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Posts Tagged ‘Mercedes’

Review of the 2016 Mercedes – AMG GT S

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  YAHOO AUTOS

 

All over New York — and other upscale megalopoli like London and Vancouver — slender residential glass towers sprout, like some pernicious invasive reed. Each one touted as an order of magnitude more expensive than its predecessor, the apartments these buildings contain are outfitted with features so exclusive, the ordinary consumer will not even recognize their significance: book-matched Croatian walnut travertine, hand-polished Ecuadoran bocote, Grand Palais enamel ranges.

 

They are also empty. Generally devoid of permanent residents, these buildings and the apartments they contain act as transitory housing — pieds-a-terre — for the global one percent, who light upon their $50 million dwellings when the mood or season suits.

 

Those same economics have spawned a new thatch of elite sports cars. All-new or significantly updated two-seaters like the Jaguar F-TypeChevrolet Corvette Stingray, and (forthcoming) second-generation Audi R8, as well as slightly older and ostensible two-seaters like the Porsche 911 and Nissan GT-R, now duke it out for the AmEx Centurion Cards, and rear ends, of the beau monde as their second (or third or fourth or fifth) vehicles; something to keep at the house by the ocean, or the mountains, or the vineyard. Call them pieds-a-car.

 

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S

 

Entering into this gilded fray this coming spring is the all-new, 503-hp Mercedes-AMG GT S (a less potent and “S”-less 456-hp variant will follow in mid-2016). Powered by a twin-turbocharged, 4-liter V-8, and transmogrifying its spirit to terra firma through an updated version of the 7-speed dual clutch transaxle, the GT S will rip its way to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, on its way to a terminal velocity of 183 mph. That’s comparable to its aforementioned competitors, and likely quicker than a major insider commodity trade.

 

This is a marked achievement, especially when considering that this is only the second complete car (after the rare SLS) built by Mercedes’ in-house performance sub-brand, AMG. Despite having dispensed with its older brother’s vital (and thirsty) 6.3-liter naturally aspirated V-8 and gullwing doors, one can see clearly the influence of SLS’ design on the GT S. It has a similar Olympic lap pool of a hood, squinty ovoid tail lamps, and tersely grimacing Bender the Robot mouth.

 

This isn’t surprising, because it shares a good deal of its aluminum sub-frame/mid-front engined/rear transaxled underpinnings with that previous model. Though we imagined it in our minds as much smaller and lighter, it also shares much of that outgoing model’s horizontal and gravitational dimensions, coming in at just 3.5 inches shorter and 175 lbs lighter the SLS—that means about 15 feet and 3,500 lbs.

 

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S

 

This doesn’t serve it well, in our opinion. Whereas competitors like the F-Type look much smaller — and much better — in person than they do in photographs, the opposite is true of the GT S. Like a wide-eyed, pumpkin-headed starlet, who looks great projected at 60 feet but like a bonsai sunflower when spotted in the wild, the GT S has awkward proportions. We really like its broadly toned rear end and muscular quadriceps. But as much as recent Benzes like the S-Class and C-Class have reclaimed a sense of grace, we couldn’t locate the same in the GT S. We kept trying to come up with positive templates for its appearance, but all we could think was: cheesecake lollipop, extruded robot teardrop, or round of windswept boursault impaled on a butter knife.

 

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S

 

Inside, our feelings are similarly complicated, and we mean that quite literally. As in other contemporary Benzes, the materials are beyond reproach: metal, leather, carbon fiber, and piano black (or something like it in argent matte which we’ll call “synthesizer silver”) are expertly applied. And the new sloping center console is, as on modern Porsches, quite dramatic. But, as if in homage to 1980s Alfa Romeos or 2010s Aston Martins, the controls are placed in improbable — and in the case of the joyless joystick that acts as the transmission knob, impossible — locales. We have never before wished for a prehensile spinal column, but this is seemingly the only way one could comfortably place this car in park, drive, neutral, or reverse. Or reside in its seats, which were as firm and unsupportive as a reform-school principal.

 

We did very much like the big flip-top Porsche 928-esque hatchback, which granted a quantity of actual, usable trunk space — something jarringly absent from the SLS. Firmly in the positive column as well is the way the GT S performs. It is fast. Very fast. In fact, it gobbled up everything the northern California mountains pitched at its prominent proboscis. The transmission response is greatly improved over its often-laggardly behavior in the SLS. The engine’s baritone exhaust note amps toward the profound (especially from outside the car). The computer actuated, ridiculously acronymed suspension causes the big 265/295 series (front/rear) rubber mounted to the forged 19”/20” (front/rear) wheels to offer commendable grip — if a bit too much stiffness for our false teeth. And the optional carbon ceramic brakes are a drag, in the best possible way.

 

2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S
2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S

 

Yet, somehow, the GT S left us feeling dispassionate. It was wonderful in many respects, and a vivid and significant step forward for Mercedes-Benz sports cars. Yet it didn’t manage to grab us by the loins. In the context of the category, it lacked the precision of the Porsche 911, the incorrigibility (and seductive shape) of the Jaguar F-Type, or the functionality of the outgoing R8. We liked it, but we weren’t in love, and love is everything in a sports car. Its only job is to make you grin and salivate every time you touch it or sit in it or remember, in the drudgery of your hideous existence, that you actually own it.

 

Compared to the $220,000 SLS, the AMG GT S’ anticipated price of $130,000 to $140,000 will seem like a deal, albeit one slightly higher than the Jaguar competition but close to what the higher-end Porsche 911 models command. (The non-S may start around $110,000.) Like a perfectly executed but uninhabited showplace condo in the sky, the GT S is laden with all the compelling attributes that signify absolute desirability. Yet it lacks that odd and unconscious anima that lights up our irrational emotional receptors. Like Burt Bacarach said, “a room is not a house, and a house is not a home.”

 

 

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The Most Durable Cars

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:   YAHOO AUTOS

 

 

Everybody wants to own a keeper. A car that provides so much personal satisfaction that the years and miles can just fly by, while the enduring qualities of that daily driver remain picture perfect.

 

The hard part for most folks comes down to hype.

 

To sell more cars, manufacturers continue to promote short-term quality studies that have little or nothing to do with the long-term ownership experience. For example, J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study only covers the first 90 days of ownership, while its long-term survey tracks three-year-old vehicles over a short 12 month span.

 

In a market where the average car and truck is now over 11 years old, a long-term reliability study requires a much longer view of car ownership. For those of us who are looking to find a good used car, or even feel concerned about how a new car will hold up, we should be able to know the longevity of a vehicle for the entire life cycle instead of just a random early point in time.

 

This is why Nick Lariviere and myself have developed the Long-Term Quality Index. With over 550,000 data samples from all over the country, we have been able to look specifically at measuring the three key ingredients that tell you how well a given model has performed in today’s marketplace; mileage, age and condition.

 

To make this study fair and impartial, we have also taken two unique steps that represent a first for long-term reliability studies in the auto industry. The first is removing owner bias. Certain people will always recommend a car simply because that’s what they bought in the past and if something bad happens, they won’t tell you about it. Others are just oblivious to the thumping of a bad transmission, or the knocking of a bad motor. That is why we only have mechanics and skilled professionals appraise the vehicle’s condition.

 

Second, we focus exclusively on condition and longevity. Cars that are either 18 years or older, or have 180,000 or more miles, have endured well past the average life-span of the average vehicle.

 

In our study, we’re finding that only a chosen few can routinely achieve these two levels of longevity without a major mechanical defect. It’s this level of engineering excellence that we want to highlight in our study.

 

So what have we found so far? Some of what you might expect, but a lot of surprises.

 

Rennett Stowe via Twitter

The Over-300,000 Club Is Still Pretty Exclusive: Five types of vehicles make up more than 60% of the cars and trucks with at least 300,000 miles. They are:

By our calculations, these models are about 2.5 times more likely to hit 300,000 miles than any other vehicle.

 

One Nissan model is greater than all of Volkswagen:

We’re not talking about a mid-sized Altima, or the Sentra compact which has become the official taxi south of the border. The biggest surprise so far in the study has been the Nissan Maxima. Older models (2002 and earlier) with the 3-liter engine and four-speed automatic offer exceptional long-term reliability.

 

In the long-term reliability study, 1,038 Maximas out of 4,825 have gone over 180,000 miles (21%), versus only 785 Volkswagens out of 14,518 (5.4%)

 

Cadillac has VW levels of long-term reliability:

Both brands have abysmal long-term reliability with Cadillac scoring the same 5.4% as Volkswagen, which is less than half of the industry average. Head gasket issues for most years of the Northstar V-8 along with high maintenance costs make older Cadillacs a nadir when it comes to finding a long-term keeper.

 

How bad does it get for Cadillac? Well, here’s a shocker for you.

 

Cadillac Cars = Older Kias: If you removed the Cadillac Escalade, which is nothing more than a full-sized primped-up version of the less expensive Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon, the Cadillac brand becomes a true bottom dweller. Kias that were made before Hyundai’s takeover of that brand show similar levels of long-term failure.

 

The Honda Accord Crushes Nearly All of Europe: Thanks in great part to the sound reliability of older Volvos, all European brands are barely able to beat the number of Accords that have been traded-in with over 180,000 miles. The Honda Accord‘s tally of 3,826 trade-ins with over 180,000 out of 12,398 nearly beats Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes, VW, Volvo, Saab, Porsche, and BMW’s sub-brand MINI combined. These European models required a staggering 67,484 vehicles and an army of old Volvos to surpass the mileage tally of one popular Honda model.

 

British Roots Do Not Bear Reliable Fruit: You have about as much chance of dying from an injury this year as you do buying a Land Rover and a Jaguar with outstanding reliability. The chances of both vehicles combined lasting over 180,000 miles before getting kicked to the curb is an eye-popping 1,700:1.

 

The Accord and Camry Are Workhorses: Even with well-known transmission issues for certain six-cylinder Honda Accords, the two most popular mid-sized vehicles continue to be kept for far longer periods of time than their competition. The Accord and Camry have remained cars worth keeping with 28% of all Accords traded-in with over 180,000 miles, and 24% of all Toyota Camrys following suit. Both are more than twice the industry average of 11%.

 

Exceptional Reliability Is Still A Rare Thing: A lot of manufacturers have applied cost-cutting measures and decontenting methods to extremes. These engineering shortcuts often don’t reveal themselves until after the vehicle goes beyond 100,000 miles. However, there is still a very wide gulf that separates the market leaders from the market laggards as those miles and years add up.

 

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2015 Car of the Year

 

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  YAHOO AUTOS

 

Overwhelming. That was our first reaction as we began the task of choosing the best new car for our annual Yahoo Autos Car of the Year. The previous winners — the Tesla Model S in 2013, and the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray in 2014 — had been drawn from a tight pack of favorites. The 2015 model year offered dozens of new models, yet not one had emerged as the front-runner by the time we assembled in California last month.

That would hold true as we winnowed our choices down to 17 vehicles and ran them through our most extensive battery of tests to date — with hundreds of miles of driving loops and countless sessions around our autocross course. We set loose at speed, opened and closed everything with a hinge and debated questions from the nature of transportation in the 21st century to seat-fabric stitching to whether 707 hp was too much or just enough.

 

2015 Yahoo Autos Car of the Year. Photo illustration by Robert Kerian
2015 Yahoo Autos Car of the Year. Photo illustration by Robert Kerian

 

Yes, our gathering included the whooping Dodge Challenger Hellcat, along with that other high-end piece of Detroit iron, the Chevy Camaro Z28. Ford sent the new Ford Mustang Ecoboost, while the luxury performance world was represented by the Alfa Romeo 4C and BMW M235i. From the more affordable side came the Honda FitSubaru WRX and a pair of new midsize sedans, the Hyundai Sonata and Chrysler 200C. For luxury cars, we invited the Mercedes-Benz C-ClassHyundai GenesisKia K900Acura TLX and Maserati Ghibli. Rounding out our class was the Mercedes GLA-Class and the quirky BMW i3 electric car.

When we ran our final poll, none of the editors chose the same top three models — yet only one car landed on most lists and topped a majority, proving itself worthy of our highest endorsement. For 2015, our Yahoo Autos Car of the Year honor belongs to the new Volkswagen Golf GTI.

As we have in years past, the editors at Yahoo Autos weighed five categories when making their choices: Performance, efficiency, value, design and engineering — not just how well individual pieces worked, but how they meshed as a whole. Because we were judging so many different types of vehicles, managing editor Justin Hyde offered what he called the Westminster Kennel Club rule: A car has to be among the best in its breed before it can compete for the top prize.

 

 

In that light, the GTI might seem like a dachshund winning Best in Show. The previous generations of the 40-year-old hot hatchback brand have built a fervent but limited fan base in the United States. “A lot of people who were attracted to the GTI over the years would walk away because it was too small, too expensive or too European for them,” said Hyde. “This 2015 edition should make them reconsider.”

Built from VW’s new MQB chassis — an attempt to make a Lego-like kit of parts to underpin almost any size and style of vehicle — the 2015 GTI has grown longer, lower and lighter; about two inches in overall length and wheelbase, about 80 lbs. fewer overall. On the inside, those extra inches have gone into cargo space; the GTI now has 22.8 cu. ft. behind the rear seats, more than our favorite compact car from 2014, the Mazda3.

Outside, the new dimensions and sharper bodywork make the GTI the most attractive model VW sells on these shores. Inside, the cabin and sightlines feel solid and Germanic in the best sense. The interior “brings Audi-level refinement,” said contributing editor Steve Siler. “I wish the styling had evolved a bit more, because no one will be able to tell how much better it is merely by looking.”

Power comes from the traditional 2-liter turbo four, boosted this year to 210 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed, dual-clutch automatic with launch control.

But that’s not exactly what we drove. Instead, our tests of a four-door automatic GTI included what VW calls the Performance Pack — a set of upgrades that adds 10 hp, better brakes and a trick new style of limited-slip differential known as VAQ. Like its competitors such as the Ford Focus ST, the regular GTI has software that can lightly blip an individual front brake to even power delivery. The VAQ goes much further; it’s a set of electric clutches and software controls on the front driveshaft that anticipates what wheel needs more power. In the right moment, VAQ can send the engine’s entire grunt to one wheel, and add power when coming out of a turn to nearly eliminate understeer.

No other front-wheel-drive car in the world has this technology, and it’s the key innovation that defines the GTI and set it apart on our custom-built autocross route. You might assume, that, being front-wheel drive, the GTI would have a hard time navigating the tight, twisty course we constructed — the kind that makes such cars stumble into curve-destroying understeer.

 

 

Only it didn’t. The GTI managed a 44.9 second lap time in editor/racer Alex Lloyd’s hands, bumper to bumper with that of the Ford Mustang and not too far off the more powerful, rear-wheel-drive BMW M235i. The only hint of understeer came under hard acceleration from tighter turns. Trail-braking into a corner, the hot hatch is lively — the rear end dances on its toes. At corner apex, the slowest part of the turn, there’s a delightful pivot around the front axle that none of us have personally experienced before from a front-wheel drive machine.

The GTI also beat the 707-hp Challenger Hellcat on our autocross, by a decent margin. Admittedly, the big ol’ Hellcat isn’t at home on such a tight course, but it’s an able demonstration of the GTI’s prowess. The GTI’s time was a far cry from the 40.5-second fast lap set by the Camaro Z28, but then the Z28 was built to go fast around a track and little else.

The GTI, however, can ably serve as a Costco-to-schoolhouse shuttle. The rear seat of the GTI was more comfortable than some of the midsize cars we tested. The suspension lets you feel the road but not so much that you tire of driving around rough urban pavement. And, as we’ve seen, it can handle itself on track with more poise and dignity than expensive cars whose handing was their calling card. Did we mention it was faster than a Subaru WRX?

“Out on the streets, it’s composed with excellent road feedback that makes you feel connected,” said road test editor Aki Sugawara, “yet it’s still refined enough to pass as a luxury car.”

When we ran down our five categories, the Golf GTI shined in all of them. As equipped, our GTI was rated at 25 mpg city/33 mpg highway. Sticker price on our full-boat edition was $31,040, but the regular GTI starts around $24,000 for a two-door stick (with the traditional plaid-cloth seats), and the performance pack will list for $1,495 when it becomes available next month.

The GTI “constantly delivers more than you expect,” said Lloyd. “It’s a lovely cruiser, nippy and fun during city driving, and downright magnificent for a front-wheel drive machine on the autocross.” For all those reasons and more, we’re glad to welcome the Volkswagen Golf GTI into our garage of vehicles we’ve deemed worthy of being a Yahoo Autos Car of the Year.

Five other cars impressed us enough to earn their own individual accolades as the best new vehicles in the performance, enthusiast, luxury, value and green categories, and several others came close. Click the tiles below to see what cars prevailed, and which ones left us wanting more.

 

 

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Consumer Reports’ 6 Popular Cars to Avoid

REPOSTED FROM CONSUMER REPORTS BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS – AUTO

 

Our auto experts test dozens of cars every year. In addition to pushing them to their limits on our professional track, they use them for daily transportation, commuting, ferrying around kids, going on road trips, and so on. They get to know each car inside and out. And they learn which ones they’d consider buying themselves and those they’d avoid. To save you the frustration of having to find that out for yourself, here are a half-dozen to pass up.

Mercedes-Benz CLA

 

Price we paid: $36,500

It’s billed as an “affordable” Mercedes. But what you won’t get is Mercedes luxury for less. It’s a cramped compact with a stiff ride and poor visibility. It’s tough to get into and out of the car, and it lacks the handling finesse and refinement you might expect.

Better choices: Acura TSXBMW 320iMercedes-Benz C250

 

Gallery: Volkswagen BeetleGallery: Volkswagen Beetle

Volkswagen Beetle

 

Price we paid: $20,835

Yes, the retro look is cute. But this bug could end up squashing you with repair costs because reliability has been far below average. Also, the rear seat is cramped, the view to the rear is restricted, and a wide center console intrudes on front knee room.

Better choices: Mazda3Subaru ImprezaVolkswagen Golf

 

Gallery: Nissan VersaGallery: Nissan Versa

Nissan Versa sedan

 

Price we paid $15,49

It’s economical but a bummer to drive. The Versa feels slow, and the interior is noisy and looks cheap. This model scored poor in a recent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash test and got near-bottom scores in our owner-satisfaction survey.

Better choices: Chevrolet SonicHyundai AccentKia Rio

 

Honda Crosstour

 

Price we paid: $34,730

The Crosstour will make you cross-eyed. The sedan/SUV’s swoopy styling looks nice, but it cuts visibility and cargo space. And convoluted touch-screen controls are hard to use. Plus, handling is clumsy, and the wide turning circle makes parking a chore.

Better choices: Subaru OutbackToyota VenzaVolkswagen Jetta SportWagen

 

Scion tC

 

Price we paid: $21,130

Though the ads may rave about the great handling of this sporty-looking hatchback, we found the tC’s performance to be uninspiring. Plus, its ride is uncomfortable, too much noise creeps into the cabin, the interior feels cheap, and it’s hard to see out.

Better choices: Mazda3 hatchbackSubaru Impreza Sport

 

Gallery: Mitsubishi OutlanderGallery: Mitsubishi Outlander

Mitsubishi Outlander

 

Price we paid: $27,180

This is one of the few small SUVs that can carry up to seven people. But the Outlander handles clumsily, is slow to accelerate, assaults your ears with engine noise, and shakes your  body with a nervous ride. And the third-row seat is tiny.

Better choices: Honda CR-VMazda CX-5Subaru Forester

* * * * * *

 

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BMW’s Electric Engines are Gaining Ground on Tesla

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  QZ.COM

German luxury carmaker BMW reported new sales and profit records in its latest quarterly results, thanks to the steady rollout of well-received new models. One of its highest-profile investments—a new line of electric-powered vehicles—generated only 2,000 unit sales, out of nearly 430,000 BMW-branded cars delivered during the quarter, but analysts are watching the BMWi series very closely. Some consider it the strongest competition yet for Tesla, the electric vehicle market leader.

BMW recently upped its production target for the i3 due to higher-than-expected demand. The $41,350 city car, launched late last year in Europe, has a range of around 100 miles on a full charge, or nearly 200 with an optional gas-powered “range extender.” The i8 (pictured above) goes on sale next month, with a hefty $135,700 price tag. The sports car will travel only 20-odd miles on electric power alone, and a bit more than 300 using its hybrid engine. Gull-wing doors, 357-horsepower, and headlights that literally shoot lasers round out the package.

If you think that neither of these models sounds much like the Tesla Model S, you’d be right. The BMW i3 costs half as much, and travels only half as far on a single charge. The i8 costs twice as much and isn’t electric-only, but boasts more power and high-end supercar features.

At business schools, what BMW is doing to Tesla is known as the “sandwich strategy“—squeezing the competition by offering products pitched both above and below a rival’s offering. A new research note from analysts at Barclays fleshes out this theory, noting that surveys show that most common car brands buyers replace with Teslas are, in order, Toyota, Mercedes, and—yes—BMW.

The Barclays analysts reckon that BMW’s i-series can pick off both Prius partisans and German sedan fans:

The Tesla Model S appeals to both Prius drivers as well as prestige and performance-oriented buyer; its nearest comps are Porsches and Aston Martins. At the same time, the i8 also may appeal to that flashier driver who wants a car the valet will leave parked in front of the high-end restaurant (an important criteria, in our view, in Southern California). The BMW i3 buyer is likely more of a Prius graduate, a bit more motivated by green concerns than by what car the valet chooses to leave in front of the car park stand.

Barclays forecasts that BMW will sell up to a third as many electric vehicles as Tesla in the next few years. The i-series will account for less than 2% of BMW’s overall shipments and a vanishingly small share of its overall profit over this period. But the deep-pocketed German firm dabbling in Tesla’s market represents a risk, at the margin, to the American electric-vehicle maker’s richly valued shares.

A future refresh of the lower end of BMW’s electric range—an i5, perhaps—could aim more directly at the current Model S market. Meanwhile, Tesla’s so-called “Gen III” model, a mass-market car rumored to price at $35,000 and launch in a few years, sounds a bit like the existing BMW i3. In the end, it all adds up to more congestion on the road that Tesla has had mostly to itself.

 

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Audi Brings back Hipster Wagon – New A3 TDI Sportback

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  FORBES

 

 

Hipsters rejoice: Audi has deigned to return its Audi A3 Sportback to the United States, and better yet it’ll be in diesel form.

 

Audi has announced it’ll make only 3,600 or so of this new wagon, due out under the 2016 model year, but the cars pay strong dividends for the automaker as it tries to create a fresher, more progressively cool image than competitors like BMW and Mercedes. And now that A3 has launched a sedan—to be followed by an A3 convertible—this new variant is free to appeal directly to the hard-line car nerds, hipsters and ex-pat Europeans who bought it in the first place.

 

“Not everyone can appreciate a sportback, but man the ones who are into it are into it,” Audi of America President Scott Keogh said. He added that the diesel engine is especially alluring to the set of buyers who prefer the Audi wagon: “With new TDI editions like this we’re on target for a record year.”

 

The car will have an all-new four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with 150 horsepower and an “S-tronic” dual-clutch automatic transmission. There’s also a decent 236 lb-ft of torque, which is the key to any diesel model’s performance and highway economy. (Strong torque means strong acceleration under low rpms rather than venturing high in the rev range and therefore using more fuel. It also means the car can pull off longer, highway-friendly gear ratios than its l0w-torque competitors.)

 

Indeed, when Audi starting using TDI technology in the early 1990s it quickly developed a new market for “premium” alternative fuel like diesel. One out of every 10 Audis on the road has a diesel engine, and 40 percent of the A3 TDI Sportbacks sold before they initially left the US were sold in California.

 

In addition to the sportback and sedan, which will debut stateside later this year, an Audi e-Tron A3 Sportback plug-in hybrid will go on sale soon after. Pricing has yet to be announced. Watch the video for more.

 

 

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Consumer Reports Names each Brand’s Best and Worst Cars

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  YAHOO AUTOS / CONSUMER REPORTS

 

While car brand reputation can be a strong influence on purchase decisions, such perceptions can be misleading. The reality is, every brand offers models that perform across a spectrum, with some clearly better than others.

 

As we see in our annual Car Brand Perception survey, how consumers view brands can often be a trailing indicator and not reflect the current reality. To further illustrate this point, we have compiled a list chronicling the best and worst models by brand based on our overall test scores.

 

The test performance variation differs from brand to brand, with some brands’ worst model being still doing rather well, while others span a wide range, making any generalities quite misleading. Take Audi, for example. Even its worst model, the A5, scores a 74 (out of 100) and meets our performance standards, safety, and reliability criteria to be Recommended. Meanwhile, the best Jeep is the Grand Cherokee Limited. It earns 77 points in our tests, only three points more than the worst Audi. But the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited marks the low point in our current ratings, scoring only a 20. The gap between best and worst can be even broader. Chevrolet, for instance, spans from the Impala (95) to the Spark (36).

 

The list below includes all brands for which Consumer Reports has tested at least three different models recently, thereby excluding Land Rover, Mini, Ram, Smart, and Tesla.

 

Make Best Worst
Acura Acura TSX (4-cyl.) Acura RLX Tech
Audi Audi A7 3.0 TDI Audi A5 Premium Plus (2.0T)*
BMW BMW 328i BMW 750Li*
Buick Buick Regal Premium I* Buick Encore Leather
Cadillac Cadillac XTS Premium Cadillac SRX Luxury
Chevrolet Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ (3.6) Chevrolet Spark 1LT
Chrysler Chrysler 300 (base, V6) Chrysler Town & Country Touring-L
Dodge Dodge Durango Limited (V6) Dodge Journey Limited (V6)
Fiat Fiat 500 Abarth Fiat 500L Easy
Ford Ford Fusion SE Hybrid Ford Fiesta SE sedan
GMC GMC Sierra 1500 SLT (5.3L V8) GMC Terrain SLE1 (4-cyl.)
Honda Honda Accord LX (4-cyl.) Honda Insight EX
Hyundai Hyundai Sonata Limited (2.0T) Hyundai Accent GLS sedan
Infiniti Infiniti Q70 (M37, V6) Infiniti QX80 (QX56)
Jaguar Jaguar XJL Portfolio* Jaguar XK Convertible*
Jeep Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited (V6) Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
Kia Kia Cadenza Kia Rio EX hatchback
Lexus Lexus LS 460L Lexus IS250 (AWD)
Lincoln Lincoln MKZ Hybrid Lincoln MKS (base, 3.7)
Mazda Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Mazda2 Touring
Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec (AWD) Mercedes-Benz CLA250
Mitsubishi Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR Mitsubishi iMiEV SE
Nissan Nissan 370Z Touring coupe Nissan Versa SV sedan
Porsche Porsche Boxster 2.7 Porsche Cayenne (base, V6)
Scion Scion FR-S Scion iQ
Subaru Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium Subaru Tribeca Limited
Toyota Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE Toyota FJ Cruiser
Volkswagen Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium (V6) Volkswagen Beetle 2.5L (MT)*
Volvo Volvo S60 T5* Volvo XC90 3.2

 

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America’s Most Dependable Automotive Brand

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  MOTLEY FOOL

 

The U.S. auto industry announced in 2013 that it was back in full force with unit sales increasing to 15.6 million, up better than 7% from 2012, and crossing the 15 million mark for the first time since 2007.

 

A combination of an improving economy, lower unemployment rates, and historically low lending rates have encouraged consumers to jump into what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase their dream car at a very attractive lending rate.

 

Needless to say, a lot of thought and effort goes into which car a consumer will purchase. Consumers often look at fuel economy, read reviews online, test drive the vehicle (perhaps a number of times), ask for advice from family and friends, and also plot out how much they’re willing to spend on their vehicle over the life of a loan if they choose to finance it.

One thing that consumers often overlook, though, is the dependability of the vehicle they’re considering buying. For a new car buyer, the expectation is that they’ll encounter few maintenance problems for the first couple of years, and if they do, that their warranty will cover those snafus. For a used car purchaser, dependability is everything since there’s rarely any warranty attached to a used car purchase.

 

Not only is dependability important for your pocketbook in that more dependable vehicles will cost less to maintain, but it’s also the silent advertiser for a brand. As J.D. Power & Associates has demonstrated through its research, 56% of car owners who report having no problems return to the same brand, while 42% who reported three or more problems kept their same brand of vehicle with their next purchase. Therefore, vehicle dependability can, at least partially, help us predict which brands’ sales may move higher and which brands may struggle based on this vehicle dependability-brand loyalty correlation.

 

America’s five most dependable automotive brands
To that end I turn to J.D. Power & Associates annual vehicle dependability study for 2014. The study itself looks at three-year-old models from a number of brands (i.e., all 2011 models) and asks consumers if they experienced one or more of 202 noted problems. J.D. Power then ranks those car brands from top to bottom based on how many problems were reported per 100 vehicles, commonly known as its PP100 metric. Dependability is especially important this year when you consider that J.D. Power’s study uncovered the first rise in reported problems, especially engine and transmission problems, since 1998!

 

Let’s have a look at the five top automotive brands according to J.D. Power’s study and then note what brands really stood out, as well as which brands faltered.

 

As a warning, you may be shocked to discover which brand decisively took the No. 1 spot in vehicle dependability!

 

No. 5: Buick (112 problems per 100 vehicles)
Rising from the sixth spot into the top five this year is Buick, owned by General Motors(NYSE: GM  ) which had consumers report just 112 problems per 100 vehicles as opposed to 118 PP100 in last year’s study from J.D. Power. The real standout for Buick was the Lucerne which took top honors in the large car category, besting Toyota‘s (NYSE: TM  ) Avalon and Ford‘s (NYSE: F  ) Taurus. As Foolish auto analyst John Rosevear notes, Buick is doing a really nice job transitioning into a global brand.

 

No. 4: Acura (109 problems per 100 vehicles)
Honda Motors  (NYSE: HMC  )  Acura was another big mover in 2014, vaulting higher by four spots to fourth place from eighth with 109 PP100 reported compared to 120 PP100 last year. Like GM’s Buick, Acura only took top honors in one category (compact premium CUV) with its RDX, but it also claimed a tie for the third-highest rating in the midsize premium CUV category with the Mercedes-Benz M-class. Honda and Acura are relatively synonymous with economical but dependable vehicles in the U.S., making this ranking not too surprising.

2011 Cadillac CTS-V

No. 3: Cadillac (107 problems per 100 vehicles)
Chalk up another victory for General Motors which can claim its second top-five brand for dependability in Cadillac. Year over year, Cadillac surged 11 spots to No. 3, with vehicle owners reporting only 107 PP100 compared to 128 PP100 last year. This huge jump came in only second to Jaguar which vaulted 13 spots higher in J.D. Power’s rankings. Cadillac took home the top honors for its large premium CUV, the Escalade, as well as large premium car, the DTS, which tied for the top spot with the Lexus LS. Cadillac has certainly done its best to focus its efforts on a slightly younger crowd, and these improved dependability ratings should help.

 

No. 2: Mercedes-Benz (104 problems per 100 vehicles)
Jumping three spots in 2014 to No. 2 with only 104 PP100 compared to 115 PP100 reported in the prior year is Daimler‘s (NASDAQOTH: DDAIF  ) Mercedes-Benz. What’s particularly interesting here is that Mercedes-Benz didn’t win any of the 22 vehicle categories as outlined by J.D. Power, but it did place or show in quite a few which speaks to its overall consistency. Mercedes-Benz ranked second in midsize premium car with its E-Class sedan/wagon, second in large premium CUV with its GL-class, second in compact premium CUV with its GLK-class, and tied for third with the Acura MDX in the midsize premium CUV category with its M-class. Simply put, if consumers are going to pay a premium price, they expect premium results, and Mercedes-Benz appears to be delivering on that promise.

And the real shock (at least to me)…

2011 Lexus RX 450

No. 1: Lexus (68 problems per 100 vehicles)
I guess it shouldn’t be that much of a shock since Toyota-owned Lexus was first in last year’s ratings as well, but I recall shortly after I got my license, nearly two decades ago, how I was admonished from buying a Lexus because of their dependability issues. This rating simply confirms how far the brand has come in less than two decades as its PP100 of just 68 is light years ahead of second-place Mercedes-Benz, and even lower than the 71 PP100 that J.D. Power reported last year. Lexus tied its LS for top large premium car with the Cadillac DTS, was the top midsize premium car with the GS, and nabbed both the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in compact premium car with the ES and IS, and midsize premium CUV with the RX and GX.

 

Here are J.D. Power’s full rankings based on PP100:


Source: J.D. Power 2014 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study.

Obviously brands in the top five can be construed as winners, but General Motors, Toyota, and Honda deserve special recognition since they brought home eight, seven, and six, of the top category awards, respectively – that’s 21 of 22 categories won by just three companies!

 

As I stated above, Toyota and Honda generally build no-frill vehicles, choosing instead to focus on improving fuel economy and storage space. The end result for years has been a reliable vehicle that will get the consumer from point A to B with ease, and without too many automotive issues.

 

The real shock here is the dominance by General Motors’ vehicles and the total absence of Ford, save for a runner-up effort in the midsize pickup category with its Ranger. GM is hoping to translate these key wins into strong sales for its recently redesigned trucks, the Silverado and Sierra, which it hopes will give Ford’s dominant F-Series a run for its money. Early sales of GM’s Silverado have been mixed with winter weather and parts shortages eating into total unit sales, but as Foolish auto guru John Rosevear recently pointed out, it’s actually spending fewer days on dealership lots than either of its foes, signaling that GM may indeed be on the up-and-up.

 

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10 Awesome Cars by Boutique Carmakers

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS   FROM:  YAHOO AUTOS/POPULAR MECHANICS

 

Today’s restomodders, replica builders, and tuners take an obsessive approach to performance. These vehicles are modified to a level of detail so far beyond their original roots that they are better described as brand-new production cars and trucks rather than upgraded versions of the original.

 

Hennessey Performance Venom GT

John Hennessey has been creating a steady stream of high-horsepower four-wheeled insanity since 1991. In 1993, when he turned his attention to Dodge Vipers, a legend was born. Over the last two decades, each generation of Hennessey Viper has produced some very serious numbers and taken down plenty of competitors at track tests. His latest, the Venom 1000 Twin Turbo, makes and astonishing 1120 hp and runs through the quarter-mile in 9.7 seconds.

 

But perhaps the company’s most interesting vehicle is the Venom GT. Here is a widened, stretched, and modified Lotus wearing carbon-fiber bodywork. This featherweight no longer uses a Toyota four-cylinder engine; instead, the Venom draws its power from a twin-turbocharged 7.0-liter, 1244-hp Chevrolet LSX V-8. Woof. That pushes the car to a speed of 265.7 mph and makes it one of the fastest in the world, and one of the world’s greatest thrill machines.

 

Icon Thriftmaster Pickup
Icon began as a top-level restoration house for Toyota Land Cruisers back in the late 1990s, and they continue to restore vehicles to original condition. But it is Icon’s wildly reimagined Land Cruisers, Broncos, and Chevy pickups that take modified restoration to an obsessive level. Company founder Jonathan Ward upgrades every aspect of these vehicles. If suitably robust and beautiful upgrade parts don’t exist, he builds them—expense be damned.

 

Thriftmaster trucks, based on 1947 to 1953 Chevrolet trucks, are marvelous performers thanks to a modern supercharged (and emissions-legal) GM crate engine, a capable Art Morrison road race-style chassis, and a detailed and luxurious interior. Even the doors of this truck are cool: Icon redesigned the door’s latch mechanism as well as all the cranks and pulls, so now this door closes with a solid thunk and the windows power up and down using the original window crank as switches. We particularly like the bison-hide bench seat filled with Tempur-Pedic foam cushions. Ward even re-created the original Chevrolet font for the Icon badging on this vehicle.

Singer Vehicle Design Porsche 911
For 50 years Porsche‘s 911 has been an icon of performance. Though today’s 911 is a sophisticated and evolved sports machine, plenty of purists prefer the 911s of the past. Singer Vehicle Design takes some of the best characteristics of these classic 911s and melds them with modern technology and impeccable craftsmanship to create what many have called the ultimate 911.

 

The chassis comes straight from the early 1990s 964-series 911, the last and most evolved of the air-cooled Porsches. The flat-six cylinder engines come in either a relatively tame 3.6-liter 270-hp version or a wild 360-hp 3.6-liter version, and both are paired to either a five- or six-speed manual.

 

Beyond the specs, it’s Singer’s details that are truly breathtaking. Though the body looks just like the classic 911, it’s actually a new and subtly flared custom amalgam of different models built from carbon fiber (except for the doors), which saves about 500 pounds. Though the exterior lighting recalls the original small bumper 1964 to 1973 cars, the lamps themselves are modern Bi-Xenon units with polycarbonate lenses. The brightwork around the car isn’t just reproduction chrome pieces but special nickel-plated pieces. And those wheels are cool, new 17-inch forged replicas that allow for larger tires.

Lingenfelter Performance Engineering Reaper
For more than 40 years GM specialist Lingenfelter has produced some truly potent machines, including stock Corvettes tuned to become monsters, such as a 1000-hp version of today’s C7 Stingray. Their latest vehicle, the Reaper, was unveiled recently at the Chicago Auto Show. It’s a collaborative effort between Lingenfelter and Southern Comfort Automotive to produce a high-performance off-road truck based on the Chevy Silverado, one aimed to rival Ford’s Raptor.

 

Under the hood is one of two supercharged V-8s, the more potent of which is a 6.2-liter block that’s been supercharged to deliver 550 hp. The Reaper’s unique look is the result of a 3-inch taller Ride Tech suspension and aggressive new body panels that are flared to make room for 33-inch tires. Reapers can be ordered and delivered to select Chevy dealers and carry a three-year warranty. We’re ready to take the Reaper out to some rough terrain to see how it stacks up against the Raptor.

Shelby American 50th Anniversary Shelby Cobra 289 FIA
The late Carroll Shelby’s legendary Cobra is the granddaddy of small-batch tuner cars, though the term tuner seems a bit flip for such a storied and influential supercar. But at its roots, that’s what the Cobra was. Shelby took a big Ford engine and had AC rework the chassis of their Ace sports car to accept it. To mark the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the 289 Cobra, Shelby American will be building just 50 limited-edition continuation Cobras with either a fiberglass body or a more expensive aluminum one.

 

Plenty of companies have built Cobra replicas over the years. But the most highly prized ones aren’t replicas at all, but this kind of “continuation”—small batch production cars built by Shelby American. This anniversary tribute model is one of the coolest the company has ever created.

 

VL Automotive Destino
The Destino is the one car here you can’t buy yet. And frankly, we’re not sure when or if it will ever hit small-batch production. But the idea behind the car is just too cool. VL wants to repurpose the leftover chassis and bodies of the plug-in hybrid Fisker Karmas (the company’s assets are planned for auction on Feb. 12) by installing a new powertrain. Former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz owns half of VL and plans to use his formidable connections to create a Corvette-powered sport sedan with the Fisker’s concept car looks.

 

Should the Destino reach production once Fisker’s bankruptcy proceedings are resolved, VL says it will offer the car with either the LT1 V-8 from the current C7 Stingray or a LS9 V-8 with more than 600 hp, made famous in the ZR1 Corvette. Katzkin, an interior-parts supplier would handle the custom leathers and finishes for the Destino. And to give the car a unique look upfront, there’s a more traditional grill that replaces Fisker’s original.

 

Our fingers are crossed for this one. A four-door with Corvette power never goes out of style.

Superformance Caterham Seven
Superformance is a small-batch builder of replica cars from South Africa whose designs represent the legendary American performance machines of the 1960s. They include Cobras (Superformance calls them Mark IIIs), Daytona Cobra coupes, and GT40s. Superformance cars are accurate and well-built. Their inventory has always been heavy on brawny American V-8 sports cars.

 

Now, for the first time, Superformance will be the official U.S. distributor for the Caterham Seven. It’s based on the Lotus Seven, the definition of a lightweight and rewarding open-air sports car. When production ended, Caterham bought the rights to build these cars from Lotus, and the Seven has been in production more or less uninterrupted since 1957.

 

Caterham Sevens destined for our shores are available in five models of increasing capability and speed. And like the Superformance cars, the Caterhams will be sold as a rolling chassis with third-part installation of the powertrain. Caterham says a top-level CSR with a 260-hp 2.3-liter four-cylinder Ford engine will hit 60 mph in 3.1 seconds. We can’t wait to see these Caterhams on our streets.

 

Legacy Classic Trucks Power Wagon
Save for the Willys MB, no other American 4WD vehicle has a more decorated military history than the WC series Dodge trucks—Power Wagons. Legacy Classic Trucks of Jackson Hole, Wyo., has become one of the premiere restorers and restomodders of these icons. The company offers its Legacy Power Wagons upfitted with heavy-duty hardware, because Legacy intends its customers to use them as real trucks.

 

Under that domed hood, a buyer can opt for either a modern 425-hp Chrysler Legacy Magnum V-8 or a 3.9-liter Cummins diesel, both backed by a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Why not the 6.7-liter Cummins from today’s Dodge trucks? It just won’t fit. In either case, the power gets routed to a tough Atlas transfer case and down to Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear axles with locking differentials. That’s extreme-duty truck stuff. So is the standard 16,500-pound-capacity winch and optional 42-inch tires. We’d have at least one of these in our dream garage.

American Expedition Vehicles Brute Double Cab
Jeep hasn’t had a pickup truck in its lineup since the Comanche ended production in 1992. But in 2004 Jeep revived the idea with the Gladiator, a name it borrowed from its mid-1960s full-size pickups and applied to a modern concept pickup built on the bones of the modern Wrangler.

 

Well, it’s 10 years later and we still don’t have a Jeep pickup. But American Expedition Vehicle (AEV) builds the Brute Double Cab to fill the void. AEV has been building and modifying Jeep Wranglers for 15 years. The Brute Double Cab is based on a 14-inch stretched version of the current Wrangler Unlimited chassis and fitted with a 5-foot composite bed. The DC350 model wears a 3.5-inch suspension lift, 35-inch-tall tires, and a Warn winch for off-road excursions. If you have an older Jeep Wrangler and want the utility of a pickup box, AEV has a Brute conversion for the 1997 to 2006 TJ Wranglers too.

 

Brabus B63S-700 6X6
We’ve left the wildest small-batch vehicle for last. Legendary German tuner Brabus has taken the insane 500-plus-horsepower, 6-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6X6—already perhaps the most wonderfully looney small-batch production vehicle on the planet—and gone a little further. Are they nuts? Of course. Thanks to new turbos supplying more boost pressure, the 5.5-liter engine pumps out 700 hp. That’s enough to move this 9000-pound beast to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds.

 

There’s lots more fun stuff here too, such as the exhaust valve button on the steering wheel for Loud or Quiet. There’s plenty of carbon-fiber bodywork to dress this beast up too. Inside, the interior gets retrimmed in Alcantara and (in this case) fire-red leather.
Don’t expect to see one of these small-batch machines in the wild—unless you happen to visit Dubai on vacation.

 

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5 Cars Almost Too Fast For the Road

REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM:  BOLD RIDE

 

There’s supposed to be a clear difference between cars designed for the street and those built for the track. The line between the two gives us both the excitement of race day and a reasonable chance of coming home from the corner store alive. Sometimes, however, the distinction between the two types of vehicles grows ever-so-blurry, as the following cars show.

 

Porsche 991 Turbo S

Porsche 911 Turbo S

 

PHOTOS: See More of the 2014 Porsche 911 Turbo S

This latest incarnation of the legendary 911 has a twin turbo-charged engine that turns out 560 horses, along with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed sequential double-clutch transmission. Porsche claims it can go 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. With a ride like this, even the geekiest kid from your local high school would have his choice of dates to the prom.

Whether he would return from the event in one piece is another question entirely.

 

Corvette C6 ZR1

Corvette ZR1

 

PHOTOS: See More of the 2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1

With a supercharged 6.2-liter engine under the hood capable of 638 horsepower, this is by far the baddest production Corvette to date. It boasts a top speed of 205 mph. Compared to the Porsche, however, it’s a real slouch acceleration-wide, taking a full 3.1 seconds to go 0-60. Something tells me the difference is hard to notice.

 

Mercedes-Benz CL65 Bi-Turbo

Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG

 

PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG

With its 12-cylinder twin-turbo powerplant, this isn’t exactly your dad’s Mercedes. 0-60 time is a relatively sedate 4.2 seconds, though with 621 horses under the hood you’d probably shave a few seconds off the daily work commute, even if you carpool.

 

Lotus Exige S

Lotus Exige S

 

PHOTOS: See More of the Lotus Exige S

This speedy little ride shows what a 1.8-liter Toyota engine can do when it’s turbocharged and inserted in an ultra-light auto body. With a 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds and a 0-100 of 9.98, this Lotus will turn heads faster than it will set the local cop’s nerves on edge. Park it in your garage next to the family mini-van and ask Junior which vehicle he would rather use for his new pizza delivery job.

 

Jet-Powered VW Beetle

01-Jet-Beetle

 

No, your eyes don’t deceive you; that’s a VW Beetle with a jet engine sticking out of its behind. This vehicle is the odd-man-out for this list, but I included it because it is street-legal in California. Its owner, Ron Patrick, put his PhD in mechanical engineering to good use, building this high-powered bug in his garage. Patrick took advantage of the fact that CA laws allow the addition of a secondary engine, so long as the original production motor is left unmodified.  On his site, he discusses how law enforcement has been trying to figure out a way to ticket him for years, with no success.

 

The jet engine is a General Electric model T58-8F. It spins up to 26,000 rpm and is rated for 1350 hp. Top speed and 0-60 times are unknown because, as Patrick says, “I built the car to thrill me, not kill me.” Smart guy.