Tag Archives: AMG

Drive Review: Ferrari F430 vs. Audi R8

19 Sep

Scuderia Ferrari. No other name in the world of motorsport evokes the same level of pedigree, prestige and exclusivity as cars emblazoned with the famous Ferrari prancing horse. With 15 drivers’ championships and 16 constructors (manufacturers) championships in Formula 1 alone their reputation for winning is unsurpassed. So, when I had the opportunity to pilot on of their modern sports cars I didn’t hesitate.

Now, before I go on a longer rant about Ferrari you need to realize that as a journalist I need to be fair in my evaluation and assessment of both vehicles featured in this comparison. You also should know that Ferrari isn’t the only manufacturer with a laundry list of top-tier accomplishments at some of the world’s best automotive competitions.

Audi was founded in Germany by August Horch in 1909, a full 20 years before Enzo Ferrari established his own company in Maranello, Italy. And, although the Ferrari nameplate is synonymous with victory, it has been the company with the four rings that has dominated the world of endurance racing. Audi has claimed the overall title at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans in 11 of the 13 races at the French track since 2000.

So, has all of the experiences these manufacturers have amassed on the racetrack really translated into their road cars. The answer is a resounding one, YES.

Both the F430 and R8 were driven on two different occasions at the Imagine Lifestyles autocross track at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. This allowed me to fairly test each car on an identical track.

The particular R8 I drove in June was an earlier production version that was equipped with Audi’s 4.2-liter V-8 engine, as opposed to the optional 5.2-liter V-10 found in the limited-production R8 GT. Because of this I had a total of 430 horsepower available at my disposal, compared to 525 with the larger V-10. Both engines have plenty of torque of tap, but I found these naturally-aspirated, rear mid-engine monsters really have to be revved up high to squeeze all the juice out. At W.O.T. (wide open throttle) the sound of the Audi all-aluminum V8 was wonderful, but it doesn’t match the sheer scream of the Ferrari’s V8, but was certainly satisfying.

The V8 in my R8 was mated with the optional six-speed R-Tronic automatic transmission. And, as I quickly realized the combination of the V8, R-Tronic tranny and Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system was a perfect combination of the tight, twisty corners of the autocross track. This was the first all-wheel drive vehicle I had even driven and I was smitten with just how good Audi’s quattro system really was. Behind the wheel I felt confident as I made my way around the course. The feeling of the all-wheel drive transferring power from one wheel to another depending on the situation presented. The transmission was in fully-automatic mode (not my choice), and while I didn’t get to test out the paddle shifters to maximize the power of the engine it performed well nonetheless. The biggest qualm I had with the R-Tronic was that upon applying full load the transmission took long than expected to kick down to the proper gear before launching the car forward.

The Ferrari was very similar in many ways to the Audi, with the main difference being it was a spyder (convertible). It performed well, but it had recently rained so the track was wet. Because of this I was unable to push the Ferrari as hard as I had with the R8, and thus it affected the test. It featured a high-revving V-8 that was only one-tenth of a liter larger (4.3-liter) than the R8. The F430 had a 53 horsepower and 27 lb-ft on the R8, but the difference was minimal considering the Ferrari was rear-wheel drive and the R8’s all-wheel setup allowed for less wheel spin and greater traction. Although in rain-mode the F1 transmission was much quicker and more razor-sharp than the R8’s R-Tronic box.

When thinking of the final verdict on these two cars it was hard to come up with a solid conclusion, especially because of the major difference it weather that had a large impact on the drive. I enjoyed the all-wheel drive of the R8 and the engine and transmission of the F430. The interior of the R8 was far superior to the F430, which had a ton of tan leather, but lacked the stylistic design of the R8 and felt almost plain. While the engine sound and transmission was better in the Ferrari, when I put all the pieces together I found myself drawn to the Audi. I attribute this to the style and setup of the track and the stark differences in New England weather. If the sky had cooperated and the venue had been large and more spread out with room to stretch the cars legs the outcome very well might have been different. I guess I just have to spend some more time in these wonderful machines.

Imagine Lifestyles Autocross Review

16 Sep

Many dream about driving or owning an exotic car. The aggressive looks, powerful engines and legendary names like Ferrari and Lamborghini are all something car nuts want. But unless you’re friends with the rich kid in the neighborhood or have plenty of disposable income your chance of getting into ones of these machines is slim at best. Unless of course you take part in something such as Imagine Lifestyles autocross event at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.


Imagine Lifestyles is a luxury rental and charter company based out of multiple major metropolitan locations throughout the United States; including Miami, New York and Chicago. Their website states they offer everything from exotic car and yacht rentals to private jet charter and concierge services. However, for this review we’ll stick to the automotive driving events, or as Imagine Lifestyles calls them “Ultimate Driving Experiences.”

What is Autocross?

For those who are unfamiliar with what autocross is, it consists of a series of cones that are set up in a relatively tight configuration. At autocross competition the goal is to navigate the course in the fastest time without hitting any of the cones. Imagine Lifestyles isn’t exactly like that. Yes, there are still cones and they are set up to form a course, but you’re not racing either the track or anyone else.

The Venue

The Imagine Lifestyles Boston autocross event was held at Gillette Stadium, a place known more for New England Patriots football than automotive events. Ideally the event would be held at a slightly larger open area in the area, such as the United States Army base at Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., a site for many autocrosses throughout the summer and fall months. However, since Devens is a popular location it was probably easier to rent out one of the large lots surrounding Gillette. I have taken part in Imagine Lifestyles’ autocross events twice, once in June and on Saturday. In both cases the track was set up in lot number 10, directly across from the main entrance from Patriot Place and Gillette Stadium.

The Cars

This is why you come to events like this, so they better be up to par. Thankfully all of the cars Imagine Lifestyle had at both events were what they should be. While walking to the entrance I even noticed a mobile detailing company cleaning one of the cars before it was set to take to the track. That’s a good thing because track time, from the bits of rubber from tires and other factors can do a number on a vehicle. All of the cars were in excellent working order and performed as expected. In addition to maintaining their vehicles they also had a decent lineup of different models and manufacturers to choose from. The event on Saturday only offered Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but among them was a Ferrari 599 GTB, two F430’s (one coupe and one spyder) and a F430 Scuderia. The Lamborghinis consisted of Gallardos, both hard and soft top. The one disappointing things was the fact that the Scuderia sat parked in the corner of the lot. I was hoping to drive it, and later learned that the vehicle was used later in the day when the weather improved. At the event in June there was a larger selection of manufacturers to choose from including an Audi R8, Mercedes SLS AMG in addition to the Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

The Driving Instructors

While you navigate the course you have a driving instructor in the passengers seat. Both instructors I drove with were both knowledgeable and knew what they were doing. Some of the staff claimed that the instructors are “professionals.” This title is somewhat misleading. You won’t find Michael Shumacher, Walter Rohrl or Tony Stewart giving you driving tips. They aren’t so much professional drivers as they as very experienced drivers who have been taking part in autocross and other high performance driving events for years. Professional might be a little stretch, but the instructors are all fully qualified for the job and provide useful information for getting around the track fast, safely and efficiently.

The Staff and Event

All of the individuals working at the Boston event were polite and performed well. There were plenty of “please” “thank you”  and “how was your ride.” The lines were relatively short and moved at a decent pace. On the Imagine Lifestyles website it says to allow adequate time (2-3 hours) from the time you arrive until you leave. The amount of time you wait will depend on what time you sign up for and what car you want to drive (Lamborghinis and Ferraris are popular). I have never waited even an hour and a half for the entire process. Sadly, the amount of time you spend driving the car all boils down to a couple minutes at most. The track isn’t very long and if you drive at a good pace the three laps goes by very quickly. You can purchase an additional three laps ($89), but even six laps doesn’t last long. The event takes place rain or shine, so if it pours (Saturday) then you just have to make the best of it.

The Cost

When you purchase the package on a daily deal website such as GroupOn it says $500 value. It’s not worth that, nor would I recommend anyone pay that to take part in an event such as this. Prices vary. The first event in June cost $159, but that isn’t the only thing you have to pay for. Autocross track insurance is required for anyone who is going to drive. Cost ranges from $49, which gives you $50,000 in coverage with a $5,000 deductible, up to $99 that covers you for the entire cost of the vehicle ($250,000) and only has a $1,000 deductible. If this freaks you out don’t despair. There is really no need to buy anything except the basic $49 insurance. The only thing you can hit are rubber cones, a chain link fence and a few light poles (you would have to have thing go very wrong to hit the latter two.)

The Verdict

If you’re looking to get a special birthday, graduation or other unique gift for the car-crazed person in your life then this would be a good thing to get them. The cost, while not cheap is not going to break the bank either. The Boston location at Gillette Stadium is a good location due to its generally located in the state and isn’t overly far from the North Shore, South Shore, Cape Cod or Metro Boston. The cars are fun to drive and you leave with a satisfied feeling that makes you want to drive more. On a scale of one to 10 I’d give the Imagine Lifestyles autocross event a 7.5/10, with the main downsides being it cost some $$ and it doesn’t last long.

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

2013 G63 AMG: The G-Class With Some Serious Grunt

20 Apr

2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG: Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America.

Seven days after unveiling the six-figure-expensive 2013 G550 Mercedes has officially gone off the deep end with the introduction of the extremely costly, exclusive and powerful G63 AMG, the high-performance variant of the G-class. With its over-the-top performance and luxury, combined with its serious off-road capabilities the G63 AMG is like nothing else on the road. The G-class has always been in a league of its own, ever since it was first released in 1979. However, unlike the new G550 which varies ever-so-slightly from the previous generation the new G63 AMG has received significant exterior design changes making it all the more bad-ass.

Along with the SL65 AMG, which made its world premiere on April 4 at the 2012 New York International Auto Show the G63 features a signature high-gloss black “twin-blade” grille, making it much sharper and more aggressive looking than the standard G550 grille with four horizontal slats. Below the grille are large, masculine-shaped air inlets integrated into the bumper.  With its brutish appearance the front end looks leaps and bounds better than the 2011 G55 AMG, fulfilling the image conjured up when thinking of Mercedes’ box on wheels, and reinforcing the G-class’ reputation as the go-anywhere, do-anything vehicles in the manufacturer’s lineup. Rounding off the exterior changes are 9.5 x 20 five-spoke wheels finished in titanium gray, and a huge brake system consisting of six-piston fixed-calipers in front and single-calipers in the rear.

2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG with redesigned front grille and bumper: Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America.

Under the hood the new engine backs up the exterior styling with a V-8 growl. Unlike the 2011 G55 AMG that was a powered by a 5.4-liter supercharged V-8 engine capable of producing a peak of 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, the engineers at Mercedes-AMG have left supercharging on the shelf this time in favor of turbocharging. The new form of forced injection along with a slightly larger 5.5-liter V-8 has boosted the maximum output to 544 horsepower and 560 lb-ft. Besides the added output figures the new power plant allows the G63 to cover the 0-60 sprint in 5.3 seconds, one-tenth quicker than the G55.

544 horsepower, 5.5-liter BiTurbo V-8 in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG: Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America.

Mercedes has claimed an overall efficiency improvement of up to 13 percent. That’s not spectacular, but when you can afford to spend well over six figures for an uber powerful SUV gas prices shouldn’t be a concern. The jump in fuel economy can be attributed to newly introduced spray-controlled gasoline direct injection and the same “Eco” stop/start function found on the majority of AMG’s gas-thirsty models.

The engine isn’t the only part of the drivetrain that has been updated. Gone is an outdated five-speed automatic and in its place is the AMG SPEEDSHIFT seven-speed automatic transmission with three driving modes; Controlled Efficiency (C), Sport (S) and Manual (M). The unit has been additionally beefed up with a new torque converter with centrifugal pendulum, friction-reducing bearing and transmission oil thermal management, just in case you want to take this baby off-road.

Designo leather interior in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG: Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America.

As with the new G550 the interior offers occupants a new instrument cluster and infotainment system. Unique to the G63 are AMG door sills illuminated in white and shift level with AMG logo. The seats are covered with designo leather upholstery with fluted leather door paneling, and customers have the option of a variety of trims including carbon fiber, champagne white lacquer or light brown satin poplar.

The G63 AMG certainly isn’t a vehicle for everyone. If you don’t like showing off to the Jones’ across the street or refuse to make frequent visits to the gas station then this four-wheeled, all-wheel-drive monster might not be the right cup of tea. However, if the G63 AMG suits your fancy then just be prepared to pay. As with the G550, no official pricing has been announced, but based on the 2011 G55 AMG expect for the G63 AMG to have a base MSRP of at least $125,000 when it goes on sale in August.

2013 Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG: Photo courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America.

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

New York Auto Show off to Rip-Roaring, High-Performance Start

4 Apr

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG at the 2012 New York International Auto Show.

The 2012 New York International Auto Show is off to a rip-roaring start with the debut of four of the most powerful and high-performance two-door vehicles on the market.

Mercedes-Benz was the first German manufacturer to unveil the their latest incarnations of the SL, GL and GLK classes, and not surprisingly Mercedes chose to come out swinging with their most powerful, expensive and exclusive vehicle. The all-new 2013 SL65 AMG made its way onto the stage, followed by the GLK350 BlueTec and the GL450.

6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 engine in the 2013 SL65 AMG.

The SL65 has been tweaked and reworked for the 2013 model year. A new twin-blade grille stands out at the front along with two inlets finished in black. The massive 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-12 has an additional 17 horsepower compared to the previous generation, boosting the peak output to 621 bhp and 738 lb-ft of torque. The 0-60 mph sprint is covered in just 3.9 seconds with a top speed of 186 mph, impressive considering its curb weight is a considerable 4,100 lbs.

The engine’s power is transferred to the wheels via the familiar seven-speed sequential gearbox found on a host of AMG models such as the E63, CLS63 and S63. Four driving modes; Controlled Efficency (C), Sport (S), Sport+ (S+) and Manual (M) enable the driver to choose the aggressiveness and shift times of the transmission, from the eco-friendly C mode to the track-inspired Sport + or Manual modes.

Directly next to the Mercedes booth was fellow rival BMW. Not to be outdone, BMW delivered a number of new and pulse-pounding automobiles, consisting of three cars and one SUV.

2013 BMW M6 Coupe at the 2012 New York International Auto Show

Headlining Bavaria’s best was the all-new BMW M6 coupe and M6 convertible. Just as the SL65 AMG is one of Mercedes’ top-of-the-line vehicles, so can be said for the M6. Much like its four-door sibling the M5, the M6 is powered by a 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V-8. It might not match the SL65 in sheer power or torque, but the M6’s figures are nothing to scoff at. With 560 bhp, eight more than in the M5, BMW’s premiere two-door coupe is the most powerful six-series ever produced. As with the SL65, the V-8 in the M6 is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2013 Audi RS5 at the New York International Auto Show

Rounding out the German performance-laden first day is the Audi RS5, which will be making its way to states for the first time later this year. The RS5 will compete directly with the BMW M3, Mercedes C63 AMG coupe and the Cadillac CTS-V coupe. Unlike the SL65 AMG and M6 which feature forced injection, the RS5 flies down the road courtesy of a 4.2-liter naturally-aspirated V-8 engine producing a maximum of 450 horsepower. The RS5 also varies from its fellow Audi S-line vehicles due to the fact that the S6, S7 and S8 are all powered by twin-turbo V-8’s. As with the Mercedes and BMW performance coupe and roadster the RS5 has a sequential automatic transmission.

If you want to get your hands on any of the fast two-doors debuted you better be quick and act fast! The SL65 AMG is a special order only vehicle and comes at a heafy pricetag. No official pricing has been announced, but buyer should expect to dish out in the neighborhood of $200,000. Like the TT-RS and R8 GT the RS5 will have a limited production run with under 1,000 units produced.

Interior of the 2013 Audi RS5 at the New York International Auto Show

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

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Audi, BMW and Mercedes all Unveil Sport Compacts in Geneva

8 Mar

With the 2012 Geneva Auto Show press days now over it’s now time for the masses of enthusiasts, families and other spectators to crowd the floor of the convention center. As with all autoshows, Geneva 2012 had its share of crazy concept vehicles and every type of transportation. From the stunning 760-horsepower Ferrari F12 Berlinetta to the eye-catching and outrageous all-electric Tata Megapixel the show has all the bases covered. Along with hundreds of vehicles, Geneva 2012 exposed new trends within the industry.

One of the overriding examples of this was the number of sport compacts. Three German manufacturers; Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz all had their own creations, ranging from Mercedes’ five-door and family-orientated A-Class, to the three-door Audi A3 and BMW M135i.

BMW M135i: Photo Courtesy BMW Group

Mercedes’ A-Class was by far the most economical of sport compact shown, and with 5-doors it’s also the most practical. Two engine variants power the new A-Class, both of which are turbocharged. The smaller 1.6-liter produces either 115 HP in the A120 or 156 HP in the A200. The top A-Class, the A250 gets a larger 2.0-liter four-cylinder, bumping the peak output to 211. Putting the power to the ground come via a six-speed manual transmission, or an optional seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Numerous features and stylistic and design cues round out the A250. On the exterior 18-inch AMG alloy wheels and brake calipers finished in red. On the under side, an AMG-derived front axle and suspension, which should give the relatively small A-Class excellent road handling. The A-Class is scheduled to arrive in European showroom later this year, while the U.S. market will likely have to wait until 2013.

On the complete opposite end of the sport compact spectrum is the BMW M135i. As the “M” in M135i might imply, BMW Motorsport has done extensive work throughout this hot hatchback. On the outside the new BMW M Performance three-door resembles its older cousin the BMW M Coupe, produced between 1998 and 2002 and fondly nicknamed “The Shoe” by enthusiasts for its unique profile. Like the M Coupe the new M135i is powered by a inline six-cylinder engine, but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike the naturally-aspirated 3.2-liter in the M Coupe a smaller displacement 3.0-liter turbocharged unit propels the M135i (the same one found in the two-door 1M Coupe.) Engine size might have decreased, but peak horsepower is up, to 300 in the M135i. This beats the shoe’s by 60-horsepower, and beats out the more fuel friendly A250 by 89-horsepower. Similar to the A250, the M135i rides on 18-inch alloy wheels and has extensive suspension modifications when compared to a regular 1-series.

Mercedes-Benz A250: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA

Falling in between the Mercedes A-Class and the BMW M135i is the new Audi A3. It’s been over 10 years since the A3 has been redesigned, so its unveiling has been long anticipated. With eight different engine options available for the European market there’s something for everyone. From the miniscule displacement of 1.2-liter TFSI, to the 1.6-liter TDI with just-horsepower, one might not get going quickly, but you’ll surely get great fuel economy (Up to an estimated 60 mpg with in 1.6-liter TDI). All of these different engines are paired with an equally larger number of available transmissions. While many are connected via a traditional six-speed manual, customers can choose the S-Tronic duel-clutch gearbox with either six or seven speeds (depending on engine).

With a mix of sporty and agile handling, practical, everyday usability and in the case of M135i, world class performance it’s not surprising the sport compact market is expanding and becoming more competitive. Whether its the economical five-door, four passenger Mercedes A-Class or the enthusiast and speed-junky approved BMW M135i the likelihood of these types of vehicles will become more popular as manufacturers create more models and variations.

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

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2013 SL63 AMG Unleashed Before Geneva Auto Show

22 Feb

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

Remember the days when it used to take a manufacturer months, if not years to develop a high-performance variant of a model? Well, in anticipation of the 2012 Geneva Auto Show the new SL63 AMG has been unveiled just five weeks after the SL550 made its initial debut.

The new SL63 AMG is lighter, more powerful and is up to 30 percent more efficient than its predecessor. Much like the Porsche 911 (991), Mercedes’ most iconic drop-top has turned to an aluminum bodyshell, reducing overall weight by 275 pounds, counteracting the added technological and safety features that contribute to a greater load. Now, the SL63 AMG is not a light car by any means. With a curb weight of 4,059 pounds it weighs just 500 pounds less than a full-size Chevrolet Silverado 1500.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

Less mass to accelerate is always a good thing when it comes to a vehicle’s performance, but its even better when less is combined with more, namely in the form of horsepower and torque. For the first time the SL63 AMG will be available with two different power outputs. A standard SL63 AMG comes equipped with the same 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8 found in the CLS63, E63 and CL63 AMGs. In its tamest form the hand-built, power plant cranks out 530 horsepower at 5,500 rpm, and 590 lb-ft of torque from 2000-4500 rpm.

For most, this would be more than enough. But if you want to experience the engine’s full potential you can opt for the optional AMG Performance Package. This boosts the output from 530 hp and 590 lb-ft to 557 hp and 664 lb-ft. The added horsepower and torque aids in 0-60 times too, allowing the SL63 AMG to accelerate to the mark in 4.1 seconds, one tenth quicker than without the package. Other changes include AMG performance steering wheel, limited slip differential and red-painted brake calipers.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

Putting the power to the rear wheels is the familiar seven-speed AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT sport transmission found in the majority of AMG models. The four driving modes; Controlled Efficiency (C), Sport (S) , Sport plus (S+) and Manual (M) work in conjunction with a revised and upgraded AMG sport suspension and a new electro-mechanical steering system. Additional options include a locking rear differential, AMG performance suspension and ceramic high performance compound brakes and an increased top speed from 155 to 186 mph.

Exterior design has maintained largely the same as the previous generation. The front has a lower and streamlined appearance. The grill is still emblazoned with the oversized three-point silver star, but fog lights integrated into the lower grill have been replaced with sleek LEDs below the headlights. The rear of the 2013 SL63 AMG has changed more than the front, with taillights that are almost entirely red in color. The rear diffuser has been significantly reduced in size, and the AMG sport exhaust tips have changed from round to a trapezoidal shape.

The SL63 AMG will go on sale later this year. If you’re looking for a premium luxury roadster with plenty of creature comforts, and performance that will keep pace with all but the fastest Porsches, this might be the vehicle for you. However, you better have deep pockets. Although no pricing has been announced you can expect a base MSRP in-excess on $140,000.

Interior of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

© 2012 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

Mercedes ML63 AMG Returns With New Engine and 518 Horsepower

15 Nov

2012 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA

Fifteen years isn’t a long time in terms of human history, but in the automotive industry it’s a lifetime. In 1996 the four major luxury brands in Germany, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Porsche all had yet to produce a luxury SUV. That all changed in 1997 with the introduction of the first generation ML class. The first high-performance model, the ML55 AMG, model followed for the 2000 model year. Now, over a decade after the initial release, the all-new AMG variant of the third generation ML has been unveiled.

The new ML63, although redesigned on the exterior for the 2012 model year, leaves the most major changes hidden under the hood. With a large number of manufacturers including BMW and Audi turning to forced injection turbocharging for their new generation of vehicles, its no wonder Mercedes stayed in lock-step with the competition. This grocery-getter has received more horsepower and torque by replacing the outgoing 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8 with the same 5.5-liter BiTurbo unit that has already made its way into other 2012 AMG models.

Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA

As if the 505 hp from the naturally aspirated unit wasn’t enough for driving the kids through the snow to their hockey practice, the new power plant produces 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (550 hp and 560 lb-ft with the optional AMG Performance Package.) Peak torque is available from only 1,750 rpm, allowing the 2012 ML63 AMG to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 4.7 seconds (4.6 with Performance Package) and reach an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph, or a raised limit of 174 mph.

All of this power and torque is transferred to the high gloss, titanium gray, 20 -inch, 5-spoke alloy wheels with 265/45 R 20 high-performance tires through the AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7-speed automatic transmission. Optional 295/35 R tires and 21-inch AMG alloy wheels are also available.

As with other current AMG models the ML63 AMG employs a “Controlled Efficiency” (C) mode if one so chooses. When engaged, the Eco-friendly transmission shuts down all unnecessary functions and turns off the engine while the vehicle is stationary. Mercedes must be aware most customers who purchase the new high-performance SUV do so without the regard of fuel economy or efficiency. Despite this, an Eco mode isn’t a bad thing. Especially considering the ML63’s fuel economy. According to Mercedes the new 5.5-liter engine has resulted in a 33 percent improvement over the 6.2-liter V8. The estimated combined economy is still marginal at 16 mpg, but that’s surely better than the second gen. average of 11 mpg. Especially when considering the vehicle’s weight and highly tuned engine.

Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA

On and off the road drivers will benefit from a reduction of 99 lbs from the previous generation. The ML63 will still feature a transfer case which delivers the 4-MATIC permanent all-wheel drive to the road surface. To make the ride quality even more refined the new ML63 will employ, for the first time, an ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM for active roll stabilization. An AMG sports suspension with AIRMATIC Air Suspension is standard equipment, along with independent damper struts, automatic level control and an Adaptive Damping System (ADS).

In staying with the expectations of buyers the new ML63 AMG now features designo interior as standard equipment. The interior had been available, but only at significant additional cost. It is available in three different choices, designo auburn brown, porcelain or black. Other choices on the interior include a host of designo pieces, including black leather edging on the floor mats, trim in black piano lacquer and wood/leather steering wheel in black piano lacquer. Rounding out the options are AMG badges on the backrests of the front seats, outer rear seats and edges of the floor mats.

The ML63 AMG is certainly not something for everyone. Most people don’t need to have a high horsepower, gas hungry SUV with tons of luxury accompaniments. Despite this there are obviously enough people who are in the market for Mercedes’ top SUV; 13,000 of the second generation were sold over the 6-year production run and 24,000 have been sold in total.

If you are in the market for the 2012 ML63 AMG you’ll need to have deep pockets. No official prices have been released, but with the 2011 model having a base MSRP of $92,590 you can expect the new family hauler to fall somewhere in that ballpark.

Interior: 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML63 AMG: Photo Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG Revealed

21 Aug

By Matt McCarron

2012 SLK55 AMG: Courtesy MB North America

It might be the smallest vehicle in the AMG lineup, but that hasn’t stopped the engineers at Mercedes’ high-performance skunkworks from developing one very powerful and appealing two-door sports car. The 2012 SLK55 AMG packs a monster of an engine with all of the other luxuries and state-of-the-art technologies one would expect in a Mercedes-Benz.

The 2012 SLK55 AMG is powered by a new 5.5-liter, naturally aspirated V8 engine. Designated the M152 by AMG, this V8 power plant is capable of developing a hefty 415 hp at 6,800 rpm and 398 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm. The engine’s ability to push out large amounts horsepower and torque is due in large part to the number of components it shares with the M157 bi-turbo engine found in the E63 AMG, CLS63 AMG, S63 AMG and CL63 AMG. The displacement, bore/stroke, distance between cylinders, ECO stop/start system and direct gasoline injection technology are all identical in both engines. That being said, not all aspects of the two engines are similar. The intake air ducting, cylinder heads, valve drive, oil supply system and crankcase have all be adapted or modified specifically for the M152.

All-New M152 5.5-liter V8 engine: Courtesy MB North America

Besides the impressive engine, the 2012 SLK55 AMG also comes with the AMG Cylinder Management cylinder shut-off system, improving overall fuel economy. When the AMG SPEEDSHIFT PLUS 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission is being operated in Controlled Efficiency or “C” mode the cylinder management system allows the engine to run on just four cylinders. However, if the driver decides they need more power all they need to do is reach 3,600 rpm. Upon reaching this speed the engine automatically engages the remaining four cylinders in a process that takes just 30 milliseconds.

The sports suspension of the third generation SLK by AMG comes with Torque Vectoring Brakes, a high-performance braking system, 3-stage ESP and Direct-Steer system. The optional AMG Handling Package gives an even greater level of driving pleasure, courtesy of a stiffer AMG Performance suspension, rear axle differential lock, two-piece brake discs at the front and a three-spoke AMG Performance steering wheel.

Much of the stylistic inspiration for the 2012 SLK55 AMG has been taken from the SLS AMG. A wide front grill with chrome-plated fins as well as the four air vents and center console finished in brushed aluminum are all reminiscent of the SLS super car. Rounding out the interior, other luxuries include AMG sports seats, and AMG-specific instrument cluster.

Capable of retracting in less than 20 seconds: Courtesy MB North America

As with any SLK model, the 2012 SLK55 AMG comes standard with a retractable hardtop. But since this is the ultimate SLK Mercedes has added another option, a panoramic roof with MAGIC SKY CONTROL. This panoramic roof can change from light to dark with the push of a button, depending on the outside conditions.

Now, after hearing about all the performance and technology that has been packed into AMG’s smallest offering, one might want to run down to the dealership and buy one right away. Unfortunately, those who want to add the latest two-door AMG to their garage will have to wait a little longer. The 2012 SLK55 AMG is scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. starting in early 2012.

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

The V8 is definitely not dead: The power of eight with the efficiency of four

22 Jul

By Matt McCarron

The eight-cylinder engine. Its characteristics has become synonymous with high horsepower, frame-twisting amounts of torque and speed. However, with fuel economy and overall efficiency becoming more important with each passing day, how much longer does the venerable V8 have in a world full of fuel-sipping four-cylinders?

Thankfully all the power-hungry, speed-loving enthusiasts need not be afraid. Yesterday Mercedes AMG announced the creation of an all-new naturally aspirated V8 engine, designated internally as the M152. The new V8 will make its world debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September, and will power the new 2012 SLK55 AMG, the only vehicle in its segment to feature a eight-cylinder engine.

All-new 5.5-liter Mercedes AMG engine

The M152 is the equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with two completely different personalities. The new AMG-derived V8 delivers impressive horsepower and torque figures expected from a hand-built AMG engine, but with a twist. And no, the twist does not refer to the amount of torque inflicted on the frame, rather that the M152 delivers the efficiency of a four-cylinder engine.

One might ask how this combination of power and efficiency is possible. The answer is both simple and highly complex, with technology, and lots of it.

Engineers at Mercedes’ high performance headquarters have incorporated their AMG Cylinder Management cylinder shut-off system into this new V8. The result of this technology is an engine that is capable of producing 415 hp at 6,800 rpm and 398 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Not only does this engine produce an additional 60 hp and 22 lb-ft when compare to its predecessor, but it is 30 percent more fuel efficient.

When designing the M152 AMG engineers took ideas and inspiration from the twin turbo 5.5-liter M157 that powers the likes of the CL63 and S63 AMG. The displacement of both engines is identical, along with the ECO stop/start system. However the M152 differs from its forced induction cousin with a different air intake, cylinder heads, modified valve drive, an adapted oil supply system and an optimized crankcase.

The AMG Cylinder Management cylinder shut-off system is a perfect example of just how much technology is going into today’s high-end automobiles in a never-ending attempt to make them more fuel efficient without sacrificing overall performance. To understand how this improved fuel economy is achieve you need to understand how a system like AMG’s cylinder shut-off system works.

When driving in the Controlled Efficiency “C” transmission mode, cylinders two, three, five and eight in the M152 are cut off during partial load. This is available when the engine is operation between 800 and 3,600 rpm. During this range the engine still produces a minimum of 170 lb-ft of torque when running on only four cylinders. If and when the driver feels they need more power and reaches the 3,600 rpm plateau the engine engages the additional four cylinder in less than 30 milliseconds.

The technology placed in the M152 is remarkable, especially when you consider that many of the advanced systems making their way into passenger vehicles were, up until a few years ago, strictly reserved for million dollar race cars. As the auto industry makes its way further into the 21st century it will continue to have to innovate and improve to start ahead of new restrictions and regulations. However, if the M152 proves anything it is that world class performance and fuel efficiency to match can coexist.

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com

2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class Revealed

9 Jun

By Matt McCarron

2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

The third generation of Mercedes’ mid-sized SUV has been unveiled. The 2012 M-Class has been redesigned or improved in nearly every way. However, the basis of the M-Class, which has made it one of the most popular vehicles in its class since its initial debut in 1997, has remained largely unchanged.

On the outside many characteristics such as the distinctive headlights and C-pillar have stayed the same. Things that have changed include crisper and more aggressive styling, new front grille, 19-inch wheels, LED tail and daytime running lights, chrome accents and aluminum roof rails.

As with any Mercedes-Benz produced these days, the interior of the 2012 M-Class comes complete with lots of leather, exotic wood trim and plenty of high-tech gadgets. There is enough polished Eucalyptus wood on the dash to build a good sized house and the amount of electronics and top-of-the-line technology is mind-numbing. There is a 7-inch LCD display at the top of the dash with Bluetooth audio, hands-free calling, HD Radio and a USB port as accompaniments.

Interior of 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

Under the hood the 2012 M-Class features a new engine. Although the displacement of the standard 3.5-liter V6 has remained the same, other aspects have not. The new engine now comes with direct injection, producing 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Despite the increase in horsepower and torque Mercedes claims the new V6 achieves greater efficiency and fuel economy. If the standard gasoline-powered engine seems boring and mundane you can opt for the newly improved 240 hp BlueTEC clean diesel engine. Both power plants are mated to an updated version of the 7G-TRONIC PLUS 7-speed automatic transmission.

If you’re reading this and wondering why nothing has been said regarding safety features, do not be concerned. The new M-Class has enough start-of-the-art warning, protection and assistance systems to survive a nuclear attack. On top of at least nine airbags, yes you heard it right, nine airbags, are the PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection system, ATTENTION ASSIST driver-drowsiness monitoring and adaptive brake technology. If that still doesn’t satisfy one’s needs for safety Mercedes even has two optional safety packages. The first of these is the all-new Lane Tracking Package. Included with this is non-active versions of Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assist. However, for the ultimate in safety one can choose the Driver Assistance Package. This over-the-top creation not only has the features mentioned above, but has DISTRONIC PLUS adaptive cruise control with PRE-SAFE Brake and new Active Lane Keeping and Blind Spot Assist technologies that can intervene in the event of an impending accident.

With all of this luxury and technology look for the 2012 M-Class to continue its reign as one of the preeminent mid-sized luxury SUVs. The third generation M-Class is scheduled to appear in U.S. showrooms starting in September.

Third Generation Mercedes-Benz M-Class: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

© 2011 GermanAutoNews

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Any unauthorized reprint or use of any material is prohibited. No content information whatsoever may be reproduced or retransmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the express written consent of the creator of GermanAutoNews.com