Mercedes-Benz – Automobile Magazine http://www.automobilemag.com No Boring Cars! | Reviews, Auto Shows, Lifestyle Thu, 21 Sep 2017 23:19:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 Mercedes-Benz Ramps Up for EQ Production with $1 Billion Investment in Alabama http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-benz-ramps-eq-production-1-billion-investment-alabama-manufacturing/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-benz-ramps-eq-production-1-billion-investment-alabama-manufacturing/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 18:03:37 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1192361 TUSCALOOSA, Alabama—To prepare for production of its all-electric EQ SUV, Mercedes-Benz announced a $1 billion investment into its manufacturing hub in Tuscaloosa. Mercedes reports the planned expansion will create 600 new jobs for the region. This sizeable investment will be divested in three distinct ways, beginning with retooling and reworking portions of the primary plant...

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TUSCALOOSA, Alabama—To prepare for production of its all-electric EQ SUV, Mercedes-Benz announced a $1 billion investment into its manufacturing hub in Tuscaloosa. Mercedes reports the planned expansion will create 600 new jobs for the region.

This sizeable investment will be divested in three distinct ways, beginning with retooling and reworking portions of the primary plant in preparation for the forthcoming EQ model. This will be the first all-electric SUV from the automaker and one of the first products of the new EQ sub-brand.

Prior to the additional EQ model line, the Tuscaloosa facility currently produces all GLS, GLE, and GLE Coupe SUVs for the global market, as well as the U.S. market’s C-Class sedan. This is one of Mercedes’ busiest plants, producing more than 310,000 vehicles in 2016.

The new investment will also support the creation of a new battery production facility close to the plant. This is the fifth battery production facility for Mercedes, and it will support the automaker’s efforts to completely electrify each segment of the Mercedes lineup by 2022. Construction begins next year with full operation beginning after 2020.

A new Global Logistics Center is the third prong of the investment, providing Mercedes with stronger supply chain management and after-sales support, including the export of car kits to overseas assembly plants.

This investment follows a $1.3 billion expansion in 2015 that included revamping the SUV assembly facility and adding a new bodyshop.

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One Week With: 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-mercedes-amg-gla45-review-one-week/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-mercedes-amg-gla45-review-one-week/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 04:01:47 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1185050 When I last drove the GLA45 nearly three years ago, I walked away wondering a lot of things. Why Mercedes didn’t give it more power never crossed my mind, but lo and behold, the 2016 models arrived with 20 more hp and 18 more lb-ft of torque. Its 0-60 time dropped by half a second,...

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When I last drove the GLA45 nearly three years ago, I walked away wondering a lot of things. Why Mercedes didn’t give it more power never crossed my mind, but lo and behold, the 2016 models arrived with 20 more hp and 18 more lb-ft of torque. Its 0-60 time dropped by half a second, too, to a seriously impressive 4.3 seconds. Then I saw the 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA45, with its more gaping front diffuser, fat rear spoiler, and flashy Mountain Grey Magno matte paint. All I wondered was why didn’t the GLA45 look this good in the first place?

Truly, this German hot hatch finally looks as wild and crazy as it drives. The matte paint has a handsome sheen. There’s a chunkier and more purposeful look to the front end, with its redesigned front splitter and air intake grilles, while the rear gets a touch of boy-racer with its huge roof-mounted spoiler and new rear diffuser insert. Kitted out with the $750 AMG Night Package that also adds black chrome AMG tailpipes, it’s a mean-looking machine to be sure.

I wish I could say I enjoyed driving it as much as I enjoyed looking at it. No doubt the GLA45 is a riot in Race mode, foot to the floor, the turbocharged engine riding a torrent of jowl-rippling boost, as the seven-speed dual-clutch runs through its shortened gear ratios with the zeal of a skittish squirrel climbing a tree. The brakes have a ton of good bite, the steering is accurate enough, and the engine sounds sinister with its delicious braps and pops from the $650 AMG performance exhaust. The problem is that the Ford Focus RS offers similar performance (and similarly atrocious ride and interior quality) for nearly $30,000 cheaper, with a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 165 mph. Hell, a VW Golf R will rattle off the same 4.5-second sprint with just 292 hp, and you’ll enjoy skipping the trip to your chiropractor to boot.

“Fun car to blast around in, but the transmission starts to act jerky when you slow to a stop, especially in Sport and Sport+ modes,” notes Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa. “Suspension crashes uncomfortably on bumpy metro Detroit roads, too. I just don’t find the GLA45 distinguishing itself much from other far more affordable hot hatches, aside from the three-pointed star.”

I felt much the same as Todd on that point, which is why the GLA’s interior is such a letdown. With an as-tested price of $71,185, I expected to be blown away by German luxury compared to a Focus RS, WRX STI, or Golf R, but no amount of faux aluminum, MB-Tex slathering, or contrast red stitching can hide dated design and cheap plastic on key touchpoints. The infotainment screen and interface, for example, is still clunky and difficult to use compared to the elegance and advancement seen on the new E-Class. And while the $850 Dinamica interior package adds a softer touch to the overly fattened steering wheel, it’s a small consolation for an otherwise lackluster interior. It’s best, too, to avoid the $2,250 AMG performance seats, which would be a lot more useful if my commute was on the Hockenheimring. Sadly that’s not the case, and the seats deep bucket shape and hardness take their toll even on short commutes, while also making ingress and egress a chore.

You won’t hear me argue that the GLA45 is an impressive performer, and when pushed to its limit, offers a fabulous agility and manic attitude not found elsewhere in Mercedes-AMG’s U.S. lineup. This German hot hatch, however, demands quite a bit more sacrifices in the way of comfort, technology, and cost, than I’m willing to overlook.

If you want a freakish performance version of a pedestrian premium small car, look instead to the just-released Audi RS3. It holds an equally unique place in the market, and both outperforms and outclasses the GLA’s CLA45 sibling.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $51,595/$71,185 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/375 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 350 lb-ft @ 2,250-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, AWD crossover
EPA MILEAGE 22/28 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 175.0 x 79.6 x 58.2 in
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
WEIGHT 3,461 lb
0-60 MPH 4.3 sec
TOP SPEED 167 mph

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Coast to Coast in a $475 1977 Mercedes-Benz 230 http://www.automobilemag.com/news/coast-coast-475-1977-mercedes-benz-230/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/coast-coast-475-1977-mercedes-benz-230/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 00:00:20 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1190778 Somewhere along the way, I forgot what its like to love a car. To be not enthralled with power or precision, but enamored, charmed, ready to forgive an ocean of faults for a few drops of good character. This car, a $475 1977 Mercedes-Benz 230, is the perfect reminder. Mercedes built a staggering 2.7 million...

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Somewhere along the way, I forgot what its like to love a car. To be not enthralled with power or precision, but enamored, charmed, ready to forgive an ocean of faults for a few drops of good character. This car, a $475 1977 Mercedes-Benz 230, is the perfect reminder.

Mercedes built a staggering 2.7 million W123 sedans between 1977 and 1985. They are cars of automotive legend, machines that helped craft American understanding of German engineering. These sedans, coupes, and wagons that embody the truth behind the worn and weary clichés: tank-like, mechanical, indestructible.

This is not a vehicle I’d seek out. It’s slow and pondering. German. It does not sprint or dart. It trundles along with a stodginess I’d long associated with professors who thought too highly of themselves. For a knuckle-dragger who grew up pining for the cars that filled his father’s old Hot Rod pages, it is a thing from another universe, far from the Impalas and Mercury coupes that formed the early flickers of my automotive lust. Even now, some part of me will always see a Mercedes or BMW badge and think, that’s a nice car. A denizen of a higher social stratum.

I bought it out of desperation, a thing for a story after Plan A dropped its transmission 45 miles into a 1,000-mile adventure. The seller told me the car needed valve seals and guides. I asked him if it would make it from its home in Eugene, Oregon to Portland. He nodded. I took him at his word and drove it nearly 5,000 miles over three weeks.

You can’t look at it without smiling. It’s everything. The size. The simple, handsome lines, dabbed here and there with just enough chrome to remind you it was penned in another era. How even after 40 years, every mechanism on it yields a beautiful, mechanical click–the doors, the hood, the headlight and hazard switches. How everything works. There’s no jiggling of knobs or smacking of steering wheels. No holding your tongue just right while you twist the key. It simply functions.

That’s partly due to the thing’s construction, but also its specification. There is no sunroof, no automatic climate control, no cruise control, no power windows or door locks. All of the niceties that degrade and fail over the course of a generation are absent. It is happy to do its job from now until the heat death of the universe, so long as you keep dumping oil down its throat.

What it doesn’t burn, it leaks. Two cupped hands could hold oil better than the front main seal and oil pan gasket. It spent its life wandering from Idaho to Washington, and finally, down to Oregon, all states that are kind to old metal. There is some rust, though. This will never be a concourse car.

But that means you can simply drive it. Throw the keys to friends and have everyone pile in. Street park it. Never lock it. Leave the windows down while you run your errands because what could happen? And every time you return to find it unmolested, it rebuilds your faith in humanity, bit by bit.

My wife, Beth, flew out from Virginia to meet me in Seattle for a long weekend. We picked up another couple, piled our luggage in the cavernous trunk, and headed for the ferry across the sound.

My friend tells me these are the sucker months, the days that convince Californians to move north, when the long, gray winter and the endless blackberry brambles seem like an impossibility. I get it. There’s a wide part of my heart that wants to be here, and it gets to singing as we watch the water slide beneath us. He points to the distance and says, “Look, there’s Rainier.”

At first, I can’t see it. My Appalachian mind aims my eyes too low, where there’s nothing but a thin haze and clouds hugging close to the horizon. The broad peak is above it all, and when I raise my gaze, I see that old volcano like a backdrop in oils, a scene that has wandered into our reality from some far-off fantasy.

The air is cool and clear, made cold by the quick wind at the ferry’s prow. It could be April anywhere else in the world. Porpoises breach and dance through the dark, still water to our starboard, and it’s difficult to believe that this is someone’s normal. Some lucky bastard’s home. We leave the windows down as we wander south, laughing and talking as we drive. It’s a delicious feeling, one I haven’t had since high school when my car lunched its A/C compressor, and I was too broke to fix it.

It’s the sense of being in the world rather than sheltered from it. It’s the salt smell of the sound and the way the air changes cool to warm and back again as you wander. How the car has not been bred out of the experience. You hear the little four-cylinder. Feel it thrumming ahead of you, pulling you on to the next wonder. It is open and pleasant. The door sills are thin and low and wait for your elbow. There’s room, everywhere.

I catch myself looking for glimpses of the car in storefront windows and the polished sides of food-grade semi tankers. It makes my heart glad to see it, every time.

The thing is a gamble, of course. It had 272,000 miles when I picked it up in Eugene. I kept waiting for it to falter and give me an excuse to leave it there in the Pacific Northwest, to thank it for its time and say goodbye. I eyed the temperature and oil pressure gauges, waiting to catch it in the act of leaving us stranded, but it never did. The Mercedes just kept moving, happy to be of use.

After 1,500 miles, half of me feared that it was only good because neither of us had managed to disappoint each other, yet. The Mercedes hadn’t destroyed some unobtainable part and stranded us for a week. I hadn’t mangled a repair, hit a curb, or blown a tire.

Worse, how does a car like this fit in my life? It was the safest thing on four wheels in 1977, but I’d be an idiot to put my daughter in it for anything longer than a bop to the store. We have no garage for it to sleep in, no space or time or cash for the car’s pile of minor needs. And while the lack of air conditioning was fine in the perpetually temperate Northwest, hot and humid Virginia might have something else to say.

Maybe that’s the price you pay to be reminded that cars are good and amazing things. That they’re the excuse you need to pack up and go. To leap. To take good people along with you. To watch their eyes grow bright as they take that big wheel and amble through the neighborhoods they’ve known all their lives, now with a new taste on their lips, their hands fluttering in the breeze like wings.

I dropped Beth off at the airport, then spent a morning in a West Seattle gutter changing one questionable coolant hose out of cowardice. I grabbed a set of pawn shop tools and pointed the 230 east with nothing to keep me company but Caroline Rose and John K. Sampson on the two-speaker stereo. I have crossed this continent more times than I can count, and still it is a shock to know the breadth of it. To understand the awesome miracle of this country, how such fractured and disparate places and people hold together, knowing we’re better for it.

You fill your windshield for three days, four, and still don’t run out of land to see. Places to go. I fall out of pace with the world, with its churning news and grinding fears. It’s a crime how microscopic we let our lives become, every sin and flaw magnified to unmanageable proportions, our days a galley of ghosts.

I find myself facing the nightmares my grandfather knew. Nukes and Nazis. Russia. The goddamned KKK. The world’s bigger than that, though, and out here, gulping down wide swaths of it, you understand the goodness inherent in people. I can’t pop the hood to check the oil without someone wandering up and wanting to know if everything’s ok. It’s a heartening sameness. You see it and realize we’re all living out our days with one wary eye on tomorrow, content to know that if nothing else, our horizons don’t change.

Mine do, for now. The land shifts, and the air with it. First, sweetened by Washington’s fir trees, then Idaho’s pine, darkened later with smoke from Montana forest fires, the blazes ignited by dueling thunderstorms. They roam over the grassland, stumbling to either side of Highway 200, lightning stabbing at the ground in fours and fives. They are massive and beautiful and full of destruction. Hot Shot firefighters eye their progress like the herds of mule deer that gather along the shoulder, tense and ready to bolt at some hidden cue.

Then comes North Dakota and the knowledge that there isn’t an ugly state in this union. Miles and miles of sweet corn, the smell strong enough to make my mouth water in the mid-day heat, followed by Minnesota, its waters, and the first smattering of deciduous trees. A single bald eagle cruises the shoreline out my passenger window. There’s a shift that happens, and something in me knows I’m closer to home than Seattle. Maybe it’s the humidity. Perfect cumulus clouds sit like dollops of cream, thousands of them stretching off to the horizon in a way that only happens in the Midwest. There are more people, too, and after a thousand miles of empty country, it’s a shock to see so many cars.

After Minnesota is Wisconsin, its roadsides blushing with wildflowers. Yellow black-eyed susans and blue chicory, amok and gorgeous in every ditch and field. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I begin to suspect that yes, we’ll make it the 3,000 miles to my home in Virginia. I try to banish it, to think of anything else for fear of giving fate one more thin excuse to put its boot to my neck, but it won’t go away. It stays there through the endless toll booths of Illinois, across Indiana and Ohio. And by the time the sun sets on the last day, I can see my green hills. Smell the thick Appalachian air of home, a breath away through the mountains of West Virginia.

The 230 never falters. Never stumbles. It wants highway speeds, happier at 85 than 55 and content to scream its little head off even as it pukes oil out its valve cover. I keep the speed at 70, not for engine life, but for oil consumption, and by the time I take my exit, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I could turn around and drive straight back if I needed to. This is a thing that cannot be deterred.

It feels at home here, soaking up the uneven chip-and-seal of my county. Rolling into my driveway. Parking in front of my house. After so many hours, I should loathe the thing. After so little sleep, I should want to bar the door, pull my wife into bed and not leave until famine or fire threatens to oust us.

But Virginia is happy to have me home, and the morning is a wonder. Sunlight drips through the mist that clings to the river below our ridge, the mountainsides drenched in the orange light of morning. Yes, this is my normal. Yes, this is some lucky bastard’s home. Mine. Somehow, I have not yet run the wandering out of my blood. I grab the keys and roll down the windows. The odometer’s a few shakes shy of 277,000 miles, and my father’s got nothing to do for the day. Maybe he needs the reminding of a good car.

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2017 Frankfurt Motor Show Hits, Misses, and Revelations http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2017-frankfurt-motor-show-hits-misses-revelations/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2017-frankfurt-motor-show-hits-misses-revelations/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 20:00:15 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1190469 FRANKFURT, Germany — Stanley Kubrick famously had planned a pie fight between the Yanks and the Soviets for the final scene of his 1964 classic, “Dr. Strangelove.” We couldn’t help thinking about such a pie fight breaking out in Volkswagen Group’s Hall 3 at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, where the walking lanes came to...

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FRANKFURT, Germany — Stanley Kubrick famously had planned a pie fight between the Yanks and the Soviets for the final scene of his 1964 classic, “Dr. Strangelove.” We couldn’t help thinking about such a pie fight breaking out in Volkswagen Group’s Hall 3 at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, where the walking lanes came to a standstill as Audi conducted its Elaine concept press conference.

Compounding the crowd, Audi moved in with the rest of VW Group this year from its old spot in the center square between Hall 3 and Mercedes-Benz’s Guggenheim-like grand arena. Audi used to have a big, crowded, temporary arena all to itself. Dieselgate budget cuts, you know.

The Audi Elaine is a connected, electric four-door SUV “coupe” that premiered at Shanghai earlier this year (a sign of the times) and spoke to the automaker executive conducting the presser in a Cortana-like voice. It was in German, so we can’t tell you who the exec is or what he and Elaine said, but we yearned for Dustin Hoffman to yell “Elaine! Elaine! ”from offstage.

Enough of the cinematic metaphors. The big celebrity highlight was when three-time Formula 1 Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton drove out into Mercedes-Benz’s stand in the Mercedes-AMG Project One.

BMW and Mini moved from the front of the Frankfurt Messe, near Mercedes and VW Group, to Hall 11 about a kilometer away, which at least provided incentive to walk into the non-German automakers’ displays in-between. With General Motors gone, Opel shrunk to a smaller stand as part of PSA Peugeot, and nine other automakers having stayed home this year, the 2017 Frankfurt IAA was a smaller, more German industry-intense affair. Nonetheless, this show has plenty of cars and concepts to like, criticize and contemplate.

Hit: The idea behind the Mercedes-AMG Project One

I like the concept of a Formula 1-powered hypercar.

Robert Cumberford

Miss: Mercedes-AMG Project One

Totally unconvincing collection-of-clichés styling. A serious disappointment.

R.C.

Hit: Mercedes-AMG Project One

The biggest buzz of the show, if far from an unqualified hit. No, it’s not pretty and looks like an update of the legendary BMW-powered McLaren F1 road car. But Gorden Wagener’s team designed it for best aero and downforce, like a purpose-built racecar. Better yet, it’s the first hypercar that will be capable of speeds of nearly 220 mph from just 1.6 liters worth of hybrid turbo V-6.

Todd Lassa

Miss: Mercedes-AMG Project One Nose

Perspective matters. My first glimpse of Project One came from a second story balcony, revealing a sculptural, wasp-waisted shape bisected by a contrasting air intake and dorsal fin in matte black carbon fiber. Coming down to ground level revealed an entirely different slant: viewed head-on, the 1,000-plus horsepower sled seemed surprisingly unemotional. Despite a more than a passing resemblance to the late, great McLaren F1, the AMG’s schnoz simply couldn’t deliver on the promise of that striking top view, let alone the sculpted, tucked, and diffuser-clad rump. Blame the slavish demands of the wind tunnel (or whatever/whomever you want), but Project One’s proboscis is a reminder that form can lose charisma when it’s tied so directly to function.

–Basem Wasef

Hit: Mercedes-AMG Project One Fin

Every great hypercar needs a signature design touch and Project One’s pièce de résistance is the carbon fiber piece that spans the mid/aft section of its roof. Doubling as an air intake and a shark fin intended to improve lateral stability in high-speed corners, this smoothly contoured form manages to evoke both a sense of function and touch of whimsy.

–B.W.

Hit: ASpark Owl

Is it a serious effort? Who knows, but in terms of styling, it really puts Project One on the trailer. Spectacular.

–R.C.

Revelation: ASpark Owl

I love walking along at an international auto show, minding my own business, and getting stopped dead in my tracks by an abjectly beautiful vehicle I’ve never seen before. Case in point: the ASpark Owl, a new electric supercar from Japan that makes some bold claims just begging for substantiation. Though I couldn’t find an expert on-hand, I did learn from a large format hardbound book (seriously) that this lean, mean, carbon fiber EV weighs only 1,900 pounds and packs two motors that can scoot it to 62 mph in two seconds flat. The prose includes no shortage of buzzwords (power amplifier, supercapacitor, speed reducer), but can we just brush all that aside for a moment and drool at the Owl’s killer looks?

B.W.

Miss: Renault Symbioz Concept

Worst concept of the show. Lumpy plastic windshield, bad seating package, awful profile. Not at all up to the usual Renault concept standard.

R.C.

Renault gets credit for unveiling not just a concept car, but an entire house to go with it. The Symbioz is one of those Internet of Things things, a battery-powered blobbymobile that can park itself and communicate with the house (i.e. if the heat’s on in the car, the house heats up as you approach). It can fold away its own steering wheel and turn into a sitting room, which is exactly what we don’t want from a car. The sad part is that in order to make the Symbioz the focus of its press conference, Renault gave short shrift to its other Frankfurt introduction, the Megane RS, a 276-hp hot hatch with four-wheel-steering. Now that’s the Renault we want to drive.

Aaron Gold

Hit: Renault Symbioz Concept

Yes, yes, it’s all that. But the good news is: 2020, your new Renault Avantime is here.

T.L.

Miss: BMW Concept X7 iPerformance

We love a big, imposing SUV just as much as the next jerk, but the BMW Concept X7 iPerformance’s odd proportions and massive maw is more off-putting than it is badass. Sure, it gains eco points for its plug-in hybrid drivetrain. But let’s leave the mean, menacing look for the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, shall we?

–B.W.

I wouldn’t be so offended by the hideously massive “Star Wars” tie-fighter kidney grille if it weren’t for the Nissan Patrol/Infiniti Q80-style rear quarter-windows and d-pillars. Why didn’t they simply tap partner Toyota for a Land Cruiser to reskin?

–T.L.

Hit and Miss: 2019 Bentley Continental GT

The new Continental GT is big, bold, and breathtakingly beautiful. I’d call it a hit if the back end didn’t look like it was ripped off from an Audi A7—a sin that might be forgivable were both brands not owned by the Volkswagen Group. The A7 may well have the best-looking rump this side of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, but grafting it on to the Continental GT is just plain lazy.

A,G.

Hit: The Bentley Continental GT’s Creased Haunches

Bentley’s long overdue Continental GT replacement has a lot going for it, including a new platform from Porsche, nearly 300 pounds of weight savings, and, finally, a modernized interior. But one curious detail caught our eye in Frankfurt: the coupe’s sharply creased haunches. “[Showgoers] haven’t stopped touching it,” one Bentley flack said of the aluminum panel. Manufactured using an aerospace-derived superplastic forming technique, the panels have an interesting engineering backstory. But arguably more important is a tactile invitation that bodes well for the car’s market appeal.

– B.W.

Hit: Borgward Isabella concept

Best concept in the show. Illustrates what happens when a brilliant designer tackles an electric car. Anders Warming, ex-Mini design chief, is one of the best young Germans in the business. The Isabella has many innovative styling ideas, but some old ones that didn’t work 40 years ago, and don’t work now, such as the fading paint on glass.

–R.C.

Hit: Borgward Smartphone Fan

No question, the best swag at this year’s Frankfurt Auto Show was this little fan that plugs into the bottom of your smartphone. It was given out by Borgward, a once-well-known German concern now reborn and backed by China, where its cars are sold. (They plan to return to Europe soon.) This little gizmo is exactly what you’d expect from a Chinese concern: Useful, amusing, cheaply made and potentially dangerous (good luck unplugging it without sticking your fingers in the whirling blades). I plan to steal about half a dozen of them by any means necessary. And what about Borgward’s SUVs, you ask? Trust me, the fan is better.

A.G.

Miss: BMW i Vision Dynamics concept

Instead of showing us a Tesla Model S with a kidney grille, I’d like to have seen BMW unveil something new and forward thinking, like the Borgward Isabella concept.

–T.L.

Revelation: Jaguar I-Pace Trophy

With plans to electrify their entire lineup by 2020, Jag is going gangbusters on EV tech. This much we know. But the latest surprise from Frankfurt is that the folks from Coventry are transforming electric I-Pace crossovers into a support series for the Formula E series. Built by the carmaker’s Special Vehicle Operations division, the I-Pace eTrophy racer packs a satisfying visual punch: despite its family-friendly configuration, the wide-hipped, spoiler-clad, roll cage equipped sport ‘ute looks mean enough to appease the most hardcore internal combustion apologists.

–B.W.

Hit: Ferrari Portofino

To me, a successful Ferrari design is one that looks instantly familiar. You know you’re looking at something you’ve never seen, but you also know you’re looking at a Ferrari. The Portofino is one of those cars—it just looks right, and it manages to look right whether the top is up or down. Thirty years down the road, this will be remembered as one of the great Ferrari designs, and it’s a privilege to have seen it make its world debut.

A.G.

Hit (qualified): Ferrari Portofino

Much better than the California, still not up to the usual Maranello standard.

R.C.

 

Hit: Hyundai Kona

If the Genesis G90 shows that the South Koreans can do a great imitation of Lexus, the Hyundai Kona shows they can do a great imitation of Citroën. This car has just enough nutsy details to keep it interesting without veering off into weird (Toyota CH-R), controversial (Nissan Juke), or downright ugly (Kia Sportage). What with all the mature-but-dull designs Hyundai has introduced over the past couple of years, the Kona might be the vehicle that gives them back their mojo.

A.G.

Revelation: Hyundai i30 Fastback

This car is exactly what the name says: Hyundai’s compact i30 (sold in the States as the Elantra GT) with a Kia Stinger-like fastback grafted on. It’s a bit understated but very attractive, and I have to wonder how American buyers would react. I’d be surprised if it came to the States. My guess is it’s too close to the Elantra sedan (and perhaps the Ioniq hatch) to find its place in the lineup—but then again, the South Koreans are inscrutable. If it were to come here, that’d be a real treat, as the Elantra GT is easily the most enjoyable, underrated, and underappreciated car in Hyundai’s U.S. lineup.

A.G.

Hit: Kia Proceed concept

Design boss Peter Schreyer hits it out of the ballpark with this unexpectedly svelte, striking wagon concept. Though KIA’s familiar ‘tiger-nose’ grille leads the way, the rest of the Proceed is an exercise in curvilinear purity, with a silhouette characterized by two simple arcs. The vibrant metallic red paint is a dominant outside and in, but subtle touches like a floating c-pillar finished in chrome offer just enough flash to break up the crimson tide. The only downside? We’re unlikely to see anything like the Proceed Stateside not only because of its extreme shapes, but doubly because it hails from Kia’s European division.

–B.W.

The Proceed wagon concept clearly has the style and the dash-to-axle proportion of the RWD Stinger four-door hatchback, which means Europe soon will get a Kia sport wagon. North America seems a long shot.

–T.L.

Revelation: Brabus Classic

You learn the darndest things at Frankfurt, like the fact that Brabus, builder of such unorthodoxies as a hopelessly steroidal, 900-horsepower G-Wagen, also has a six-year-old Classics division that faithfully and authentically restores vintage Mercedes-Benzes. In partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Brabus Classic can take the crème de la crème of old Benzes (from 600 “Grossers” to 300 SL Gullwings) and bring them back to like-new condition at their 28,000 square foot facility in Bottrop, Germany. Included with the restoration is a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty. Who knew?

–B.W.

Hit: Honda Urban EV concept

It reminds me of Marc Newson’s Ford 021C concept from the Tokyo Motor Show 18 years ago. They’re both product design oriented, not particularly automotive. The zillion-spoke wheels are very cool.

–R.C.

Miss: Honda Urban EV Concept

Honda’s Urban EV Concept is a perfect retro-mobile, combining a cool ‘70s/’80s shape with modern details. Too bad it’s a dead ringer for the first-generation Volkswagen Rabbit.

A.G.

When I first saw it in the tin on the stand, I thought the photos hadn’t done it justice. It’s not at all a retro reminder of the first Civic, but gives off a certain ‘60s/early ‘70s vibe. Then I got a look at the interior, with its bench seat, odd shag carpeting on the rear seat, and video game-style dashboard-wide navigation screen. If the ’19 calendar-year production model loses those interior details, the Honda Urban EV could fall back into my “hit” column again.

T.L.

Hit: Volkswagen Polo GTI

Size of a Golf Mark IV GTI. Not too small, not too big. Just right.

R.C.

Miss: Volkswagen I.D. Crozz II

Still a gawky looking crossover four-door coupe with a big body and small greenhouse, which suggests a tight interior. The I.D. Buzz Microbus EV looks 10 times cooler. Wouldn’t it be great if VW manages to turn the vast preference for SUVs compared to MPVs/minivans on its ear?

–T.L.

Miss: Volkswagen T-Roc

This cute little crossover has tons of curb appeal. It’s more daring than other Volkswagen designs, with sharp creases and a contrasting-color roof, and it’s the right size to take on the new wave of small crossovers that are selling like hotcakes in the US. Personally, I think it offers a combination of size, style and street smarts that would make it a huge hit in America. So why is it a Miss and not a Hit? Because, for reasons no one can adequately explain, VW doesn’t plan to bring it to the United States. Excuse me while I go find a solid object against which I can bang my head.

A.G.

Miss: Wey Logo

This may be low hanging fruit, but here goes: Lincoln called, they want their logo back.

–B.W.

 

Revelation: Perspective on Garish Bentleys and Rollers

Big, garishly painted cars from German-owned Bentley, like its ba-lue Mulsanne, and Rolls-Royce are the ‘10s equivalent of loudly colored tweed hunting jackets favored by some German gentlemen of a certain age and class, a generation ago.

–T.L.

Hit: Suzuki Swift Sport

The Swift Sport is tiny and cute, and with 138 hp from a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, it’s probably going to be downright scrappy. The Swift has been Suzuki’s best car for years, and they never offered it in the States—instead we got a half-baked Chevy Equinox clone, a three-quarter-baked Fiat joint venture, and those horrible Daewoo rejects. Looking over this cute little rocket ship makes me wonder what could have been.

A.G.

Hit: Audi RS4 Avant.

RS4 means 444 horsepower, Avant means station wagon, and if you don’t know why that’s enough to make it a hit, you are hereby ordered to cancel your Automobile subscription and replace it with Consumer Reports.

A.G.

Hit: Mercedes-Benz EQA concept

Mainstream Mercedes look pretty conservative these days, and the EQA concept is no exception, though this compact hatchback EV is a pretty clean design under its lightshow display and other show car eyewash. What’s more, if you change this two-box design into a three-box sedan, I think you’re looking at the basis of the upcoming Benz A-Class, an Audi A3 competitor coming to the U.S. some time in the 2019 model year. It will be a welcome addition to the CLA lineup.

–T.L.

Revelation: Suzuki Jimny

I had no idea Suzuki was still making the Jimny, the successor to the much-maligned and now much-missed Samurai, until I stumbled across one at the 2017 Frankfurt show. (Heck, I wasn’t even sure that Suzuki was still around.) But there it sat, in all its box-it-came-in glory. The Jimny hasn’t changed much since its last redesign in 1998, and the interior is a twenty-year time warp, cheap plastics and all. I understand the current Jimny is brilliant at off-roading and absolutely dreadful at everything else, and that makes me want to drive it all the more.

–A.G.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz S 560e Bows in Frankfurt http://www.automobilemag.com/news/posh-plug-hybrid-mercedes-benz-s-560e-debuts-frankfurt/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/posh-plug-hybrid-mercedes-benz-s-560e-debuts-frankfurt/#respond Wed, 13 Sep 2017 20:36:49 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1190368 For 2018, Mercedes-Benz offers an updated S-Class plug-in hybrid for its flagship line. The S 560e has an all-electric range of about 31 miles and made its debut this week at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The S 560e’s hybrid drive system combines 367 hp from its 3.0-liter twin turbo V-6 engine with an electric...

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For 2018, Mercedes-Benz offers an updated S-Class plug-in hybrid for its flagship line. The S 560e has an all-electric range of about 31 miles and made its debut this week at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show.

The S 560e’s hybrid drive system combines 367 hp from its 3.0-liter twin turbo V-6 engine with an electric output of 90 kW or an additional 121 hp.

That’s a combined total of 488 hp on tap, which should be more than enough power to scoot the sleek sedan from 0-62 mph in only 5 seconds.

Mercedes-Benz’s third-generation hybrid transmission is based on its 9-speed automatic transmission. Its torque converter, clutch, and electric motor (developed jointly with Bosch) reside in the hybrid drive unit under the hood. Plug-in access is located in the rear of the S-Class on the bumper, just below the right taillight.

Mercedes states that although the battery size remains unchanged, the new lithium-ion battery has an increased rated capacity of 13.5 kWh. It is supplied by the Daimler subsidiary Deutsche ACCUMOTIVE, which also provides battery packs for Smart EVs.

To help drivers get the most out of their posh plug-in, the S 560e gets Eco Assist as standard. The system notifies the driver via a head-up display when it is optimal to let off on the accelerator, when to coast, or when to tap on the brakes for energy recuperation.

Mercedes-Benz says the S 560e’s onboard 7.2 kW charger allows for fast charging of the battery, but did not provide charging times for the plug-in.

Pricing and delivery hasn’t been announced, but we should know more details closer to its estimated delivery date in the late fall or early spring.

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Ten Things You Need to Know About the Mercedes-AMG Project One http://www.automobilemag.com/news/ten-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-mercedes-amg-project-one/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/ten-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-mercedes-amg-project-one/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 19:39:03 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1190052 FRANKFURT, Germany – Mercedes-AMG is celebrating three consecutive years of Formula 1 Manufacturers World Championships (and corresponding drivers’ championships for Lewis Hamilton, twice, and Nico Rosberg) with a car aimed at the heart of Bugatti, a marque that hasn’t competed in Grand Prix since the 1930s. By the time the Mercedes-AMG Project One is delivered...

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FRANKFURT, Germany – Mercedes-AMG is celebrating three consecutive years of Formula 1 Manufacturers World Championships (and corresponding drivers’ championships for Lewis Hamilton, twice, and Nico Rosberg) with a car aimed at the heart of Bugatti, a marque that hasn’t competed in Grand Prix since the 1930s. By the time the Mercedes-AMG Project One is delivered to such lucky customers as Hamilton, who is likely to get a big break on the $2.53-million price, the Mercedes-AMG team may have its fourth consecutive Manufacturers Championship.

While Volkswagen Group’s Bugatti Chiron gets its 1,479 horsepower from a relatively conventional quad-turbocharged W-16, the Project One’s 1,000-plus horsepower comes directly from the racetrack, apparently making it a, well, road-legal F1 car to Bugatti’s road-legal NHRA top fuel dragster.

Mercedes-AMG says the Project One is the first road car with an unbridled F1 engine under its hood. That engine is a 1.6-liter turbocharged V-6 with an electric turbo and another electric motor connected to the crankshaft. Not to F1 spec, two extra electric motors that power the front wheels. It has all-wheel-drive with torque-vectoring, and puts its power through an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters for its only forward-gear controls.

By now you’re asking yourself, “self, should I buy one?” Here’s what you need to know before you decide to write a six-figure deposit check.

1. With “just” 1,000 horsepower, the Mercedes-AMG Project One will not be the quickest, most-powerful hypercar extant.

You can’t count the Project One as having 625 horsepower per liter because some of those horsies come from the four-motor hybrid system. But with a mid-engine F1 powerplant under the rear hood, you have to realize it’s not all about straight-line performance. AMG says top speed is 217 mph, which sounds suspiciously close to the top speeds Lewis Hamilton hits on the fastest circuits in the series.

“The way you win a race is to finish a lap in the quickest form,” Ola Kaellenius, Mercedes-Benz cars’ research & development chief says. “There are quicker cars than an F1 car in a straight line, but there are no quicker cars around a track.”

2. It may have an F1 powertrain, but its chassis is street-wise.

The mostly carbon-fiber body isn’t like an open-wheel, open-top F1 car, and the suspension is different, too, though Mercedes-AMG sourced a lot of the same suppliers, including Multimatic for its “roll and heave” pushrods, which stand in for anti-roll bars by countering each other under lateral force.

3. Project One has its own kind of DRS.

For full downforce in the corners, Project One lowers its suspension and two-piece rear wing flips up to the level of that crazy F1-style sharkfin wing. Also, those three flaps on top of each front fender rise up.

4. Unlike the race engine, the Project One’s W08 engine is built for more than a few races—or even a season.

Colin Chapman once described the perfect race engine for his Formula 1 Lotus cars as one that would blow itself up as soon as his car took the checkered flag. Modern F1 engines are much more reliable, but as built for the track, even the W08’s hybrid V-6 wouldn’t last very long in a street customer’s hands. While certain components of the Project One hybrid V-6 are built to be more robust, they’re not necessarily heavier.

First, remove the batteries, as the Mercedes-AMG Project One has four packs to power its four motors, while the Mercedes-AMG W08 has just one. Once you take disparate battery needs out of the equation, Project One’s engine weighs about the same as W08’s, says Rene’ Wollmann, project engineer, though he declines to reveal what that number is.

Wollmann also declines to reveal how much the entire Project One weighs. There’s time for some final tweaking.

“We have to save something for next year,” and its press conference, he says. But Wollmann assures us that when the car’s weight is revealed, we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

5. Multiple drive modes.

Like other Mercedes-AMG models (and indeed, most Benzes), Project One will offer four drive modes, plus an EV mode—you’ll be able to reserve about 15.5-miles of pure-electric driving for the city center. As for other drive modes, Wollmann says the nomenclature is still under discussion. There will be a “kind of” qualifying mode, he says, that will take advantage of the battery reserve for full-power to supplement the turbo V-6, and there will be a race mode with hybrid assistance.

6. Carbon ceramic brakes are standard, of course.

Carbon ceramics provide superior stopping distances while thriving on heat. They have no advantage or disadvantage in aiding the brake regeneration system.

7. About that air intake.

AMG engineers are still tweaking the shape of the air intake on the Project One’s top to maximize its effect on the engine.

8. Design emphasizes function over form.

The Mercedes-AMG Project One will not be the prettiest car on the road by any means, though the same could be said for most modern racing cars. Project One has a purposeful look, and if its lower front fascia reminds you a bit of the McLaren F1 road car’s, well, then that’s probably because the fascia shape works for purposes of speed. Wollmann especially likes the carbon fiber that designers left unpainted, such as the front hood louvers, the lower fascias and the wheel openings.

“We started with the powertrain first,” Wollmann says, “and then we asked [design chief] Gorden Wagener to do aerodynamics that we’d like to see.”

9. It’s no S-Class inside.

The two seats are integrated into the tub shell and allow for just five degrees of seatback adjustment with no fore-aft. Instead, the steering wheel and the pedals move, “just like a Formula 1 car,” Wollmann says. The F1-style steering wheel also made it possible to place the instrumentation above the wheel, so the driver doesn’t have to look down, away from the road, to see speed or revs, for instance.

AMG considered a removable steering wheel, Wollmann says, but one would not have worked with the required driver’s airbag. There’s also an airbag for the passenger, plus plans for two to four more.

The car also has catalytic converters and will meet all safety and emissions standards, including for the U.S. Asked whether he’s driven the car yet, CEO Dieter Zetsche said he hasn’t because interior noise levels from the engine need to be reduced from their current state of 125 decibels, another regulatory no-no.

10. They’re not exactly sold out, but would you like to get on the waiting list?

Invites went out to certain loyal Mercedes buyers, some of whom were at the Project One’s unveiling at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show. They have plunked down six-figure deposits, and we hear the number of interested potential buyers was about four times the 275 examples Mercedes-AMG intends to build in 2019 and 2020.

BONUS FACT: Project One will post a profit.

So says Ola Kaellanius, even though F1 engines can easily cost seven figures and even though certain other manufacturers might be willing to take a hit just to celebrate three world championships and to put this sort of car in its showrooms. We’ll never learn what its profit margin is, of course, but consider this: at 2.275-million euro, or about $2.53 million each, we figure gross revenues from this car will be roughly equal to that of 12,000 nicely equipped Mercedes-Benz E-Classes.

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Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell Debuts at 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-benz-glc-f-cell-debuts-in-frankfurt/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-benz-glc-f-cell-debuts-in-frankfurt/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:31:53 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1189787 At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz has debuted a fuel cell variant of the GLC-Class compact crossover that previews an upcoming production vehicle with plug-in capability, allowing owners to charge the car in addition to filling up with hydrogen. Called the GLC F-Cell, Mercedes-Benz claims that this is the first time a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle...

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At the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, Mercedes-Benz has debuted a fuel cell variant of the GLC-Class compact crossover that previews an upcoming production vehicle with plug-in capability, allowing owners to charge the car in addition to filling up with hydrogen. Called the GLC F-Cell, Mercedes-Benz claims that this is the first time a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will come with plug-in capability.

Powering the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell is an electric motor with 197 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque that comes paired to a 13.8-kWh lithium-ion battery mounted at the rear.

In addition, there are two carbon fiber-reinforced hydrogen tanks, including one placed under the rear seats. The entire powertrain has been made 30 percent more compact than the unit in the previous B-Class F-Cell, with most of its components fitting under the hood and installed like a conventional internal combustion engine. The fuel cell system uses 90 percent less platinum and reduces the overall costs of the GLC F-Cell.

On a full tank of hydrogen, the Mercedes-Benz GLC F-Cell can travel around 271 miles. In battery EV mode, the automaker claims that the GLC F-Cell can travel up to 49 miles before it reverts to being a a conventional hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. There will be three drive modes on the GLC F-Cell, including Eco, Comfort, and Sport modes, all of which change the way the car behaves, and four operating modes—Hybrid, F-Cell, Battery and Charge modes.

There’s also a Hybrid mode that allows the GLC F-Cell to utilize both the battery and hydrogen fuel cell to power the vehicle. F-Cell mode runs the car strictly on hydrogen while Battery mode essentially puts the vehicle in EV mode. Finally, Charge mode enables the car to use the hydrogen fuel cell system to act as a generator that charges the battery. In all operating modes, the GLC F-Cell features a brake energy regeneration system that helps recover energy and replenish the battery’s charge.

Design cues that distinguish the GLC F-Cell from a standard GLC crossover include blue accents on the grille, alloy wheels, side skirts, and rear bumper. The GLC F-Cell also features a unique front bumper with larger air inlets and 20-inch alloy wheels that have been optimized to improve the crossover’s aerodynamics. Inside, there’s a 12.3-inch screen and a 10.25-inch instrument screen with menus unique to the GLC F-Cell such as fuel cell-specific menus that show.

Mercedes-Benz is currently getting the GLC F-Cell ready for production as the automaker intends to start manufacturing the crossover by the end of 2019. The fuel cell stack is currently under development in cooperation with Ford, which formed a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz’s parent company, Daimler, for developing fuel cell technology. Production will take place in Vancouver, Canada, but the development work has already been completed at Daimler’s NuCellSys subsidiary in Germany.

Daimler plans to help improve the infrastructure for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and is aiming to have up to 400 hydrogen fuel stations by 2023 as part of its H2 Mobility venture.

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Mercedes-Benz Concept EQA Lights Up Frankfurt with Laser Fiber Lights http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-benz-eq-concept/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-benz-eq-concept/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 08:30:10 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1189381 Mercedes-Benz gets small. The all-electric, compact Mercedes-Benz Concept EQA lit up the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show for its global debut. First impressions reveal what looks like a tricked-out, modernized B-Class EV with laser fibers for lights, a black grille that changes looks depending on its mode, and a claimed 250 miles of range. That’s a...

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Mercedes-Benz gets small. The all-electric, compact Mercedes-Benz Concept EQA lit up the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show for its global debut.

First impressions reveal what looks like a tricked-out, modernized B-Class EV with laser fibers for lights, a black grille that changes looks depending on its mode, and a claimed 250 miles of range.

That’s a noticeable improvement over last year’s all-electric B-Class compact’s range of 87-miles and an interesting peek into the future of the brand’s all-electric direction.

Mercedes-Benz’s latest EV follows the Concept EQ SUV that made its flashy debut at last year’s Paris Motor Show. That vehicle also launched the EQ product and technology brand—EQ stands for Electric Intelligence for those keeping track at home. Besides Concept EIA sounds, well, ludicrous, right?

“Our electric initiative is gathering pace—by 2022 Mercedes-Benz Cars will have launched more than ten all-electric vehicles on the market,” said Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Daimler AG CEO and Mercedes-Benz head, in a statement.

“And the Mercedes-Benz Concept EQA proves that we are serious about introducing electric mobility throughout the portfolio.”

To hit the zero to 60 mph mark in “about 5 seconds,” the futuristic Concept EQA has one electric motor at the front axle and another one at the rear. Mercedes states that total output is over 268 hp and maximum torque is over 368 lb ft, which sounds like plenty of fun given the car’s small size.

The concept’s electric all-wheel drive system features axle-variable torque distribution and the battery is installed in the floor between the axles.

Two drive options, “Sport” and “Sport Plus,” offer a different front to rear torque distribution, that allow a choice of individual performance characteristics according to Mercedes-Benz tech gurus.

Up front, the black panel acts as a “virtual radiator grille” and changes its mug according to the drive mode. In sport mode, the grille displays a flaming wing in horizontal format, while in sport plus mode it flaunts the vertical struts of a Panamericana grille. Both variants get a bright, illuminated central star to help lead the way.

Mercedes-Benz claims that Concept EQA offers a range up to 250 miles, but this all depends on the battery pack that is installed. The concept vehicle can be charged at home or by rapid charging stations, says the maker.

Optimistic test results state that “the Concept EQA can be charged enough in less than 10 minutes to produce a range of 62 miles.”

The lithium-ion battery features pouch cells provide a total capacity of over 60 kWh. The cells are supplied by Daimler subsidiary Deutsche ACCUMOTIVE, which also provides batteries for its latest line of Smart EVs.

“With our Concept EQA we have reinterpreted our design philosophy of Sensual Purity and developed the Modern Luxury into a Progressive Luxury for our EQ brand. We eliminated creases and lines and reached the next level of purity,” said Gorden Wagener, Daimler AG chief design officer, in a release.

“With its stunning proportions, seamless flowing surfaces, combined with stimulating graphics using high tech black panels, it is definitively a bold design statement—this car is simply sexy.”

The two-door has a wheelbase of 107.4 inches and measures 168.7 x 71.3 x 56.2 inches (L x W x H). The 2017 Mercedes-Benz B-Class B 250e has a similar wheelbase of 106.2 inches and measures 171.5 x 71.3 x 62.5 inches.

Concept EQA gets an “alubeam” paint finish, a black panoramic glass roof, large embedded laser fiber headlights and taillights, and rolls on 20-inch wheels.

Mercedes-Benz says the EQC SUV, which is based on the Concept EQ that was exhibited in Paris last year, will be the first EQ vehicle to be produced in Bremen in 2019.

No timeline has been announced for the Concept EQA at this time, but we imagine it will follow closely after the EQC’s rollout.

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Mercedes-AMG Project ONE Revealed: AMG’s $2.5 Million Halo Hypercar http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-amg-project-one-hypercar-revealed/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/mercedes-amg-project-one-hypercar-revealed/#respond Mon, 11 Sep 2017 18:30:11 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1189549 In 1997, it took AMG engineers just 126 days to design and build the awesome and barely street-legal CLK GTR. Two decades later, the gestation process of the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar, which has just been revealed ahead of its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, has taken years. The long-awaited result? More than...

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In 1997, it took AMG engineers just 126 days to design and build the awesome and barely street-legal CLK GTR. Two decades later, the gestation process of the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE hypercar, which has just been revealed ahead of its debut at the 2017 Frankfurt auto show, has taken years. The long-awaited result? More than 1,000 horsepower of Formula One inspired, hybrid-electrified design at roughly $2.53 million a copy (or 2.275 million euro if your bank account is in that denomination).

It began with the divorce from McLaren and with the need to eventually come up with an in-house replacement for the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. True, the AMG GT lineup has accomplished a volume-generating and brand-shaping mission, but even the range-topping AMG GT R isn’t a true hardcore supercar, let alone a mind-blowing hypercar like the Project ONE.

What AMG aimed for was a one-of-a-kind machine even more outrageous than the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari, the ultimate fusion of combustion and electrification. Originally known as X1 and initially dubbed AMG R50 to celebrate AMG’s then-upcoming 50th anniversary, the project was kicked off in late 2014 by an undercover team led by AMG’s chief engineer at the time Tobias Moers, who later replaced Ola Källenius at the top of the Mercedes satellite.

In March of this year at the 2017 Geneva auto show, a fiberglass model without an interior was shown to selected customers. The private viewings took place in an anonymous cordoned off tent on the lawns of the high-end La Reserve hotel, where the gunmetal over black two-seater was heralded by Moers as the next big step towards the future of high-performance motoring.

Out of a pool of more than 1,000 applicants, Mercedes accepted six-figure deposits from 275 carefully selected friends of the three-pointed star. Before the first car will be delivered in early 2019, a group of 12 pre-production prototypes have been queued up for demolition in comprehensive EU and U.S. crash tests. “As far as passive safety is concerned, we pulled out all the stops,” states Moers. “There will be at least four airbags — maybe six — and the monocoque is strong enough to absorb the pole during side impact.”

Shaped by Mercedes chief designer Gorden Wagener, whose recent works include the flamboyant Vision 6 concepts, Project ONE is indeed a striking piece of kit. Less extreme than Aston Martin’s Valkyrie and more track-oriented than Bugatti’s Chiron, it is visually — and in content — in league similar to the Koenigsegg Regera and McLaren’s planned BP23 three-seater.

The most striking feature is perhaps its full-length vertical aero blade, which is said to enhance directional stability at very high speeds. Wide and low, the new King of the Autobahn boasts a coke bottle plan view, uncluttered flanks, narrow cutlines as well as low-drag wipers, door openers, and wheels. Smoothly integrated in the beautifully sculpted architecture are slim LED headlights, bigger-than-expected doors, smaller-than-expected air intakes, and several active aero aids. Up front, we find a pair of selectively blocked louvres; in the back, two flaps and the dual-mode wing balance lift and downforce.

Unlike the Nurburgring lap record-setting Nio EP9, which is all purpose and no comfort, Project ONE caters to rich poseurs as well as professional racers. Common to both cars (and the LaFerrari) is the blend of fixed seats and adjustable pedals. One can also alter the position of the steering column and the backrests, and there are three different seat sizes to choose from. While certain elements of Benz’s COMAND infotainment system look familiar, images taken by the roof-mounted reversing camera are displayed in the rear-view mirror. Instead of a conventional instrument cluster, AMG opted for two LED monitors — one in front of the driver, the other in the center stack. The quartic steering-wheel is equipped with two controllers that tweak vehicle dynamics and tap other functions.

Cabin space is not exactly abundant, but there are door pockets, a convenient storage bin with a transparent lid, and small recesses behind the seats big enough for swimming trunks, a bikini, and a couple of spare T-shirts. The materials of choice are carbon-fiber, various metals, leather, microfiber fleece, textile mesh, and signature yellow stitching. It’s a purposeful driver environment, minimalistic in places, comprehensive elsewhere.

The detail we can’t wait to put our finger on is the starter button that rests between the seats next to the window winder switches. Push it and your garage will instantly turn into a Formula One pit, guaranteed. But even though the 1.6-liter V-6 does sound vaguely like the engine in Mr. Hamilton´s company car when revved, it normally settles on a lower rung of the decibel ladder and blipping the throttle doesn’t automatically trigger a rain of paint chips from the ceiling.

“It certainly plays its own tune,” says the pensive CEO Moers. “But the turbocharger makes still too much noise, and the exhaust note at high revs is, well, not quite legal yet.”

Underneath, Project ONE is a complex animal that takes modularity to a new level. Highlights include a steel platform that supports its carbon-fiber tub, an adjustable multilink suspension with transversely mounted pushrods and a spring-damper unit replacing the anti-roll bar, all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, rear-wheel steering, magnesium wheels with featherweight aero blades, and no fewer than five different cooling circuits. The 10-spoke wheels are staggered in size, with the rears being larger and wider than the fronts, and wear bespoke Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires sized 285/35ZR19 and 335/30ZR20, respectively. On the inside are massive golden calipers that straddle sombrero-size carbon-ceramic brake discs. While the rear suspension assembly bolts on to the engine and eight-speed automated manual transmission, the front suspension and electric motors are supported by a compact subframe.

There are four electric motors in all, each governed by its own performance electronics. While normal motors rev up to 15,000 rpm, the AMG versions redline at 50,000 rpm. There are two front-wheel motors, each good for 161-hp and attached to its own single-speed transmission; the layout sharpens turn-in and handling and supports an energy recuperation at a rate of up to 80 percent in normal road use. The third motor also makes 161 hp and is attached directly to the V-6’s crank via a helical gear, while the fourth sits inside the turbocharger, where it splits the cool compression side from the hot exhaust element.

Capable of spinning at 100,000 rpm, the 121-hp motor inside the turbo eliminates lag while kicking butt whenever you floor the throttle. In F1 slang, this feature is known as a MGU-H — Motor Generator Unit Heat. Another F1-related windfall, the so-called MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit Kinetic) spur gear, generates electric energy that can be stored or passed on to the engine-mounted motor.

As for the internal combustion engine, it comes straight from Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, the Brixworth, England-based skunkworks team that builds Mercedes’ F1 powerplants. The direct-injection, single-turbo mill is by and large a blueprint of what’s installed in the AMG Petronas race car. While the four overhead camshafts are still driven by spur wheels, pneumatic actuators replaced the mechanical valve springs. To allow the car to operate on pump gas, the rev limit is capped at 11,000 rpm, which still marks a world record for a road car engine.

At more than 670 hp, this small-displacement six-cylinder is more potent than the 6.0-liter V-12 that powers the S65. Total system power adds up to “over 1,000 hp” — and that’s before you call upon the 50 hp freed in overboost mode. While a F1 engine must be rebuilt after four or five races, its tamer Project ONE sibling is good for 30,000 miles, so don’t even think of using this car as daily driver despite the extra durability.

AMG remains tight-lipped when it comes to the final power output and performance data. The Affalterbach grapevine suggests a curb weight of around 2,650 pounds, which is remarkable in view of the roughly 925 pounds the battery packs and electric motors add to overall package. Regardless of the final number, Project ONE’s estimated performance figures are suitably impressive: 0-60 mph acceleration time should be in the area of 2.6 seconds, 0-124 mph takes less than 6.0 seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 218 mph. When fully charged, it reportedly has an electric-only range of around 15 miles.

As the bleeding edge of Mercedes’ rapidly accelerating electrification efforts, Project ONE serves as a technological test bed as well as a halo for AMG and the Mercedes brand as a whole. While the hypercar will only be available on the secondary market to all but the ultra-lucky few, expect tech from it to trickle down to future production AMG models before long.

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2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Convertible Roll Out with Upgraded Powertrains http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-mercedes-benz-s-class-coupe-convertible-receive-powertrain-upgrades/ http://www.automobilemag.com/news/2018-mercedes-benz-s-class-coupe-convertible-receive-powertrain-upgrades/#respond Mon, 04 Sep 2017 22:01:53 +0000 http://www.automobilemag.com/?p=1187623 If you’ve been angling to pick up a two-door S-Class but saw the updated sedan make its debut in April at the Shanghai Auto Show and decided to hold out until Mercedes released the facelifted 2018 models, you’re now cleared to exhale—though don’t reach for the checkbook quite yet. While the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe...

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If you’ve been angling to pick up a two-door S-Class but saw the updated sedan make its debut in April at the Shanghai Auto Show and decided to hold out until Mercedes released the facelifted 2018 models, you’re now cleared to exhale—though don’t reach for the checkbook quite yet. While the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Cabriolet are coming to the 2017 Frankfurt Auto Show later this month, they won’t be reaching dealers until the middle of next year.

Both two-doors will be available in three flavors: S560, S63, and S65, with the latter two obviously being AMG models. The S560 replaces the S550 in the lineup and uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 instead of the previous 4.7-liter. Despite the reduction in displacement, power increases by 14 hp to 463, while torque is unchanged at 516 lb-ft. Distribution duties remain assigned to a nine-speed automatic, which is mated to Benz’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive system in the coupe, but sends power only to the rear wheels in the convertible.

The S63 also sees its engine downsized, the 2017’s 5.5-liter V-8 making way for the handcrafted AMG version of 4.0-liter, which is also found in the 2018 E63 sedan and wagon. And again, power goes up instead of down, increasing from 557 hp to 603, while torque again remains unchanged, here sitting at 664 lb-ft. The 2017’s seven-speed auto makes way for AMG’s new nine-speed multi-clutch automatic, but unlike the S560s, both S63 two-doors come with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

As for the S65, the beast retains its 6.0-liter twin-turbo V-12, its output unchanged at 612 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque. It’s still routed directly to the rear wheels by a seven-speed automatic. Despite the S65’s power advantage, it’s 0.6-seconds slower to 60 mph than the S63, which hits the mark in a claimed 3.4 seconds. Of course, ultimate performance stopped being the reason why people choose the 12-cylinder long ago.

Aside from the powertrain shuffle, the 2018 S-Class coupe and convertible don’t differ much from the 2017 versions. Cosmetic updates are fairly minor, regardless of variant. All six offerings get new front and rear bumpers, new headlights, and OLED taillights. The AMGs also get the new Panamericana grille from the AMG GT, which gives the models a more aggressive look but doesn’t entirely work with the lines of the body, though the presentation may work better in the metal.

Inside, there’s a new three-spoke steering wheel and a new version of the COMAND infotainment system with twin 12.3-inch screens—one for the digital gauge cluster and one for everything else, same as the 2018 E63. The asymmetrical design looks strange in photos; as is the case with the grille, the presentation may work better in the leather and plastic, but it doesn’t appear that Benz updated the design of the trim piece under the screen that houses the center vents to match. Additionally, there are three new interior trims and a new black-and-red upholstery choice.

The extensive portfolio of luxury and safety features expected in an S-Class—that is, all of them—doesn’t change. Massage seats, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, etc., are all on the table. About the only thing the 2018 S-Class won’t do is pick your music for you and drive itself, and at least one of those is almost certain to be rectified in the next few years.

With nearly a year to go before the fixed-roof two-door and its soft-top counterpart arrive in showrooms, Mercedes didn’t announce pricing. The outgoing S-Class coupe started at $123,675 for the S550, $165,675 for the S63, and $237,175 for the S65, while the 2017 S-Class cabriolet started at $132,325 for the S550, $177,325 for the S63, and $248,825 for the S65. There’s no reason to expect a significant departure for 2018 given the limited changes.

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