Deep Dive: Audi, BMW, and Mercedes' New Coupes
BMW's change in nomenclature from 3-series coupe to 4-series for the new model premiering this year comes from Audi's highly successful playbook, where the not-for-U.S. A5 Sportback complements the A5 coupe and cabriolet, and the conventional sedan and wagon are A4 models. The Bavarian answer to Ingolstadt's Sportback five-door hatchback is the 4-series Gran Coupe. Meanwhile, though Mercedes-Benz is readying a new C-class coupe, it has iced a C-class convertible that was nearly ready for production, to cut costs. The A-class-based CLA will have to play the role of C-class four-door coupe. Clever strategy, or wishful thinking? Only time will tell.
Audi rolls out its new A5 coupe in late 2015. The corresponding A5 cabriolet will premier about six months after that. In the fourth-quarter of 2016, the second-generation A5 Sportback will appear. All three versions will be available with S-Line trim packs and as more powerful S5 and RS5 models. Despite the new competition from BMW, Audi USA says it has no plans to import the next-generation Sportback, because of its product-overlap with the A4.
Dubbed AU494, the new A5 is based on a modified, modular component set known as MLBevo. Thanks to a more ambitious light-material mix and a leaner body structure, Audi will reduce weight up to 220 lbs over the current A5. Not enough? A more radical Ultra pack will shave even more weight with lighter air conditioning compressor, generator, and other ancillaries, plus hollow-spoke wheels and aluminum body panels.
The Mark III A5 design is a more subtle and credible evolution of Walter de Silva's 2007 masterpiece. The modified interior does not feature a single-screen multifunctional instrument display first planned for the car that would have done away with the secondary screen on the center stack. New options include a touchpad MMI, additional driver assistance systems, and LED headlights.
The upgraded engine line-up is expected to look like this (numbers in parentheses are converted from DIN to SAE):
- 2.0 TFSI, 177 (175) hp/221 lb-ft
- 2.0 TFSI, 225 (222) hp/258 lb-ft
- 2.0 TDI, 197 (194) hp/295 lb-ft
- 3.0 V6 TDI, 272 (268) hp/442 lb-ft
Audi will continue to offer the 3.0-liter V-6 TFSI in U.S.-bound A5s, but no longer in Europe. The S5 retains its supercharged V-6, which delivers a beefier 340 hp (335-hp U.S.) and 339 lb-ft. For the next RS5, insiders expect the normally aspirated V-8 to be phased out in favor of a twin-turbo unit rated about 475 hp. Engines that develop more than 332 lb-ft of torque will be mated to a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
In late 2014, Audi will introduce the A4 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. The same e-tron technology also can be used in the A5. While the maximum electric range is 30 miles, the combined range is about 375 miles. The PHEV features e-quattro, which is Audi-speak for electrically driven rear wheels. A 225-hp (222-hp, SAE) 2.0-liter four powers the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch and a 65-hp (64-hp SAE) electric motor powers the rears. If that's too green for you, Audi will soon offer a high-performance 3.0-liter V-6 TDI that employs a third electronically operated turbocharger to churn out more than 380 horsepower.
2016 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe
Mercedes is going to unleash the new C-class coupe in 2016. The proportions and the dimensions won't change much, but the upright grille, prominent daytime running lights, flared wheel arches, and restyled rear are said to contribute to a more dynamic stance. Like the upcoming sedan on which it is based, the coupe offers a bigger trunk and significantly more rear legroom. The wheelbase will be stretched three inches. Those with money to spend may invest it in innovative electronic aids, a more sumptuous interior, and the 4Matic all-wheel drive system.
Which leads us to the revised engine program:
- C200: 2.0L I-4, 184 hp (181)
- C250: 2.0L I-4, 211 hp (208)
- C300: 2.0L I-4, 252 hp (249)
- C400: 3.0L V-6, 333 hp (328)
- C63 AMG: 4.0L V-8, 462 hp (456)
European variants include the 154-horsepower, gasoline 1.6-liter C180. Of two diesels, if one were to be used in North American-import C-class coupes, it would be the 240-horsepower C250 CDI. The four-cylinder C300 Bluetec Hybrid will be available from the C-class coupe's launch, developing a combined 231 hp. Under consideration are a clean-breathing C220 Bluetec Hybrid Plus rated 201 hp SAE, and the fire-breathing, bespoilered C63 AMG Black Series.
We were recently shown the 4-series Concept. The verdict is still out on the production version - which we hope will shed the brash bumpers in favor of a more subtle design. In addition to the coupe, BMW will build the 4-series as a convertible (again with a folding hardtop) and as a stylish Gran Coupe with restricted headroom and inflated price tag. The two-door 4-series variants are prettier, more distinctive, and sportier-looking than the 3-series models they replace. Thanks to the extended wheelbase and the lower roofline, the four-door coupe, in particular, is a real eye-catcher.
BMW plans several new engine variants, including three diesels ranging from 148 horsepower to 228 horsepower. In North America, we can expect the same gasoline engines as in the 3-series, including the 180-horsepower 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbo for the 420i, the 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four in the 328i and the 300-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo six in the 335i. Beginning in 2015, BMW will roll out a family of closely related and more-efficient 3.0-liter six-cylinder gas and diesel engines.
While the 350-hp M440d xDrive (an M Performance product) has not yet been approved, it would be the replacement for the 335is in North America. The iconic M3 badge is expected to appear only on the twin-turbo, 450-hp edition of the four-door sedan. Three top-of-the-range 4-series models will be badged M4. The 3-series GT and wagon won't be offered in M3 form.