Tag Archives: SLS 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.

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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.

THE COMPANY

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

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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-Benz SLS AMG Roadster: New Details and Photos Released

28 May

By Matt McCarron

MY2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster in Sepang Bronze: Courtesy MB North America

On Thursday, May 5, Mercedes-Benz released its first details on their upcoming SLS AMG Roadster. Now Mercedes has released more information on the specifics of the vehicles as well as new photos. The car, which is the soft top version of the SLS AMG, is scheduled to make its world premiere at the 2011 Frankfurt International Auto Show in September.

Powered by a 6.2-liter front-mid engine producing 563 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque enables the SLS AMG Roadster to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. The engine is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch transaxle transmission and the new Adaptive AMG Sport Suspension with aluminum double wishbones.

The body and chassis of the SLS AMG Roadster is primarily comprised of aluminum. Fifty percent of the weight-optimized aluminum spaceframe is made of aluminum sections, 26 percent of sheet aluminum, 18 percent of cast aluminum and 6 percent of steel. The aluminum frame only weighs 536 pounds, 4.5 pounds more than the Gullwing, and results in the roadster weighing in an estimated 3,661 pounds, just 88 more than the Gullwing Coupe.

A new piece of technology to be featured on the SLS AMG Roadster is the AMG Drive Unit. Located in the center console The AMG Drive Unit is the central control for the vehicle and allows the driver to choose personal driving setups, including three suspension modes: “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport plus.”

The SLS AMG Roadster also employs the new “AMG Performance Media,” a motorsport-inspired multimedia system that offers  numerous telemetric displays such as lateral and linear acceleration, various engine data and lap times on a racetrack. AMG Performance Media is activated by pressing the AMG key in the AMG Drive Unit. It also allows the driver to keep track on vital engine and transmission temperatures, output, torque and acceleration data and individual tire pressures.

This high-tech blend technology and raw power give the SLS AMG Roadster characteristics that will please even the most discerning enthusiasts.

Designo Leather Interior: Courtesy MB North America

The interior of the SLS AMG roadster is just as inspired and technologically as the exterior. Taking many cues from the aviation industry, the interior features a dashboard in the shape of a wing, the air vents resembling jet engines and the new E-SELECT lever is in the shape of an aircraft’s thrust control. Some of the standard options for the interior are heated AMG sports seats, COMAND with Navigation and DVD player, anti-theft alarm system with tow-away protection and interior monitoring and dual-zone automatic climate control. The interior is available in eight colors with the standard being black designo leather. Single-tone or two-tone designo leather in espresso brown is available as a new interior color too. To accompany the designo leather interior, various trim finishes including leather, matte-finished solid metal or carbon-fiber are available.

After hearing about all of these new details the anticipation continues to mount. If the SLS AMG Roadster is anything like the Gullwing Coupe then it will surely be something worth waiting for. September can not come soon enough.

MY2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster: Courtesy MB 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

SLS AMG Roadster revealed, finally.

5 May

By Matt McCarron

After many rumors that the 2012 SLS AMG Roadster was among one of the three vehicles Mercedes-Benz was scheduled to debut at the 2011 New York International Auto Show, it turned out to be a no-show. So, if it wasn’t debuted at the New York show, then when would Mercedes finally lift the veil of secrecy and show the SLS AMG Roadster to the world. Well, the automotive world got their answer on Thursday when Mercedes revealed the drop-top version of their SLS AMG supercar will make its world premiere at the 2011 Frankfurt International Auto Show in September.

The final details of the SLS AMG Roadster are still being hammered out by AMG engineers, but numerous things have been set in stone. One of the most unusual and intriguing aspects to the roadster is its soft-top. Mercedes claims the soft-top can be deployed or retracted in just 11 seconds, at speeds up to 31 mph, with just the touch of a button.

Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster testing in Papenburg, Germany: Courtesy MB USA

The soft-top, which is comprised of three layers of fabric has been engineered with a weight-optimized magnesium,steel and aluminum construction, capable of with withstanding the vehicle’s top speed of 197 mph, regardless of whether or not the soft-top is covering the interior cabin, or neatly hidden behind the passenger seats. To ensure this structural integrity the SLS AMG Roadster has undergone high speed testing at three different high-speed tracks, in Papenburg, Germany, Nardo, Italy and Idiada, Spain.

In addition to the high-speed testing, the SLS AMG Roadster and its high-tech soft-top has endured a plethora of other testing including a high-intensity rain test and climate change tests where the vehicle was exposed to a variety of extreme climates around the world.

Mercedes says the SLS AMG Roadster still needs to undergo a number of quality test on other parts of the vehicle before it makes its world premiere on September 13 in Frankfurt. However, if the soft-top has survived such extensive and extreme testing, chances are the rest of the vehicle will also stack up to Mercedes’ and customer’s demands. But only time will tell if this version of the SLS AMG holds up to the reviews and acclaim of its hard-top sibling.

© 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-Benz A-Class concept to be unveiled at 2011 NY auto show

7 Apr

By Matt McCarron

Mercedes-Benz has announced the all-new A-Class concept will make its North American debut at the 2011 New York International Auto Show later this month. In addition, the A-Class concept will also make its world debut at the Shanghai auto show this month.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class concept: Courtesy MB USA

The A-Class concept is a front wheel drive vehicle, powered by a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, producing 210 horsepower. The new engine is part of Mercedes’ BlueEFFICIENCY line, meaning the A-Class concept will be able to deliver the performance Mercedes owners have come to expect, while have low emissions and excellent fuel economy. The turbocharged power plant isn’t the only new piece of technology on the A-Class concept. All 210 horses are transferred to the wheels via the new Mercedes duel clutch transmission.

Other technological firsts on the A-Class concept include being the first compact car to feature a radar-based collision warning system, that is backed up with Mercedes’ brake assist technology.

If size, appearance and horsepower count for anything, then you can expect the production version of the A-Class concept to compete directly with the BMW 128i and Audi A3.

© 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 C63 AMG Coupe unveiled

20 Mar

By Matt McCarron

Just months after the world premiere of the 2012 C-Class coupe at the Geneva Auto Show, Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the car which they hope will lay waste to competitors such as the Audi RS5, and current benchmark of two-door sports cars, the BMW M3.

The C63 AMG coupe will be powered by the same 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V8 engine in the C63 AMG sedan. The hand assembled power plant produces 451 hp and 443 lb-ft. This allows the C63 AMG coupe to accelerate from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. Although the C63 AMG coupe produces more horsepower than either the M3 or RS5, the real difference is with the amount of torque. The 443 lb-ft in the C63 AMG coupe is significantly more than the M3 or Rs5, with 295 and 317 lb-ft respectively.

The C63 AMG coupe can become even more potent with the addition of the optional Mercedes-Benz Performance Package. The package utilizes technology from the SLS AMG including forged pistons, connecting rods and lightweight crankshaft. This reduces the weight by 6.6 pounds. The addition of this high-tech equipment results in a total horsepower output of 481 hp and reduces the 0-60 time to 4.3 seconds. Other benefits include an increase in top speed from 155 to 174 mph (electronically limited). In addition to the performance modifications, the Performance Package features a number of cosmetic changes to the exterior of the vehicle. This includes the variable intake manifold finished in titanium gray, the AMG high-performance braking system with two-piece front rotors and red painted brake calipers, a carbon fiber spoiler and the AMG performance steering wheel.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe: Courtesy Mercedes-Benz USA.

Ironically, for a car having so much power and torque the C63 AMG coupe also has a greener side. The high-revving V8 is mated with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports transmission. The transmission allows the driver to select from a variety of driving modes, including the Controlled Efficiency or “C” mode. This limits the amount of acceleration and makes the transmission shift early, resulting in improved fuel economy.

However, most customers who are in the market for a world-class high-performance coupe are not concerned about the amount of gasoline being consumed, and do not want to be driving around with slow, conservative transmission settings. Luckily the transmission in the C63 AMG coupe has faster and more aggressive settings. The “S”, “S+” and “M” modes are available at the touch of a button, with the gear changes in the “S+” and “M” modes taking only 100 milliseconds. The C63 AMG coupe also has a Race Start function to provide the best possible launch.

If the lighter and more nimble C63 AMG coupe is anything like it’s four-door sibling then BMW and Audi will be forced to take notice. Mercedes AMG seems to have its eyes on taking the top spot in the two-door sports car category and continues to develop and produce vehicles which are getting closer to doing just that. The C63 AMG coupe is scheduled to make its first appearance in U.S. showrooms starting in September.

© 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