NYC: Mercedes E-Class Debut

The new 2018 E-Class Cabriolet. Image courtesy of Mercedes Benz USA


When I was in high school, my best friend bought a convertible.  I can still remember our first drive with the top down in that car.  We got more honks, whistles, and hellos than you could even imagine.  We loved it.  We couldn’t stop laughing the entire time.  That first ride gave way to many up and down the PCH.  

There’s nothing quite like a convertible, especially when you live in a place like So Cal that gets 300+ convertible perfect days a year.  Just in time for the warmer weather Mercedes has unveiled its new 2018 E-Class Cabriolet and it is a beaut.  Offering a premium soft top, larger and more luxurious interior, and comfortable open air driving utilizing their AIRSCARF® technology, this new cabriolet is on point to become summer’s favorite new ride.  

The Cabriolet is the last new member to join the updated Mercedes E-Class family, which has seen a complete overhaul of the entire class over the last year.  This new model has a longer length, width and wheel base, along with a wider track, providing a more spacious interior.  All four occupants of the vehicle will now enjoy individually sculpted seats with the added touch of standard-fit automatic belt presenters in the front seat.  The acoustic soft top is equipped with insulation to protect against the elements, hot or cold.  Heat reflecting leather and individually folding rear seats are some of the options buyers will enjoy on this iteration.  4MATIC all-wheel drive rounds out some of the features available.

Look for this new E-Class Cabriolet in US dealerships later this year.

NYC: Audi Launches Sport Brand

The 2018 Audi RS 5 Coupe. Image courtesy of Audi of America


In the past decade Audi has more than established itself within the sport and luxury categories.   They have gone from being a little recognized brand at the end of the 90’s to one of the most desired car brands on the market today.

This Wednesday at the New York Auto Show, Audi of America further stepped up its game and launched the all new Audi Sport brand.  Joining Audi R and RS models will be corporate motorsports, customer racing, the Audi Sport collection and performance parts.  

New vehicles to the Sport brand line-up include the 2017 R8 V10 Spyder, the all-new 2018 TT RS, the 2017 and 2018 RS 3 (available for this first time stateside this summer), and the all-new RS 5 coupe (coming during the first half of 2018).

Entering the customer racing program will be the all-new Audi R8 LMS GT4.  Modeled after the production R8 V10, the R8 LMS GT4 will make its racing debut this spring at the Nurburgring 24-Hour.  This new race car is ideal for the amateur sect as it has a comfortable purchasing price and overall ownship cost for the segment.

Audi Exclusive and Audi Collection will feature a myriad of ways to integrate the brand into the consumer lifestyle.  Customization options for interior and exterior, as well as a full apparel, office good and replicas line will be made available to Audi enthusiasts everywhere.

As of now, more than half of Audi dealerships have taken the leap to become Audi Sport dealers.  For more information on the exciting new offerings, visit http://www.audiusa.com.

In the meantime, I’ve included some drool worthy photos of the 2018 RS 5 Coupe to keep you satisfied until the new Audi Sport makes it way to a dealership near you.

The 2018 Audi RS 5 Coupe. Image courtesy of Audi of America

The 2018 Audi RS 5 Coupe. Image courtesy of Audi of America

The 2018 Audi RS 5 Coupe Interior. Image courtesy of Audi of America


SUV Spotlight: 2017 Acura MDX

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2017 Acura MDX ©Honda Motor Company

Hot off the presses!  Acura announced today they will unveil the all-new 2017 MDX at the New York International Auto Show on March 23.

The new model will come with loads of design enhancements, more features and new, advanced powertrain technology.  “We are sharpening our focus on the Precision Crafted Performance DNA of the Acura brand and the 2017 MDX will integrate new styling elements and powertrain technology that takes us another step in that direction,” said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

With the MDX owning the title of the best-selling three-row luxury SUV of all time, it’s not hard to imagine a new and improved model not continuing to hold the record. A good friend of mine drives a 2015 MDX and I loved it when she took me for a spin.  It’s size and functionality is very suitable to young families.  I personally can’t wait to see the latest generation when it debuts in late March.

The 2017 model was designed by the Acura Design Studio in Torrance, California.  The vehicle will be produced at the company’s Lincoln, Alabama auto plant.

 

2015 LA Auto Show Highlights

It’s that time again.  All things new and exciting in the automotive world have descended on the LA Convention Center for 10 glorious days.  Since today is the first day doors will open to the public, I thought it fitting to share some of this year’s not-to-be-missed highlights.  Also, be sure to check the blog in the coming days, as I cover these vehicle debuts in more depth.

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Volvo Concept 26

#1: Volvo’s Concept 26
As someone who has spent way too many hours of my life in traffic, this was by far the most mind-blowing thing I saw at the auto show.  While I am a driving enthusiast, I have to say, the thought of being able to literally kick back and catch up on my Netflix while being squired around the stand-still streets of Los Angeles by my autonomous car had me practically turning cartwheels in front of the exhibit.

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Mercedes SL Roadster

#2: Mercedes SL Roadster
Mercedes is hoping the latest generation of the SL series will bring the luxury roadster segment back to life.  With its sleek lines and powerful performance specs, there is no doubt it will be a desirable option for those in the market for a two-seat roadster.  While launching this beauty in the fun-loving California market is a stroke of genius, it remains to be seen whether the $100,000 roadsters can make a comeback in light of our new economic realities.  If they do, the 2017 SL550 will most certainly be leading the charge.

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Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept

#3: Audi E-Tron Quattro Concept
After months of teasing, Audi finally revealed its beautiful, all-electric, luxury class sport SUV.  During the big reveal, Audi not only issued a mea culpa for the TDI debacle, but vowed to take the brand to the forefront of the electric mobility platform.  Boasting three electric motors and a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds, if the E-Tron Quattro Concept delivers what is promises when it hits the market in 2018, it’s will not be hard to take Audi at their word.  This concept is definitely worth stopping by the Audi booth to see in person.

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Jaguar F-Pace

#4: Jaguar F-Pace
Five years ago I met with a Jaguar representative at the LA Auto Show and asked if they had any plans to make a Jaguar SUV.  He laughed and pointed to the multiple Land Rovers and Range Rovers on display and said, “There are our SUVs…right there”.  Well turns out he was wrong, because on press day, Jaguar revealed their brand new luxury sports utility vehicle, the F-Pace.  Taking inspiration from it’s sports car brother, the F-Type, the F-Pace is the total looks and performance package for the soccer mom wanting to make a statement.

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Mazda CX-9

#5: Mazda CX-9
Mazda has finally finished its complete fleet overhaul with the unveiling of the all-new CX-9.  The last in its fleet to get a facelift, the new body style is all class.  It’s a bigger, roomier and higher performing version of the CX-5.  Packed with style and fun, this one is sure to be a hit with the family circuit.  While not as sexy as the F-Pace parked a few stalls away, it provides quite enough style for the practical price tag that comes with it.

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If you have some extra time, be sure to stop by the Toyota booth to check out the Back to the Future display featuring Marty McFly’s 1985 Toyota Tacoma, as well as a DeLorean-inspired Toyota Mirai, complete with gull wing doors and a Mr. Fusion.

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I also recommend trying your hand at the Dodge Viper Challenge.  Climb inside an actual Dodge Viper and race around a simulated track at top speeds.  Ask for the manual mode and you’ll feel like you’re actually flying around the racetrack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Porsche Boxster Spyder Premiere: NYC

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

This week Porsche debuted the latest incarnation of the Boxter Spyder at the 2015 New York International Auto Show, just in time for convertible weather. According to the press release, Porsche is characterizing the car as a “pure sports car”.

From a performance perspective, the Boxter Spyder is right on par. They’ve given it a firmer suspension by lowering it 20mm, given it the 911 Carrera S braking system, better steering and a beefier 3.8-liter horizontally opposed six-cyclinder engine that will now deliver 375 hp instead of the 265-315 hp found in the 2014 model.  This lady has also lost some holiday weight and is the lightest and most powerful Boxster to hit the assembly line yet.  She’ll do 0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds and top out on the track at 180 mph, which means you’ll definitely feel the wind whipping through your hair.

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

What I find less impressive about this car is the still manual top.  If I’m paying $82,000 for a car, I’d like to be able to push a button and have the top lowered for me.  Another issue for me is that neither air conditioning nor a radio are standard equipment. According to Porsche this ensures the Boxster still retains its “traditional roadster character”.  The car is lighter weight without the aforementioned characteristics, so from a performance perspective, a die hard would happily give up these features.  For me, I need an automatic top, some tunes and cool air to accompany my need for speed.  The saving grace is an audio system and air conditioning are available at no extra charge for those who don’t mind a little extra weight.

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Interior Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Interior Photo Credit: Porsche

One thing I do love about this model is it’s only available in a manual transmission.  I know you LA drivers are probably cringing, thinking of battling traffic in a manual. However, I applaud Porsche for this decision.  Real sports cars should be stick shift and they should be driven by people who know how.  As nice as the new dual clutch automatic transmissions are, there is just something about an old-school manual transmission.  YOU are in full control of the car and YOU say when it’s time to shift gears.  For me, that is the ultimate driving experience, and Porsche has taken great care with this model to ensure their consumers get it.

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

2016 Porsche Boxster Spyder Photo Credit: Porsche

I also think this is the most beautifully designed Boxster Spyder to date.  The lines are elegant and refined and Porsche kept it classic by paying tribute to the 718 Spyder of the 60’s with the streamliners that extend along the rear lid behind the headrests.  They also made sure to keep the vehicle’s silhouette in tact with the fins that stretch from the top to the rear and with the front and rear fascias.

Overall, the look and styling of the car make it appealing, as does the faster engine. Porsche continues to keep its cars uniquely “Porsche”, which is perfect considering that’s why most people buy the brand.  If you’re okay with putting the top down with your own two hands, then based on the specs, this could be the car for you.

LA Auto Show 2014

Los Angeles is a hot market for cars.  Ever heard the song “Walkin’ in LA”?  Nobody walks in LA, and nobody takes the non-existant public transportation either.  Pretty much everyone needs a car to exist in this hectic city.  Not only do us So Cal natives love to drive, we also love to make a statement.  Combine these attributes with our stellar weather, and LA is quite easily the best market in the US, if not the world, to debut the latest and greatest car companies have to offer. This past week I got a sneak peak of what consumers will see when the LA Auto show opens to the public.

Here’s a quick look at some of this year’s show highlights.

Bentley:

Bentley Grand Convertible Concept Car: Signature Mulsanne Grill

Bentley Grand Convertible Concept Car: Signature Mulsanne Grill

The Bentley Grand Convertible was easily one of this year’s best in show.  With it’s sleek, muscular styling, classic Mulsanne-inspired good looks, and standard beefy Bentley engine, this car is in a class of its own.  With the Grand Convertible, Bentley hopes to redefine the standard of luxury, open-air driving and they succeed.  The bonnet of this impressive vehicle is covered in a silver, liquid metal, while the rest of the car is painted a lovely Sequin Blue, a color created from the sequin of a customer’s couture gown.  Everything about the Grand Convertible from it’s elegantly designed exterior, to its rich, luxurious interior, makes me want to put the top down and get this bad boy out on the open road.  I can already feel the wind in my hair.

Mercedes:

The all-new Mercedes Maybach

The all-new Mercedes Maybach

The big buzz at the Mercedes booth this year was the all-new 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600.  The new Maybach combines the style of the extremely popular S Class with the luxury of the Maybach. Launching stateside in April 2015, the car is touted to be the world’s quietest production sedan.

The exterior holds true to characteristic S Class design while featuring a bold new side line.  While the wheel base is 8.1 inches longer than the standard S, the rear door has been shortened 2.6 inches, allowing the door to effortlessly blend into the side line of the car.  The rear triangle window has been eliminated and moved to the C-Pillar, which places the rear seat solidly behind the window, allowing the occupants ultimate privacy from the road outside.  Although if I were in the back seat of this ride, I would want everyone to see.  But that’s just me.

The V-12 biturbo engine cranks out 523hp, hitting the maximum 612 lb.-ft of torque at 1900 rpm.  The Mayback will hit 0-62 in 5 seconds flat.  Sadly all that power has an electronic limit of 155 mph.  While most people wouldn’t really need to go that fast, I would be curious to see what the actual top speed is.

According to  Ola Källenius, member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars responsible for sales, “As an addition to the portfolio of S-Class sedans, the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class sets new standards in the luxury segment. The vehicle satisfies the very highest requirements in terms of exclusivity appointments and comfort.”

Mercedes has obviously set the bar high for this new Maybach incarnation, and next April, we will see if consumers agree.

Audi:

Audi's latest concept: prologue

Audi’s latest concept: prologue Photo credit: Audi USA

Audi's latest concept: prologue

Audi’s latest concept: prologue Photo credit: Audi USA

Audi debuted its new large concept coupe, the Audi prologue.  Audi Head Designer Marc Lichte was on hand for the big reveal.  Lichte had this to say about the new concept: “Audi stands for sportiness, lightweight design and the quattro permanent all-wheel drive. In the Audi prologue, we are expressing this know-how in a new form – we have put the sportiest car in the luxury segment on wheels. Our team took new approaches in both exterior and interior design.”

Audi prologue interior

Audi prologue interior Photo credit: Audi USA

Audi prologue interior

Audi prologue interior Photo Credit: Audi USA

The prologue body shape combines elegance and tight, sporty lines.  While I found the exterior to be quite modern and beautiful, the interior unfortunately took me back in time to my grandmother’s Oldsmobile, and not in a good way.   To me, the dash configuration is a throwback to the Buicks and Cadillacs of the 1980’s and simply put, looks dated.  The only thing modern about the interior are the digital displays.  Even the gear shift and steering wheel look “vintage”.  I expect Audi to provide more luxury and innovation in a dash configuration than the prologue offers.  The seats do look quite comfortable and I love the bucket-seat styling in the back seat.

Audi prologue

I would be willing to live with the interior for what’s under the hood.  The 4.0 TFSI has 605 hp and 553.2 lb.-ft of torque.  All that power gets the prologue from 0-62 in 3.7 seconds.  The all-wheel steering allows each wheel to turn up to 5 degrees, providing a stable and responsive ride.  With all that giddy-up, you can get past the weird interior pretty quickly and enjoy the quick, graceful Audi handling.  Should this car make it to production, I seriously hope the interior gets a major overhaul.

Toyota:

2016 Toyota Mirai

2016 Toyota Mirai

Once again Toyota finds itself at the forefront of automotive ingenuity.  With the launch of the 2016 Mirai, the car company will be able to offer consumers a four-door, mid-size sedan that uses no gasoline and has zero emissions except for water vapor.  This fuel cell electric vehicle gets its power from hydrogen, refuels itself every five minutes, and will drive a whopping 300 miles on a full tank.  Instead of using a large battery to power the car, the fuel cell combines hydrogen from tanks with oxygen to generate electricity.  The car also has one of the world’s highest power outputs at 3.1 kW/L, providing 153hp and a 0-60 time of 9 seconds.

If it’s unique options you’re going for, look no further.  Some Mirai models will come equipped with a power take off (PTO) device that allows the vehicle to act as a mobile generator in case of emergency.  This means the Mirai is able to successfully power home essentials to the average house for up to a week during an emergency, all while emitting only water vapors. That’s a great feature for those of us in So Cal waiting for the “Big One” to hit.

Consumers looking to own the vehicle will find the technology incredibly wallet friendly.  When it hits dealerships in 2015, Toyota will be offering an initial $499/month/36 month lease option.  Add to the price the free hydrogren refills for up to three years from Toyota, and this could be a very competitive option for those looking for cutting edge technology at a more budget friendly price point.  Toyota will also offer a 24/7 concierge service by a dedicated fuel cell representative, 24/7 roadside assistance, 3 year maintenance up to 12k annual miles and complimentary hydrogen fuel for up to three years.  Saving the environment just got a little more exciting.

Kia:

2016 Kia Sorento Photo Credit: Kia Motors

2016 Kia Sorento Photo Credit: Kia Motors

2016 Kia Sorento Photo Credit: Kia Motors

2016 Kia Sorento Photo Credit: Kia Motors

The big headline was California Adventure at the Kia booth this year as the all-new 2016 Sorento made it’s North American debut in LA.  The redesigned model is now made with premium materials, comes equipped with many amenities, more head and leg room in all three rows, and three engine options, including the new 2.0 liter turbo charged, the 3.3 liter V-6, and an improved 2.4 liter normally aspirated engine.

2016 Kia Sorento Interior Photo credit: Kia Motors

2016 Kia Sorento Interior Photo credit: Kia Motors

Inspiration for the new design came primarily from the 2013 concept Cross GT and incorporates a much stronger body structure, providing CUV drivers the stability and confidence they demand in a vehicle.

“The core principles in the development of the all-new 2016 Sorento were simple:  Deliver class-up premium materials and features in a capable, confidence-inspiring CUV,” said Orth Hedrick, Vice President, Product Planning, KMA.  “During the development process, engineers started from the ground up by reinforcing an already stiff body structure.  This added rigidity pays dividends when conditions are less than perfect and helps deliver a premium driving experience.  By painstakingly crafting a vehicle with significant reductions in NVH and substantial gains in overall driving comfort and dynamics, the 2016 Sorento sets a new standard for Kia in the highly competitive mid-size CUV segment.”

Kia booth at the LA Auto Show 2014

Kia booth at the LA Auto Show 2014

Kia also delivered an all-encompassing experience to the press this year, focused on the California lifestyle.  Amongst the plethora of new Sorentos on display, Kia had California wine and cheese bars, professional rope climbers and a virtual ski experience press could try.

I continue to be impressed by Kia’s climb out of the average runaround car category. Year after year they step up not only their technology and design, but the quality of their cars.  With this step up comes a higher price tag, but should Kia establish themselves as a more aspirational brand, it’s a price tag consumers may be more willing to consider.  At the very least, I give them style points for their booth, which was by far the most interactive and interesting at the show.

LA Auto Show 2010

From November 19-28, the Los Angeles Convention Center will be packed with car enthusiasts from all over Southern California as they flock to get a glimpse of the latest and greatest models of their favorite cars.

Lucky for this gal, my press pass and I got a preview on November 17th, minus the crowds, and oh what a sneak peak it was.

Following are some of my personal favorites from this year’s LA Auto Show.

2011 Chevy Camera Convertible

The 2011 Chevy Camero Convertible

The 2011 Chevy Camero Convertible is amazing. The gun-metal grey exterior coupled with the red and black interior is pure American muscle ecstasy. The engine boasts a 312 horsepower Direct Injection V6, while still providing an economical 29 MPG on the highway. Also available in the SS model is the 6.2 liter, 426 horsepower V8 engine, which only gives up 5 MPG on the highway.
A very cool feature of the Chevy booth is the photo op with the Camaro Covertible. The booth has a succession of cameras that take a photo in sequence and shoot the car and person in the photo in a 180 degree rotation. The girls working the booth toss a beach ball or hat, and the person then jumps to catch it at the moment the photo is taken. Auto Show goers then have the ability to post it immediately to their Facebook or Twitter account, as well as email the photo to themselves. Genius. I highly recommend it.

SLS AMG 2010

The 2011 Mercedes SLS AMG “Gull Wing”

SLS AMG 2010 3SLS AMG 2010 2

Mercedes Benz takes it up a notch by capitalizing on the cupcake craze. Parked at the booth is a Sprinkles cupcake truck, on hand to pass out red velvet and chocolate cupcakes displaying Mercedes and AMG logos on the frosting. As if the cars aren’t enough to attract an audience, the cupcakes are a sweet bonus. My favorite vehicle at the Mercedes booth is the 2011 SLS AMG, or “Gull Wing”, as it was called when first introduced in the 60’s. This SLS is not your dad’s Gull Wing, however. It boasts a hand built 6.3 liter V8 engine with 563 Horse Power and 479 lb per feet of torque. Couple the engine with the AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed transmission and this car is a beast. The car is gorgeous from the front and side, the signature doors beautiful. The only disappointing thing about the body is the rear bumper and tail lights. It favors the C series too heavily for my liking, but overall an impressive car.

2011 JAG Concept Car

Jaguar C-X75 Concept Car

Hands down, my favorite car of the show is the Jaguar C-X75 concept car. Each of the four wheels are powered by separate electric engines. These engines are kept running by twin turbines, allowing the car to travel over 350 miles without having to charge. The car will go 0-62 mph in 3.4 seconds from resting, and does so with absolutely no fuel emissions. It tops out at 205 mph. Concerned with how to stop a vehicle going that fast? Don’t be. The car also has a regenerative braking technology that recharges the battery as you brake.
The interior of the car is equally impressive. Bowers and Wilkins have designed an innovative sound system that is comprised of several tiny speakers laid out in a honeycomb pattern on the door. This design surrounds those riding in the car with crystal clear sound. My hat is off to Jaguar for knowing how to celebrate 75 years, by providing an electric super car that is superbly designed inside and out. Who says saving the environment can’t be done stylishly?

JAG 2011 Conv

Writer Collins Reiter in the XK Convertible

And while you’re at the Jaguar booth salivating over the concept car that’s not available for purchase, take time to check out what you can buy. I personally fell in love the the XKR coupe, XK convertible and XJL. Jaguar is clearly back this year in a big, bad way.

My final must see of the show is the all new Mini Cooper Countryman. Not only is it the first Mini Cooper with 4 doors, it’s also the first to offer the all new All4 all-wheel-drive technology, which delivers a variable power distribution between front and rear axles. Under the hood you’ll find a 1.6 liter, 16 valve in-line 4 cylinder engine, with 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque at 5500 rpm. It’ll do 0-60 in 7 seconds, all while providing the driver with a roomy 40 cubic feet of cargo capacity. This is definitely the Mini to take on an adventure. Mini is also doing something interesting with their new Mini Connected technology. This allows iPod and iPhone users to connect their device to the car through an app and control the device with the mini joystick, steering-wheel buttons and on-board monitor. The user can connect the device to the car via USB cable or connected plug-in. This allows the iPod device to be controlled through the car’s monitor and steering buttons, allowing for a safer driving experience, minimizing the driver’s need to look away from the road. Users can also send and receive Facebook and Twitter updates and connect the phone function of the device to the bluetooth system. I feel Mini is way ahead of the curve on this development and therefore they landed a top spot on my list of car show experiences.