2014 Mercedes CLA

When Americans think of Mercedes Benz, they tend to conjure images of big, lavish, comfortable vehicles built for the well-heeled, and for good reason. Mercedes doesn't really cater to the entry level car buyer in the States, preferring instead to slake our need for big, thirsty cars with every electronic safety nanny and comfort device available installed. But with gas prices going the way they are and people expecting a lot more for their money these days, car makers have had to buckle down and think globally, and Mercedes is no exception. Enter the all new CLA class, the silver star's sexy new entry into the mid-size sedan market. The CLA was designed from the ground up to compete in almost every global market and cater to a much lower denominator than we might be used to, even though MB has been building small cars in Europe for decades. Built on a modified A Class chassis with extended overhangs, this front wheel drive four door sedan has lines that belie it's starting price of just over $30,000. We poor slobs on this side of the pond will get one engine and one transmission only: a 2.1 liter turbo'd four cylinder that cranks out 208 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque mated to a seven speed automatic transmission. Those numbers don't sound too impressive, so we'll have to wait for the AMG CLA 45 with it's higher pressure turbo that produces over 350 hp. The exterior has evident shades of the CLS in the front and side panels, but once you get around to the rear, another make and model comes to mind: I see striking similarities to the Opel Insignia/Buick Regal in the rear treatment. The similarities don't end there: both cars are powered solely by four cylinder engines, both available with all wheel drive (Euro only for the CLA), both with a weight around 3500 pounds, both intending to cater to the entry level sport sedan market. The Mercedes definitely wins in terms of safety with its many warning gadgets and buzzers, but I'd be very interested to see a direct comparison.

Published: May 1st, 2013 at 07:11pm

Image published with permission of Wikimedia Commons

Alfa Romeo 4C

The Alfa Romeo 4C is a bit of a gamble for the FIAT group. Although they've already re-entered the American market with the new Dodge Dart, essentially a Giulietta with new sheetmetal, the 4C will be the first car sold under the Alfa name in the states since the Spider left American shores in 1993. Alfa needs to make a big splash to make it in the American market and this little mid-engine roadster promises to do just that.

The materials and construction methods used for the 4C are nothing short of racing spec: the body is built around a carbon fiber monocoque tub with front and rear subframes made mostly from aluminum to keep weight down, similar in design to a Formula 1 car. The entire carbon fiber frame weighs only 140 lb and the weight of the entire completed car should be under a ton. At launch, the thrust will come from an all new 1.7 liter turbo'd four that should make around 240 hp, and it's rumored that later models will have the option for a 1.8 liter four that should make over 300 hp. Even with the lower powered engine, 0-60 should be dispensed with in a scant 4.5 seconds. The power goes to the beefy rear wheels via a six speed Dual Dry Clutch transmission with paddle shifters. Sorry purists, no manual offered at launch. I know, I know. I'm crying too.

Prices should start around $70,000. High for such a small car, but with those performance specs and that beautiful design, you should get what you pay for. Alfa Romeo's got a lot riding on this car, so let's hope the build quality keeps up with the promise of that gorgeous body.

Published: April 24th, 2013 at 07:58pm

2014 WRX (via Motor Trend)

Motor Trend just posted some new photos of the 2015 WRX with body cladding showing the new sheetmetal, and for those waiting with bated breath to see how much the stunning WRX concept from the New York Auto Show influenced the design, please exhale. We're getting another Impreza with tweaks. Sorry, rallyists. There are definitely some cues to the concept, a shorter front and rear overhang, the hexagonal grille, the smaller LED headlights, but it looks unmistakably like...an Impreza with a big rear wing. That means that all we really have to get excited about is how much power Subaru has been able to massage out of the 2.0 liter flat four from the BRZ now that they've bolted on some forced induction. Darn.

Published: April 22nd, 2013 at 05:59pm

2013 Land Rover Range Rover

It seems unlikely that many improvements could be made to what has been hailed as the most capable off-road vehicle in production, but that didn't seem to dissuade the clever chaps at Land Rover from trying. The new for 2013 Range Rover boasts some significant upgrades to both its on and off road manners as well as a complete exterior overhaul.

The exterior looks decidedly more modern and sleek thanks to small design cues like a more steeply raked windscreen, vertical fins behind the front wheels and a slightly less in-your-face grille. The reworked head and tail lamps add to this effect, and continue to give the Range Rover the presence of a vehicle that would be just as happy crossing a rocky fast-flowing stream as it would sitting outside the local Trader Joe's. There is definitely some of the Evoque in the new body, and we think that's a good thing.

The interior, chassis and mechanics all received a thorough going-over: the body is now 700 lbs lighter than the outgoing model thanks to extensive use of aluminum over steel. The interior is still a fantastic place to watch the world go by as you're swathed in supple leather and sound deadening, and a new less cluttered center stack and digital gauges soften the overall look from the almost industrial feel of the previous model. The air ride suspension is able to raise and lower the vehicle at the touch of a button as well as completely dampen any road imperfections, and an active anti-roll system keeps the 4850 lb Range Rover from leaning in the turns. The Terrain Response system carries over with a few improvements including an Auto setting that lets the onboard computers determine which wheel needs the most torque in a myriad of conditions.

The 2013 models will have the same V8s as last year, a 5.0 liter mill in both naturally aspirated and supercharged form, the latter churning out 510 well-heeled British ponies, but the 2014 model will feature Jaguar/Land Rover's new 3.0 liter supercharged V6, which should offer a 15-20% increase in fuel economy over the n/a V8 with little to no sacrifice in power. This is a version of the engine also being used in the new Jaguar F Type. All models will feature an eight speed slushbox with paddle shifters at the wheel.

Published: April 15th, 2013 at 02:59pm

Image published with permission of Wikimedia Commons

Volvo S60 Polestar coming to Australia?

Australia's GoAuto is reporting that Volvo will be bringing their berserk S60 Polestar to the land down under as soon as July before a worldwide release scheduled later in the year. The Swedish car maker turned the dial up to 11 when they built the first concept Polestar, eeking 508 hp and 424 lb/ft of torque from the heavily modified 3.0 liter straight six out of the T6 R-Design, then mating that power to a six speed manual and running it to all four wheels. It hasn't been tested, but Volvo claims the 0-60 is under four seconds. Look out, E63 and M3 owners: the Swedes are coming.

We at the Daily Auto love strange sports sedans like this, and although the rumor mills tell us that the production version may not be quite as insane, we can't wait to see it on American roads. Word around the water cooler is Jay Leno may have paid upwards of $300,000 for one of the concept versions.

Published: April 11th, 2013 at 08:27pm

Image published with permission of Wikimedia Commons


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