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  • 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Cabriolet

    Four-season drop top

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    It wasn’t that long ago that convertibles were considered summer cars because cloth tops weren’t well enough insulated to keep the interiors warm in cold weather. The new Mercedes-Benz E400 changes that with an acoustic top that is not only weather-resistant but renders the interior as quiet as a sedan. When the top is deployed, an electronic windscreen manages airflow through the cabin for a more pleasant open-air experience.

    Available 4Matic all-wheel drive gives the E400 Cabriolet sure-footed performance in rain, ice and snow.

    Power comes from a three-liter V-6 bi-turbo engine and nine-speed automatic transmission, delivering 329-horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The newest E-Class cabriolet is longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the outgoing model, increasing passenger space, especially in the back seats. Second-row seats also fold flat for some additional cargo space.

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Cabriolet

    Base price is $68,800 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include AMG alloy rims with high-performance tires, multi-contoured heated and ventilated front seats, air suspension and a premium package including park assist, wireless charging, satellite radio, premium surround-sound audio, intelligent lighting, adaptive high beams, steering assist, autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring and a heads-up display. Final MSRP is $89,735. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 4Matic Coupe

    Midsize crossover melds style, performance and versatility

    By Nina Russin

    2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

    2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300

    Mercedes-Benz calls the GLC300 a coupe, but it’s essentially a crossover with two doors, characterized by a higher ride height and more versatile interior. The GLC replaced the GLK in the automaker’s line-up in 2015: a larger vehicle with more room on the inside and dramatically different styling on the exterior.

    The 2017 model is essentially carry-over except for a new exterior color- Brilliant Blue metallic- and available saddle brown leather interior. The new exterior finish is a $720 option while the saddle brown leather is no cost.

    Base price for the mid-size GLC300 is $45,950 excluding the $925 destination charge. Power comes from a two-liter 241-horsepower turbocharged engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. The test car is equipped with all-wheel drive, eco start/stop and low rolling resistance tires, boosting the car’s highway fuel economy to 27 miles-per-gallon.

    Options on the test car include heated and ventilated front seats, air suspension, premium audio system, 20-inch alloy rims, navigation, satellite radio, real-time traffic and weather updates, ambient lighting, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist, active LED headlamps, leather seating, AMG sport package and active parking assist. Final MSRP is $64,185. Read the rest of this entry »

  • Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe

    Strength and style join forces in the ultimate luxury ALV

    By Nina Russin

    Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe

    Mercedes-Benz GLE450 AMG Coupe

    Mercedes-Benz describes the new GLE as the successor to the M-Class, but it’s a very different animal than the former midsize crossover. Imagine a sport coupe with the versatility of a SUV: that’s the GLE. The 2016 AMG version easily won our ALV of the Year award in the luxury category because it combines the athletic performance buyers with active lifestyles crave but in a versatile package, with room for camping equipment, kayaks and bicycles.

    Power comes from a three-liter biturbo engine rated at 362 horsepower with 385 pound-feet of torque, that propels the GLE from zero-to-sixty in just over five seconds. A nine-speed automatic transmission creates large overdrive gears to maximize fuel economy. All-wheel drive adds four season performance. The GLE has enough ground clearance to clear obstacles in unimproved roads and a fresh coating of snow, although I would recommend substituting smaller wheels and winter tires for the optional 22-inch rims on the test car.

    2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Euro-Spec

    2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE Euro-Spec

    The GLE’s exterior styling is polarizing. On crowded roads, the large grille and aggressive fascia with the Mercedes-Benz star front and center does a good job of conveying the message: “Don’t mess with me.”

    Base price is $65,100 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options on the test car include special paint and Nappa leather upholstery, ambient lighting, active curve assist, parking assist and a driver assistance package that includes additional active safety features, bringing the final MSRP to $84,085. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe

    Sleek sport coupe takes no prisoners

    By Nina Russin

    Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

    Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe

    In the world of Mercedes-Benz, there are two ways to do things: the Mercedes way and the wrong way. It might sound a bit harsh, but the automaker’s internal rulebook is the reason behind its exceptionally well-engineered cars.

    The three-liter bi-turbo V-6 engine underneath the hood of the new E400 sedan is a case in point, providing the power and performance of a V-8 engine with better fuel economy. An automatic start/stop feature cuts the ignition when the car is idling, so the driver doesn’t waste gasoline in stop-and-go traffic.

    The standard seven-speed automatic transmission extends gas mileage even further with large overdrive gears, while the bi-turbo setup flattens out the torque curve so drivers can harness the engine’s 354 foot-pounds of peak torque with the tip of the throttle.

    The newest generation of Mercedes-Benz automobiles also raises the bar for styling, replacing bland exteriors on former models with an angular front end and aero profile. From the side, full wheel arches that emphasize the test car’s optional AMG five-spoke rims and performance tires give the coupe the personality of a panther waiting to pounce. In the automotive world, there is nothing more alluring than a predator on four wheels.

    The coupe is available with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, offering owners in four-season climates some extra traction. Those wanting additional power can opt for the E550 model with a 402-horsepower V-8 engine.

    Base price for the rear-wheel drive test car is $53,350 excluding the $925 destination charge. Options include a sport steering wheel with formula-style shift paddles, heated and ventilated front seats, keyless start, summer performance tires, a premium package that adds COMAND infotainment with navigation, Verizon telematics, Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio, rearview camera and power folding mirrors, adaptive headlamps, AMG wheels, sport pedals, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist and parking assist. Final MSRP is $66,300. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400W4 Sedan

    Sport sedan rises to the next level

    By Nina Russin

    2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

    Although the C-Class sedan has always been a bread-and-butter model for Mercedes-Benz, there is nothing bread-and-butter about the new C-Class. Competing against the BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS and Lexus IS, the smaller sibling to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class has brought its A-game with a lighter more rigid body, two powerful engine choices, all-new suspension and eye-catching aerodynamic body.

    With the new CLA filling the brand’s entry luxury slot, the C-Class moves upscale. The C400 tested comes with the larger of the two engines: a bi-turbo 3-liter, 329-horsepower V-6. It’s not the horsepower but the torque that tells the real story: 354 foot-pounds available at engine speeds as low as 1600 rpm. Direct injection makes the engine more efficient and enhances throttle response, while the seven-speed automatic transmission stretches fuel economy on the highway to 29 miles-per-gallon.

    Unlike its predecessor, almost half the body parts on the 2015 model are aluminum, shaving close to 200 pounds off the car. That, combined with aerodynamic improvements has made the C-Class slipperier in the wind tunnel and quieter on the open road.

    An all-new four-wheel independent suspension incorporates a four-link configuration up front and five link design in back. Buyers can upgrade to the optional air suspension.

    Base price on the test car is $48,590, putting the new C-Class at the heart of the luxury market. Options include active park assist, a panoramic sunroof, heads-up display, 18-inch alloy AMG wheels, air suspension, an infotainment upgrade, hands-free trunk access and a safety package that includes steering assist, blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, pedestrian detection with auto-brake and rear collision protection. Adding the $925 destination charge, final MSRP is $62,905. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon

    Beauty, brains and brawn in a single package

    By Nina Russin

    2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Wagon

    If there’s a car on the market that can once and for all eliminate America’s bias against wagons, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 is that car. The newest Benz wagon combines exquisite styling with an enhanced roster of safety features that includes pedestrian detection, active park assist, a surround-view camera, active lane keeping and steering assist.

    Buyers can choose between V-6 gasoline and four-cylinder diesel engines. The test car comes with the 3.5-liter 302-horsepower V-6 and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

    There are two-styling themes, luxury and sport, each with a unique front end. The test car has the sport grille with an integrated star. A chrome strip across the lower part of the front bumper accentuates a new headlamp design that integrates high beams, low beams and daytime running lamps into a single assembly.

    Base sticker price is $58,600, excluding the $925 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a sport steering wheel, 18-inch AMG wheels with low-profile performance tires, heated front seats, navigation with Mercedes-Benz apps, LED adaptive headlamps, a lowered sport suspension, parking assist, blind spot monitoring with steering assist, cross traffic alert and pre-safe with pedestrian detection. Final MSRP is $70,215. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show

    OEMs predict a brighter 2013

    By Nina Russin

    The fourth-generation Range Rover made its North American debut in LA

    Los Angeles is the first of four major auto shows in the United States, and therefore sets the tenor for the remainder of the season. While sales statistics can be misleading, catering spreads which accompany the various press conferences are much more telling.

    Before the crash of 2008, the show floor was rife with the spoils of success. It was rare to find any press conference without an espresso machine and plates of scones. Full-fledged buffets with open bars were not unusual. I remember one automaker inviting journalists to take home folding chairs set out for the event. The chairs were nice enough to furnish a summer cabin.

    When things went black four years ago, it was hard to find a bottle of water on the show floor, much less a cappuccino. While I don’t condone swag wagons at editorial functions, the lack thereof was certainly telling.

    Gradually, the amenities came back, beginning with some ice buckets with refreshments and the occasional Danish pastry. But it was not until the 2012 show which opened to the media this week that “real food” made its reappearance on the show floor. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC

    Seven-passenger clean diesel SUV goes the distance

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Mercedes-Benz GL350

    The Mercedes-Benz GL combines the cargo and passenger space active families need, with the automaker’s legendary performance and cutting edge safety technology. Second-generation models introduced earlier this month include both clean diesel and gasoline variants, as well as a high-performance AMG version.

    Pricing for the BlueTEC clean diesel model begins at $62,400, excluding the $905 delivery charge. In addition to being one of the least expensive GLs, clean diesel offers big savings at the fuel pump. Although EPA fuel economy figures have yet to be released, diesel delivers 25-30 percent better fuel economy than gasoline. The automaker claims a 600-mile cruising range between fill-ups.

    The test car is fully loaded with options, which include special white diamond paint, massaging driver and front-passenger seats, navigation, Harman/Kardon surround-sound audio system, satellite radio, power folding mirrors, adaptive headlamps with headlamp cleaners, three-zone climate control, blind spot monitoring, perimeter camera displays, adaptive damping, panoramic sunroof, power second and third-row seat controls, illuminated running boards, and rear-seat entertainment. Final MSRP is $93,040. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

    Third generation roadster gains muscle under the hood

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

    Two-seaters are by nature personal cars, purchased by drivers who value the experience of being one with the road. While I wouldn’t classify the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350 as a sports car, it is certainly a vehicle for enthusiasts of beautifully crafted and styled automobiles.

    The third-generation model which debuts for 2012 evokes memories of the iconic 190SL. The newest SLK shares the original SL’s long hood and short rear overhang. The design is considerably softer and more refined than the 1996 SLK, whose rather angular exterior always struck me as a bit unresolved.

    Underneath the 2012 SLK’s hood is a more powerful V-6 engine, rated at 302 horsepower. Direct injection delivers gasoline directly into the cylinders rather than through the valves for enhanced throttle response and reduced parasitic fuel loss. The automaker estimates zero-to-sixty acceleration at 5.4 seconds.

    A seven-speed automatic transmission enhances the coupe’s fuel economy even further by providing large overdrive gears for the highway. Despite the additional power, the newest SLK350 averages four miles-per-gallon more on the highway and one more in the city than the model it replaces.

    Base price is $54,800 not including the $875 delivery charge. Options on the test car include a premium package which upgrades the audio system and adds seat and neck-level heaters ($2590); bi-xenon headlamps with washers ($1070); hard drive navigation ($2150); 18-inch AMG wheels and ground effects ($2500); a panoramic roof ($500); wind foil ($350) and ultrasonic park assist ($970); bringing the price as tested to $65,805. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet

    Sexy drop top with stand-out performance

    By Nina Russin

    2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet

    In my next life, I’d like to come back as a Mercedes-Benz E350 cabriolet. Everybody would love me. Performance buffs would appreciate my 268-horsepower aluminum V-6 engine which accelerates from zero-to-sixty miles-per-hour in 6.7 seconds. Dip your foot into my throttle and I’ll launch you like a hurricane.

    My aerodynamic profile and available 18-inch AMG alloy wheels will make heads swivel. Available adaptive headlamps swivel as well, to better light corners in dark suburban streets.

    Most important, my owners will love me for the way I pamper and protect them, with standard safety features including eleven airbags and pre-safe: a progressive system that warns the driver, adjusts seatbelts and applies the brakes to mitigate rear-end collisions.

    Standard convenience features including a fully-automatic power folding top which deploys in twenty seconds, fourteen-way power adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate controls and surround-sound audio system with Bluetooth interface make the driver the master of his universe.

    Mercedes-Benz’s AIRCAP system reduces air turbulence when the top is deployed. Optional air outlets near the headrests blow warm air onto the occupants’ necks in cold weather.

    This is not to suggest that I,  the sexy cabriolet, am without limits. My cargo area is small. It will hold the weekly groceries and one moderate-sized suitcase. It might also hold a golf bag, but certainly not a bicycle. Owners who want to haul big gear will need to do so in another vehicle, such as my sibling, the GLK.

    Also, I am rather costly: base MSRP is $56,850. 

    I am none-the-less a great value. Unlike many cabriolets, I am a four-season car, thanks to my four-layer insulated top and heated front seats. My structure is as rigid an any sedan or coupe on the road. With my soft top in place, the interior is also as quiet. Read the rest of this entry »