2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA: Mercedes-Benz has been in a slow launch mode for the new front wheel drive 2014 CLA sedan since the beginning of 2013. The car has just gone on sale and advertising is blanketing the airwaves. So, what’s the story?
Target – Millennials – Does it Have Enough Rear Seat Room? The CLA is Mercedes’ price leader in the USA. Mercedes proudly touts its $29,990 base price and admits its attempt to intercept drivers under 35 before they buy their first premium brand car from BMW or Audi. Most CLAs will be priced in the $35,000 range when you get the $2,300 premium package (garage door opener, premium sound w/iPod interface, heated front seats, dual zone climate control) and the $2,370 multimedia package (rear view camera and navigation system). For that mid-thirties price you get a fully featured front wheel drive 4-cylinder four door sedan and the Mercedes three-pointed star.
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.
Now that I have had a chance to digest the upcoming all new Lexus LS460 I have to conclude that it will be one formidable competitor. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific analysts concur.
In an auto show season when the USA audience has the chance to see an all new (to the USA) Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS460, there is an opportunity to do some deep soul searching about the group of flagship sedans that top the car market in the USA. We include the Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Infiniti Q45, Jaguar XJ, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS in this group of excellent cars. We might reach downmarket a bit to the Acura RL and upwards a lot to the Bentley Continentals, but the key competitors are Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Lexus and Mercedes. By far, the best seller has been the Lexus capturing 27% of the class in its last full year of production.
So, why would a Japanese luxury car now be worthy of becoming the benchmark of the Premium Luxury Segment? The Lexus LS has had the corner on durability, quality and reliabiliity consistently rating higher than the German marques in AutoPacific quality and satisfaction research. In fact, in most years the Lexus LS wins AutoPacific’s prestigious Vehicle Satisfaction Award (in 2005, the Jaguar XJ won by a nose over the Lexus). So, now, the new Lexus LS may clearly establish its mainstream models as the cream of the Premium Luxury Car crop because now the car will have distinctive styling arguably on a par with the best coming from Europe. No longer can the LS be described as boring and bland.
Latest S-Class Introduced to North America in Los Angeles
Though Mercedes has been making more news Stateside with its new SUV entries, the R-Class, the M-Class and G-Class, their top sedan is all new for the 2007 model year. While the S65 AMG introduced in Detroit can get lead-footers interested, Mercedes launched the U.S. S-Class with the 382HP 5.5L V8 in the form of the S550. The S65 and a S600 (with a 510HP 5.5L V12) both arrive later in 2006. Within the next couple of years, the S-Class will also likely get a hybrid powertrain option as indicated by a show version at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show alongside the world premier of the S-Class.
The newest S-Class, as its previous iterations have done, raises the stakes in terms of technology and style. Among them are an update to the Pre-Safe anti-crash system as well as Distronic radar-based cruise control that can assist in stop-and-go traffic and works with the brake assist system to help avoid rear-end collisions. Also on the table is an infra-red night vision system.
AutoPacific (http://www.autopacific.com) research shared with VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) indicates that Mercedes-Benz reliability with newly introduced high technology features has been spotty. At the same time, AutoPacific research shows that Mercedes’ image in the USA has deteriorated substantially over the past five years as the images of archrivals BMW and Lexus have continued to soar. The new S-Class has to be bulletproof for Mercedes to begin regaining its reputation as the highest quality, most prestigious automobiles available. View an upcoming VehicleVoice videocast in which Robert Cumberford, renowned styling critic for Automobile Magazine, gives a critique of the new styling of the S-Class.
S65 AMG: Still the Most Powerful Series-Production Sedan
Mercedes-Benz has been hard at work adding new products to its portfolio with the R-Class, upcoming GL-Class, all-new M-Class, and European-market B-Class all arriving within a sixteen-month span, but the company has not left behind its flagship S-Class sedan. The choice of dignitaries everywhere was officially introduced at the 2005 Frankfurt auto show, ahead of late 2005 sales in Europe.
Mercedes saved the introduction of the currently fastest version of the S-Class for North America, however. The latest S65 AMG is being introduced at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. Though the GL-Class is expected alongside the S65 AMG, the S65 will retain the title of the world’s most powerful production-series sedan, carrying on with the 6.0L biturbo V12. This year, its output has increased slightly to 612HP.
Along with modifications to some of the materials and components in the engine for improved performance and better cooling, there are other AMG touches. Befitting the most powerful series production sedan, it is supported by an AMG sports suspension based on the Active Body Control system and stopped by all-new high-performance composite brakes. The engine continues to be mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Along with specific nineteen-inch wheels, there are the to-be-expected AMG exterior touches. Among them are a redesigned front apron with bigger air intakes, side skirts, and V12 biturbo lettering on the front fenders. Borrowing a page from the Porsche handbook, the S65 AMG introduces AMG’s take on in-car lap-timing software with the RACETIMER system. For those track days, the system stores last lap, average lap, and best lap times as well as the track distance.
Sounds wonderful, but about a month past being able to add it to your Christmas list!