mature feel of the car; “amazing” handling. We Don’t Like: A bit softer than previous 3 Series cars
Cadillac ATS – We Like: Excellent steering, firm chassis and impressive dynamics. We Don’t Like: Balky manual transmission.
Cadillac XTS – We Like: Exceptionally smooth ride; rock solid at triple-digit speeds. We Don’t Like: 3.6-liter V-6 could use a bit more refinement.
Chevrolet Malibu – We Like: We generally liked the Malibu’s interior design. We Don’t Like: We found the backseat too cramped for adults.
Chevrolet Spark – We Like: Surprisingly fun to toss around; well-appointed interior. We Don’t Like: Low handling limits.
Coda EV Sedan – We Like: It’s a cheap and cheerful electric car, with a long range. We Don’t Like: Subpar interior, bland design.
Dodge Dart – We Like: Pleasant styling, excellent value. We Don’t Like: “Dead” steering feel.
Ford C-Max—We Like: Ease of electric-only driving, the fact that it’s a fun-to-drive hybrid. We Don’t Like: Tires lack the grip to live up to the chassis.
Ford Fusion – We Like: Excellent steering feedback on 1.6 EcoBoost model; vast array of engine, transmission, and drivetrain options. We Don’t Like: Not as fun to drive as the outgoing Fusion.
Honda Accord – We Like: Crisp handling, and buttoned-down interior. We Don’t Like: Surge-y, on-off throttle response at low speed with the CVT.
Hyundai Azera – We Like: Comfortable, roomy cabin with huge trunk. We Don’t Like: Polarizing styling.
Lexus ES – We Like: High-quality interior and roomy backseat. We Don’t Like: Hybrid suffered from a sloppy transition between regenerative and mechanical braking.
Lexus GS – We Like: Whole lineup was fun to drive – even the Hybrid; high-caliber interior design and materials. We Don’t Like: The haptic, mouse-like controller that operates the infotainment system.
Lexus LS – We Like: Comfortable and quiet ride; V-8 grunt. We Don’t Like: Not as much of a game-changer as the original LS.
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class – We Like: An excellent Grand Tourer; felt unflappable at high speeds. We Don’t Like: More horsepower than handling prowess.
Nissan Altima – We Like: Beautiful interior and comfortable seats. We Don’t Like: Could benefit from retuned steering.
Nissan Sentra – We Like: Baby Altima styling, and genuinely roomy interior. We Don’t Like: CVT and engine moan.
Porsche 911 – We Like: An incredibly usable supercar. We Don’t Like: Too obvious that Porsche spent more time developing the PDK than the manual.
Porsche Boxster – We Like: Exceptional build quality, beautiful balance. We Don’t Like: Poor value.
Scion FR-S – We Like: Incredibly fun to drive and an excellent value. We Don’t Like: Cheap-feeling interior.
Subaru BRZ – We Like: Terrific chassis; superb balance, and steering. We Don’t Like: We want more power.
Tesla Model S – We Like: Long range combined with excellent performance. We Don’t Like: Styling a bit safe.
Toyota Avalon – We Like: Great ride and handling; nicely appointed interior. We Don’t Like: A face only a mother could love.
Toyota Prius C – We Like: Cheap and cheerful appeal. We Don’t Like: This car is no fun.
Which contender do you think will take home the Golden Calipers as our 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year? Sound off in the poll and in the comments below.
To compete for the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year title, contenders must be all new or significantly revised 2013-model-year cars or 2012-model-year cars that went on sale too late for 2012 COTY consideration. All eligible vehicles are invited to compete. Check back to MotorTrend.com on November 12 at 3:30 p.m. PST / 6:30 p.m. EST to discover what will become the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!
Of all the new features on the 2013 Smart Fortwo ED, including a larger battery pack and a more powerful motor, one is engineered to garner the most attention: its price.
Accounting for the maximum federal income tax credit of $7,500, the price of the 2013 model, scheduled to go on sale next spring, can be reduced from $25,750 to $18,250. From there, any available state subsidies could be applied. In California, where a zero-emissions-vehicle program recently awarded its 10,000th rebate, the price could potentially fall a further $2,500.
Even for non-Californians, the positioning makes the Fortwo ED the lowest-price battery-electric car on the American market. Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA, said the company did not intend to “play games” and advertise the price inclusive of the tax credit.
Smart USA brought its electric cars to Brooklyn on Wednesday for test drives along the waterfront and around Prospect Park. It was a homecoming of sorts, as the company offered test drives of the second-generation car, which was only available for lease, in the borough in 2010.
According to Heiko Schmidt, a Smart product manager, Tesla Motors, which supplied the battery and other components for the Mercedes-Benz B-Class E.V. on display at the Paris motor show, was not producing the battery for the updated and upgraded Fortwo ED. Instead, the vehicle will ship with a 17.6 kilowatt-hour battery pack from Deutsche ACCUmotive, a subsidiary of Daimler, owner of the Smart brand.
At peak output of 55 kilowatts, the motor can produce 74 horsepower in two-minute bursts. The motor, according to Mr. Schmidt, is produced in a joint venture with Bosch. Charging the battery from depleted to full using the 240-volt charger, a $1,300 option, would take about six hours. A driver would reach a 20 percent to 80 percent level of charge in 3.5 hours, Mr. Schmidt added. Though Smart USA asserted the Fortwo ED’s travel range on a full charge would be 90 miles, the estimate had not yet been corroborated by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The result is a vehicle that feels quick off the line, with an available 100 pound-feet of torque and a manufacturer-estimated run from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11.5 seconds, an improvement of 50 percent over the second-generation car, Mr. Schmidt said. It would also make the Fortwo ED quicker than a standard Fortwo, as observed by Edmunds. Top speed of the electric car is about 80 m.p.h. The Brooklyn streets were best for stop-and-go, so the Smart’s highway prowess was untested.
The interior of the Smart does not vary greatly from that of the standard car, and the battery pack, mounted under the floor, does not intrude into what little storage space is available. Information on the car’s state of charge and power demand is available from two dash-mounted instruments that resemble tachometers, and the driver can check miles-to-empty and set charging times using a small display.
The options list for the Smart has not been published, but drivers would be able to order paddles mounted behind the steering wheel that controlled how much regenerative braking the car deployed, a useful feature, I found. Choosing extra “regen” extended the car’s range and also reduced the need to use the brake pedal. In any mode, the car was quiet, with only a minor amount of motor whine. Being tiny, it was easy to whip around corners and fit into tight spaces.
Smart USA, having come under the purview of Mercedes-Benz USA in 2011 after the Penske Group relinquished control of the brand, is in recovery mode. Tracey Matura, the general manager of Smart, said the company had 89 dealers, up from 75 when Mercedes took over 15 months ago. Smart sold 1,030 cars in September, an improvement from earlier rock-bottom results and up 120 percent from the same month last year.
Ms. Matura added that Daimler’s plant in Hambach, France, would be able to meet the demand for electric Smarts, should that demand materialize.
The new car is available for sale or lease, but the lease price is not yet available. The rate ought to be far more approachable than the $599 a month charged for the second generation, of which just 250 were made available to consumers in the United States. A further 300 of the second-generation E.V.’s went into service in San Diego in the fleet of Car2Go, a car-sharing service backed by Daimler.
The microcar would also be offered in Cabriolet form for $28,750, giving the company another distinction in the absence of the discontinued Tesla Roadster: the only mass-produced electric convertible in the United States.
Smart is encouraging consumers to preregister their interest in the Fortwo ED on a dedicated Web site.
This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 5, 2012
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the output of the Smart ED’s motor. At peak output of 55 kilowatts, it produces the equivalent of 74 horsepower, not 47 as initially written.
An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the output of the Smart ED’s motor. At peak output of 55 kilowatts, it produces the equivalent of 74 horsepower, not 47 as initially written.
Popular Science has named the winners in its Best of What’s New awards, the victors coming in the categories of aerospace, automotive, engineering, entertainment, gadgets, green, hardware, health, home, recreation, security and software. The automotive category did not go wanting for lauded advancements:
- Tesla Model S: the Grand Award winner for being “the standard by which all future electric vehicles will be measured.”
- BMW 328i: it’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gets called out for being more powerful and frugal than the six-cylinder it replaces.
- Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: towering power, towering top speed, 30 percent more fuel efficient than the 599 Fiorano it replaces.
- Toyota RAV4 EV: the all-electric SUV accelerates better than many conventional SUVs, goes 100 mph and actually beats EPA mileage estimates.
- Porsche Cayenne Diesel: 406 pound-feet of torque, 33 highway mpg, up to 800 miles from a single tank and Cayenne style, give ‘em a trophy.
- 2013 Ford Fusion: its three flavors – standard, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid – “are the most efficient models in their classes,” that latter one expected to outdo the Chevrolet Volt’s EPA mileage rating.
- The DeltaWing: gets kudos for being “the most efficient racecar in history.”
- Mercedes-Benz Magic Vision Control: a holistic solution to keeping your windshield clean and clear year-round.
- General Motors’ MyLink: takes the in-car computer out of the car, puts it in the driver’s smartphone.
- Infiniti Back-Up Collision Intervention: rear-mounted radar and sonar keep track of what’s behind you and brake automatically if an obstacle is detected so you don’t hit things when you back that Infiniti up.
The automotive category tied with categories like aerospace and health for the number of awards. Congratulations to all the winners, head on over to PopSci for the full details on each of them.
Related Gallery2012 Tesla Model S: First Drive
And just like that, we’re closing the book on 2012 and preparing to start 2013. Motor Trend staffers were lucky enough to drive a wide assortment of fantastic cars, with everything from the 74-hp Volkswagen Up! to the 691-hp Lamborghini Aventador passing through our garage. Of the hundreds of cars we’ve driven this year, these are the cars that stood out most to our editors in 2012, for better and for worse.
Erick Ayapana, Associate Online Editor:
Best: 2013 Porsche Boxster S
I only needed a few minutes in the 2013 Porsche Boxster S before feeling completely comfortable driving the car at its limits. No other car I’ve driven this year has felt as perfect or as fun to drive as the Boxster. And how about that back side? The Boxster’s spoiler (and how it blends into the taillight units) is hands down the sexiest automotive design feature I’ve seen all year.
Worst: 2012 Volkswagen Routan
The VW logo on the steering wheels said I was driving a Volkswagen, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Again, this is nothing more than a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country and nothing about the minivan feels remotely German. Case in point: we all know that German carmakers treat cup holders like the plague, yet the Routan’s Getränkehalter (cup holder) count totals 15.
Mike Febbo, Associate Editor:
Best: Porsche 911 Carrera S
I proclaimed the beginning of the end when the 996 replaced the air-cooled 993, but became a believer again after first driving the 997. As for the 991, the car has restored my faith in Porsche as the best sports car builder on the planet. From driving position, to steering, to the new PDK gearbox, everything about the 991 is exceptional.
Worst: BMW e39 M5 at the Nurburgring
While the e39 M5 is one of the best sedans ever built, this particular car was on its factory tires — the tires fitted when it was built. After a few years of hard use and then being put into storage, these near slick chunks of carbon offered just slightly more grip than the wheels they were mounted on. On a rain-soaked track in just over freezing temperatures, this was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had as a journalist.
Mike Floyd, Senior Digital Content Director:
Best: Cadillac ATS
Other than our esteemed 2013 Car of the Year — the out-of-this-world Tesla Model S — the car I was most impressed with in 2012 was the Cadillac ATS. Anyone who thinks General Motors can’t build world-class cars needs to beat feet down to a Cadillac dealer and get behind the wheel of the ATS. Both the turbo-four and V-6 powertrains are impressive, and while we had some issues with the manual (they assure us it’s being adjusted), the fact that they offer one at all was a huge bonus point in any enthusiast’s book — and mine as well. It looks good, handles great, moves out with authority and while a little fussy at times, its CUE telematics system is among the most impressive of its type out there. Bravo Cadillac, a sport sedan that truly has what it takes to compete with all comers.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
Conversely, the Chevrolet Malibu also shows how far GM has to go in some segments. At this year’s Car of the Year event, we had some of the heaviest hitters in the midsize sedan category out for evaluation, and the Malibu was literally crushed by the weight of new Accord, Fusion, and Altima. Its engine/transmission was underpowered and lazy, its steering was vague and suspension unsettled and its interior (at least the car we had at the event) was no match for its competitors. To put it bluntly, it simply cannot compete with the best the segment has to offer. We hear now that Chevrolet is rushing changes to the Malibu much as Honda did with the Civic. Let’s hope it helps, because the present Malibu is going to need all the massaging it can get to stay off the rental car lots.
Zach Gale, Online News Director:
Best: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe
The Aston Martin DBS is more attractive than the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, but at least the German car doesn’t have a small, folding Garmin navigation screen at the top of its otherwise pleasing cabin. What excites me about the SLS AMG is its engine note. No modern supercar can be fully exploited safely on open-to-the-public winding roads, so I especially appreciate the SLS AMG’s engine sound and the wild appeal provided by the long hood and gullwing doors. My honorable mention might go to the Lexus GS 350, with its surprisingly good interior and decent driving dynamics.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
It must be a tough time to be a small electric-automaker, competing with well-funded entries from companies like Nissan and Chevrolet, but that doesn’t mean we can overlook the Coda EV sedan’s shortcomings. Though I love an underdog, this electric sedan has too many impossible-to-ignore shortcomings. Despite the bold five-spoke wheels, there’s the dated exterior styling and the interior’s center stack that’s simply not up to the class standard, with an ultra-low-mounted central screen and a general feeling that’s more “economy car” than “special electric sedan.” We want to like the Coda but, at least for me, I found it difficult to get past the packaging that helps keep costs down.
Jonny Lieberman, Senior Features Editor:
Best: Porsche 911 Carrera S
Yeah, the car that won the 2012 Best Drivers Car also won my heart. Other cars are faster, flashier, more practical, etc., but no car is as fun to throw around on your favorite mountain road. A huge improvement over what I thought was already nearly perfect (the old 997), the new 991 is a revelation. I can’t even imagine what the follow-up versions (Turbo, GT3, 50th Anniversary edition, etc.) will be like, but I can imagine how much I’ll like them. Runners up this year include the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CL65, Tesla Model S, Cadillac ATS 3.6, Toyota Avalon, and Morgan 3-Wheeler.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
Really GM? You knock one out of the park with the Caddy ATS and then revert back to your bad old ways with this… well, you can’t call it a car so much as a collection of bad things people associate with rental cars. Slow, bad brakes, clueless transmission, an engine that sounds like a vacuum cleaner sucking up a T-shirt, poor suspension, tight back seat, poor NVH, etc. I refer to the new Malibu around the office as “Dumpster Fire.” It’s that bad. Don’t believe me? GM is rushing the refresh. Runners up: Dodge Dart, Toyota Prius C, Lexus ES 350.
Ed Loh, Editor-in-Chief:
Best: Tesla Model S
Obviously our COTY! Everyone who has driven it comes away impressed; I have yet to find anyone who has not been “converted.” It also ranks as the most surprising for me. I remember flying to Las Vegas for the third long-distance test we did and feeling the weight of expectation as I approached it in the parking garage of the Aria casino. I remember feeling somewhat confused and lost when the valet handed me the key, because I had been so busy up until that moment of truth, I hadn’t paid much attention to the testing we had done, the feedback from colleagues Kim, Frank, Jessi, and Benson — in fact, I had no idea about how to open the car door or start it up, save the verbal instructions I had received the day before. And to my surprise – everything worked as promised. The door handle popped out when I pushed on it, the car magically came to life when I got it inside, and a minute later, as I pulled out of the darkness of the garage and into the bright daylight of Las Vegas, I forgot I was in an electric car. It was that seamless and smooth. Shocking really.
Worst/Most Disappointing: BMW M5
I was probably most disappointed by the BMW M5. Fast yes, but so much of the purity, of what made that car special, seems to have disappeared. It’s still fast, but its feels artificially enhanced and unnatural. On an industry level, I’m really sad to see Suzuki exit the U.S. market; they have a great sedan here (Kizashi) but that clearly wasn’t enough. Would have loved to see Swift and Jimny here, but those are fringe products; Suzuki went after mainstream volume and failed. Hyundai’s 40 MPG debacle is also incredibly disappointing, but only stands to highlight how important fuel economy is right now and will continue to be in the future.
Frank Markus, Technical Director:
Most Memorable: Lamborghini Aventador
To be clear, the best car I drove this year was Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Model S, which conveyed myself and Jessi Lang from L.A. to Vegas with no extension cord. But my most memorable drive of 2012 was a 2107-kilometer (1310 mile) trek from Sant’Agata Bolonese, Italy to Zaragoza Spain in Lamborghini’s new Aventador for a visit to the very bullring where its namesake, an 1118-pound toro bravo fought so bravely in 1993. Scaling the spectacularly scenic Col de la Bonnette in the Maritime Alps, and the Col d’Aspin in the Pyrenees was almost as memorable as threading the seemingly 9-foot wide spaceship through tourist-choked medieval cart-paths of Monte Carlo, Nice, and Arles. Watching the descendants of the Gallardo line of fighting bulls charge this orange missile and then using the Aventador to charge matador Tomas Luna on the very same Albero sand where the brave bull perished are permanently etched in my automotive memory banks.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
This is really a case of inopportune time-shifting. The Coda is a 1990s car trying to compete in 2012, and as such it doesn’t stand a chance. The Chinese, bless their hearts, cannot design a new car to save their lives. (Yet.) So they engage in their own brand of R & D (receive and duplicate) or, as in the case of Hafei, start with ancient hand-me-down Mitsubishi architecture and pass the design-cost savings along. Getting the car itself for super-cheap was understandably important to Coda, which planned to stuff it full of 20 or 30 grand’s worth of batteries. The result is a stiff riding, tinny sounding, poorly appointed, noisy, mean conveyance that does—on the upside—offer plenty of get-up-n-go and reasonable range. Just try super hard to avoid the sort of wrecks that NHTSA and others subject cars to, as the Coda performs like an ancient Mitsubishi in such tests.
Alex Nishimoto, Associate Online Editor:
Best: McLaren 12C
During our 2012 Best Driver’s Car competition, I had the good fortune to take home the McLaren for a night. Needless to say, it was a good night. The racy exterior design, low-H-point seating position, and 592-hp twin-turbo V-8 all contributed to a VIP-like driving experience. Though it sometimes took multiple finger swipes of the touch sensors to open the handle-less scissor doors, there are few things I can think of that impart swagger better than getting in or out of a $200,000-plus supercar.
Most Disappointing: Mitsubishi Lancer GT
Going into my test of the Lancer GT, I was actually excited to see what the sporty-looking compact had to offer. On paper, the GT trim level looks like a decent sport compact for budget-minded enthusiasts. But a poorly appointed cabin (especially for our $25,000 as-tested price), nasal-sounding engine note, and un-engaging paddle-shifted CVT held the car back from being anything other than basic transportation.
Kirill Ougarov, Production Manager:
Best: Mercedes-Benz G550
We had one hell of a year when it comes to Benzes, what with getting every AMG extant and every S-Class, but my favorite was easy the red G550 for the simple reason it was a G-Wagen, and thus awesome. There’s also that whole thing about us Russians loving G-Wagens. Honorary mention to the matte-white E63 AMG. Now to combine the two and get my hands on a G63…
Worst: Ford Taurus
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the car itself, but I’m putting it down here because MyFord Touch froze up on me while I was trying to switch audio sources and wouldn’t reset until the car power-cycled once I parked it at my destination, which happened to be some 45 miles away. Merely turning it off then back on, on the side of the freeway didn’t do the trick. As a result, I had limited controls over the audio, no ability to control the climate control, and no navigation during the whole drive.
Kim Reynolds, Testing Director:
Best: Tesla Model S
This pick sounds a bit obvious now, but before anyone had a chance to drive the Tesla there were lots of reasons to be apprehensive. It was their first from-the-ground-up design. They had zero experience in building a complete car. And after the Volt battery-fire incident, also good reason to worry about its enormous lithium-ion battery. So the Model S’ subsequent competence is just short of miraculous. By comparison, we still see cars from very established, highly experienced car companies that contain absolutely remarkable mistakes. Such as my Worst pick of the year.
Worst: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Understand, this isn’t my worst car of the year, but rather the one that most surprised me (in a negative way) compared to my expectations. The SLS AMG’s limit handling is very difficult for me to comprehend from a company with this experience. Defeat its stability nannies and its rear can slip away like a squeezed pumpkin seed and is about as easy to wrangle back behind you as a frightened rabbit. Driven with abandon, the SLS AMG can quickly make you look like a complete idiot.
Christian Seabaugh, Associate Online Editor:
Best: Subaru BRZ
I drove a lot of fantastic (and expensive) cars and trucks this year including the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Boxster S, but the car I keep coming back to is the Subaru BRZ. I can’t get enough of this car. Every time I get out of it I want nothing more than to go back out and have another go. It’s just such a rewarding car to drive, with so much personality; the engine is rev-happy, the gearbox is a delight, the pedals are perfectly spaced, and the handling is some of the best I’ve experienced this side of a Ferrari 458 Italia. I simply adore this thing. Honorable mentions: Chevrolet Spark, Ford Raptor, Mazda Miata Super 20, Porsche 911 Carrera, Tesla Model S.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
I never thought I’d more miserable driving than I was earlier this year trying to get 40 mpg out of our old long-term Hyundai Elantra. Then I drove the Chevrolet Malibu. The Malibu is just such a disappointing car to drive, especially compared to the new Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. From the transmission constantly hunting for gears, to the underpowered, drone-y engine, to the complete disconnect between the wheels and the road – the Malibu just disappointed on all fronts. I can honestly say that I’ve never been so eager to stop driving than I was in the Malibu. Here’s hoping GM can step its game up with the next one. Dishonorable mentions: BMW 528i, Cadillac Escalade, Dodge Dart, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius C
Melissa Spiering, Online Editor, Truck Trend:
Best: XPLORE Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
I got to take XPLORE‘s custom built Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon off-roading in Johnson Valley, California, to watch the Sixth Annual Griffin King of the Hammers off-road race. It had the right modifications mechanically and visually to stand out in the crowd without looking over done. The all-new 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar was a blast to drive on the trails and hillsides to get to the best viewpoints for the race.
Worst: 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4
Is it dead yet? Two weeks in the 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude and I couldn’t get one staffer to trade me vehicles. The noisy CVT was nerve wrecking and the 2.4-liter engine was gutless. The most heartbreaking thing about the Compass is that it poses itself to be a real Jeep but sadly lacks the true heart and soul of what the Jeep brand is. My dog enjoyed the ride though – she was able to hold her balance in the back seat due to the lack of torque.
Jason Udy, Associate Online Editor:
Best: Nissan GT-R Black Edition
After putting more than 1700 miles on our long-term Nissan GT-R Black Edition in four days, including onramp blasts for the enjoyment of 30 friends and family members, I came away impressed by Godzilla’s ride quality, fuel mileage, and sheer acceleration. In fact, my 60-year-old aunt who traveled with me commented that it was the most enjoyable road trip she had ever made. Points for the Recaro seats and suspension’s comfort mode. Overall the GT-R returned 19.1 mpg (19.9 mpg not including the tank of fuel used for onramp runs) at an average of 10 mph above posted speeds. Let’s not forget the as-tested 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
While the Coda may not be the most disappointing car I drove in 2012 (my expectations were too low for disappointment), it was by far the worst car I drove all year. The interior is cheap and handling is downright scary. Part of what makes the Coda feel cheap are its Chinese economy car roots – basically a modified and rebadged Hafei Saibao that has been on the market for years.
What were the best and worst cars you’ve driven in 2012?
Looks like another Tesla Motors investor will be looking to cash in on their connection. Autoweek reports Mercedes-Benz will offer their B-Class in the U.S. with Tesla propulsion.
The magazine says their source at the German automaker confirms plans for a B-Class electric-only vehicle. While Tesla already provides battery packs for the battery-powered Smart ForTwo, the B-Class EV will reportedly have Tesla batteries, motor and other components. U.S. residents should be able to procure one sometime in 2014.
The same Mercedes source says plans for a hybrid B-Class have been postponed for now. Adding a range-extending, gasoline-powered engine to an electric vehicle would put the car into a different class for which rebates and incentives aren’t as favorable in the States.
Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler owns a 4.7-percent share of Tesla. Toyota also owns part of the electric-car company with which it builds electric RAV4 crossovers.
By Chris Tutor
What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. This week’s cocktail comes by way of Automobile Magazine contributor Bob Merlis, who served The Christie at his Palm Springs pool party this past week. The Christie is made my mixing vodka and fresh grapefruit juice (Merlis recommends plucking a grapefruit from a tree and giving it a squeeze, since they grow all over Palm Springs); the proportions between juice and liquor and use of ice are up to the drinker’s discretion. Top with sparkling water, a splash of pomegranate juice, and a squeeze of lime. Read more about Merlis’ party below.
Ready for Bed: It actually has lights! Who wouldn’t want to tuck their kids in this Corvette bed? Now if only they made it an adult-size.
Tom Hang, Graphic Designer
BaT Hits the Big Time: We’ve long been fans of Bring A Trailer, the daily email with picks of the most interesting vintage cars for sale. We’ve even interviewed its founder, Randy Nonnenberg. Recently, BaT received the endorsement of bona fide celebrity car guy Jerry Seinfeld, in his recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Seinfeld suggests that BaT might be the place to find a vintage ride for Dave, for Seinfeld’s web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The question is, what would be the right car for Letterman?
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
Review Sparks Outrage: John Broder’s review in The New York Times of the Tesla Model S, our Automobile of the Year, drew nasty tweets from the automaker’s chief, Elon Musk. Public reaction seems to favor Musk and his electric car, though I have no doubt that Broder followed Tesla’s instructions in his test of the company’s East Coast Supercharger network, resulting in a dead car. The Model S is a high-tech wonder, with an impressive electric-car range. It’s not for the uninformed, uninvolved customer, even the rich ones, who plans to drive it every day, in all conditions. Musk may be a visionary, but he’s a thin-skinned one, used to sycophantic press clips from an adoring Silicon Valley press corps. Buck up, Elon; new car reviews, like the car business, aren’t easy.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor
German NASCAR: We got fired up for the sports car racing season last week at Daytona Int’l Speedway as BMW introduced its new car for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the BMW Z4 GTE. It looks like the snakiest Z4 in captivity with its unique, wide-body aero bodywork for the U.S., plus it has a 480-hp version of the latest 4.4-liter BMW V-8. Compared to the former M3 GT’s V-8 with its 180-degree crankshaft, this new BMW V-8, with its even-fire crankshaft, sounds like a NASCAR engine. In fact, NASCAR exec Mike Helton made a brief appearance in pit lane to see the program, and as the BMW Z4 GTE roared past on the banking, he said, “Now that sounds like a proper racing car.”
Mid-Century Magnificence: This weekend Palm Springs wraps up Modernism Week, which is the annual celebration of Mid-Century Modern design in the resort town in the California desert. Last Monday the Modernism Week car show took place in front of the convention center, a modest event of about 60 cars. Contributor Bob Merlis was predictably one of the ringleaders, as he knows everyone in Palm Springs who owns a cool car from the 1950s and 1960s. Merlis and his wife even hosted a pool party where Modernism Week performer Lou Christie – famous for his three-octave singing in the early 1960s — was the honored guest. Now that it’s cool to own a car that you might see in Mad Men, our Connecticut-bred Merlis wears a 1950s porkpie hat like he was born to it.
All in the Family: Contributor Ronald Ahrens was at Daytona Int’l Speedway last weekend as the 2014 Chevrolet SS was presented to the public. It made sense, since the rear-wheel-drive SS is the template for Chevrolet’s new-generation NASCAR racer that will appear in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. GM North America president Mark Reuss was the key spokesman, which seems only fair, since he was the general manager of Holden in Australia when the platform beneath the SS was first developed for the Pontiac G8. Some noticed that many wore a T-shirt emblazoned, “L. Reuss Garage: Excellent Used Cars, Darmstadt, Ill.” This is the car lot owned by Reuss’s grandfather, and Reuss’s father grew up there to become first an important GM engineer and then president of the whole corporation. This might seem like vanity move by Mark Reuss, but today Detroit feels like a family enterprise more than ever, because every person on every street depends on the car business for a livelihood and lives and dies with its successes and failures more than ever. Grandsons on the assembly line and daughters in the engineering office – everyone. It’s no longer fashionable at Chrysler, Ford and GM to be a Wall Street bagman and pretend it’s all just about business. In Detroit, it’s not just business. It’s personal.
Michael Jordan, Senior Editor
The End of Road Rage?: After I stumbled upon some illustrations of hovering cars the other week, I’m just now reading about Google’s new driverless car and the impacts it could have on roads, legislation and, really, how we live our everyday lives. The advent of these cars raises an important question: what happens when a driverless car is in an accident that might normally provoke road rage? It’s easy enough to get angry with the driver of a fellow car, but when it’s actually the car and not the driver that’s responsible for the accident, do you instead unleash your furry on an inanimate object?
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
AWD AMG: Realizing that its E-Class needed major work, Mercedes-Benz implemented some serious changes for the mid-cycle face-lift of its high-volume mid-size car. The change that strikes me most is the move to standard all-wheel drive (sorry, 4Matic) for the AMG performance edition. Mercedes-AMG will soon go from offering zero all-wheel-drive cars to four (E63, CLS63, A45, and CLA45), in addition to the quartet of all-wheel drive SUVs already for sale. Is this a good thing? That depends on whether you’d rather get superb lap times on track days or perform sensational powerslides for magazine covers. BMW says that its M cars will remain rear-wheel drive, but German car companies often behave like lemmings, so I wouldn’t be surprised if BMW follows Mercedes, which followed Audi anyway.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Million Dollar Rides: It turns out that Will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas is the owner of that crazy $900,000 Dick Tracy from the future car. Yeesh.
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
Marketing Madness: Driving a Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition, I couldn’t help but to wonder why someone would buy one of these over the 300 S. The Glacier is based on the S, but eschews things like full leather seats and 19-inch wheels, while adding little more than one unique paint color, special floormats, and not-even-trying-to-look real carbon fiber interior trim. Unless you’re jones-ing for a 300 painted in Glacier Blue Pearl with 17-inch wheels, there’s little reason to opt for the special-edition car over the 300 S. We get it Chrysler – you’re trying to remind us that you have an all-wheel drive sedan in your dealerships, but I think your marketing money might be better spent just reminding people that the 300 is quite a good car, no special edition needed.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Navigation Niggles: I spent Monday and Tuesday driving a Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible from Las Vegas to San Francisco. It was a spectacular car that handled Death Valley as well as it did a blizzard (thanks to the snow tires). But the navigation system is severely lacking. The Hyundai Azera I’m driving around Los Angeles has a faster, more logical navigation system. Then again, I suppose anyone driving a Bentley has already arrived.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
CDs? What are Those? I’m generally a fan of services like Rdio and Pandora to stream music, but I was recently reminded how good CDs—derided as relics of a bygone era—still are. I purchased Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” with my Sunday morning Starbucks and popped it into the Buick Regal GS’ optional Harmon/Kardon stereo; the combination of high-quality audio, surround sound algorithms, and about 500 watts of power turned “When It’s All Over” (one of the album’s most adventurous, and most satisfying, tracks) into an aural masterpiece. I’m sure that I could have replicated the experience in some cars with Bluetooth, or HD Radio, but CDs remain the most consistently awesome medium for listening to high-quality tunes.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
World’s Worst Drivers? There was no shortage of video footage of the asteroid that hit Russia last week thanks to the fact that so many drivers in that country have dash-mounted video cameras in their cars. Curious as to why this is so, The Washington Post looked into it and reports that the dash cams are there as a reaction to Russia’s high incidence of hit-and-run crashes and false accident-liability claims. One result of all those dash cams is that the internet is chockfull of compilations of Russian traffic accidents. Go to YouTube or Google and type in “Russian car crash” and you’ll find scores of video compilations of Russian traffic accidents. You’ll be alternately entertained by the crazy driving maneuvers and the fender benders that result and dismayed by the widespread disregard for public safety. But once you start watching, you might not be able to stop. It is, literally, like watching a train wreck – er, make that a car crash.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Bling Bling: If that spiffy new 2013 GL in your driveway lacks a certain something, Mercedes-Benz has something that might literally light up your life. The automaker’s accessories wing is now selling kits that illuminate the gigantic three-pointed star grille emblem with LEDs at night. Pricing remains unknown, as does the illuma-star’s compliance with federal safety standards. Part of me kind of hopes Mercedes-Benz develops this for its European Actros semi truck, as that emblem is about the size of an extra-large pizza.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Mulling Over Mercedes: Mercedes-Benz USA product planners and PR reps visited this week and gave me a few things to think about:
They talked more about the upcoming CLA250, the so-called baby CLS four-door coupe that will have a price point just below $30K (before destination charge) when it goes on sale later this year, thus undercutting the current least expensive Mercedes-Benz, the C-class sedan, by some five or six thousand dollars. The CLA appears to be a beautiful car (I’ve seen it only in photos), and I don’t think the target buyers in the United States will give a fig that it’s built on a front-wheel-drive platform rather than rear-wheel drive. (All-wheel drive will arrive early in 2014.) But it got me thinking about this difficult business of premium brands reaching down the price scale. I thought about the BMW 318 hatchback of the mid-90s, which started in the low to mid $20,000s. I thought about the early-2000s C-Class, which was heavily advertised as being a Mercedes for less than $30,000. Neither one of those cars really did much for their brands. I think the jury is still out on whether a premium brand like Mercedes can dip this low in the American market without losing its cachet.
Mercedes-Benz USA’s head of product planning, when asked about the recent announcements of a Chevrolet Cruze diesel and a Mazda 6 diesel, was ecstatic, telling us that nothing can be better for acceptance of diesel automobiles in America than affordable, mass-market diesel sedans. Mercedes, which has been selling BlueTec versions of its E-Class and S-Class sedans and its M-Class and GL-Class SUVs, has done everything it can to educate Americans that modern diesel engines are smooth, powerful, reliable, and efficient, but they’ve had a very difficult time spreading the message beyond a core group of true believers. So it was interesting to me to see a representative of a premium brand so excited about what’s going on at two mass-market brands.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
XL1ent: The news that Volkswagen will put its XL1 into limited production is great for the auto industry. Sure, the teensy, slow, and likely very expensive car is nowhere near as thrilling as the latest supercar from Europe — but it involves just as much clever engineering. The challenges needed to build a car that can drive 261 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel are just as (or perhaps more) interesting than those needed to build a 900-horsepower supercar. Just like a supercar, the Volkswagen XL1 will be somewhat expensive and thus will have limited appeal, but also like a supercar, lessons learned from the XL1 will eventually trickle down to other models. This car is the future — and I would love to drive it.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
88 MPH: Universal Studios recently announced that a crack team of geeks restored a DeLorean from the Back to the Future franchise. This “Time Machine Restoration Team” reminds me of when a Midwestern DeLorean club visited my high school.
I woke up early on a Saturday morning and drove to our garage to clean and paint suspension components for a 1965 Ford Mustang. About an hour after I arrived, the first one pulled up. Then the next one. Then the next. The stainless-steel locusts filled the lot adjacent to the garage. I studied the cars only until I saw their owners. “88 MPH” t-shirts tucked into the elastic waistbands of 99-cent sweatpants. One guy silently walked around with a clipboard. One guy put his car up on a two-post lift, looked at its underside for a few minutes, then decided to cut a line that subsequently spilled transmission fluid all over the floor. One guy enthusiastically gloated that he’d installed a clear, neon-lit steering wheel in his car.
I’ve seen my hell, and it’s full of aspiring “Time Machine Restoration Team” members.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
Extreme Makeover: Lots of new cars have claustrophobic interiors. In some cases, like that of the Chevrolet Camaro, this is driven by conscious (if not quite wise) design. But even family cars like the Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion—vehicles put on earth to haul people and things—seem to have oppressively big dashboards, door panels, and roof pillars. The real culprit is all the stuff that’s found its way into our cars in the last few decades—airbags, touchscreens, multi-zone climate control, super-strong roof pillars. No wonder people think they need big crossovers.
Enter the Visteon e-Bee concept. The supplier essentially gutted a Nissan Leaf and rebuilt it with some new components and new thinking. The climate control hardware is smaller and has been relocated from under the dashboard to the nose of the car. The front airbags move into the ceiling.
All this obviates the need for a big dashboard, which as one Visteon designer reminded me, exists solely to hide ugly parts like the A/C blower motor. This opens up space for the front passenger. That passenger, in turn, sits on a fixed seat, saving the weight and cost of rails. Capacitive screens replace just about every physical control, something we’re already seeing on production cars with mixed results. Here, two small screens are placed on either side of the steering wheel, almost like shift paddles. This placement theoretically reduces the hands-off-wheel time and replaces the bulky center stack. Visteon is also working on software that “learns” a driver’s climate and media preferences, so one wouldn’t constantly need to dig through menus to flip on seat heaters and tune to a favorite radio station.
Some of Visteon’s ideas are a bit radical. I don’t think, for instance, most American buyers would give up floor carpeting (saves weight) or a rear window (ditto). But the general direction is brilliant. Car interiors cannot continue to look exactly like they did twenty years ago, only with more stuff, because the stuff is crowding out the passengers.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
With the rise of electric vehicles comes the risk of confusing methods to charge the batteries. Thankfully, seven automakers have collaborated and reached an agreement to standardize EV fast charging methods in the United States and Europe.
The automakers include Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen. All seven have agreed on one vehicle inlet/charging connector as well as the method in which the car communicates with the charging station. They also considered the future of smart grid application and have decided to use HomePlug GreenPHY for the communication protocol.
The agreement is compatible with the J1772 connector standard in the U.S., now used at Level 2 (220V in the U.S.) charging stations.
“At Ford, we know how important it is to provide technologically innovative solutions that are convenient for our customers – it’s part of our ‘One Ford’ vision and a key factor in our company’s overall success,” said Steve Biegun, Ford’s vice president of international government affairs. “We applied the same philosophy in working with other global automakers and governments to offer one common approach on charging electric vehicles – helping speed infrastructure development, strengthen economic growth and most importantly, make charging even more convenient for our customers.”
However, it’s a different story for Japanese cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i, which currently support the CHAdeMO standard for level 3 DC fast charging (anywhere between 300-500 volts). That means owners of Japanese EVs will likely have to use adapters for any quick charging station that isn’t CHAdeMO compatible. Tesla, which created its charging units prior to standardization, also requires an adaptor for any station outside of the automaker’s proprietary connectors for all charge levels (1,2, and 3) for both the Roadster and upcoming Tesla S sedan.