NAIAS 2018 | Episode 8 : Mercedes Benz

Mercedes Benz chose Detroit to be the world premier for the latest iteration of the 40-year saga that is the G-Wagen.  Easily recognizable from its 1970’s origins the new version was joined on the stand by the Jackie Ickx 280 GE that won the Dakar Rally in 1983.  The exterior is subtly evolved, but instantly recognizable (rather like the Jeep Wrangler) down to the annoying push button door handles and the poor sound and feel when you close the doors.  The LED halo headlamps are a key distinguishing feature, but the bigger differences are on the inside.  The thoroughly modern interior features a wide, two-part flat screen, but retains plenty of mechanical switches.  Headroom is never a problem!  The G is 4 inches wider than the outgoing model and now features independent front suspension for the first time.  The engine at launch will be the twin turbo 4.0L V8 which is good for 416 hp and 0-60 in 4.8 seconds.

Also premiered at the show was the AMG CLS 53 Edition 1.  The exterior of the updated CLS is a bit disappointing especially since the first two editions were so well executed.  The awkward headlamps just don’t seem to fit the otherwise tasteful front end, while the rear just looks like a sad face.  The 3.0L I6 engine has both electric and gas powered turbos, plus “EQ Boost” (a starter/alternator also able to provide extra power) and produces a combined 419 hp.  All ancillaries are powered by the 48-volt electric system – no belts or pulleys.

The EQA concept is worth mentioning.  As shown in Frankfurt last year, it is a nicely executed 2-door, all-electric hatchback with 200kw motors front and rear.  The “scrolling” turn signal lamps are a nice touch.

NAIAS 2016 | Part II : The German brands

Naias 2016-2

The big introduction from Mercedes was the new E-Class. While the design was classic for the brand and instantly recognizable, it was somewhat disappointing and broke no new ground, although we did like the strong front end featuring large air intakes.  The interior is also classic Mercedes – but in a good way.  We were happy to see that they have gone away from the “iPad stuck on the instrument panel” look, moving to an integrated rectangular screen that spans from in front of the driver all the way to the central infotainment display.   This display is either two 12.3-inch screens made to look like one, or, on lower line models, a more conventional instrument cluster and a central 12.3-inch screen also integrated to look like one large display.  There are some well-executed wood inserts and LED accent lighting customizable in 64 different colours!
The S-Class Cabrio is a really beautiful car with a great interior….. and now we get the twin turbo V12 S65 AMG version. Lust at first sight!
The facelifted SLK, now called the SLC was also on display.
The Audi stand next door featured the Q8 h-Tron Quattro concept. This sharp looking crossover was first shown last fall in its battery powered e-Tron guise.  The h-Tron is powered by a fuel cell and uses a combination of three hydrogen tanks plus a 1.8 kW hour battery pack to store energy.  We do like the front-end look of this concept, as well as the “pop-out” rear view cameras on the front fenders. We can’t wait for these cameras to become viable for production so that we can get rid of the huge door mirrors we are obliged to use today.
The new A4 sedan and Allroad wagon also were on display. This model is typical Audi, with a nicely executed exterior and a finely detailed interior that remains the standard of the industry.  We just wish that the exterior had a little more “reach” and we are disappointed that the interior has the “iPad” look for the infotainment – especially considering the hi-tech cluster Audi introduced on the TT.
We do like the facelifted R8 without the big “spear” behind the doors, but the front grill texture is rather Japanese looking. We also love the belt driven Ducati that was on the stand!
BMW chose Detroit to introduce the M2 Coupe, harking back to the 1970’s when we first came to love BMWs. A 2002 turbo model was on the stand for comparison.  We are sure that the car will be a blast to drive and the front end is certainly a very dramatic combination of air intakes and aerodynamics, but the rear half of the car just doesn’t work.  The roofline/C-pillar is weak and the car is just too short to provide an aggressive stance.
A 650i Cabrio on the stand painted in an attractive matt bronze colour caught our eye and the i8 still generates awe in all of us – although the black and white colour scheme is not our favourite……..
The VW stand was a rather sad place to be during press days. The pall resulting from the emissions debacle hangs heavy in the air and the VW executives failed once again to move us, the dealers or the customers beyond this fiasco.  The VW goal of increasing US volumes to 1 million units is now just a dream.  Amazingly, Subaru’s volume in the US exceeds that of VW, Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini combined.
I am sure that the 2016 Passat is a decent cart , but it is rather dull and the only thing worthy of comment is the frameless interior rear view mirror.  No big volume opportunity here.
The Tiguan GTE Active Concept was yet another attempt by VW to convince us that they actually have some SUV/Crossover products in the pipeline. They certainly cannot come soon enough for the struggling dealer body.  Although execution of the vehicle is quite good, the choice of wheels and tyres seemed dated.  In a move to convey ruggedness they put big truck tyres on the concept.  We would have preferred a bigger wheel and a lower profile tyre.


In this Episode 4, let’s talk about the German manufacturers and ask this question :
Why is it that the Germans (Audi excepted) seem to have forgotten that the definition of coupe or coupé is:
    “A closed two-door car body style with a permanently attached fixed roof”
Mercedes call their new 4-door GLE ‘thing’ a coupe; BMW have 4 and 6 Series Gran Coupe 4-Door Sedans, as well as the X4 and X6 Sports Activity Coupe 4 doors; while VW has a new SUV called the Cross Coupé GTE!  What is this all about?  Mercedes just went through an elaborate retake on their nomenclature, but cannot tell the difference between a 2-door and a 4-door.  BMW’s Gran Coupe 4-doors are at least sleek looking, but what happened to the letter “d” on Grand – or is it Granny?  Well, I know…It certainly follow the Pininfarina concept Car called Gran Lusso…The Mercedes GLE and BMW X4/X6 are about as far removed from a coupe as one can get,  — except perhaps for the VW GTE!  To say that I am disappointed in these manufacturers would be a gross understatement.
Mercedes Benz had quite a few new products to show off.  The previously revealed AMG GT provided the main “eye-candy” in a bright pearl white paint job.  The car is striking from every angle and should become a force to be reckoned with the market.  Not nearly as attractive is the MB copycat version of the BMW X4/X6, the GLE.  There is no accounting for (bad) taste I suppose, but few market watchers would have predicted that the ugly duckling “Sports Activity Coupes” from BMW would achieve sufficient traction in their customer base to force MB to follow with a similar – also ugly — product.  I just can’t talk about these vehicles any more…….  Also on display was the Maybach version of the S-Class.  The interior is a bit overdone, with every conceivable feature and luxury detail, but it would be nice to stretch out in the back with a glass of wine while someone else drives you to the yacht.
The F015 autonomous vehicle concept attracted quite a bit of attention.  This beast is huge, with 26 inch wheels, four doors each of which has its own large screen TV, the rear doors are rear hinged and there is no B-Pillar, the front seats swivel 180 degrees, so you can have a meeting while being autonomously conveyed to your next destination.  What a total waste of time — and it is ugly too.  I typically like MB styling, but they seem to have lost their way with the F015 and the GLE.  I do still love the S-Class Coupe, however, and yes, it really is a coupe!
There was not much new on the BMW stand.  The i8 is still gorgeous, apart from the bright blue seat belts that is.  The interior of the i3 on display left me cold, however, Supposedly it is responsible, eco-friendly and in tune with the younger crowd, but the exposed, reconstituted trim boards on the IP and the doors left me crying for leather or vinyl.  The seats just left me crying.  But all is not lost, the 650i Gran Coupe is beautiful, even if they did get the name wrong.
Audi introduced the new Q7 to mixed reviews.  Somehow it is not as elegant as the previous model with sharper feature lines and a more station-wagon look.  The body is now graced with a “side spear” towards the bottom of the doors, presumably to disguise the element of slab-sidedness.  The grille on the Q7 (along with other models) is larger and more intimidating – good for autobahn driving.  Audi still maintains an envied position in the industry with respect to interiors and the Q7 is no exception.  To be the benchmark for as long as Audi has in this critical area is an astonishing achievement.
The VW display was brightly lit, as ever and prominently displayed were its Motor Trend Car of the Year and North American Car of the Year awards for the Golf range.  VW has struggled for share in the US market this year and continues to underperform. Missing from the VW product line up are the small and mid-sized SUV’s and CUV’s that are presently selling so well in the US.  As in previous years, VW again showed a concept for a potential competitor in this segment.  This year it was the Cross Coupé GTE.  You and I would probably call it an SUV.  Shown in a delicate shade of metallic blue, the GTE is a sharp and clean design with a solid “machined” look.  It features a low bodyside ‘A’ line that also embraces the unusually low door handles.  This low feature line, together with a broad spear on the lower edge of the doors, combine to improve the appearance of another slab-sided body.  All in all this is a competent design, they just can’t get it to the dealers soon enough.


Mercedes-Benz continues its product onslaught with the new C Class, the new CLA and the new GLA.  The new designs are unmistakably Mercedes, providing a consistent flow across the entire range.  Bold grill treatments, sculptured bodysides and expressive lamps demand attention and exude presence.  The AMG versions of the CLA and GLA on the stand, however, lacked taste and descended into the “boy racer” realm with overdone graphics and, on the GLA, an oversized tailgate wing.  Now and again they ‘lose the plot’…
There was no loss of focus with the S Class Coupe concept.  This car was the Best in Show for my money.  It is a wonderfully elegant and flowing design with powerful wheels and a fabulous interior.  The nose may be a little too prominent, but again this may be a pedestrian impact effect.
Several of the new Mercedes have an interior feature that strikes me as odd, and that is the free standing or floating display screen for radio, navigation and other connectivity.  To me it looks like I stuck my iPad to the instrument panel with Velcro!

IAA 2013 | Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupé Concept

The Mercedes S-Class Coupe shown on Tuesday demonstrates what the Mercedes design direction will be in the near future. With this concept, Mercedes wanted to be in between emotion and tradition. The silhouette is elegant, fluid and muscular, with the latter somewhat emphasized by the extra width in the rear… The interior reeks of luxury, featuring white leather and aluminum. There is no doubt that when Mercedes uses the right materials and color combinations (and we have seen some terrible examples of when they did not…) it is THE luxury brand.

IAA 2013 | Mercedes-Benz GLA Class

The excellent concept introduced in Shanghai is now transformed onto the production car. Let’s say it is not what we were expecting from the press pictures and the concept preview. The concept car presented last April was massive (almost 2m wide and 1.58m height), but the production car looks quite different.It is more like a very low SUV or a raised A-Class, but the design is still very well structured and appealing. Very glamorous too…On the side view, the horizontal kind of V-shape gives a dynamic stance to the body. The front is not aggressive, but serious. If we compare with the A-Class,the wheel arches have been redesigned using a flat surface at the top. This small detail is quite important and gives a better stance to the car. The trunk seems bigger than the A-Class thanks to the redesign of the rear section. The disappointment comes from the interior, where aluminum parts are now made of.…plastic… If you are going to use plastic, just show it…especially if you are Mercedes…

IAA 2013

M001Every two years, the automotive world meets at the Frankfurt auto show and every time we are always surprised by the magnitude of the event.The photo of the Mercedes hall should convince you and give you a good idea ofthe ambiance…In this report, as usual, we are trying to give you a good overview of the autoshowwe have visited. We are only going to review some of the cars debuting in Frankfurt, as this year there were so many cars revealed. This shows that the automotive industry, even if it things are not going well, tries to put its head above the water…

As you will read in the coming articles, this 65th edition of the IAA was once again very impressive, let’s say “Kolossal” — especially in terms of how big the halls are. But, it was also colossal in terms of design when you consider the number of new cars and concept vehicles that we have seen. In fact, there were so many new cars this year that we had to make a selection of those on which to comment. This is a good sign. The automotive industry is “up and running” again. And Design is the starter…

Mercedes A-class

The class A is not a descendant of its predecessor, it is more than a new car, it is a new concept for that model. Aggressive and sexy the design is very structured, following the brand code’s. It will be a best seller, at least a very good contender in its category.