Tag Archives: Mercedes 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

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

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

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 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

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 Revealed

21 Dec

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

Many vehicles throughout automotive history have used “sport” and “lightweight” in their names, and the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class is one of them. The first generation Mercedes-Benz SL rolled off the assembly lines in 1952 and has given birth to such icons as the 300SL Gullwing and Roadster. Now, six decades after the initial launch the sixth generation SL promises to return to its roots with a renewed attention to increased performance and reduced weight.

The new 2013 SL550 is the first production-based Mercedes to feature an all-aluminum body structure. Steel is only used in the A-pillar for added safety in the event of a crash. Besides the extensive use of lightweight aluminum, panels behind the roof and gas tank employ even lighter magnesium in their construction, helping to reduce the weight even further.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

The result of all this is a body that weighs in at 242 pounds less than that of its predecessor, 275 pounds less as a whole. All of this has been done even though the 2013 SL550 is almost two inches longer and over two inches wider than the fifth generation. Dr. Thomas Rudlaff, who is responsible for the aluminum bodyshell said “The effect is as if a large passenger has stepped out of the car.”

Ok, that’s one half of the “SL” concept. But the “sport” dimension of the vehicle has been upgraded and improved too. The 2013 SL550 has received significant changes under the hood and throughout the vehicle’s suspension. A new 4.6-liter V8 has replaced the outgoing 5.4-liter unit. Despite decreasing the overall displacement by 0.8 liters, peak output has increased to 429 horsepower. The amount of torque produced has jumped dramatically, increasing 32 percent, from 391 lb-ft to 516 lb-ft, thanks in large part to the addition of twin turbochargers, allowing the engine to produce large amounts of torque at relatively low rpms. Mercedes claims the 2013 SL550 will sprint from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds, 0.8 seconds less than the previous model. Although no official figures have been released fuel economy and overall efficiency has supposedly inccreased as well, with the help of a ECO stop/start function and an economically 7-Speed Driver-Adaptive automatic transmission.

2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz North America

On the interior passengers can expect to have increased room and maneuverability as a result of the exterior’s greater dimensions. The spacious and luxurious interior the 2013 SL550 also features a retractable hard top that can be opened or closed in less than 20 seconds. On top of the SL550’s already technologically-laden design are two all-new features, FrontBass and Magic Vision Control (MVC).

FrontBass takes advantage of the spaces in front of the footwell. This area is where the woofers amplify the bass sound from the speakers, thus making for a high quality audio experience even when the roof is down. The second feature, Magic Vision Control is essentially a high-tech windshield wiper system. MVC dispenses washing fiuld onto the windshield in both directions of travel, allowing for reduced splatter and risk of over spray when driving with the top down. The MVC system also heats the fluid and wiper blade itself, which should come in handy getting rid of snow and ice during winter months.

The 2013 SL550 will be available in U.S. showrooms beginning in the Spring. Along with the initial launch Mercedes will be offering a special “Edition 1” model. The “Edition 1” includes unique features such as AMG 19-inch alloy wheels, designo exclusive leather with contrasting topstitching, AIRSCARF and Harman/Kardon surround sound system.  The exterior is finished in special designo crystal silver magno paintwork and the interior upholstery is covered in designo classic red/black leather with designo black piano lacquer wood trim.

Interior: 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 "Edition 1": 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

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

An icon in motorsports, the BMW 3-series.

15 Sep

By Matt McCarron

BMW M3 GT2 Art Car Design By Jeff Koons: Courtesy BMW Group

In the world of motorsports specific names instinctively come to mind. Manufacturers such as Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have developed a reputation on their ability to transfer on-track victories into the successful marketing and sales of production cars. As the saying goes “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

Few vehicles in automotive history have done this more effectively than the BMW 3-series. Since the first 3-series rolled off the assembly line on May 2, 1975 its race and road-going cars have been inextricably linked. BMW Motorsport GmbH, which was established in 1972 began racing the new 3-series as soon as they were able to produce a track-ready vehicle. By 1978, just three years after the car’s initial launch, the 3-series had already cemented itself as a perennial title contender in a number of races and championships.

The close relationship between road and track versions of the 3-series would again make its presence known in 1985 with the introduction of what would become one of the most successful touring cars in history, the BMW M3. Again, it didn’t take long this special motorsport-derived version of the 3-series to make its way to the racetrack. In 1987 the E30 M3 began racing in touring car championships throughout Europe. The E30 M3 would go on to claim a total of 1,436 victories throughout the world, including the two titles in the no-holds-barred Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM), two European Touring Car Championships (1987, 1988) and the World Touring Car Championship in 1987.

1987 Zakspeed BMW E30 M3: Courtesy BMW Group

Besides winning overall manufacturers and drivers titles the BMW 3-series has also become a staple in long distance endurance races such as the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Multiple generations and variations of the 3-series, from the 320i and 325i to the M3 GTR V8 and M3 GT2 have claimed the crown at the ‘ring and other prestigious racetracks around the world.

More than 35 years have passed since the 3-series was first unveiled to the world. Although the manufacturers and drivers have changed the philosophy for BMW’s most popular model line has not wavered. BMW continues to enter the 3-series in a number of racing series in both the United States and abroad. As in years past, 2012 will mark a new chapter in the history of the renowned 3-series. Following years of absence BMW will return to the German Touring Car Championship with the all-new BMW M3 DTM.  In addition the 3-series will continue to be raced by BMW factory teams and private operations in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Grand-Am Road Racing Series.

BMW M3 DTM Concept Car: Courtesy BMW Group

© 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

Mercedes’ large, yet compact gamble

13 Sep

By Matt McCarron

Mercedes-Benz Concept A-Class at the 2011 NYIAS

On the same day of its world debut The New York Times Wheels page has reported Mercedes-Benz plans to bring their all-new B-Class to the United States in the coming years. This isn’t the first time Mercedes’ has toyed with bringing a compact vehicle to U.S. shores. The Concept A-Class made its world premiere at the 2011 New York International Auto Show in April.

The reasoning behind the move might seem simple enough. In the past four or five years Mercedes-Benz has fallen behind arch rivals BMW and Audi in an ongoing battle to control the compact luxury vehicle market in the U.S. BMW has the 128i, 135i and more recently, the 1M Coupe. Audi has countered BMW with their five-door A3 Sportback.

Although Mercedes’ has sold small, compact luxury vehicles in other markets for years the prospect of making them a success in the SUV-obsessed U.S. is a risky proposition. Not only does Mercedes have to contend with opposition from BMW and Audi, but they must also take into account the U.S. market as a whole. Typically U.S. drivers have been reluctant to put a premium of a small luxury vehicle. Instead of opting for the B-Class those with young families look to something family friendly like a minivan, or mid-sized SUV, while younger, performance-orientated drivers are drawn to lightning quick four-doors such as the Subaru WRX STI.

According to Mercedes the European model of the new B-Class features a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with direct injection. Transmission choices include a high-tech dual clutch transmission as well as a traditional manual transmission. While many of the specifics might vary between the European and U.S. models major models aspects and options should remain relatively the same.

Only time will tell if Mercedes’ wager on bring the B-Class to America pays off. The B-Class is scheduled to arrive in European showrooms beginning in November. No arrival date for the U.S. has been set, but the Times’ article reports it should be sometime in 2013.

© 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