Tag Archives: Mercedes-Benz

2022 Kia Stinger GT-Line RWD

Power, handling, looks, Stinger as swanky as European makes …

Swanky European luxury sports sedans often crest $50,000, but they deliver the looks and performance that command a premium. Most also have earned a reputation for quickness and precision handling over decades of development.

So what happens when a newcomer sidles up behind the established leaders, looking a little younger, fresher and offering good measures of quickness and precision, yet at a more attractive price?

That’s what Kia has been about on a number of fronts, but its Stinger has been trying to put a charge into the luxury sports sedan market for a couple years now. Initial reactions were strong and for 2022 Kia upgrades its entry-level Stinger GT-Line with a big power boost. Gone is its 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, replaced with a 2.5 turbo I4 that creates … wait for it … 300 horsepower and 311 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s up 45 horsepower, an impressive boost.

Add to that a larger infotainment screen, more standard safety features, sharp LED head and taillights, new alloy wheels and snazzier gloss black and chrome interior trim. Oh, and standard too are rain-sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate controls and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto hookups.

The GT-Line, a trim level now across Kia models, replaces the GT as the base rear-drive Stinger and it does so at the surprising price of $37,135 including delivery. AWD is available for another $2,200, keeping the grippy model a smidge under $40,000. Try to find a European brand of this size and speed that competes on price. Heck, most of those are still charging extra for most of their paint colors, including gray.

My attractive Ascot Green (dark metallic green) was a standard color, no extra charge, and the lines are straight out of Ingolstadt with an aggressive nose and fastback flair. In fact, some won’t like to hear this described as a sedan despite its four doors, because the trunk is really a hatch that includes the large rear window.

To me that’s a selling point as hatches are always easier to load and unload and the cargo space is generous here at 23.3 cubic feet. But it’s unlikely a sports sedan buyer is worrying much about what’ll fit under the boot.

Watch Mark’s video: 2022 Kia Stinger review by Mark Savage – YouTube

Let’s return to the power and performance.

The new engine is definitely more torquey and pushes the GT-Line to an excess of highway speeds in short order. Topspeed.com ran it through the timing lights and managed 5.2 seconds 0-60 mph and a top speed of 130 mph. Are a few competitors quicker? Well, yes, but how much will you pay for each tenth of a second?

And if you need more power and quicker acceleration the GT1 and GT2 models both feature a twin-turbo 3.3-liter V6 that cranks 368 hp and 376 ft.-lbs. of torque and boasts a top speed of 167 mph. Of course both versions cost a bit more too, more along the lines of European sports sedans.

Handling is sporty, but best in the Sport drive mode that really firms up the steering effort and adds a precision closer to the European makes, if not quite there. Comfort drive mode is fine for most circumstances, but there’s also Eco, Custom and Smart, the latter of which learns how you drive and how you ARE driving and adjusts the 8-speed automatic’s shift points to fit, along with other engine and suspension adjustments.

Ride is stiffer than in the previous Stinger I’d tested and can be rather bumpy at times on our pot-hole strewn Midwest roads. All those cement highway expansion joints also can get a little old.

Braking is solid and quick with discs front and rear, the front being ventilated, the rears solid. All of today’s major safety equipment is standard here too such as emergency braking, blind-spot detection, lane keeping and smart cruise, plus a safe exit assist system to warn before you open a door into traffic. Note that some luxury makes still charge extra for blind-spot or rear cross-traffic detection.

Inside, Kia delivers another fine dash design. The test car featured a black leather interior with gray seat and dash stitching. Bezels on the gauges and air ducts are chrome with black gloss trim on the console and a flat black thick leather steering wheel and hub, the bottom spoke, door releases and dash buttons being a satin silver.

Kia goes with a big infotainment screen, 10.25 inches, a wireless phone charger and heated front seats, all standard. At least one of those will likely cost extra on a European make.

There’s also a sunroof overhead, but that’s part of a $2,300 sun and sound package that upgrades to a premium Harmon-Kardon audio system and a power front passenger’s seat. The driver’s seat is power, naturally, and both front seats were well shaped to provide back and hip support for if and when the driver decides to push the car toward its top-end performance.

I give Kia designers high marks for the dash’s simple layout and ease of use, from the touchscreen to the climate controls, no confusing symbols or odd button placement and all knobs easy to use.

On the not so great side is the loud annoying welcoming chime that goes off as you start the car and often when you turn the ignition off, along with a chime and dash warning to “check the rear seat.” It was there every time I checked!

Simplicity reins in the Stinger’s interior, adding to the upscale look and feel.

A few other things tweaked my sensibilities, including the drive mode knob on the console. I would prefer a toggle as it’s easier to tap forward for Sport and down for the other, lesser performance modes. I kept turning the knob the wrong way. Also, being a short dude I put the seat fairly far forward of the average size 6-footer and that made it tough to both reach the seatbelt over the driver’s shoulder, and then to latch it into the buckle that gets tucked down into the groove between the seat and console. Gloves made it nearly impossible.

Then there’s the typical complaint for any fastback model, or big SUV, a giant A-pillar and mirror combo that partially obstructs front to side views. I guess that’s why every vehicle now has so many sensors and the much needed 360-degree cameras.

Gas mileage in the GT-Line is good too, rated at 22 mpg city and 32 mpg highway by the EPA. I got 25.3 mpg, not bad for cold weather driving with minor snow on side roads. Premium fuel is preferred, but not required.

Final tally here was just $39,715, about $4,000 less than its nearest competitor from Audi. Add in the AWD and the difference is about cut in half. But the Audi quickly becomes pricier with a few options and a BMW starts about $8 grand higher. Closest may be Nissan’s fine Maxima, also with a 300 hp engine, and front-wheel-drive so likely to handle better in snow than this rear-drive model, although I had no problems on slippery side streets.

Sharp looking headlight design here!

Need more power and fancier interior features? Consider the GT1 starting about $44,000 or the GT2 at about $51,000.

Rumors also say the Stinger may be fazed out in the next year or so with electric models coming that will be performance-oriented too. But they may not look, or sound (twin-turbo V6) this sweet!

FAST STATS: 2022 Kia Stinger GT-Line RWD

Hits: Sporty fastback looks, good power and handling, an excellent sports sedan pricing. Big info screen, sunroof, heated seats, wireless charging, good climate buttons/knobs, big trunk, comfy supportive seats, easy to read dash, good mpg.

Misses: Noisy welcoming chime, and chime telling driver to check the rear seat, plus bumpy ride, drive mode knob instead of toggle, hard to fasten and reach seatbelt for short drivers, big A-pillar/mirror view blockage.

Taillights are slim and trim for an elegant design.

Made in: Sohari, S. Korea

Engine: 2.5-liter turbo 4-cyl., 300 hp/311 torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Weight: 3,792 lbs.

Wheelbase: 114.4 in.

Length: 190.2 in.

Cargo: 23.3 cu.ft.

MPG: 22/32

MPG: 25.3 (tested)

Base Price: $37,135 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $35,510

Major Options:

Sun and sound package (Harmon-Kardon premium audio system, power front passenger’s seat, sunroof), $2,300

Cargo mat, $125

Carpeted floor mats, $155

Test vehicle: $39,715

Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

2021 Lexus LS 500 AWD

A high-lux sedan even a CEO could love, and afford …

Rarely do the options on a test car add up to even more than a modestly priced car or crossover itself, but that’s what happened with this week’s high-lux Lexus LS 500 AWD.

            The sumptuous near limo added roughly $30,000 in options (14 to be exact) to crest $110,000. Now don’t take that as a criticism because let’s face it neither you nor I can afford a luxury sedan dripping with such opulent style and oozing electronic gadgets and gizmos that one might imagine sending Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson into outer space.

            This is a CEO-mobile and competes with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi’s long stretchy sedans that feature the same sort of goodies and enough interior leather to make a cattle farmer blush.

            Everyone can appreciate such plushness. My 12-year-old grandson quickly declared “this is the type of car I want.”

            Certainly there’s plenty to like, starting with the dynamic exterior styling that continues inside with cool dark wood trim with silver etched patterns that blend with the spiffy satin chrome streaks across the dash and air vents.

            Some declare the expansive Lexus spindle grille “too much,” but it has grown on me as all luxury makes have expanded their grilles and nose-mounted logos like a fairgoer’s waistline after wolfing down an entire box of cream puffs.

Is this grille too much? Or does it blend beautifully with the hood lines and lights?

            The way the hood and lights meld into the highly creased nose and grille is brilliant. Likewise the taillights are artistic expressions rarely found in today’s auto designs. And as I have mentioned, the interior is equally pizzazzy. This one featured bright white leather seats with stitching and quilting to set it way apart from the competition while overhead is a white ultra-suede headliner to brighten the interior that otherwise has a black dash and door tops.

            So, not surprisingly, the interior coddles while the undercarriage excites, starting with a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 hooked up to a silky 10-speed automatic. Smooth is exactly what you’d expect, but how about 416 horsepower along with a torque rating of 442 pound-feet?

            Watch Mark’s video: 2021 Lexus 500 AWD review by Mark Savage

            A romp down a highway entry ramp easily puts the Lexus at 100+ mph and there are six drive modes to help you get there. Eco won’t, but Normal, Comfort, Custom, Sport, and Sport+ can, especially the sportier settings that firm the steering and adjust shift points to emphasize power, something any CEO could appreciate.

            The older and wiser ones may also like the LS’s velvety ride and easy handling too. No racer on the handling front, the Lexus’s steering effort is mild and easy in all but the Sport settings, thus easy to park while still being super stable on a highway romp.

Inside, again, the LS is board room quiet (active noise control) and the leather seats so soft you’d swear that you were parking your keister atop baby butts, an odd picture, but you get it. These are super soft.

White leather all around could make even a cattle rancher blush!

Adaptive variable air suspension ($1,400 option) here soften things too along with adjusting car ride height. Lexus says this also allows the driver to raise or lower the car a bit for comfortable entry and exit.

            Beyond style the LS has loaded the interior with so much extra it’s hard to wrap up in a paragraph or two, but the $17,580 (that’s right) Executive Package adds that soft semi-aniline leather, and 28-way (crazy) front seats with a Shiatsu-inspired massaging feature. Five quick choices there and all can be tweaked for more specific functions and at various massage pressure levels.

            Oh, and the rear seat gets the same treatment with a 7-inch display screen that adjusts everything, plus allows the passenger-side rear seat to be reclined nearly fully while extending a footrest for a special rear seat passenger. Those seats in back are “only” 22-way adjustable, but front and rear both feature stylish butterfly headrests.

Rear seats recline and massage, need I say more?

            Naturally all seats are heated and cooled and the steering wheel is heated, although I could find no wireless charger here, an odd thing to be missing. There are plenty of plug-in ports though.

            That mega-package also adds the ultra-suede head liner, four-zone climate controls and spiffy power rear sunshades, two for each side window and one big one for the rear window. It retracts automatically if the car is put in reverse, allowing for better rear visibility.

            One could argue that’s plenty of luxury, but wait, there’s more!

            A 24-inch heads-up display adds $1,200, a panoramic glass sunroof another $1,000 (there’s a second stationary sunroof over the back seat with a power sun shade), and a panoramic view monitor for $800.

            The premium wood trim mentioned earlier (above) costs $800, the heated leather and wood-trimmed steering wheel is $410, and illuminated door sills run $450.

            Almost forgot, the test car also packed a Mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system that costs more than a monthly mortgage payment at $1,940. Wow!

            Good news too because Lexus has added a 12.3-inch touchscreen for the info screen and to control that radio. It works fine, negating the need, mostly, for the console’s awkward touchpad. Get this, a CD player is included too. Bravo, us oldsters thank you. Plus much of the fancy seat gyrations, heat and cool are adjusted via the screen. Screen visuals are fine too.

Large twin pipes aid the twin-turbo V6’s exhaust note.

Other pluses include a power tilt/telescope steering wheel, power trunk release and closure, and all the safety equipment you’d expect. Although oddly Lexus charges $3,000 extra for its Lexus Safety System+, which includes pre-collision warning with active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist. I would expect all that on my luxury car starting at $80,275, including delivery.

The test car also included AWD, a major boon in these northern climes as the car is rear-drive otherwise. That is included in this model’s base price, or is $3,250 extra if you order it on the base $77,025 RWD LS 500. A hybrid model also is available, starting at $84,000.

The closer you look, the cooler these taillights are!

Not that fueling costs will likely worry potential LS owners, but the car uses premium fuel and is rated 17 mpg city and 27 mpg highway by the EPA. I got an even 20 mpg in about a 60/40 mix that was heavier on highway driving.

On the more practical side its 16.9 cubic foot trunk is generous and will easily hold a couple bags of golf clubs.

Bottom line? CEOs and others with $100 grand car budgets, or companies that will lease them such cars, can get everything they want in an LS 500, plus maybe a few things they didn’t even know they wanted, or needed. LS equals Luxury Sedan!

FAST STATS: 2021 Lexus LS 500 AWD

Hits: Beautiful styling inside and out, smooth power, velvety ride, easy handling, 6 drive modes and AWD. Hush quiet interior, big screen, wide HUD, massaging heated/cooled seats, heated wheel, power rear sunshades, two sunroofs, full safety lineup, 23-speaker stereo, plus CD player.

Misses: No wireless charger, touchpad still backup for touchscreen and some would say giant grille is a bit much.

Made in: Tahara, Aichi, Japan

Engine: 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, 416 hp

Snazzy headlights perfectly blend with grille and hood!

Transmission: 10-speed automatic

Weight: 4,696 lbs.

Wheelbase: 123.0 in.

Length: 206.1 in.

Cargo: 16.9 cu.ft.

MPG: 17/27

MPG: 20.0 (tested)

Base Price: $80,275 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $73,936

Major Options:

Lexus Safety System+ (pre-collision w/active braking, active steering assist, pedestrian alert, front cross-traffic alert, lane change assist), $3,000

Adaptive variable air suspension w/rapid height adjustment, $1,400

Executive package (semi-aniline leather trim interior, 28-way power driver/passenger seats w/massage, ultra-suede headliner, power front seat buckles, butterfly headrests, 22-way power rear seats w/butterfly headrests & memory, message, heat, and 7-inch touchscreen controller, right-rear power recliner w/ottoman, 4-zone climate controls, power rear sunshades), $17,580

Digital rearview mirror, $200

20-inch split 10-spoke alloy wheels w/gloss black & machined finish, $920

24-inch heads-up display, $1,200

Mark Levinson 23-speaker audio system, $1,940

Panoramic glass roof, $1,000

Panoramic view monitor, $800

Premium wood trim, $800

Heated wood/leather trimmed steering wheel, $410

Illuminated door sills, $450

Rear bumper applique, $95

Door edge guards, $155

Test vehicle: $110,225

Sources: Lexus, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Die-Cast Autoart Pagani Huayra Roadster

Rockin’ Huayra Roadster is packed with detail …

Think of an Italian supercar and likely you’ll conjure up images of a Ferrari or Lamborghini in all its red or yellow sleekness that translates into sexy, exotic, and fast.

But now there’s Pagani, another Italian make out of Modena (Ferrari’s birthplace), and its sleek mistresses of speed, Zonda and Huayra. I don’t think of a Pagani dominated by one color either, so it’s fine that the Autoart 1:18 scale sample is in a blue tricolor carbon fiber finish. It’s an eyeball blistering look that will leap out amid any die-cast collection.

The History

First, you may want to know how to pronounce Huayra. Say waira!

The mid-engine supercar replaced the Zonda and packs a Mercedes-AMG 6.0-liter twin-turbo V12 to propel it from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. Horsepower is 720 coupe, 754 roadster. Torque is 738 lb.-ft. Top speed is 238 mph. So, faster than snot!

The car, designed by Argentinian Horacio Pagani who founded his namesake in 1992, debuted in 2012; the roadster launching in 2017. Weight is at a premium, just 2,822 lbs. overall for the roadster, about 150 lbs. less than the coupe. The 22-lb. exhaust system alone is specially made of titanium to reduce weight.

Front nose flaps aid Huayra’s handling.

Cool features? Well there are four automatically operated flaps, two front and two rear to optimize aerodynamics, minimizing drag and maximizing downforce.

The front flaps also cut body roll in corners while the rear flaps also serve as air brakes. That becomes much more important at 200+ mph than on city streets or interstates.

The roadster features a removable roof panel, a redesigned engine cover, and most obvious, doors that open conventionally. The coupe features gull-wing doors. Also unique to the roadster is its carbon triax fiberglass body mixed with carbon fiber bands, again keeping the car as light as possible.

Here’s the Pagani with its black roof panel in place.

There’s a price to pay, if you are among the car’s 100 buyers, or can snag a used one. New, the Huayra went for about $1.1 million. That makes the $330 price for Autoart’s 1:18 model seems a super deal by comparison.

The Model

               Already a top-tier die-cast car maker, Autoart’s models just keep getting better and better. This Pagani is gorgeous and as detailed as some models costing $500, or more. Another plus, Autoart creates more modern machines than most other high-end model makers who tend toward the classics.

               This one is spectacular.

               The body’s finish is perfect with the textured blue carbon fiber look meticulously reproduced. You can feel the slightly ribbed texture with a finger, and a bonus, you won’t leave a fingerprint as you might on a glossy finish.

               The four nose and tail flaps, as mentioned above, can be posed up or down. There’s a Pagani medallion on the black hood insert just at the windshield’s base. One giant wiper appears to sweep the windshield.

Love the quad exhaust grouping on the tail!

Black carbon fiber-like trim wraps the windshield and bulkhead bulges behind the seats where the separate roof can lay on top. Similar black carbon fiber graces the chin spoiler, the aero skirt along the side that blends into the rocker panel before the rear tires and then much of the rear-end, including the huge diffuser.

That spreads out just below the four exhaust tips that exit together out the top tunnels that run from those headrest bulges back to the tail. Wow!

               Up front are eight individual light lenses, grouped in twos, and horizontal light bars on the nose, just above the chin spoiler. The fine black mesh metal grille work on the nose is dainty and precise.

               There are cooling vents on the front fenders over the wheel wells with distinctive chrome dividers and likewise Pagani-labeled chrome accents over the vents built into the doors, again just behind the front wheels.

               Chrome Huayra script logos grace the rear quarter panels before the rear wheels and another is on the lower right of that black carbon fiber rear panel above the diffuser. Again, more delicate black wire mesh is on either side of the quad exhausts and another Pagani logo just below that. Rear taillights, all six of them, look realistic with matte chrome surrounds.

               The entire rear deck features more curves than on stage at a beauty pageant with the tunnels leading to the exhaust displaying more mesh in the elongated oval vents. An arrow-tip clear plastic insert is just over that AMG V12 so you can see its black, silver and yellow goodness, even with the bonnet closed. Flip up the big rear deck and there’s a full suspension, springs, detailed engine, bracing, and such to entertain a viewer.

There’s a ton of detail under the rear bonnet.

               With that open a couple luggage compartments, one on each side, will open to reveal tan luggage pieces that match the car’s interior. Great detail and a bonus for folks who like to pose their models with all opening features fully revealed.

               Doors open, naturally and with the roof off the interior view is unimpeded. Detail here is tremendous too. The interior is two-tone tan and black with oodles of silver or chrome accents. The doors have giant round chrome and black speaker/door release features that are a bit over the top, but then at a million bucks, you expect some of that.

               Seats are racing types with major side bolsters, cloth shoulder belts and textured seat cushions.

The tan interior is chock full of gauges, air vents and detail.

               This dash and steering column-mounted instrument panel looks like something from a starship, or at least an aircraft. The wheel is a tan and black flat-bottom racing style while the gauges on the column are mostly chrome and black and readable. Four round air vents protrude prominently from the dash and the center stack is fully detailed with screen and buttons, plus a red-balled control near the top that I must admit I have no idea what its function is.

               A silver gear shift lever is between the front seats and you can see carbon fiber firewalls in the foot wells and under the dash, plus giant speakers with chrome surrounds. It’s all pretty spectacular and much more visually interesting if you leave off the roof that can be placed on top for a closed-top roadster.

Cool that you can pose the car with its matching luggage!

               If you’re into serious rubber, the Pirelli P Zero Corsa tires are so-labeled and as wide as a hot dog eating champs’ butt. Nice tread pattern too.

Front wheels are steerable, with the steering wheel connected, so not just poseable. Wheels themselves are multi-spoked star designs in matte silver and behind those are monster drilled disc brakes with blue Pagani-branded calipers, the rears being somewhat different from the front calipers.

Details, details, details. That’s what Autoart is into big time and this Pagani epitomizes that attention. This is one of the most beautiful and fully detailed models I’ve ever reviewed. Winner!

Vital Stats: Pagani Huayra Roadster

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 78286
MSRP: $330

Link: Autoartmodels.com

2020 Range Rover Evoque SE AWD

New Evoque fails $64,000 question …

Range Rover’s new Evoque stirs a $64,000 question: Do you expect your new vehicle’s climate control system and heated/cooled seats to work every time you start the vehicle?

Apparently the answer is, No! Continue reading 2020 Range Rover Evoque SE AWD

2017 Chicago Auto Show

Cool new cars and fun stuff to do

Going to the Chicago Auto Show is one of our favorite trips of the year because we always have a great time. This year was no different. We captured some of it in the two videos below. If you’ve been thinking about going, and we recommend it, get a long little doggie, because it runs through February 20th.

Die-cast: CMC’s 1934-’38 Mercedes-Benz race car transporter

CMC creates a breathtaking Mercedes racer transport …CMC Mercedes-Benz race car transport

OMG, the detail here is incredible, breathtaking. Put this in a case, atop a desk, in any room and it’ll be the center of all conversations. Put one of CMC’s 1930s Mercedes race cars on it and, well, folks will be speechless.

CMC is known for nailing the details in all of its vintage racers, European cars and now, trucks. This Mercedes-Benz LKW L0 2750 is phenomenal, and particularly attractive because it ties in to a number of Mercedes racers CMC already has produced. This is the Mercedes transport that carried its dominant Silver Arrows racers, the W25, W125, W154 and W165, to and from European racetracks in the 1930s.

Like the rest of CMC’s lineup, the truck is 1/18 scale and features 2,365 parts, of which CMC says 1,991 are metal. I believe it as there are even metal rivets holding wooden planks in the truck bed in place. Not surprisingly, this hand-made transport carries a lofty price of $764, so it’s not for everyone. But we all wish we could own one.CMC Mercedes-Benz race car transport

The History

Suffice it to say this 2.75-ton truck was around for a lot of Mercedes‘ early racing history, which is why CMC recreated it. These were specially built rigid steel-framed trucks to carry the racers and had a low floor with sides and tail that flipped down for easier loading, and viewing. Thin metal ramps were attached to the tail to aid loading. Continue reading Die-cast: CMC’s 1934-’38 Mercedes-Benz race car transporter

2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport RWD

Jaguar XF R-Sport has the looks and the handling …2016 Jaguar XF R-Sport

Jaguars look better than most other luxury cars, and that matters in a world and a time when all luxury cars offer similar features and performance.

The Jaguar tradition is one of lean looks and mighty power, plus excellent handling. This new XF sedan fits that bill and pumps new blood into the Jaguar lineage. There’s the muscular nose and curved haunches that still resemble, albeit less obviously, a pouncing cat.

Power is generous too, a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 pumping out 340 horses and 332 lb.-ft. of torque. The spirited V6 pushes this rear-drive R-Sport edition to highway speeds quickly via a silky 8-speed automatic that you can let do its thing and not give shifts a thought, or you can flick the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel.

Such flicking will make the XF seem more spirited, but the automatic is so good you’ll likely let it do the job most of the time.

2016 Jaguar XF R-SportEven old muscle cars had plenty of power (although mostly horrible transmissions), so if handling is pedestrian the XF R-Sport would be just another sport luxury sedan. Ah, but handling is fine too, a fairly heavy feeling wheel, but one that is responsive and helps put some sport into the R-Sport. You can clip off a corner’s apex and accelerate hard out the other side and the Jaguar is purr-fectly (sorry) happy and stable.

The XF also features four dynamic driving modes, Sport, Normal, Eco and Winter. That last one will get a workout here most winters, especially with this being rear-wheel-drive. And Eco may save you a tiny bit of gas along with the annoying stop-start feature, that is easily turned off via a console button. Continue reading 2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport RWD

2015 Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic

Luxury laden Mercedes ML400 will spoil youIMG_0006

Most of us will never drive a Mercedes-Benz M Class, and that’s probably just as well because we’d all just be spoiled.

There’s not much to put a person off, unless it’s the price. But even there you have some choices to make that might allow a few more of us to afford one.

I drove a “steel gray” ML400 4Matic, the bi-turbo V6-powered unit that is one step away from the ultimate luxury mid-size sport-utility truck from Mercedes. It listed at $62,900, but ladled on 16 options that pushed it to $79,310.

Don’t let that price scare you off completely though. While this had all-wheel-drive and that powerful 329-horse V6, a lesser buyer could sneak into an ML350 with just rear-wheel drive and a 3.5-liter V6 that cranks 302 horsepower along with a torque rating of 273. The ML350 starts at $49,225, including delivery.

For those who prefer the slightly better mileage a diesel offers, Mercedes even has a BlueTEC model with 2.1-liter 4-cylinder diesel for $50,725. It delivers 200 horses, but a whopping 369 lb.-ft. of torque.

All this is to say that luxury has its price, but you do have copious options from power down to goodies to coddle you and your favorite passengers. Continue reading 2015 Mercedes-Benz ML400 4Matic

2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

C300 helps Mercedes moves back toward top

            Mercedes-Benz has rejoined the top-tier of luxury automakers after a decade, or more, of struggling with design and execution while other luxo-makes were raising the bar.MB2

Nearly two years ago I praised the GLK350, a small luxury ute that hit on all cylinders for luxury, equipment and performance. Now Mercedes goes deep again with its C300 sedan, one of its bread and butter offerings, a compact to mid-size sedan along the dimensions of a Lexus IS or, for us less monied folks, a Mazda6.

The C Class rides on a smoothing 111.8-inch wheelbase and weighs a middling 3,583 lbs. The car feels delicious.

How so? It’s a scrumptious blend of sporty power, an eager 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 241 horses, and comfort. All that starts with a silky 7-speed automatic transmission that easily harnesses the turbo’s 273 ft-lbs. of torque, and cushions the ride with independent suspension at all four corners.

Ride is absolutely stellar, controlled and easy on the occupants, but still responsive enough to lend the car a sporty edge. Cornering is smooth with minimal body lean and as precise as you want it to be.

MB5That’s courtesy of the test car’s Agility Select system that allows the driver to toggle through four settings, from Eco, to Comfort to Sport to Sport+. Moving up from Eco, each setting adds a few hundred engine revs and slightly firms the steering and ride. Eco naturally provides lackadaisical acceleration and a soft steering effort, but Comfort is close to right on for city driving. The C300 still has good power and handling is forgiving. Continue reading 2015 Mercedes-Benz C300 4Matic

2015 Kia K900

K900, like Equus, delivers quiet luxury, many features at lower priceK900A

Established luxury makes may want to check that rearview mirror as Kia and its cousin Hyundai are gaining on them, rapidly.

Case in point, the new Kia K900, the separated-at-birth twin to Hyundai’s luxurious Equus. Both the K900 and Equus are ladled with luxury features, look as luxurious as any full-size luxury sedans on the road, and are as quiet as Miller Park in October – quieter!

Sound deadening and a smooth-running 5.0-liter V8 create an interior that could pass for a sensory deprivation tank, if you close your eyes. You won’t want too though because the interior looks great too and cradles you in its soft leather trimmings.

Did I mention that you’ll pay on the order of $10 grand less than a “traditional” luxury make?

Consider the K900 starts at $59,500 and even at that price you get much of the luxury trimmings that came on the metallic gray test car, which added a $6,000 VIP package to push this to $66,400, including a $900 delivery fee. A Lexus, Audi, Mercedes-Benz or other full-size European luxury sedan will run you considerably more. But then their logos have been around longer.

k900bCertainly value is a big part of the Kia’s story, but while value talks, performance walks. That is, it puts you in the hunt for luxury sedan buyers’ stock option checks. Continue reading 2015 Kia K900