(Note: this is Part One of Two. Watch for Part Two next week)
Sunnyvale, California - "The best or nothing." That's the slogan German automaker Mercedes-Benz uses these days, and while one might be able to argue that cars such as the Bugatti Veyron may represent "the best" when compared to, say a B Class, it's hard to argue that, overall, Mercedes isn't the brand most people think of when the topic of the best car companies comes up.
It's no accident. Not only was Mercedes-Benz the first car company back more than 100 years ago, but it has led the field when it comes to innovation nearly consistently since then. Heck, if you want to see what's going to be on your entry level car in 10 or 15 years, you need look no farther, generally, than the mighty S Class, which keeps upping its own ante with new technology, from the once rare and now common antilock brakes and traction control features, to seat massagers, lane departure systems and plenty more.
As German as Mercedes-Benz may be, however, it turns out that it's in Southern California that some of its latest innovations are being designed - not just at the Sunnyvale complex the company invited a bunch of us writers to be dazzled by, but at other locations such as their Advanced Vehicle Design centre in Carlsbad (I wonder if it's cavernous!). more...
Don't call Mercedes-Benz' soon-to-be-released Metris a minivan.
That's the mostly unspoken but highly evident sentiment from Mercedes-Benz, which is unleashing its mid-sized alternative to the popular Sprinter commercial van in October of this year.
"The target group is really commercial customers," said Mathias Geisen, General Manager, Product Management & Marketing, for Mercedes-Benz Vans USA, adding with a smile that "we will not keep anyone from buying this van, because we're paid to sell cars." Geisen noted the company has a "real minivan variant in Europe, the V-Class, but it has a completely different instrument cluster, plus leather trim and stuff like that." There are no plans to bring the V-Class to North America at this time. more...
One's a turbo, the other's a hybrid, and both of these "little wagons" offers car buyers an interesting if not completely satisfying driving experience.
The B-Class is the smallest Mercedes-Benz offered in Canada currently, while the CT 200h is Lexus' entry level hybrid. They both offer the storage and practicality of a wagon and/or hatchback as well as the luxury that buyers of premium automobiles expect. And they're both priced fairly similarly: they start at just over $31,000 Canadian, though of course you can option them up from there: a nearly loaded B-Class will set you back about $42,500, while the optioned up CT 200h F Sport will drain about the same amount from your wallet.
This isn't a completely apples-to-apples comparison because the options are different in each case and because the up market B also has 4MATIC all-wheel drive, a feature that isn't available on the little Lexus. Of course, four wheel drive may not be important to you, in which case the point's moot. more...
It's a utility vehicle a mudder can love!
That's the impression Mercedes-Benz gave media attendees at its fascinating introduction to the new 4x4 Sprinters, an event at which the company made it clear that neither rain, sleet, snow nor even deep and wet mud can prevent the vans from performing their appointed rounds.
Maybe Canada Post bought their letter carriers the wrong equipment… more...
The small SUV niche is a crowded and popular market these days, with entries from just about every major automotive brand. So if a new kid on the block wants a piece of this luxuriant landscape of lucre, they'd better offer something pretty compelling.
And that's exactly what Mercedes-Benz has done with its new GLA 250 4MATIC, a handsome and capable vehicle that's not only a nice entry into this niche but is also a way for new customers to discover the joys of owning a Mercedes-Benz.
It's funny to think of one of the world's oldest surviving automaker as being a new kid on the block, but the closest the company has come to making an "entry level" (for a premium car company, anyway) SUV before was the GLK – which is also a very nice vehicle but a tad bigger and more up market than the new GLA. more...
It isn't the smallest car Mercedes-Benz sells in North America, but the CLA-class "four door coupe" is a very nice vehicle that, despite big time turbo lag, moves its passengers along smartly and in great comfort.
Designed to compete with such worthy cars as the Audi A3, Acura TLX, Lexus IS and the like, the CLA wears the "four door coupe" look the company pioneered with its original CLS a few years back. And while I think the four door coupe concept is silly - why not just call it a sedan and be done with it, since there's nothing wrong with having four doors? - it's a handsome car inside and out. And it starts at a reasonable (for a Benz, anyway) $34,300. more...
Take a good diesel sedan and subtract two cylinders from its engine and what do you get?
In the case of Mercedes-Benz' new E250 Bluetech, you get a car that may have a tad less horsepower and torque than the outgoing model, but not enough less to make any substantive difference.
Gotta love the onward march of technology! more...
What did the driver of the German car say when he wrapped it around a light pole?
"That's the way the Mercedes bends!"
A bad joke, indeed, but a good way to illustrate what Mercedes-Benz is accomplishing with its Driving Academy, a roving series of courses designed not only to help you drive more safely, but to also understand the capabilities of your car and its technology. It's also a delicious way to drive a whole bunch of fine Mercedes-Benz vehicles in a single setting – and how bad can that be? more...
Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 – smooth and luxurious small SUV
It's German, it's luxurious, it's built well and it's nice to drive. And perhaps best of all, it's entry level – at least as entry level as one can expect from a marque such as Mercedes-Benz.
There's a lot that's new about the GLK 350, including exterior and interior tweaks and new technology designed to make this "cute ute" even more compelling than the previous model – which was itself no slouch. more...
Mercedes E 300: new entry in the E class
The words "entry level" and "Mercedes-Benz" may sound a lot like an oxymoron, but in the case of the E 300 4MATIC sedan, it's very nearly appropriate.
That's because the E 300 is the low sedan on the E-Class totem pole, one that extends right up to such heights as represented by the company's awesome E63 AMG sport sedan that is apparently quite the tire shredder.
Naturally, you sacrifice some stuff to be the entry level, chief of which in this particular case is that you get a less powerful V6 engine than you'll find in other gas-fired E's. more...
Mercedes-Benz' Slick new SLK
Mercedes-Benz sporty SLK is back with a new, third generation version that's attractive, luxurious, and fun to drive.
And the two seat, retractable hard top "vario-roof" car looks and works better than ever, with a new exterior that's reminiscent of the company's SLS AMG supercar, and with enough performance and technology to please the discerning driver. more...
GLK 350 4MATIC
Mercedes-Benz' "entry level" SUV offers a lot of benefits for the luxury-minded consumer. The midsize GLK goes head to head with such worthy competitors as the Volvo XC60, VW Touareg, Lexus RX 350, BMW X5 and Audi Q5. And 'twould be tough, indeed, to decide between 'em if it were my money.
The GLK 350 (as do many of today's vehicles) gets its motivation from a 3.5 liter, 24-valve V6 engine. This particular power plant could use just a smidgen more oomph than the 268 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 258 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2,400-5,000 rpm provided, but it's hardly a deal breaker – and regardless of my oomph angst, it's competitive in its class. more...
2011 Mercedes Put Author At "E's"
Mercedes-Benz' E Class vehicles offer some compelling choices for drivers looking for a car that's state-of-the-art innovative, comfortable and classy.
I got to spend about a week in each of the E 350 4Matic sedan and the E 550 Cabriolet – proving once again what a great job I have – and, while both E class cars look, act and feel very different from each other, I came away liking both of them more than I thought I would.
Not that I didn't think they'd be great cars. After all, Mercedes-Benz needs no excuses. more...
smart fortwo - Smart? Or Just Politically Correct?
There are many, many good and economical cars on the market today. The "smart" fortwo is not one of them.
The "smart" fortwo is easily the worst new car I have driven. I knew within five minutes, maybe less, of having taken possession of the thing that my week would be an ordeal. And when my time was up I was very happy to turn in the stupidly-designed "black icons on a black background and therefore virtually illegible" key fob. more...
Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy
Take some world class cars from one of Germany's top marques, add a day on a road course race track learning and honing your driving skills, and what do you have?
Well, besides one of my ideas of heaven, you have the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy. more...
Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic
Mercedes-Benz' C class is the most affordable of the German carmaker's sedan line, but that doesn't mean it feels like an entry level vehicle. It is, after all, a Mercedes. And that means even its lower end cars are upper echelon in the grand scheme of things.
So it is with the new C. Mercedes-Benz says the fourth generation C300 has a greater emphasis on agility, safety and comfort than before, and with "a sportier flair." more...
Mercedes-Benz E280 4Matic
How can a sedan with a well-earned reputation for excellence leave a reviewer feeling ambivalent after a week behind the wheel?
It couldn't have been the fact that the 2007 Mercedes-Benz E280 4Matic is the "entry level" version of the popular E-Class; heck, a "lower end" Benz (which is about as close to an oxymoron as I can think of!) is still an important vehicle in the automotive world, a car that lets mere mortals know you've arrived. And when I drove the even more "entry level" B200 Turbo a while back, I loved the little critter. What gives? more...
Turbo – A Little Car
Maybe Nissan shouldn't have cancelled its Axxess so many
That old car, long dead now, may have been ahead of its
time because it almost seems like a "down market prototype" for
the new Mercedes-Benz B 200 "Compact Sports Tourer."
While one could make the argument the B is really more like
a miniature minivan than a "Sports Tourer," it's
actually a fairly apt description of the beast. It's definitely
compact and surprisingly sporty – and during my week
of touring around the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in
it I really started to like the little critter: it's fun
to drive, roomy, efficient, classy – and features a
wonderfully expansive sunroof through which you could very
nearly parachute. When it's open, of course. more...
Mercedes Benz R – Class,
in Minivan Clothes
Mercedes Benz may not want its new R Class to be known as
a minivan, but it sure seems like a minivan to me – and
a darn fine one at that.
The only real difference I can see between the R 350 I drove
for a week and a garden variety minivan (other than M-B’s
high end trappings and technology, of course) is the fact
that its center passenger doors are hinged to open outward
like the front doors instead of sliding backwards the way
most minivan doors do.
On the other hand, it looks a lot like those so-called crossover
vehicles that are becoming more common – vehicles that
supposedly blur the line between minivan and SUV or SUV and
wagon such as the Chrysler Pacifica or maybe GM’s models
such as the Saturn Relay. DaimlerChrysler seems to want the
R to be known as a “sports tourer,” and while
I agree with the “tourer” part, I’m not
sure a big vehicle like this has a lot of “sports”
in it. more...