Category Archive:

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet

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Very Nicely Done “Front and Rear Six” The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a dramatic mid-cycle update that takes a relatively milquetoast car and gives it a striking personality make over.  The major change is a much more aggressive front end appearance including all-LED headlamps with integral running lamps.  The lower front fascia includes larger scoops and is accented by a chrome strip at the leading edge of the front air dam.  Given these are the sporty models of the E-Class, the coupe and cabriolet include Mercedes’ bold three pointed star in the grille opening.  All-in-all, the front appearance change practically makes the E-Class coupe and cabriolet look like all-new cars.


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Mercedes S-Klasse Premiere – Sturm und Drang!

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Mercedes-Benz premiered its all new S-Class sedan in Hamburg on May 15, 2013.  Held at the Airbus factory where final assembly of the Airbus A320 and A380 is occurring, Mercedes took advantage of an over-the-top venue for an over-the-top introduction to their new Flagship.  While an introduction like this should showcase the car (which it did), the showmanship used by Mercedes in this occasion was second to none.  A very official looking YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U94OftPwcAc) shows the event up to just before Deiter Zetsche announced Alicia Keys who was sitting in the back of the center stage S-Class.  They probably were prevented from showing her performance for contract reasons, but it was pretty darn good.  She even worked very well with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra that was playing original compositions prior to her arrival.


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2014 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Freshening

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USA sale of the 2014 Mercedes Sprinter will begin on September 1, 2013 via 218 dealers in the USA.  161 are Mercedes Benz dealers and the remainder is Freightliner dealers.  About 80% of the 20,969 Sprinters sold in the USA in 2012 were Mercedes.  The only difference between the Mercedes and Freightliner is the grille texture and badging.  Prices are the same.


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2014 Lexus IS Ready to Take on the Germans?

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Almost There – IS350 F-Sport Nears 335i Performance Feel The all new 3rd Generation Lexus IS is a near luxury sport sedan to be launched during June 2013 as a 2014 model year entry (the 2013 IS C hardtop convertible based on the 2nd Gen IS continues for another year selling along side the 4-door sedan) .  The major question is whether it is ready to take on the Germans in its class.  To answer that question, Lexus served up three IS350 F-Sports, a BMW 335i and Mercedes C350 and a nice little track outside Austin, Texas – Driveway Austin Motorsports.  You could drive each car for two laps per outing as many times as you wanted or time allowed.  The conclusion is that the BMW retains the Ultimate Driving Machine crown, the IS350 F-Sport is very, very civilized and competitive, and the C350 approaches land barge category.  The 335i is very sporty, very precise and tuned for performance.  The IS achieves its competitive position only when you opt for the IS350 with the F-Sport package giving the car upgraded suspension and steering.  The more mundane IS models – IS250 and IS350 – are softer and more tuned to the casual driver.  But, the F-Sport is a gas to drive. Unfortunately, an Audi A4 was not available for the track exercise.  It would have provided an interesting comparison.

So, with the excitement of the track experience out of the way, we were able to drive the IS on the great Texas Hill Country roads around the area.


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Audi S7 Beautiful, but Difficult to Drive Smoothly

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We began this year with a string of new high performance Audi sedans – S6, S7 and S8.  We have not gotten to the S8 yet, but the S6 and S7 are pretty similar cars so lets concentrate on the S7 fastback.  Think of the A7/S7 as Audi’s answer to the Mercedes CLS and the BMW 6-Series Grand Coupe.  The S7 is a four-door coupe with a very fast backlite and large rear hatch.  Opening the rear hatch reveals a huge rear cargo area.  While the S7 has a very sporty profile, its design has sacrificed ingress/egress in the front and especially rear seats.  The style limits rear seat headroom and the legroom in the rear is also down a bit from the three box S6 sedan.

Interior Par for the course, the S7’s sport interior is special with great attention to detail, great fit and finish and a very upscale ambiance.

No Fingerprints, Please Audi ‘s multi media interface (MMI) continues with controls on the center console not a touchscreen.  The Audi MMI is easy to use and somewhat intuitive once you have used it a few times, but it would fail the rental car test (unfamiliar car in a rental car lot at midnight in the driving rain).  Unlike its brethren Volkswagen and Porsche that now use touchscreens, Audi has stayed away from them because fingerprints on the screen are unsightly.

Get the Comfort Seat Package In the S7, the black and lunar silver interior is tasteful, but the seat bolsters are too aggressive for casual driving.  At this price, the seats in the S7 should have power adjustable cushion and back bolsters so you can have either a very supportive seat that you fit snugly in or a wide open seat that lets you move around however you want to.  Sure the “S cars” are sport performance models, but at $94,570 for the S7, there should be loads of comfort as well.  Recognizing this, Audi offers a comfort seat option for $1,950 that provide heating, cooling, massage and memory functions.  Unfortunately, the comfort seats are available only in black Valcona leather not the silver/white leather in the evaluation S7.

Featherlight Toe on the Accelerator But the sport seats weren’t the only thing that presented a problem.  The S-Cars are powered by a 420-horsepower 4.0L V8 with twin turbochargers and cylinder on demand.  Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission and Audi’s great Quattro all wheel drive system, this car should be a real pleasure to drive.  Lots of horsepower and torque.  Effortless V8 with turbos!  Wow.  But it isn’t a pleasure to drive.  Tip-in the accelerator and there is a hesitation that makes you shy about merging into traffic from a stop unless you stomp on it.  Maybe it’s the performance setting in the MMI?  Comfort?  The same.  Auto?  The same.  Dynamic?  The same… even worse.  Once you get the S7 rolling, it is delightful.  The throaty rumble of the engine is joyous.  But getting up to speed takes a featherlight touch of the toe to do smoothly.

So, the S7 is really for a person who wants upscale coupe styling and a lot of power.  It’s not for a person who needs to provide rear seat space or comfort.  The S7 is a car that turns heads and likes to be driven at speed, but it is a touchy low speed cruiser.


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Women Drivers More Satisfied than Men

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An automotive industry truism is that it is easier to satisfy your grandmother than a young man.  Is this true?  At least the gender portion of the statement is accurate.

Driver satisfaction is a critical measure of vehicle acceptance.  Having a satisfied buyer results in better loyalty, better word-of-mouth, stronger image.  Satisfaction is a central building block of a brand.  AutoPacific has been measuring driver satisfaction since 1993 and it is always instructive to look at the differences between women and men drivers.

In AutoPacific’s annual 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction research, women drivers score 39 rating points higher than men – 674 over 635 in their overall Vehicle Satisfaction score.

Cadillac Tops Satisfaction Among Women While the top four brands in the satisfaction hierarchy are the same – Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Lincoln – the scores given them by women are much higher.  Cadillac up 50 rating points.  Mercedes up 16 rating points.  Lexus up 41 rating points.  Lincoln up 42 rating points.  Interestingly, the rating for Fiat – perhaps the ultimate chick’s car – is at the bottom of the list among women but still higher by 29 rating points than among men.

Infiniti FX - Top in Satisfaction Among Women

Models With Touches of Luxury Score Better With Women In terms of individual vehicles the top twelve satisfying vehicles among women are:  Infiniti FX at 774 (+94 rating points higher than men), Chrysler 300 at 767 (+89 rating points), Lexus ES at 742 (+40), Cadillac SRX (+48), Mercedes C-Class at 735 (+50), Buick Enclave (+57), Honda Crosstour at 729 (+73), Lincoln MKS at 728 (+50), Range Rover Evoque at 728 (+43), Lincoln MKX at 726 (+58), Honda Odyssey at 725 (+40), Lexus RX at 725 (+43).  The lowest vehicle line among women is the Nissan LEAF at 550 rating points.  The highest scoring vehicle among men is the Mercedes-Benz ML practically tied with the Cadillac Escalade.  The lowest vehicle line among men is the Mazda2 at 502.

Women are More Satisfied With a Comfortable Stuff Hauler Women are much more satisfied with Fuel Economy (+8.3%pts), Warranty (+6.9%pts), Collision Avoidance Technology (+6.9%pts), 3rd Row Seat Comfort (+6.8%pts), 2nd Row Seat Comfort (+6.3%pts), Flexible/Changeable Seating (+6.5%pts), Rear Seat Entertainment System (+6.4%pts), Roof Rack (+6.0%pts), Price/Monthly Payments (+6.0%pts), Convertible Top (+6.0%pts).  Many of these attributes are characteristics of vehicle types very popular with women drivers like Sport Utility Vehicles and Minivans.  They want a comfortable vehicle with a good warranty that gets good fuel economy.  They want the interior to be flexible and provide entertainment for their children.  They are more satisfied with an affordable stuff hauler useful with children.


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2013 Lexus LS460 – Welcome Facelift and F SPORT

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The Lexus Flagship – the LS460 4-door sedan – is freshened for the 2013 model year.  This comes after an all new Audi A8 in 2011, a tweaked 2012 BMW 7-Series, and the new Cadillac XTS (which may not be in this class).  A major change for the Mercedes-Benz S-Class is due in early 2013 as a 2014 model year.  The Jaguar XJ that was all new in 2009 as a 2010 model gets a much needed all wheel drive system for 2013.

2013 Lexus LS460 F SPORT


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Mercedes S-Class – Most Ideal Vehicle and Premium Luxury Car

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

S-Class Dominates Porsche Panamera for IVA Win: The 2012 Mercedes-Benz S-Class comes closest to the ideal of any vehicle – car or truck.  In the Premium Luxury Car class, the S-Class out-points the second place Porsche Panamera by 72 rating points.  Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Getting a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of S-Class owners rate these characteristics ideal:  exterior size, interior lighting, passenger roominess, driver’s seat comfort, ride and handling, tires and ease of getting in and out.  Eighty-percent or more of S-Class owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  driver’s seat visibility, cargo space, exterior styling, wheels, power and acceleration, interior storage features, safety features.

The Mercedes S-Class also won AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Best In Class Premium Luxury Car.

Infotainment System – The Only Close Miss for the 2012 S-Class: The only feature S-Class owners weren’t enthralled with was the infotainment and entertainment system.  With 79% of the respondents saying the system was ideal in the S-Class, this was a close miss.  About 17% of S-Class owners would like more/better infotainment technology than they have now.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/consumer-s-ideal-cars-revealed-in-2012-iva-awards-112116/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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Mercedes-Benz GL – 80% New for 2013

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Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTEC

Mercedes’ (@mbusa) top of the line SUV, the 7-passenger GL (#2013GL-Class), is new for 2013.  As the top selling premium luxury sport utility vehicle, GL certainly is a healthy profit contributor to parent company Daimler AG.  Built at Mercedes-Benz Tuscaloosa, Alabama assembly plant, 53% of GL production is sold in the United States.  The 2013 GL is the second generation GL and continues to be derived from the platform that also underpins the 5-passenger ML.  About 80% of the GL is all new for its second generation.  We had a chance to drive several versions of the new GL at its global press preview in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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EuroLuxury Psychographics – What You’d Expect

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Psychographics are any attributes relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyles. Each year, AutoPacific includes a battery of questions in the New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey that allows us to determine what the psychographic profile of each brand and model.  The results are often fascinating, or simply obvious, but confirming perceptions you might have had about a brand.

AutoPacific’s psychographic model has been developed using input from over 200,000 respondents to the New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey from 2009 through 2012.  Applying this model to our latest data lets us make valuable comparisons such as for the European Luxury Brands shown below:


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