Today Mercedes completes its sedan refresh that started with the S-Class, focused on the smaller C-Class last year and finally makes its way the middle child E-Class at this year’s North American International Auto Show. The family resemblance is crystal clear outside and in with the same quality materials and artful design embellishments that debuted on the S 550 finding a home in the E-Class cabin. That means there is a giant 12.3″ high-resolution screen in the center of the dash and potentially two of them side by side on certain trim levels. Mercedes is particularly proud with the seat design and the news touch pad controls on the steering wheel that let you swipe up and down, left and right to control certain infotainment functions. A 9-speed automatic handles shifting duties in the E300 that hits dealers first in the US market. These cars are powered by a 241 hp 2.0-liter turbo, although the lineup will rapidly expand all the way up to a new hooligan-approved E63 AMG model.
Automakers, especially the luxury marques, are downsizing in a big way. Their once compact “entry”-level sedans have all grown up. And now they are introducing a new breed of “compacts” to fill the voids. As we’ve discussed before, this sort of activity can sometimes dilute a brand’s pedigree. Nevertheless, these compacts have proven themselves to be lucrative assets time and again. Enter the A3, Audi’s response to the A4 ballooning in all directions. This latest generation loses the hatchback (unless you wait for the plug-in hybrid variant of course) body in favor of America’s more traditional preference: the sedan. Compare the A3 to the A4 of ten years ago and you’ll find a car that fills the vacancy within a mere 100 lbs and with similar size and equipment. Even the engines are familiar; the base engine being a 1.8T and the upgraded 2.0T standing in for the old A4’s V6 with matching horsepower and more torque. Watch and tell us if you agree. Read more…
In our opinion, the Mazda6 needed no updates to stay competitive in the midsize sedan segment, but Mazda isn’t satisfied with simply remaining competitive; it wants to leave no doubt that it’s the driver’s choice in whatever segment it competes. As a result, the 6 will enter the 2016 model year with a host of refinements to interior and exterior design, as well as upgrading to the company’s latest infotainment system. That’s the same system that we’ve praised in our experience with the smaller Mazda3. Coupled with reductions in NVH and continuing to earn a 40mpg highway EPA rating, the 6 shooter looks poised to remain our default recommendation in the family sedan segment.
Cadillac may have taken the wraps off the ATS-V sport sedan and coupe several weeks ago, but the significance of the car has not diminished. Gleaming under the lights at Cobo Hall during the North American International Auto Show, Cadillac is giving potential buyers and up close look at the brands most agile performance model. The ATS-V is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V6 that produces V8-like power output. Horsepower is rated at 455 and torque at 445 ft.-lbs. A six speed manual appeases the traditional enthusiast crowd while an eight speed paddle shift automatic caters to those who don’t mind a little bit of technology assisting in their sprint to 60. Cornering is enhanced by magnetic ride control while braking is accomplished with 14.5″ diameter front rotors with staggered six-piston calipers. That speed is accomplished in a mere 3.9 seconds and terminal velocity is achieved at 185 mph. It will be easy to distinguish an ATS-V from its standard coupe and sedan brethren by means of a mesh grille, vented hood, and deck lid spoiler. The ATS-V should eliminate any doubt that Cadillac is capable of playing in the premium sport sedan league.
It is hard to believe that it has been 30 model years since Hyundai introduced the lowly Excel to the United States. Priced at $4995 it pretty much was undercut in price (and quality) by only the Yugo GV. The Excel has long left the market and Hyundai has slowly and surely been moving the top end of its brand upmarket. Rather than introduce a separate marque to sell premium cars Hyundai has simply added the range topping Equus. The ‘base’ Equus we piloted starts at $61,250. For that type of money one could purchase a whole fleet of Excels if one were skilled enough to find any unlikely survivors. And yet at just over sixty grand the Equus undercuts similarly spec’ed flagships like the 7-Series and A8. This pricing strategy mirrors that of Lexus in its inaugural 1989 model year. Has Hyundai truly refined its skills to offer a legitimate luxury cruiser capable of threatening the established BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus offerings? Will the well-to-do be willing to shop for their Equus in the same showroom as those who are negotiating for low monthly payments on an Elantra? Watch as we ponder these questions in the video above. Read more…
It took a few tries, but Kia now has a legitimate competitor to the excellent Buick LaCrosse and it’s called the Cadenza. Kia has equipped the Cadenza with a strong V6 that uses 293 hp to move it around just as well as the slightly stronger Buick and, although the looks might not quite match the Lacrosse’s luscious lines, it smartly uses a little chrome to pass off as a player that belongs. Inside is where Kia really did their homework, offering all the appropriate features like an excellent Infinity audio system, heated seats all around, a heated steering wheel, panoramic roof, rear sunshade, even a driver’s ventilated seat. Done up nicely with two-tone black and cream leather and stylish dark wood, the Cadenza has to make no apologies for its quiet and comfortable cabin. If we snap into our hyper critical mode the switchgear on the center console lags the best of the competition and the front grille still lacks personality in our opinion, but consider the pluses and add in the value of a ten year warranty and the $42k sticker price is spot on.
F Sport is Lexus talk for sport package equipment and styling layered onto one of their mainstream models. We’ve come to like the idea, especially in the GS F Sport configuration which feels far livelier and more rewarding to drive than lesser GS models. Unfortunately the IS 250 F Sport we just spent a week with doesn’t feel as comprehensively upgraded as it should. The result is a tidy little sedan that should be light on its feet and responsive being hampered by a transmission that shifts slowly even in sport mode and steering that doesn’t deliver the corner carving connection that you can find in other F Sport models. Of course the F Sport package does improve the IS’s looks with attractive wheels and the gauge cluster is one of the neatest on the market. We’re afraid it’s just not enough to win our recommendation for Lexus’ little sport sedan.
If you want style in the Volkswagen lineup you’re going to be shopping for a CC. One of the original “four door coupes” continues in 2014 as a entry level luxury sedan distinguished by sleek styling and an athletic turbo four cylinder that may be rated at only 200 hp but feels like closer to 250. During our week with the oft-verlooked Passat alternative we came to enjoy features like opening the trunk with a wave of your foot under the bumper, the easy to fold down back seats and the superb cabin materials. We didn’t find much love for the slow to respond infotainment screen or the couple rattles that materialized around the interior. With strong competition in the mid to upper $30k segment the CC has to rely on its looks to get by but for some buyers driving a car that isn’t found in every driveway in the community is appealing enough to sign on the dotted line.
Mazda knows how to build cars we like. From the rewarding 6 and consistently excellent 3 to the newcomer CX-5, which brings sporting dynamics to the crossover market, the little Japanese manufacturer keeps giving us what we want. So you can bet we were excited to get behind the wheel of the new 41 mpg third-generation 3 recently. Of course you’ll want to watch the video for all the details, but we’ll drop a spoiler here: if you buy another small car, you’ve made the wrong choice.
The Passat has been a comfortable and roomy family sedan since we were gifted our own built-in-America version a few years back. What it has lacked is a good base engine and a bit of style. The Passat Sport aims to address both with a few design flairs, and thankfully, a new 1.8-liter turbo four to replace the lethargic I5. Are the updates enough to warrant a recommendation? You’ll have to watch to find out, but if passenger space is high on your priority list then the Passat should be high on your test drive list.