Sunday, August 1, 2010

2010 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, an AW Drivers Log

MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: This is one bad boy right here.

The pure performance driver in me is not a huge fan of a lot of Mercedes' products, even many AMG creations, but the C63 is spot-on in my “how to tackle a road and win” book.

DTM-inspired bodywork looks great, giving the C63 an aggressive appearance that leaves no doubt as to what it does best, and the true hardware lives up to expectations. From the moment you turn the key (thanks, AMG, for eschewing the ubiquitous yet useless start button) and the V8 belches awake with a deep tone, you know you're in for a great ride.

Behind the wheel, you find yourself in perfect driving position thanks to the outstanding seats with massive side bolsters. The wheel itself is sweet, with a flat-bottom design and touch-points trimmed in suede (OK, Alcantara in reality) like a race car. Select manual mode, open the throttle and this car lights up the rubber without hesitation, cracking off shifts with speed and precision and rumbling with menace on downchanges and trailing throttle. Again, the racing heritage is evident and the soundtrack adds a lot of fun to this experience. Naturally, it also goads you (or at least me) into finding every little gap in the road to punch it, then banging down through the gearbox every time I need to slow, holding the revs smack in the middle of the powerband when normally you'd just leave most cars in the higher gears.

In fact, AMG's Speedshift Plus automatic surprises you. No, it's not as involving as a manual nor is it as quick-shifting as a modern double-clutch system. But it still shifts well, smooth and relatively quick, matching revs during downshifts as a car like this should. Normally, this is where I would complain about the lack of a manual or double-clutch system, but the C63's transmission is competent enough that it certainly wasn't a deal breaker for me.

The aforementioned powerband is extremely flat and useable, with almost 90 percent of peak torque available from 2,000 rpm. There's always plenty of go available at any speed or throttle position; this is one of those imminently enjoyable cars that sucks you into slicing both corners and straights into oblivion at even the slightest opportunity. Mercedes and AMG won't like the following analogy, but I feel a lot of BMW M car in this thing. The steering is quick, the chassis nimble, the engine relatively high revving. Those key attributes are missing from many of Mercedes products, but not this one. What Mercedes/AMG will like to hear is that, finally, I would have a difficult choice deciding between the C63 and M3 if my money was on the line at the local dealer. And I appreciate this car's relative simplicity compared to the M3 and certain other modern performance cars: No launch control, no endless combination of suspension and gearbox and engine map settings to drive you crazy. There's just a good, solid setup straight out of the box that gets the job done. Sometimes less really is more.

Yes, this is a great car that will no doubt hold the attention of driving and motorsports enthusiasts. Writing these words, I'm thinking I need to have another go in it. Like right now.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR ROGER HART: Morrison's description of this car is spot-on. It is a runner, with a terrific-sounding V8 that is as potent as it sounds. I am not as enamored with the automatic trans as Mac, though. It still doesn't respond with the same quickness as a dual-clutch, and a six-speed manual would seem to be a natural in this car.

And while Mercedes steered clear of a lot of the gimmicks we find on other similar models-- not to mention other models wearing the three-pointed star--the one gimmick that did annoy me was the pop-up screen in the dash. With the radio off and the screen down inside the dash, there was a rattle coming from the contraption. Due in part, I'm sure, to the firm suspension transferring a lot of energy throughout the car with every bump and pothole hit. Here's the funny thing about a pop-up screen: the dash has a terrific look with the thing closed, but in my opinion, looks like hell when it's in use. A simpler in-dash navigation screen would be a better alternative.

The screen is simply a minor annoyance in an otherwise terrific car. This is a real performer with great grip, monster brakes and head-snapping acceleration. The highly bolstered seats became a bit uncomfortable after a long stint in the saddle, but I want to take the steering wheel with me and use it on every car I drive. The small diameter and flat bottom wheel, with wonderful suede grips on the sides, is absolutely wonderful.

ART DIRECTOR KEN ROSS: Mercedes has never been at the top of my performance list, not that they don't build them and do it well in some cases. I just think others do it a little better. But they hit the mark this time; the C63 is the right size and has the right amount of power to be a true performance car.

The looks are strong: AMG did a great job of making this car stand out from any other C-class without being gaudy. The C63's rims are hot, the carbon-fiber trim is done well and the ground effects are sinister. The interior continues the sport luxury feel with snug seats and a suede steering cover that is comfortable, but I'm curious to see how it holds up.

The driving is just sick, the sound from the exhaust and the power you get when you hit the gas is awesome, but it is capable of being very controlled and tame. You don't find yourself having to control its power all the time.

MANAGING EDITOR BOB GRITZINGER: Though an E63 AMG puts you into a whole ‘nuther league on price, the bigger car is probably a good choice for most buyers looking at the C63. Sure, it's bigger and heavier, but it also punches 518 hp and 465-lb-ft of torque from the same engine. And you get a back seat real people can use, so you can share the AMG joy with more friends.

That said, there's absolutely nothing amiss with the performance of this stylish C63--as noted, the car exudes muscle, with downshift throttle blips and an exhaust note to match every driver action. Hammering the throttle is rewarded with satisfying acceleration, whether you're pulling away from a stop or running at 70 mph.

The brakes are equally stunning, stopping the car with authority regardless of speed. But the most telling part of this performance package, to me, is that Mercedes finally dialed some real road feel into the suspension and steering--so much so that the soft-covering on the steering wheel provides a nice buffer between hands and the road surface. It's not harsh in any way, but it's clear what's happening out at tire level-which hasn't always been the case in past Benzes with overly heavy steering feel.

Combined with the solid suspension, the overall package gives one the kind of confidence once reserved for the most-revered, like the M3. I'm with Morrison: I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, but if Mercedes tossed in the E63's wicked launched control system, I'd be tossing my money to the big star boys.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: : I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think I just might take this over the M3. Yeah, even with the automatic transmission. As we all know the M3 is nothing short of amazing and rightfully deserves all the praise we've heaped on it over the years. But as Mac points out, it's become more technologically advanced with a bunch of buttons to adjust traction electronics, engine mapping and, when equipped with the dual-clutch transmission, different shift settings. Not so with this C63. You just jump in; fire it up, hammer it and you'll grin ear to ear. Sometimes it's about the simple things in life.

I'm not about to say that the optional AMG development package on this car is necessary, which bumps horsepower from 451 to 481 and top speed from 155 to 174 mph, but it sure is cool knowing you have it. This car just sounds wicked right from startup and it goes like someone lit a fire under its bottom. Acceleration is brutal, but what may be the most impressive thing of all is how well this AMG Speedshift Plus automatic transmission performs. No, it doesn't match the performance of a dual-clutch unit, but it up- and downshifts with throttle matching incredibly well for a full automatic gearbox.

It's not a one-trick pony, either. It torches corners with a large dose of grip, composure and responsive steering. When it comes down to it, you can describe this car as agile with knockout power to slide the rear around when the feeling strikes you. Getting back to the simplicity of this car, the suspension isn't adjustable, but plays both roles of sporty handler and comfortable enough for daily driving, which is something few companies are capable of pulling off.

I have to give props to AMG for the interior, too. The flat bottom steering wheel with Alcantara feels great in your hands and the front seats features the largest amount of side support this side of a full Recaro race seat. And the exterior appearance is just mean looking with the front bumper with mesh inserts and wide bodywork.

In all, this is a really well done performance sedan. It just might be the best one available today.

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Here's a car I would certainly put on my shopping list. It looks like a performance sedan with flared fenders and I love the bulgy hood.

This is an old performance formula: Stuff a big V8 in to a relatively small package, and hang on. The thing is a rocket. The acceleration at higher speeds, say from 30-50 or 50-70 is more impressive than off the line. I expected it to be fast but I was impressed.

The suspension is compliant and the car feels very focused and refined. There's more than enough grip, the steering feels just right and, wow, the brakes are impressive.

In my humble opinion this is the best sports sedan on sale in the U.S. right now. Or at least I can't think of a better one.

2010 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG

Base price: $60,325

As tested: $77,105

Engine: 6.3-liter, 481-hp, 443-lb-ft V8, RWD, seven-speed automatic

Curb weight: 3,649 lbs.

EPA (city/highway): 12/19 mpg

EPA combined: 14 mpg

Options: Options: AMG development package including AMG compound braking system, increase power level to 481-hp, top speed 174, AMG lightweight forged pistons, connecting rods, revised crankshaft, new engine management, red-painted brake calipers, carbon fiber trunk spoiler, engine intake runners in titanium gray finish, AMG leather/alcantara performance steering wheel ($5,950); multimedia package including seven-inch power retractable color display, COMAND hard drive based navigation system, premium audio, voice control, music register PCMCIA slot, iPod/MP3 media interface and cable ($3,300); AMG leather package ($3,030); limited slip differential lock ($2,000); premium package II including bi-xenon headlamps with washers and cornering fog lamps, split folding rear seats, power rear-window sunshade ($1,400); tele-aid ($650); rear-view camera ($450)

2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante

2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante (1280*960 Wallpaper)
Aston Martin DBS Volante makes its debut at the 2009 Geneva Auto Salon. Completing the Aston Martin DBS line-up, the new Volante will afford customers the combination of the DBS’s already-established benchmark sports car characteristics with all the thrills of open-air motoring.

Broadening the DBS’s character, the Aston Martin DBS Volante will appeal to drivers who wish to combine the excitement of driving a finely-tuned sports car with the invigorating feeling of being open to the elements. This juxtaposition of ultimate performance and openness stirs the senses on any drive whether an exhilarating jaunt on favoured roads or cruising on lengthy journeys. ‘Volante’, meaning ‘moving with light rapidity’, perfectly defines the performance potential and the dynamic characteristics of the Aston Martin DBS Volante.

Featuring a motorised retractable fabric roof, the DBS’s beautiful profile is preserved whether up or down. When the roof is closed, it provides a warm comfortable ambience and when open, it neatly disappears behind the new tonneau cover at the touch of a button.

Aston Martin’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ulrich Bez said: “The Aston Martin DBS Volante delivers the utmost relaxed driving experience with the hood up or down. It combines engineering excellence with design perfection.
2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante (1280*960 Wallpaper)

2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante (1280*960 Wallpaper)

2010 Aston Martin DBS Volante (1280*960 Wallpaper)

Ferrari drops new photos of 458 Challenge test session at Vallelunga

Ferrari 458 Challenge - Click above for high-res image gallery

A few weeks ago, Ferrari officially debuted its latest Challenge race car, based on the 458 Italia. Now they've released new photos of the car during its test session at the Vallelunga race circuit. Factory test drivers Maurizio Mediani and Jaime Melo were on hand to provide feedback on the 458 Challenge, and predictably, both seem impressed with the car's capabilities. Mediani described his drive as "very quick and extremely good fun," while his counterpart commented, "I am sure that Prancing Horse competition owners will be very pleased with the car."

Using the standard roadgoing 458 Italia as a base, Ferrari creates the Challenge version by increasing output of the 4.5-liter V8 to 570 horsepower, cutting weight via thinner and lighter body panels, adding a race-specific suspension setup, fitting 19-inch BBS wheels with Pirelli racing slicks, installing a set of carbon ceramic Brembo brakes and more.

So equipped, Ferrari claims the 458 Challenge can lap Fiorano over two seconds per lap quicker than its predecessor, the F430 Challenge, while pulling a cornea-yanking 1.6g's worth of lateral acceleration. You can check out the new photos below, and we'll be sure to bring you any more if Ferrari sends them our way.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

2010 Chevrolet Corvette

MSRP: $48,930-$116,880

The 2010 Corvette is a 2-door, 2-passenger sports car, or convertible sports car, available in 21 trims, ranging from the Coupe 1LT to the ZR1 3ZR.

Upon introduction, the Coupe 1LT is equipped with a standard 6.2-liter, V8, 430-horsepower engine that achieves 16-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The ZR1 3ZR is equipped with a standard 6.2-liter, V8, 638-horsepower, supercharged engine that achieves 14-mpg in the city and 20-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard.

The 2010 Corvette is a carryover from 2009.

2010 Lamborghini Murcielago

MSRP: $360,400-$455,400

The 2010 Murcielago is a 2-door, 2-passenger luxury sports car, or convertible sports car, available in 4 trims, ranging from the LP640 Coupe to the LP670-4 SuperVeloce.

Upon introduction, the LP640 Coupe is equipped with a standard 6.5-liter, V12, 640-horsepower engine that achieves 8-mpg in the city and 13-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The LP670-4 SuperVeloce is equipped with a standard 6.5-liter, V12, 670-horsepower engine that achieves 9-mpg in the city and 14-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is optional.

The 2010 LP640 Coupe is a carryover from 2009. The LP670-4 SuperVeloce has been reskinned for 2010.

2011 Mercedes-Benz SL-Class

MSRP: $102,600-$198,750

The 2011 SL-Class is a 2-door, 2-passenger luxury convertible, or convertible sports car, available in 3 trims, ranging from the SL550 Roadster to the SL65 AMG Roadster.

Upon introduction, the SL550 Roadster is equipped with a standard 5.5-liter, V8, 382-horsepower engine that achieves 14-mpg in the city and 22-mpg on the highway. A 7-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard. The SL65 AMG Roadster is equipped with a standard 6.0-liter, V12, 604-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 12-mpg in the city and 18-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.

The 2011 SL-Class is a carryover from 2010.

2010 Rolls-Royce Phantom

MSRP: $380,000-$450,000

The 2010 Phantom is a 2- or 4-door, up to 5-passenger luxury coupe, luxury convertible, or luxury sedan, available in 4 trims, ranging from the Sedan to the Drophead Coupe.

Upon introduction, both trims are equipped with a standard 6.75-liter, V12, 453-horsepower engine that achieves 11-mpg in the city and 18-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.

The 2010 Phantom is a carryover from 2009.

2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

MSRP: $56,200-$64,800

The 2011 E-Class is a 2- or 4-door, up to 7-passenger sports coupe, luxury sports coupe, convertible, luxury convertible, luxury sedan, luxury sports sedan, or luxury wagon, available in 8 trims, ranging from the E350 4MATIC Wagon to the E63 AMG Sedan.

Upon introduction, the E350 4MATIC Wagon is equipped with a standard 3.5-liter, V6, 268-horsepower engine that achieves 16-mpg in the city and 23-mpg on the highway. A 7-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard. The E63 AMG Sedan is equipped with a standard 6.2-liter, V8, 518-horsepower engine. A 7-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard.

The E350 4MATIC Wagon has been redesigned for 2011. The 2011 E63 AMG Sedan is a carryover from 2010.

2010 Audi A5

MSRP: $36,000-$44,100

The 2010 A5 is a 2-door, 4-passenger sports coupe, or convertible, available in 5 trims, ranging from the 2.0T Premium Coupe quattro Manual to the 2.0T Premium Cabriolet quattro Tiptronic.

Upon introduction, the 2.0T Premium Coupe quattro Manual is equipped with a standard 2.0-liter, I4, 211-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 22-mpg in the city and 30-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard. The 2.0T Premium Cabriolet quattro Tiptronic is equipped with a standard 2.0-liter, I4, 211-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 20-mpg in the city and 26-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard.

The 2010 2.0T Premium Coupe quattro Manual is a carryover from 2009. The 2.0T Premium Cabriolet quattro Tiptronic is all-new for 2010.

2011 Ford Shelby GT500

MSRP: $48,645-$53,645

The 2011 Shelby GT500 is a 2-door, 4-passenger sports car, or convertible sports car, available in two trims, the Coupe and the Convertible.

Upon introduction, both trims are equipped with a standard 5.4-liter, V8, 550-horsepower, supercharged engine that achieves 15-mpg in the city and 23-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard.

The 2011 Shelby GT500 is a carryover from 2010.

2010 Lamborghini Gallardo

The Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 is without doubt one of the most desirable cars on the planet. Boasting a 5.2-litre V10 engine with an output of 412 kW at 8000 rpm and 540 Nm of torque, the baby Lambo is also one of the world's highest performing cars - try 0 - 100 km/h in 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 325 km/h.
MSRP: $205,000-$229,100

The 2010 Gallardo is a 2-door, 2-passenger luxury sports car, or convertible sports car, available in 4 trims, ranging from the LP560-4 Coupe to the LP570-4 Superleggera.

Upon introduction, the LP560-4 Coupe is equipped with a standard 5.2-liter, V10, 560-horsepower engine that achieves 12-mpg in the city and 20-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The LP570-4 Superleggera is equipped with a standard 5.2-liter, V10, 570-horsepower engine that achieves 14-mpg in the city and 20-mpg on the highway. A 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is optional.

The 2010 LP560-4 Coupe is a carryover from 2009. The LP570-4 Superleggera has been reskinned for 2010.
 

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