Archive for Mercedes

Mercedes finally make a couple of cars that don’t look like crap

Posted in Desirable machines with tags , , , , , on 21/11/2013 by Alexander

Big news: after years and years of conservative, drab, boring and simply fugly cars, Mercedes decided to go against this trend and release the current A-Class. Though not an eye-wateringly beautiful piece of automotive design, it certainly marked a change for the Stuttgart-based brand, since the previous A-Class was laughably styled to say the least. The new design language brings the car closer to the cars it’s suppose to contend with, like the BMW 1-series or the Audi A3.

Fortunately, Merc has realised that even it’s more flashy, further-upmarket stuff looks bloody awful, and BMW, perhaps its most direct rival, have made cars that actually don’t look like turds, so two recent concepts are designed to change this. First, it’s the future S-Class Coupé, which paraded its lines at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, which improves the stuffy, can’t-stray-too-far-from-the-formula styling of the regular 4-door S-Class. It’s a sleeker, sexier take on the world’s #1 ostentation-mobile, and makes the saloon look rather brick-like in comparison.

p01lxncbThen there’s the computer game-oriented AMG Vision Gran Turismo. MAde for some video game on some console, Merc show that after all, they can allow their designers to properly let the hair down, go wild, show some flair and make a car that isn’t designed just for grey people who want to show off how much money they’ve (supposedly) made. I’ll admit, it seems to echo some cues from Citroen’s very similar idea with GT, such as that rear overhang and its general shape, but nonetheless it warrants some congratulations since at least MB designers took inspiration from a worthwhile source.


The demise of the European car market

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16/10/2012 by Alexander

Europe’s worsening economic situation is reflected by many things: unemployment, social unrest, tight national budgets and so on. Because this is a car blog, what matters here are new car sales, and this year they’ve been appallingly low. All the big European car manufacturers are posting record dips in sales, except for one: BMW, who have seen a 10% increase in cars coming out of their showrooms.

Renault have sold a staggering 29% less, Fiat are 19% down, Volvo slumped 17%, General Motors and Ford lost around 15%, and curiously, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, a group in the news lately for their poor financial performance and their dubious alliance with GM, lost just over 8%, practically the same as that of the VAG group of brands owned by Volkswagen. Daimler-Benz, of which Mercedes is a part of, saw nearly a 7% loss, most of which can be attributed to the slump of Smart.

In the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association report, the reader can note an odd tendency: there’s a tendency for European-based manufacturers of more affordable cars such as superminis and family hatchbacks to have registered a heavy loss (GM and Ford may be American, but their European models are conceived and built here). On the other hand, Audi was up 1.4%, Jaguar Land Rover rose a staggering 13.2%, and as mentioned, BMW got an extra 10.5%. Really shows who’s suffering and who’s benefiting from the current recession!

In the long term, I’m worried this could mean Europe’s non-German car-makers disappearing altogether. It doesn’t seem to matter how well traditionally widespread brands like Fiat and Renault make their cars, they just can’t compete with the badge-conscious, overpriced German offerings. If these sorts of brands go under, anyone who wants a frugal small car will either have to buy a bland Japanese vehicle or a Volkswagen in one of its guises (Seat, Skoda, etc.). Or we could see a BMW-owned Citroen for example, since the only real small car the Bavarians make is the Mini and all of its bastard sprogs.

Either way, dark days are ahead for everyone on the Old Continent.

What recession?

Posted in General opinions with tags , , , , , , , , , on 27/03/2012 by Alexander

For those that don’t know it, I live in Portugal. It’s one of the three countries of the Eurozone that had to be bailed out because it was verging on bankruptcy, which would lead the average person to think that the Portuguese wouldn’t have much money to spend on things, especially cars. Now, I like to think of a country’s habits when it comes to the acquisition of cars as a sort of barometer of said country’s economic health, since buying a car is usually the second biggest personal investment people make in their lives, after a house.

This should be especially true in Portugal, where buying and running a car is extremely expensive, both compared to what people earn and what it costs abroad. Fuel prices are astronomically high, and according to official figures, only Denmark, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands have dearer petrol. Toll-free motorways are a thing of the past, and though that might not seem so bad to foreigners, but to us it means every journey or commute out of town is precious dosh lining someone else’s pockets instead of our own. Plus, lots of areas of the country depend on tourists coming in from Spain, and these tourists now don’t come here because it’s awkward and expensive to use our motorways, but I digress.

To top it off, cars here are amazingly overpriced, both used and new, but I’ll stick to new cars since that’s complicated enough as it is. To illustrate, let’s use Europe’s best-selling car, the VW Golf, as an example. In its native Germany, prices start at €16,975, in France, at €16,790, in Spain, a more expensive €18,820 and in the UK, £15,865, which for the purpose of this comparison, is €18,968. Portugal? A whopping €21,800, nearly €3000 more than the most expensive of the other aforementioned markets!

So one would think that cars wouldn’t sell much, in Portugal, what with gargantuan prices and deep recession. And on the face of it, you’d think that was the case, with January 2012 sales plummeting nearly 50% when compared to the same month in 2011, and February 2012 sporting the same sort of numbers. However, look again. In both January and February, Audi, Mercedes and BMW made the top ten. In February, Merc, BMW and Audi sold a combined total of 1,332 cars. So of the 6,932 cars sold in Portugal, 1 in 5 was a German luxury car. And that’s not counting the thriving used-car import market, which consists mainly of E-Class Mercs and Audi A3’s.

I could go on and lace some more layers of fact on this already iron-clad evidence that Portugal is living beyond its means, that it’s chock-full of idiots who only look at badges and how unevenly and third-worldly money is distributed here, but I think the point’s been made. It’s a miracle Europe bailed us out.

Around the world on fuel-cells

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception with tags , , , , , on 03/06/2011 by Alexander

The Stuttgart car manufacturer started a round-the-world trip in January with a modest fleet of three B-Class, all of which were powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

The German automaker hopes that the drive will prove that fuel-cell vehicles are a viable alternative to traditional EVs and internal combustion vehicles and that lawmakers and businesses will respond by ramping up the infrastructure necessary to easily operate a fuel-cell auto.

The 70-day journey the trio undertook was, for obvious reasons, supported by a mobile filling station. However, the article states that it was possible to find alternative sources of hydrogen along the way, and that it was quick an easy to refill, just as people are used to doing today with our liquid-chemical-burning ICE’s. Personally, I think this is one of the most worthwhile future alternative fuel technologies out there and ripe for development. But to catch on, it has to look as appealing as electricity is made to unduly look now. Frankly, if I were the bloke at Mercedes in charge of this operation, I would’ve converted some E-Class coupés or CLS saloons or any other more attractive models. However, I admit that because of the general perception that alt-fuel vehicles have to look stupid (as exemplified by today’s production hybrids), Merc’s bosses perhaps weren’t thinking down the wrong lines. On the other hand, I reckon it’s important that car-makers battle the idea that today’s standards for good-looking vehicles are inapplicable to greener machines. But that’s my humble opinion.

Audi A7 – Why?

Posted in Crap cars, Upcoming cars with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27/07/2010 by Alexander

I’m not a fan of Audi. As I’ve said before, they’re no more than VW’s with four rings nailed onto the front. That said, however, I quite like the Audi A5 coupé, because it has a nice shape and doesn’t have a corresponding VW version. The same can be said, though it’s debatable, of the A6 and the A8, though I don’t like either of them.

So now Audi announces the A7 Sportback, and I just don’t understand what the hell it’s for. Audi say it’s a competitor for the Merc CLS, which makes sense only up to a certain point. For saloon cars, Audi has the A4, the A5 Sportback, the A6, the new A7 Sportback and the A8. That’s five fricking cars that cover everything from family saloon to four-door ostentatious fascist-mobile. Merc have the C-Class, E-Class, CLS and S-Class. That’s only four. BMW have the 3-series, 5-series, the pathetic 5GT and and the 7-series, that’s four too (though they’re coming up with the new 6-series Gran Coupé, which will probably be the first good-looking BMW since 1988).

The problem with Audi, apart from being driven solely by absolute bastards, is that from the front, they all look exactly the same. Yes, perhaps Audi fanboys can tell the difference, but the designers took the “same design-language coherence across the range” thing far too literally. This makes Audis far too bland and boring, with no singular, fantastic-looking model. Mercedes have the CLS for this, and it also justifies the existence of the model, even though it’s really only an E-Class in a frock.

So why would I buy an A7 Sportback? Want a four-door coupé? There’s the A5 Sportback.”Ah, but I want it to be luxuriuos”. Get an A8. I don’t get it.

I wish it would flop like the absolutely stupid 5-series GT seems to be doing, but alas, car-buyers are far too thick not to be fooled by the overpriced crap the Big German Three flog on the market.

Vegetable-fuelled Merc

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , on 29/09/2009 by Alexander

How I converted my MB to run on waste vegetable oil. An interesting account on an American bloke who converted his car to run on what comes out of restaurants. I was rather surprised since a) I believed diesel was non-existent in the US, and b) the very first episode of new Top Gear basically said all you need is the oil and turpentine.