Mercedes-AMG Teases New C63 Coupe

Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe Teaser 1

“Something fast is coming” – that’s the tagline Mercedes have attached to these latest crop of teaser photos for the upcoming C63 AMG Coupe, which were posted on their Facebook page. While manufacturers like to build up hype of their new cars with teaser shots and “leaked” photos, it can be easy to be underwhelmed by the end product. Not because the car is disappointing (well, sometimes) but it’s usually because they hype it up for so long that by the time the actual car comes out everyone has forgotten about it already.

Luckily the C63 is due for a Frankfurt Motor Show unveiling this September so we don’t have to wait too long. As for the C63 Coupe itself, it shouldn’t be hard to guess where it fits in Mercedes’ ever expanding range. It’ll be the two-door counterpart to the (recently launched in NZ) C63 Sedan and Estate. It’ll go head to head agains the likes of the BMW M4, Lexus RC F, and Audi RS5.

Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe Teaser 4

As with it’s more practical siblings, the C63 Coupe uses the same 4.0-litre bi-turbo ‘M177’ V8. Many, myself included, will miss Mercedes’ charismatic old 6.2 V8 but this new engine is a worthy successor. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing this new engine in both the C63 sedan and AMG GT and I can happily report back that it makes all the right noises and is just as brutal.

The numbers should be similar to the Sedan’s, expect around 470bhp/345kW for the standard C63 Coupe and 510bhp/375kW for the C63 S Coupe, the latter being the version we’re likely to receive in NZ. 0-100 km/h should be around the same as the Sedan, if not marginally quicker. In true typical AMG tradition, it is above and beyond that of its main rivals which are around the 450bhp mark.

Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe Teaser 3

Where the C63 is a mystery is in terms of its design. Usually the AMG model comes later but we have yet to even see what the non-AMG C-Coupe will look like. A safe guess might be a scaled-down version of the S-Class Coupe. Some renderings online suggest a C-Class face and the back inspired heavily by the S-Class Coupe. I’d be fine with that.

If the old model is anything to go by, then price-wise the Coupe should be positioned close to the Sedan and Estate, so expect it to be around $170,000 when it arrives in NZ. Or in other words, around $100k less than the AMG GT, which essentially has the same engine. What’s more, this generation C-Class Coupe will be joined by a Convertible version too. Imagine that, a four-seater convertible with Merc’s new 4.0-litre V8 could be a recipe for something special. Of course, every petrosexual out there will be waiting impatiently for the inevitable Black Series version. Can you tell I’m excited?

Mid Life Updates For Mercedes-Benz A-Class

2015-mercedes-benz-a-class

It’s time in the Mercedes A-Class’ life for it to receive a mid-life refresh. There’s all the usual extra bits and pieces that comes with an update halfway through a model’s life; cosmetic changes here and there, more power and efficiency throughout the engine range, and extra equipment thrown in.

New tech for the A-Class includes optional LED headlights, DYNAMIC SELECT drive mode functions, and from 2016, Apple CarPlay. As well as extra goodies and an increase in power throughout the range, A200 models and above get a special “Motorsport Edition”. There’s no changes in performance, but it does get some “petrol green” highlights on various bits and pieces to pay homage to the AMG Petronas F1 car.

2015-mercedes-benz-a250-petronas

The big news comes from the top of the A-Class range, the new Mercedes-AMG A45. The outgoing A45 is a mighty quick little car. With 355bhp/261kW, it has more than enough to fend of rivals from BMW and Audi. However, that hasn’t stopped the engineers at AMG squeezing an extra 26bhp/19kW from the 2.0-litre engine. Yes, this little four-cylinder hatchback now produces 381bhp/280kW, more or less the same as Merc’s old 5.5-litre V8 were producing in their poshest cars not that long ago.

As a result of the extra grunt, the A45 now gets to 100 km/h from standstill 0.4 seconds quicker than before, 4.2 seconds to be exact. That’s edging to serious sports car territory. And remember this is a small hatchback with five seats and a boot. The A45 also gets an optional front axle differential. Changes have also been made to the transmission, suspension, and electrics to help extract the extra power.

2015-mercedes-benz-a45-amg-side

The A45 also gains AMG DYNAMIC SELECT as seen on the new AMG GT and C63. This allows the driver to select from Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual modes. The optional AMG DYNAMIC Plus package takes it further by adding a ‘Race’ mode. The DYNAMIC Plus pack also adds AMG RIDE CONTROL sport suspicion which comes with two-stage adaptive damping. There’s also a mechanical front axle locking diff. It’s one serious little machine, but might this be a bit overkill for a hot hatch?

To differentiate the new A45 from the old one, there’s now a new front bumper which takes inspiration from Mercedes-AMG’s latest products. It’s not a massive change but it does tie in Mercedes-AMG’s baby with the rest of the range quite nicely. The AMG Sport pack for the They also say it’s more aerodynamic than before.

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The question is, where will hot hatches go from here? It’s starting to get to a point where these power outputs are starting to become ludicrous. BMW and Audi will surely respond to this with equally insane numbers for their hot hatches. Not to mention VW’s utterly bonkers 400bhp Golf R400 that’s due soon. Does having the most power make for the best hot hatch or perhaps something more, rounded, might make a better choice?

This article was originally posted by me on Auto Clique NZ

Fifth-Generation Audi A4 Revealed

2015-Audi-A4-Sedan

Some things are so set in stone there’s no hope for them to change anytime soon. The sun will always rise from the east, cows will always be eaten, and Volkswagen-Audi group’s designs will always be evolutionary. From the Golf to the flashiest Audis, you can’t expect big changes when a model comes along. They prefer, and know their customers prefer conservative styling so that’s what’s on the menu.

So it comes as no surprise that this all-new A4 looks rather similar to the outgoing model. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. You can make your own minds up on how this new car looks but I think we can almost agree it’s no minger; it’s not Ssangyong Rodius or Pontiac Aztec offensive, that’s for sure.

2015-Audi-A4-Sedan-Rear

The new A4 picks up where the old one left off. Some of the key changes include a new design for the LED headlights (with new daytime running lights), taillights, wider grille, and a flatter roofline. Audi emphasise every new panel on is new for this generation and has the lowest drag co-efficient in its class, 0.23 if you’re asking.

As with pretty much every new car these days, the A4 has grown a smidgen over the previous model. It now measures at 4726mm long, 1842mm wide, and 1427mm tall. Larger dimensions means more space inside for humans and a bigger boot. Despite its larger dimensions the A4 now weights 120kg less than before thanks to the use of aluminium and high-strength steel in the bodywork. And remember, said bodywork is all new despite what your eyes think.

2015-Audi-A4-Interior

Audi have clearly spent most of their time into designing the interior because it’ a leap forward compared to the dated outgoing model. It now features Audi’s Virtual Cockpit as seen in the new TT and Lamborghini Huracan. Unlike in those cars, though, there’s still a 8.3-inch screen on the centre console. Other modern tech goodies that’ll be featured include an audible city safe system, a Bang & Olufsen sound system, and the latest generation of Audi’s MMI infotainment system with LTE compatibility.

Unsurprisingly there’ll be a range of petrol and diesel engines. The petrols, will be available in 1.4 or 2.0 guises will power output varies from 148bhp/108kW to 248bhp/182kW. The diesel range also start from 148bhp/108kW but goes all the way to 272bhp/200kW. They’ll be mated to either a 6-speed or a 7-speed S-Tronic dual-clutch transmission. The old Multitronic CVT won’t be making a return anytime soon. Power will be sent to the front or to all four wheels, of course.

2015-Audi-A4-Avant-Rear

Fingers crossed the sporty S4 and RS4 models won’t be far off. It’ll be interesting how Audi will respond to a growing number of rivals. The outgoing RS4 retains a naturally aspirated V8. It’ll be unlikely this generation RS4 will do the same. Expect a turbocharged engine of some sort, hopefully still with 8 cylinders.

Interestingly, there’ll also be a ‘g-tron’ variant available in Europe from the second half of 2016. Only as an Avant, it’ll be powered by a 170bhp/125kW 2.0-litre turbocharged engine which can run on petrol or natural gas.

2015-Audi-A4-Avant

In an attempt to add some life to the A4, Audi now have their ‘Drive Select’ system standard on A4s equipped with high output engines. This allows drivers to adjust the throttle, steering, and gearbox. The A4 will also come with variable shock absorbers with a ‘Comfort’ or ‘Sport’ setting. There’s also a variable-ratio steering system for the electric steering. On quattro A4s, there’s torque vectoring which aims to provide “a more neutral handling characteristic”. In other words to negate the understeery nature of old A4s.

The new generation A4 will make their world debut at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show in October before going on sale in Europe by the end of the year. We can expect to see these in NZ sometime in the first half of 2016. So, what do you all think of the new (and I promise it’s new) A4?

This article was originally posted by me on Auto Clique NZ.

Alfa Romeo Makes A Comeback With The Giulia

Alfa Romeo Makes A Comeback With The Giulia

If you listen carefully you’ll be able to hear a huge sigh of relief around the world from Alfa lovers. Like getting a rejuvenated Doctor Who, or finding out your favourite Game of Thrones character hasn’t died yet, Alfistis the world over have welcome Alfa’s return to the small rear-wheel drive market. Ladies, gentlemen, and petrol heads; welcome to the new Alfa Giulia.

This is big news. Alfa haven’t done a small-rear wheel drive sedan since the 75 nearly 30 years ago. Since then it’s sedans have been front-driven. That’s pretty much been the template for most of Alfa’s range in the last 30 years. Until recently they’re line up was made only of front wheel drive hatchbacks. Then the 4C came along and we knew something was different at Alfa. Change is good.

With the Giulia, Alfa are looking straight into the future. To show how serious Alfa are about the Giulia being the start of their renaissance, they revealed it at their newly renovated museum at Arese, near Milan. The Giulia sits on a new platform, there’ll be a range of new engines, and there’s even a new Alfa Romeo badge. For a company celebrating its 105th anniversary this year it’s hard not to look to the past, and luckily the Giulia has just enough influence from Alfas of old to pay respect to their illustrious history.

Details are still coming in but so far Alfa have only shown the range-topping Giulia Quadrofoglio Verde (QV) model. This is powered by a, deep breath, 3.0-litre twin-turbo Ferrari V6. Now I really do need a breather. If “Alfa Romeo”, “Ferrari”, and “V6″ doesn’t get your pulse racing, you may need to check if you’re still alive.

Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-2

As the range-topper, the QV is set to go up against the M3s, C63s, and RS4s of this world. But while most of its rivals bar the C63 have power outputs around 450bhp, the Alfa comes packing with 503bhp, identical to the V8 powered Merc. 0-100 km/h is done in 3.9 seconds and top speed will be a lot. Alfa haven’t said what gearbox will be used in the Giulia, but a good guess would be a double-clutch of some sort. And of course it’ll send its power to the rear wheels.

If you think that the Americans have had an influence on Alfa and this will just be a straight line racer, think again. Alfa have some bold claims about the Giulia QV’s capabilities. For a start it has 50:50 weight distribution, always a good sign. There’s Torque Vectoring to help improve handling through corners and for to stop the Giulia is a new system called Integrated Brake System. This combines the stability control with the traditional servo brakes for an “instantaneous brake response”. Carbon-ceramic brakes are optional.

Alfa have kept the weight of Giulia as low as possibly by using lightweight materials such as aluminium and carbon-fibre in its construction. The propshaft, bonnet, and roof are made of carbon while the suspension, engine, and brakes are aluminium. The result is what Alfa claims is the best power-to-weight ratio in its class, less than 3kg/hp. The overall weight of the Giulia QV is around the 1500kg mark.

Alfa’s ‘DNA’ drive select system is makes a feature in the new Giulia, but now adds an ‘R’ mode for race. It all sounds very promising. Even the steering wheel has been given a motorsport touch. All the major controls are now housed on the wheel itself, like that in an F1 car and a 458 Italia. This is a brave and bold move for a brand who’s reputation for electrics and reliability aren’t quite up there with say, Toyota. Still, this is a new Alfa in a new era so fingers crossed. Then again, what’s an Alfa without a fault or two to give it “character”?

Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-3

Finally, there’s the way this thing looks. Now you can make your mind up about it but for me, the Giulia is a winner. It’s by far the most interesting car in its class. In its most aggressive and sporty form the Giulia still manage to retain some of that elegance Alfas are known for. The QV adds more aggressive bumpers, with a splitter at the front and a rear diffuser at the rear – quad tailpipes are a given.

Like the rest of the car it’s a design that points straight to the future but remembers the past. It’s anything but retro. The headlights remind me of the 155/6/9 series, the signature Alfa grille harks back to that on the old Giulia Sprint, while the rear has more than a whiff of Maserati about it. The proportions themselves are spot on, like a 156 but with a longer bonnet.

We’ll find out more details on the rest of the Giulia range in the coming weeks, but for now what do you all think of the new Giulia? Does it make the XE look outdated and should BMW be worried? It’ll definitely be an interesting battle between the Giulia and its rivals. Lets hope that it’ll be as good to drive as it is to look at. But then it is an Alfa so…

This article was originally posted by me on Auto Clique NZ.

Aston Martin DB9 GT Last Hurrah For 12 Year Old Model

Aston-Martin-DB9-GT-1

In 2003, Aston Martin released the DB9. The DB9 debuted the brand’s VH Architecture, which would then go on to form the basis of the rest of Aston’s range. But more than that, the DB9 would also become a car that was central to my teenage years. For 10 year old me, the DB9 was the most beautiful, and therefore the best car in the world. My admiration for it became an addiction and soon a passion. Before the DB9 my only exposure to the Aston Martin brand was through James Bond films.

Fast forward 12 years and two major facelifts, in 2015 the DB9 has reached the end of its run, almost. To send off one of Aston’s most successful models in its 102 year history, they’ve added two more letters to its name; GT. The DB9 GT adds more power, more kit, and more desirability to the ageing DB9. You could almost think of it as a revitalised Virage, you know that car Aston tried to fit in-between the DB9 and DBS?

Aston-Martin-DB9-GT-2

Power is up from 510bhp/375kW to 540bhp/397kW and has 640NM of torque. Who said naturally aspirated V12s didn’t have life left in them? Power is sent to the rear-wheels via Aston’s tried-and-tested Touchtronic II 6-speed auto and 0-100 km/h is done in 4.5 seconds. Top speed is just shy of 300 km/h. Anything more than that would be getting too close to Vanquish territory.

The DB9 GT retains the independent double wish suspension all around remains, while drivers will able to select between Normal, Sport, and Track modes on the Adaptive Damping System (ADS).
Changes to exterior have been minimal, but then why change something as pretty as the DB9 in the first place? Changes include; a black splitter, rear diffuser and brake callipers, bespoke ten-spoke 20-inch alloys, revised headlight and taillights, and of course some ‘GT’ badges.

Aston-Martin-DB9-GT-5

Inside, the laughable 2+2 seating remains though they’re now embroidered with ‘GT’. As you can imagine there are many, many options available including a One-77-inspired steering wheel. The biggest change inside is Aston’s new AMi II touch-sensistive infotainment system. AMi II builds on from the original AMi system debuted in the Vanquish. Aston now says there’s more personalisation and it’s easier to use. The AMi II will also be featured in the updated Vantage and Rapide-S lineups.

The DB9 GT is set to go on sale later this year before its turbocharged replacement comes next year. Despite its age and the newer rivals it has to compete with, the DB9 still remains a car I desperately want. And I’m sure that won’t change long after it’s gone.

This article was originally posted by me on Auto Clique NZ. 

End Of The Road For the Porsche 918

2015-Porsche-918-Spyder

If you’ve been saving up for a Porsche 918, there’s some bad news. The very last 918 Spyder has just rolled off the production line at the Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen factory. According to Porsche, this happened “right on schedule”. Oh how very German. What makes the very last 918 rather special is the colour the lucky owner has chosen, which to my eyes makes the 918 look even more beautiful.

Production of the 918 lasted 21 months, at which time 918 examples were produced – all in left-hand drive. Luckily for NZ, two have found homes on our shores. The 918 now enters the history books and joins the like of the 904 Carrera GTS, 959, 911 GT1, and Carrera GT. As Porsche say, “they were technology pioneers and stood among the ultimate sports cars of their respective decade”. Each car represented the advancements and trends in supercars at the time, the 918 was no different. It was the part of the hybrid hypercar ‘Holy Trinity’ alongside the McLaren P1 and LaFerrari.

To refresh your memory of the 918’s impressive stats here’s a quick run down. The 918 is powered by a 4.6-litre naturally aspirated V8 mated to two electric motors. The combined output is 900bhp/661kW and 1275NM of torque. 0-100 km/h is done in 2.5 seconds, 0-200 km/h in 7.2 seconds, and 0-300 km/h in a shade under 20 seconds. Top speed is rated at 340 km/h. The 918 has set the fasted lap time around the Nurburgring for a production road car on standard production road tyres, a blistering 6:57. Despite the high performance numbers, Porsche still claim an average fuel consumption of 3L/100km. Now that’s something I’d love to see.

2015-Porsche-918-Spyder-Manufacturing

All 918 produced have been accounted for, just like all P1s and LaFerraris have been sold out. Proof of German efficiency, Porsche finished productions of all 918, er, 918s before Ferrari and McLaren finished all 499 LaFs and 375 P1s.

While the 918 may be gone, its legacy will live on. There’s no doubt in my mind it’ll go down in history as one of Porsche’s greats and will be a sought after classic in the future, much like how the Carrera GT and 959 are in hot demand right now. Where Porsche will go from here in 10 years is anyone’s guess. But the technology and the know-how Porsche have got from the 918 project will certainly make their way to the rest of the Porsche range in the future.

This article was originally posted by me on Auto Clique NZ.

Mercedes-Benz Goes Right With New GLC

Mercedes Benz GLC AMG Pack

For a company who saw the potential in posh 4x4s quite early on in the game, Mercedes-Benz has had a massive gap in its SUV lineup for some years now. The ML, now called GLE Class, was for a long time the smallest and least expensive way of getting a SUV with a Three-Pointed Star on your driveway. Recently, they brought out the small GLA crossover. But for some, the GLE is too big and the GLA too small. A classic Goldilocks scenario, if only there were one that was just right.

Well, there has been since 2008. In markets where they drive on the wrong side of the road, the left-hand drive only GLK has been available to bridge the gap between the GLA and GLE. Based on the C-Class, the GLK went into battle against the likes of the Audi Q5, Range Rover Evoque, and BMW X3. Unfortunately for some silly reason Mercedes couldn’t engineer it to be right-hand drive. Yes, the same company that gave us the Maybach, S-Class, and SLS could somehow not manage to make a mid-sized SUV in right hand drive.

Mercedes Benz GLC AMG Pack Side

Luckily they’ve learnt from their mistakes and the GLK’s replacement will be available in right-hand drive. Mums and dads, welcome to the new GLC. If you haven’t been keeping up with Mercedes’ new naming strategy (and we won’t blame you if you haven’t), the GLC means it’s the SUV equivalent to the C-Class in the same way the GLE is roughly the same size as an E-Class. But the GLC goes one better and is actually based on the C-Class, like the old GLK before it.

While that may not sound like the most promising base for an off-roader, the C-Class has proved itself to be a mighty fine on-road car. Let’s face it, most of these types of cars spend 99% of their lives driving up and down leafy suburban roads anyway.

Mercedes Benz GLC AMG Pack Rear

Which brings me on to the point of a SUV. Yes there arguments for practicality, better visibility thanks to a higher seating position, etcetera. But we all know it’s about looks, style, and status. The old GLK had a rugged handsome design. It looked like it could take on any terrain you pointed it to, even if it actually couldn’t. The boxy design made it stood out against its soft-curved rivals.

The new GLC has gone in the way of its rivals and is more car-like as a result. In fact it’s lower than both the X3 and Q5. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing particularly distinctive about it either. The Mercedes family resemblance is certainly strong, looking like a mix between a C-Class and a GLA. Mercedes’ latest designs have been pretty good overall, and I particularly like the taillights of the GLC. But I get the feeling Mercedes intentionally played it safe with the standard GLC to make the GLC Coupe a more stylish option.

Mercedes Benz GLC AMG Pack Interior

Fortunately the interior is also pretty similar to the C-Class. To my eyes it’s one of the best in class and looks more premium than some of its rivals. The centre console that takes inspiration from the S-Class is a neat touch, and if you tick the right boxes you can have it with an analogue clock too. Who doesn’t like a nice clock to look at? Space has increased over the GLK, with more elbow, shoulder and legroom than before.

As for engines, expect them to be similar to the C-Class. A 2.2-litre turbodiesel with two outputs (168bhp/123kW and 205bhp/152kW) will be available, as will a 210bhp/155kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol in the form of the GLC250. Mercedes have also confirmed an AMG Sport Line version will also follow with a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 developing 360bhp/264kW. A proper V8 AMG may or may not happen. Fingers crossed it does.

Mercedes Benz GLC AMG Pack Front

Those who want to be able to have their SUV cake and eat it will have to wait a little longer for the plug-in hybrid version. The GLC350e mates the petrol engine from the GLC250 with an electric motor, to produce a combined 322bhp/236kW and will be able to run on pure EV mode for up to 32 kilometres.

All GLCs will have 4MATIC permanent four-wheel drive with a 45:55 front/rear torque split and a nine-speed automatic. Thanks to the use of aluminium, the GLC is 80kg lighter than the car it replaces. The GLC will also be available with full air suspension, something not found at this end of the market. An “Off-Road” pack will also be optional adding five programmes for the Dynamic Setup including ‘Slipper’, ‘Incline’, ‘Rocking Assist’, and ‘Trailer’.

Mercedes Benz GLC

It’s about time Mercedes took this segment seriously and I’m sure the GLC will be a hit. It’s got all the things a car like this needs to succeed; a desirable badge, posh interior, and it helps being the new kid on the block. I’m still unsure of the design but maybe it’ll be one of those cars that work better in the metal. The silver car with the AMG pack it certainly looks much better resolved. What do you all think of Merc’s new SUV, would you pick it over its rivals?

This article was originally posted by me on Auto Clique NZ.