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Autoblog New Car Reviews
Autoblog New Car Reviews
Updated: 1 year 40 weeks ago
With more than a year separating my test week with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 from its debutante ball at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, I had the advantage of a mountain of data and diatribes with which to inform my initial opinion. Conversations with colleagues and coworkers netted splintered ideas about the CLA's driving demeanor; reading hundreds of comments posted on Autoblog articles revealed a popular divide about everything from exterior styling to the execution of its navigation screen.
While commentary from the public and pundits alike has spun in a circle over the front-driver Mercedes this last year, the car-buying public has been voting the CLA up in fantastic fashion. Early sales have been very strong for the lowest-cost-of-entry Benz, despite being capacity constrained over the first months of 2014. Mercedes-Benz USA PR manager Christian Bokich told me that dealers are "selling the 250 and 45 AMG as fast as they can get them," and though he wouldn't share the internal number, says that the CLA has the lowest day supply of any model in the brand's lineup. Clearly, while we've been happily shouting at each other, Mercedes sales' staffs have been swiftly compiling signed purchase agreements, and racking up numbers.
Given the context of this first year of existence, I thought it would be helpful to review the CLA250 with a special eye to those areas of the car that have been the most hotly contested. By my research, that means wading into the fray on the attractiveness of its sheetmetal, the polish of its interior, the starchiness of its suspension and the thrift of its luxurious bottom line.Permalink | Email this | Comments
"The Ultimate Driving Machine" has been BMW's tagline for nearly 40 years. Launched in the 1970s, the marketing campaign was a stroke of genius by ad firm Ammirati & Puris, as the phrase helped differentiate the imported Bavarian cars from their fellow European rivals by subtly pointing out that Mercedes-Benz and Audi were offering luxury models, while BMW was selling sporty and youthful driving dynamics. The campaign worked - some would argue that stands among the most effective ad campaigns ever - and countless Baby Boomers embraced the brand's fun-to-drive image by taking delivery of the company's new models.
BMW still boasts that its vehicles are "The Ultimate Driving Machine" four decades later, but the brand is very different today. It offered just a few model lines in the mid-1970s, and only a handful of vehicles within. In 2014, the automaker offers an exhaustive range comprised of nearly a dozen lines with almost 50 different models. To survive and thrive, BMW has decided it must massively broaden its appeal.
One of the latest arrivals to BMW's ever-growing stable is the 2014 3 Series Gran Turismo. The five-door hatchback is best thought of as a smaller version of the company's 5 Series Gran Turismo built on stretched 3 Series platform that, in the case of this test car, shares the running gear of the 328i xDrive sedan. On paper, the five-passenger vehicle checks all the proper boxes with regards to performance, utility and economy. But does this family-focused 3 Series still deliver driving dynamics that qualify it for the title of Ultimate Driving Machine?Permalink | Email this | Comments
It may be impossible to spend a day in Chevrolet's new C7 Corvette without someone asking what you think about the iconic sports car - magnetism is an understatement. I was approached by strangers in a grocery store parking lot, parents waiting for their children after school and enthusiasts on a canyon road after I had pulled to the side to take in the view.
All sneak up with a curious smile on their face, take a deep breath and then start spitting out questions like an overly aggressive prosecuting attorney. Is this the new Corvette? What do you think of it? Is it fast? How much does it cost?
While a closed-roof coupe offers a protective shield from the verbal onslaught - it's hard to field questions through a solid roof - the droptop Stingray Convertible allows the full inquisition to rain down each time one slows to a stop. These opportunities include incessant chatter with complete unknowns at stoplights, street corners and even while stuck in traffic.Permalink | Email this | Comments
"No Land Rover has any business sounding like that!"
My dad's words hung in the air like the few stray puffs of exhaust trailing in my wake as I motored away from him following a nice dinner. His parting statement to me really summed up the experience of driving this Chile Red Range Rover Sport. This is a vehicle unlike anything else Land Rover has ever built - and it needs to be. The Sport has been the British marque's best-selling vehicle since it went on sale in 2005 - even in its predecessor's final full year of sales, 2012, it still netted a four-percent bump. That kind of staying power needs to be preserved.
Doing that would be difficult, though, as Land Rover launched a pair of particularly notable products before it was time to redesign the Sport. The Range Rover Evoque has set the design benchmark for the Land Rover brand, while the all-new, fourth-generation Range Rover was the best sport utility vehicle Land Rover has ever built, and arguably one of the very best on the road, full stop.
The task seemed clear, then: build a worthy successor to an SUV that customers have been clamoring to buy for the better part of decade, while also adding the design chutzpah of the Evoque and living up to the class-leading standards set by its big brother.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Not everyone is an automobile enthusiast, but for the most part, those who possess valid driver's licenses are usually able to differentiate between a performance car and a luxury car. Furthermore, they are usually capable of telling approximately how old a car is based on its styling.
But not with the 2014 Chevrolet SS.
Even as its true devotees acknowledge the sedan's Pontiac GTO and Pontiac G8 ancestors while hoping that GM's latest will finally earn the merit and recognition it deserves, this made-in-Australia model is a real head scratcher to most. The low volume, rear-wheel drive sport sedan, fitted with a powerful V8 and the world's shortest options list, sits in most Chevrolet showrooms as nothing more than a $45,000 mystery to most of the customers who walk in.
"What is it?" was the most common question during my week with the Chevrolet SS. The answer took me a full seven days to figure out.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Teenage passengers are often among the first people I turn to for second opinions about a test vehicle. While they understandably aren't allowed behind the wheel - most aren't even old enough to drive - their honest and generally unbiased observations, coupled with a complete lack of understanding about what a particular vehicle costs, can provide a wealth of insight.
An open-minded approach is especially important when taking a closer look at the 2014 Kia Cadenza, a premium sedan from an automaker best known for providing affordable transportation for entry-level buyers. But unlike the Rio and Forte, low-priced compacts designed to cater to consumers looking for fuel economy and value, this more substantial four-door sedan asks for twice the out-of-pocket investment in exchange for promises of luxury and technology.
With an impartial mindset and a genuine curiosity, I recently spent a week with the more substantial Cadenza to see if it could live up to its aspirations.Permalink | Email this | Comments
What are auto writers always asking for from global automakers? "Give us your hip European wares," we plead, "give us your diesels and your manuals and your wagons, your tauter suspensions and Welsh B-road handling, your neat matrix lighting and your funky little Hello-Kitty-sized trailer hitches to haul the little Hello-Kitty-sized caravans that we'll also need you to start exporting."
How do the automakers almost always respond? At best, "We'll gauge demand." More likely, "No," because for whatever reason, "We just don't think it's right for the US market."
If that's how they had answered us in the case of the Volkswagen Tiguan "Track & Style" Bluemotion TDI, they'd actually be right. Volkswagen recently brought this Euro-spec compact crossover to the US for a 'Get to know me!' tour, and while we hate to drag the cute little thing into the public square to acquaint it with the whip, well, we have no choice. See, it's just not right for the US market.Permalink | Email this | Comments
My boyhood shelves were packed with all sorts of toys, but my favorites were miniature diecast cars. Even though I'd spend hours building challenging gravity tracks for the smallest and sleekest of the bunch, my prized vehicles were not scaled-down production models. Instead, I preferred to daydream about the fascinating showcars and fictitious models with their radical styling, giant wheels and oversized engines. They were the standouts that didn't need to roll down a plastic road, as they could shoot across the carpet, launch over a book and drive up the walls with impunity.
Understandably, then, I was recently compelled to shake off a flood of youthful memories when a 2014 SRT Viper GTS was dropped off in my driveway, complete with bright-red paint, black racing stripes, massive tires and the biggest engine in the land. It was exaggerated and outrageous - nothing short of a life-size version of my favorite childhood Matchbox car.
Only this time, I was handed a real key.Permalink | Email this | Comments
For one reason or another, this is a car people stare at. They might be drawn to its curvaceous shape riding on immense wheels. They could be intrigued by its gaping, blacked-out grille which houses an equally outsized trident logo, or doing quick calculations about the last time they saw a car wearing the name Maserati. It may be its sports-car-like proportions mixed with achingly long, four-door bodywork that draws their eye.
Or, and I urge you to consider this theory carefully, the people taking notice of this Maserati Ghibli S Q4 might simply be newly alert after hearing the sound of its exhaust ricocheting off any solid thing nearby as I drive past grinning like a certified asshat. Did you hear an Italianate engine song careening through your Ann Arbor, MI neighborhood, in the black of the early morning, just a few weeks previous? Sorry, guy, that was probably me.
I spent a week hammering this all-wheel-drive Ghibli as hard as I dared in the last truly miserable stretch of the God Awful Winter of 2014. I can honestly say that I enjoyed myself, shocked at both the frank way this new challenger luxury car went down the road as well as the attention it garnered in the process.
Since the Ghibli left my charge, I've also spent a lot of time thinking about how significantly flawed the newest Maserati is, just how I'd explain that to all of you, and how I almost love it despite its failings. A story of desire and conflict - how Italian.Permalink | Email this | Comments