Tag: Mercedes Benz

The Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S: The Pick of the Bunch!

In the last few decades, the car world has seen seismic changes in consumer tastes. From the traditional box shape saloons reigning supreme, to the awkward stage of MPVs, and now we’re faced with a sea of SUVs. Everything these days seems to be an SUV/crossover of some flavour and distinguishing your vehicle from not only your competitors, but within your own stable, has become increasingly difficult.

For instance, the Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S on tests costs R2.9 million without options. The Coupe version will set you back another R70 000.For R3.2 million you can jump into the larger GLS 63 and for R100 000 on top of that your bum will be in the seat of a G63.
Now, a R400 000 difference for you and I may seem like quite a lot of money but when we’re talking sums as large as this, it’s a little less significant.


It’s also important to the note that all models mentioned above use the same engine – a 4.0-litre biturbo V8. So, my question is where exactly does the GLE 63 S actually fit in? If we’re looking at size and looks, then sure there’s a notable difference. But when we’re talking performance alone, is there a need for the GLE 63 seeming you’ll get similar performance elsewhere in the range?

The short and sweet of that is yes! In fact, it would probably be the one I’d most recommend to anyone shopping in this segment. Or rather, it’s the one that speaks to me most of all.
You see, the GLS is a larger and heavier vehicle and as such the dynamics are compromised. The sprint time of 4.2 seconds is quite off the GLE’s time of 3.8 seconds even though they produce the same amount of power. Sure, if you need the additional space then the former is the right option, albeit with less gusto.
The G63 might be a cult classic and probably the ‘coolest’ car of the lot but it is the least powerful and has the slowest sprint time of 4.5 seconds. It’s 20kW down in comparison to the other two and has the slowest top speed of 240km/h. So, in essence, the GLE 63 seems to be the true performance bang for your buck in the Mercedes-AMG SUV line-up.

If I do have one reservation about the GLE 63, it’s that it looks a bit demure, particularly in the specification we tested. The Panamericana grille and massive vents are distinctively AMG and assert the domineering presence of the GLE, but it may be mistaken for the lesser 53 variant. While some may appreciate the more reserved exterior, there is an extensive option list where you’re able to build your perfect specification. The 22” cross-spoke alloys are a must for me!

While we’re on the topic of tailoring your GLE, the cabin has a plethora of technology and luxury amenities that you’re able to configure to your exact liking. The MBUX infotainment system that includes two 12.3” screens that span across the dashboard should be familiar to most Mercedes owners, but it is still one of the most standout aspects of this interior. The latest system fitted is easy to navigate and very responsive, while the digital display behind the driver has multiple design configurations and can display any vital information for the driver. Although Mercedes-Benz has introduced a new steering wheel design featured on the latest E-Class, I must admit that I prefer this current design. The touch-sensitive pads are easier to use and the alcantara finish is certainly a nice touch.

On the road, the ride quality is slightly firmer than what I would like it to be, but the saving grace is the 21” rims fitted to our press unit which provide a bit more cushioning. The 22” cross-spoke alloys will result in an even harsher ride. The AMG Active Ride Control air suspension, which is standard on the GLE 63 and an option on the 53, does provide some suppleness over more jarring surfaces but you will feel the harsher imperfections. In saying that, I do feel that competitors like the BMW X5 M Competition ride slightly harder than the GLE 63.

The biggest drawcard of the GLE 63 is its 4.0-litre V8. Generally, that engine is phenomenal with linear power delivery that doesn’t seem to plateau, and a soundtrack like none other. Power on offer is 450kw and 850Nm, plus the addition of AMG’s mild-hybrid EQ Boost assist which provides an additional 16kW and 250Nm temporarily. As mentioned previously, the 100km/h sprint time comes up in a mere 3.8 seconds and at no point did the engine feel like it was waning for power. In fact, I suspect Mercedes-AMG were quite conservative with those sprint time figures. The 9-speed transmission is somewhat lazy in its calibration where it would be slightly sluggish on the downshifts and over eager on the upshifts, particularly when approaching corners. While the changes are crisp and responsive, the calibration needs to be worked on slightly to ensure that you are always in the optimal gear.

When tackling corners, the GLE 63 truly outshines its stablemates and where you notice the advantage of having a stiffer suspension set up. The front-end bites well into the corners and body rolls remains very composed and stable. Compared to the larger GLS 63, you certainly have more confidence in tackling corners as you are able to gauge the heft of the car with better accuracy, meaning you have more ability to take corners at a higher speed.

All-in-all, the GLE 63 S is a highly competent high-performance SUV that, in my opinion, is the pick of the bunch in terms of Mercedes-AMG’s line-up but is also right up there in terms of its competitors. You get the most amount of performance without sacrificing anything in terms of luxury and refinement. You also save yourself a fair amount of money, if that matters to you.

It’s an AMG Onslaught!

Mercedes-Benz South Africa debuted their new range of AMG SUVs and we attended the local launch to bring you more.

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Mercedes-AMG will introduce a 2.0-litre hybrid engine into their historically bonkers, V8-powered C 63. And while many may have been left dumbstruck at the death of an engine that has become so endearing to the brand, the times are indeed changing. While we’re at it, here’s another healthy dose of a reality check: that engine will probably at some stage filter into the remaining AMG cars and before you know it, goodbye V8.   

But the purpose of this review is not to instill a morbid outlook on the future, but a gentle reminder that if you want an AMG with a V8 engine then best you snap one up quickly.

Which neatly brings me onto the range of cars that we had at our disposal last week when Mercedes-Benz South Africa hosted us at their Advanced Drivers Academy at Zwartkops Raceway.

Mercedes-AMG GLS 63 4MATIC+

First things first, this is a very, very large car. Just over 1.8m tall and under 2.0m wide. In comparison to the recently launched EQS with its near-perfect drag coefficient, the GLS is the aerodynamic equivalent of a 5-bedroom house. So, it’s even more surprising to note that the GLS can sprint to 100km/h in just a mere 4.2 seconds! There’s a remarkable 450kW and 850Nm on tap from its 4.0-litre V8 with a soundtrack that is distinctively AMG. It’s wonderful!

Our route involved a mixture of mountain passes, highway cruising and a final bashing around Gerotek testing facility near Hartebeesport. No matter the road, speed or driving mode you’re in, the GLS 63 remains impeccably comfortable and effortlessly quick. Air suspension with special spring/damper set-up and adaptive adjustable damping all contribute towards a very special drive.

Around the high-speed bowl at Gerotek, I was able to push the car to a maximum speed of 220km/h before I realized I am not Max Verstappen and my talent will eventually run out. Even then, the GLS 63 never felt spooked by the conditions and behaved exactly as you would expect from any other AMG.

It’s a fantastic balance of luxury and performance but that does come with a hefty price tag. You’ll need to part with just short of R3.2 million to get into one and the options list is exorbitant. Oh, and if you want the Monoblock rims as pictured above, you will have to part with an additional R80 000. Although it received a mixed reaction from local media, I think it will work well with Mercedes-Benz’s clientele.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S SUV/Coupe

The fourth generation GLE made its debut back in 2019 and remained one of Mercedes best-selling models. Although, it is interesting to note that global sales figures from Q1 of 2021 reported that BMW outsold Mercedes-Benz by 45 000 units, with the former reaching 636 606, while the latter came in with 590 999 units.

So then, apples for apples, is the GLE 63 short in terms of power to chief rival BMW and their X5 M Competition? Well, no. The BMW produces 460kW and 750Nm while the Mercedes, fitted with the same engine as the GLS 63, produces a mighty 450kW and 850Nm, plus an additional 16kW and 250Nm provided through electrical assistance that can be used temporarily.

The 9-speed transmission, which is also fitted to the GLS, made easy work of rapid shifts during our time at Gerotek where we were able test the cars acceleration. 100km/h comes up in 3.8 seconds, so it surprisingly made easy work of the heftier GLS in the drag races.

In terms of pricing, the standard GLE 63 S retails for R2 885 000 while the coupe variant is slightly more expensive at R2 948 000. BMW retails their X5 M Competition for slightly cheaper, give or take R50 000, which when you’re spending this amount of money is irrelevant. So, which one should you pick? Well, that’s entirely up to you but if we’re talking just Mercedes, the Coupe is certainly the head turner out of the lot and that’s where I would spend my hypothetical money.

Mercedes-AMG GLE 53 S SUV/Coupe

Not all models that we tested at the local launch were fitted with the 4.0-litre V8. The 53 models are fitted with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder in-line engine that again is aided by electrical assistance. Power figures are healthy at 320kW and 520Nm plus an additional 16kW and 250Nm is available from the batteries and alternators fitted.

For the average man or woman, those figures are more than sufficient and it’s only when you pit the 53 variants against the more powerful 63’s, do you really notice a power deficit. But in saying that, a 0-100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds is still commendable and it’s worth noting that in all instances that I was in or against a 53 model, it was the quickest off the line, until the inevitable power advantage of the V8 comes into play.

The GLE 53 manages to strike a comfortable balance of everyday liveability with exhilarating performance. Pricing for the standard GLE 53 is R1 837 000 while the Coupe will set you back R1 925 000. So, that’s roughly a R1 million saving over the more powerful 63 model but you are not being short-changed. Regardless of the model, the 53 variants are often the sweet spot in the range and in my opinion, it’s the same case here.

You can’t reasonably use all that power, all the time. In fact, there are very few instances where you would need the additional power of the V8. And dare I say it, Mercedes-Benz currently makes a better 3.0 inline six cylinder than BMW. I’ll probably be shot at dawn for uttering this but it is all in the name of good journalism!

We Drive the New Mercedes-AMG E53

Is it worthy of the the AMG badge? Alex Shahini reports from the launch at Zwartkops Raceway

Mercedes-Benz recently launched the updated version of their top-selling, 5th generation E-Class line-up in early March. Coming in multiple variations including 6 models and 9 derivatives, there is sure to be a style and powertrain for every consumer’s taste and preference wanting to combine luxury and sporty into a single package. While the more refined and comfortable cruisers may dominate the sales figures of the E-Class line-up, the stalwarts of the range will remain to be the AMG powered hooligans.

The trend of internal combustion engine downsizing is fully underway with most automotive manufacturers reducing cylinders and displacement in favour of more efficient alternatives. Mercedes-Benz has in some way kept true to their bewildering AMG roots and retained the iconic V8 in their range (albeit for now). Their additional incorporation of a 3-litre, in-line 6-cylinder turbocharged motor falls under their umbrella too featuring in models bearing the E53 nameplate. The motor is a compromise featuring the best of both worlds, but is it a true AMG?

Testing the E63 brute on the same day can provide an underwhelming feeling when getting behind the wheel of the E53. While it must be understood that they are not internal competitors, the E53 functions more as a stop gap for buyers wanting to step-up from the base model but without the need for the ludicrous nature of its 450kW bigger sibling. It has sufficient power rated at 320kW and comfortably delivers it through a 9 speed automatic gearbox into the standard 4Matic all-wheel drive system while mild hybrid tech assists in the form of a 48-volt battery. Despite this, the engine lacks punch at the top end and the gearbox feels slightly more lethargic when shifting. While the 520Nm that propels it to 100km/h in over 4 seconds makes it no slouch, the experience of it all feels underwhelming and dumbed down. It simply lacks that expectation of something adorned with the AMG badge.

This theme is continued when it comes to the suspension and overall handling characteristics, it feels a lot looser when cornering but as a result, more comfortable and negotiable. While it may not be as rigid as the E63, the pliant nature suits it well for comfortable use as a daily driver that can still traverse pothole-littered roads and undulating surfaces. And with combined efficiency rated below 9l/100km when driven sensibly, it won’t require a private oil refinery either.

The E53 remains a comfortable model in the line-up, ideally suited to urban cruising and trundling around in style but it lacks the raw, unadulterated character synonymous with larger AMG models. This is not to say it is bad at its intended function, but rather that the rapport of all AMG models that have come before it instil such an expectation to those that get behind the wheel that anything less can feel underwhelming. 

While it is well priced at R1 618 000 between the base E-Class model and the significantly more expensive R2 423 000 E63S 4Matic+ sedan, the E53 4Matic+ coupe should still comfortably fill a gap in the Mercedes-Benz sales catalogue.

It is expected that as we stray further from 6.2l V8 behemoths of yesteryear and gravitate closer to smaller displacements, Mercedes-Benz is likely to continue capitalising on the Affalterbach-based AMG division by branding models that can induce a sporty appeal to the consumer. The verdict is that the E53 is a good car, just perhaps without trying so hard to be something that it is not: a large AMG brute.

In A Class of Its Own – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Mercedes-Benz recently hosted us at their AMG Driving Academy headquarters at Zwartkops Raceway for the launch of their updated 5th-generation E-Class lineup. Alex Shahini spent the day driving the full range.

Few other brands have as much of a romantic relationship with the people of Mzansi than Mercedes-Benz. However their local history is ingrained in our fabric with models such as the iconic red W-126 500SE which was heartwarmingly gifted to Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison in early 1990. Despite the recent shift towards SUVs and hatchbacks, the distinguished variant remains the brands best selling model in their series lineup since the launch of its post-war predecessors in the late 1940’s. But is the E-Class in a class of its own?

The super-sedan segment remains hotly contested with the premium German brands constantly vying for the most market share and appealing to as broad of an audience as possible. This appeal to an inclusive sample group requires a range of vehicles that can satisfy every consumer’s needs which is why the E-Class lineup includes 6 models with 9 derivatives including a 4 door sedan, 4 door wagon (not applicable to our market), 2 door coupe and the 2 door cabrio. Within each derivative exists differing engine and drivetrain configurations which can be specified according to your preference. 

Despite the fierce rivalry with their German compatriots, Mercedes-Benz have remained the #1 premium brand after delivering 2.1 million units in 2020 with a relative market share of 37%, more than both local compatriots BMW (34%) and Audi (29%). The E-Class may continue to be the resolute reason for this continual success. It is proudly displayed as the brand’s best seller and with the 5th generation W213 as a basis, its 5 year refreshed facelift reinvigorated an already solid platform. 

With the AMG Driving Academy being situated in the opportune location of Zwartkops Raceway, the potent high performance E53 and E63 variants were put through their paces around the circuit and skid pan. While the impressive new 3-litre 6 cylinder turbocharged E53 has a power output of 320kW and makes use of mild hybrid technology, the earth-shaking but thirsty twin turbocharged 450kW V8 found in the E63S will remain the showstopper.

While all top tier AMG models retain the responsive steering and predictable body roll from the firmer suspension in Sport and Race mode, the more comfort orientated variants of the E200, E220d and E300 made trundling the highveld country roads a breeze. The overall dynamics between the chassis of the sedans and the coupes provided vastly differing experiences as a result of continual feedback from customers needs, with Mercedes-Benz adapting the suspension and chassis stiffness accordingly.

While the silhouette remains unchanged, the sheet metal panels and bodywork have been altered. The front end has swapped the upwards facing grille with a single horizontal feature for a downward facing grille with multiple vertical slats running across it – inspired by the AMG GT. The vehicles in the range including the AMG nameplate include more chrome features and a larger more imposing grille with aggressive front and rear bumpers. The now standard LED headlights have been refined to form a more cohesive front end with the updated grille while two-part LED tail lights run across the rear ¾ panel and boot lid. 

The interior layout remains mostly the same from its predecessor, with the most noticeable change being the aesthetically improved twin spoke steering wheel. The buttons have been replaced with touch-capacitive functionality which directly communicates with the new version of the MBUX system accessed via two 10.5” standard touch screens. While you can option a 12.3” screen for an additional price.

The overall tactile quality of the interior is high, with the selection of pleasant touch points found on the predecessor brought forward. The steering wheel feels slightly thick to grip around the thumb points while the touch-sensitive pads can often be overly sensitive to your touch. Spaciousness is however guaranteed for driver and passenger on saloon versions, with sufficient head, arm and legroom in all seats – even for taller passengers. The saloon retains all of the interior room while still being capable of 540l of cargo space too, trumping all of its competitors. 

Regardless which derivative, every E-Class has yet retained the premium interior texture and tailor made driving experience synonymous with the brand. It is easy to see why this range still falls at the heart of Mercedes-Benz sales as a benchmark of luxury and epitome of comfort. While it is often impossible to appeal to every consumer, the E-Class range certainly comes close to pleasing all of its buyers. 

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA: A Step-Up in All Areas!

The pumped up version of the A-Class is here and Alex Shahini gets to grips with the new GLA 200. 

A few decades ago the majority of passenger vehicles that filled the streets and transported families were sedans. Towards the end of the century, hatchbacks had asserted themselves as worthy adversaries and continued to increase in popularity in the ensuing years. Could it be that the compact SUV is under the same trajectory, one that will overthrow the beloved hatchback? 

Since the automotive world is constantly evolving, brands of all sizes conduct extensive market research to ensure they have the upper hand in new vehicle development. Things are no different with compact SUVs. They have become such a popular trend that consumers and brands have put their full focus into its development!

Now, this is where the new Mercedes-Benz GLA comes into the picture, it fills the niche for young buyers that desire compact SUV characteristics while retaining the no compromise comfort and style synonymous with the brand. Our test car, the GLA 200 AMG Line delivered on both accounts, with exterior styling imparting a more aggressive look than its predecessor and a sufficiently comfortable ride, even on 20” AMG Multi Spoke alloys. 

While the GLA is 100mm taller and slightly wider than its previous model, it is one of the most compact in its range, – in fact it is 15mm shorter than the previous generation and measuring in smaller than the chief rivals Audi Q3 and BMW X1. This makes it easily manoeuvrable and devoid of the cumbersome reputation SUVs have garnered. The dipped front bonnet made gauging tight surroundings quite difficult but credit can be given to the intuitive Mercedes Active Parking Assist with front and rear mounted cameras that provide extra confidence – albeit the sensor alarms were very enthusiastic near kerbs and parking garages. 

Consider this a more practical, spacious and consumer appeasing A class – it still feels very composed and planted around sharp corners and bends, although its inherently higher ground clearance does compromise it somewhat. Additionally, the elevated 140mm seating position from its sibling makes for comfortable driving and provides good vision of the surroundings. The A-pillars are not overtly bulky and do not hamper vision between the front windscreen and side windows – overall visibility from the driver’s seat is therefore good. 

Sitting slightly higher than most other vehicles on the road will generally instil an air of superiority to whoever is behind the wheel, but that is likely where its additional height advantage ends. Most non 4Matic front-wheel-drive GLA’s are unlikely to opt for the trail-less-travelled, which is a good thing since venturings into uneven terrain resulted in parking sensors frequently dispatching warning sounds and an uneasy ride (perhaps the risk of damaging those 20” rims only made this worse). 

While the local Mercedes-Benz GLA configurator only includes the two engine variants counting the 2.0 turbo diesel in the GLA 200d, our GLA 200 had the alternative, punchy 1.3-litre turbo four cylinder engine with 120kW. While the motor is well suited to lumbering around at low RPM and cruising on open roads, more spirited bursts of driving presented an annoying engine whine on deceleration which was exacerbated when the windows were open. Engine sound is as expected in a family orientated vehicle: numb, although there was a significant audible difference once the Sport mode was engaged. 

While the smoother, newer 8 speed gearbox of the local range is limited to the GLA 200 d, the only choice in our car was the 7 speed dual-clutch-transmission (DCT). While it felt less evolved and more hesitant in grabbing a gear than the 8 speed DCT in its diesel partner, it is still well suited for use as a comfortable runabout and highway cruiser. With engine rpm well below 2500 at 120km/h it provides good efficiency too, the combined figure for both urban and open road driving while under our care was about 7l/100km – disclaimer: spirited driving was top of the agenda and economy mode was only engaged once. 

As mentioned earlier, the interior is comfortable and spacious. The double screen layout provides a sensibly laid out display for the driver and central infotainment system while space-age inspired air vents take the focal point just below. The customisable displays and interior LED lighting allow for personalisation, while the central infotainment system has the ability to learn the drivers preference over time. The user interface is well integrated, but certain applications can be clunky to retrieve and process information like fuel economy and driving analytics. But the tactility of the central trackpad and drivers buttons can forgive some of the niggles. It was noted by other members of the team that material quality and overall fit and finish has taken a big step up from its hatchback sibling.

Space is abundant for both the driver and any passengers in the GLA, with sufficient leg and head room for normal sized adults in the rear. However, cargo space is where it falls short, even with 2 adjustable boot floor heights, the GLA has one of the least volumetric boot capacities in the segment at 435l. 

The GLA 200 is therefore a well balanced vehicle that is dressed up as an SUV. It is an option that will make valid sense to the consumer that is looking to satisfy as many driving and lifestyle needs as possible, while still retaining a three-pointed star on its grille. With a base price starting at R679 040, it is the most expensive of the lot too. Although it comes with a list of standard equipment, speccing options such as larger diameter rims and interior comforts could send the price closer to the R800 000 mark. 

2021 Mercedes-Benz E Class Range

The updated range of Mercedes Benz products and their inevitability endless onslaught of SUV’s by no means should suggest there luxury-focused premium origins my have fallen by the wayside. Having always served as the almost awkward ‘S-Class for less option’, the updated E-class range aims to remind us of all of the extreme attention to detail and the standards that the traditional Mercedes Benz approach has beckoned in a sleek and elegant package aimed at the wealth clients in banking speak.

2021 E-Class Specs and interior features

The new E-Class range serves more as an update rather than a completely new model, based on the underpinnings of the previous model the whole car has undergone extensive re-engineering and now is set to create the benchmark in its class. Visually the Panamericana Grille evolution hints to the sporting nature and the front are unmistakably new era Merc, and rather remarkable. The redesigned front end encompasses the new LED matrix headlights and reshaped front bumper and modernises the whole look. The Major benefactor of the new-era Merc is the interior, with the updated cabin gaining a new multi-function steering wheel with haptic feedback hands-off technology. Trim and available features have advanced fittingly and the Widescreen 10.3-inch twin-screen cockpit layout comes standard with the optional 12.3-inch paired to the latest version of Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) user interface. Voice control, the ‘Hey Mercedes’ personal assistant and augmented reality have also been revised to prove more intuitive and provide an enhanced driver and passenger experience and for the first time in the E-Class. Being an E-Class its now almost traditional that all tech due on the new generation S-Class trickles through and the with the sheer list of available driver assists summarising this nicely.

2021 E-Class Drivetrains

The complete overhaul of the vehicles electrics system as allowed Merc to through all their latest technology at this vehicle and adequately address the aged feel the E-Class often had. The Driver autonomy focus becomes clearly visible through the lengthy list of active and passive safety. Topping off the list is the Active Steering Assist systems, with emergency avoidance technology, Active Blind Spot Assist which also functions at a dead stop to help with pedestrian and cyclist traffic. Additionally, Traffic Jam Assist allows for self-driving autonomy up to 60Km/h and can apply the brakes due to cross traffic where needed. Distronic Adaptive Crusie Control, with steering and braking autonomy making up the bulk of the active safety.
In Europe, the benefit of 48V Mild-Hybrid electrification is applied across the range to the 200kW 2.0Litre Turbo Four Cylinder petrol, 3.0Litre 6-Cylinder turbo petrol and 3.0Litre 6-Cylinder turbo Diesel, providing an additional 15kW of EQ boost. South Africa likely will retain the current range of just 2 engines, namely the 145kW and high 190kW four-cylinder turbo petrol and the 143Kw 2.1Litre turbo diesel mated to a 9-Speed Automatic transmission.

The E53 AMG offering retains with 320kW and 520Nm of torque from the same 3.0litre V6 Biturbo engine, paired to the same 48Volt Hybrid system, which can provide 16kW and 250Nm in addition to the standard numbers to muster a 4.5 Second 0-100 sprint time and a limited top speed of 250km/h or 270km/h with the AMG Drivers Package. Drive is to all-four wheels via 4MATIC 4WD and the 9-Speed DCT AMG gearbox from bigger brother E63S is shared. The 2021 E63 S has been spotted testing in Germany and likely will follow shortly with a few extra ponies, and significant driver-focused chassis updates.

2021 Mercedes- Benz E-Class in South Africa

The Auto industry and Covid-19 have been playing an exciting sparring match. With the Geneva Motorshow where the E-Class was set to debut cancelled, the digital launch suggested a 2021 Launch with the E-Class sedan leading the way for Coupe and Cabriolet models.

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class – Setting New Standards

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class in Matt Grey, Overlooking Ocean and town

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Some car models evolve like a fine wine; slowly over time, each incarnation just a little better than the last. Not at Mercedes-Benz though, if other technologies progressed as fast as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class, we’d be living around in a rather futuristic world. Twenty-one years ago, just after the first A-Class was launched, it made motoring headlines for failing the Moose Test, but that was actually a blessing in disguise rather than a setback. This problem forced the men in white coats to re-engineer the suspension as well as to add electronic driver aids never before seen in a compact car, forcing other manufacturers to follow suit. This was the start of a brilliant track record, amassing sales of three million A-Class cars (6 million compact cars in total) to date, each new model featuring improvements and upgrades that you’d only expect to find in top tier models.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is now in its fourth generation, and it’s no facelift, this technological marvel is an all-new affair from the ground up. The compact Benz is longer, higher and wider resulting in a sportier looking hatchback, especially when fitted with the optional 19-inch wheels. The front-end subscribes to the latest Mercedes-Benz design architecture and this new design also sees the car being the most aerodynamic in the segment. Much of this is attributed to the front and rear wheel spoilers that result in low airflow losses, in addition, wheel arches are insulated from the engine compartment and the radiator surrounds are sealed. The design of the A-pillars and the new wing mirrors also has an effect on drag, but most noticeably on wind noise. This all-new A-Class is easily the quietest hatch I’ve driven to date.

Cabin space is improved thanks to the new dimensions; so taller drivers have more comfort with better elbow and shoulder room. The boot receives a 29-litre increase in capacity, now totalling 370 litres and the taillights are now sectioned in two, meaning a 20cm wider load aperture giving your favourite set of Callaway clubs a perfect entry. Besides space, the interior of the all-new A-Class is a very premium place indeed. The retail price of these cars (which we’ll get to later) does seem high, but when you see the fit and finish of the materials and the amount of technology crammed in, things become a lot more palatable.

MBUX – Mercedes-Benz User Experience – is an intelligent multimedia system that adapts to your inputs and voice commands which is not only great to keep you company on long roads, it also keeps your eye focused ahead to keep you safe. All manner of things can be done via the voice control, such as turning vehicle systems on and off or finding you a better route through traffic.  To access this function, simply blurt out “Hey Mercedes” at any point and she’ll answer you back – sound familiar?  It’s also easy to use, however when you want your fingers to do the talking, the touch controls for all the systems are easy and intuitive, once you learn what does what of course.

Powering the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class are two new power plants; for the A200 there’s a turbocharged 1332cc 4-cylinder with 120kW and 250Nm on tap. The A250 Sport features 1991cc, also a turbocharged 4-cylinder, and produces 165kW and 350Nm available. Both engines are mated to a sublime, smooth and lightning-quick 7-speed dual clutch transmission (7G-DCT). A variety of drive modes are available, including Comfort, Eco and Sport, the latter being very responsive and firm. We were only able to sample the A200 on launch, and the responsiveness and available power from such a small capacity motor boggles the mind. It’s claimed to reach 100km/h in 8-seconds with a top speed at 225km/h, but it feels faster. Combined fuel consumption is claimed at 5.2l/100km which I’m sure it can manage, just not on launch. In this initial launch drive the A200 was put through its paces and it must be said that there’s not really any way to fault the car. With the technology on board, the new A-Class sets new standards, once again forcing others to follow. The automaker wants to target a younger, more tech-savvy buyer, and offerings don’t get much better than this. A diesel variant and the halo AMG version will come in time.

New Mercedes-Benz A-Class Pricing in South Africa

Pricing for the all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class sees the A200 comes in at R499 000 and the A250 lists at R593 300.

New Mercedes-AMG C43

Mercedes-AMG

New Mercedes-AMG C43 First Drive

For those not in the know, the Mercedes-AMG and Mercedes-Benz range can become quite confusing. Walk into a dealership and ask for a “fast Mercedes” and you will most likely find yourself presented with a myriad of models and a vast range of numbers – such as 65, 63, 53, 45 and 43. Fortunately, it’s articles like these that’ll hopefully provide a little insight – so that if you do go looking for a “fast Mercedes”, you’ll have done the math and know which number you’re looking for. Or at least have an idea.

Mercedes-AMG C43

 

Today we’re talking about the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class. It’s a facelift, so it’s not entirely a new vehicle, but they call it new – so let’s roll with it. To start the launch off, we embarked into some countryside areas around the outskirts of JHB, to sample these new models in a quiet setting. The model I focused on was the C43, naturally.

The 43 range offers a 3.0l V6 Twin Scroll Turbo, which produces 290kW and 520 Nm – reaching 100km/h in approximately 4.7 seconds. Driving not only a C43, but the “43” motor in general, was a first-time affair for me. While this vehicle could be classed as a “baby” AMG when compared with the mighty C63, it certainly doesn’t sound like it. In a good way.

This V6 purrs like a Cheetah being scratched by a very large garden rake. Again, in a good way. There was never really a time when I wanted to turn the Active Exhausts off, as chasing this noise through the higher rpm range through a total of 9 gears was becoming just short of addictive. Plus, it’s also slightly quieter than its V8 older brother, so when pottering around town you can leave the active pipes on and not get a headache. Do I prefer it? I haven’t yet decided.

Mercedes-AMG C43

While I could bark on about this all day, it’s time to discuss some of the new features found on the C-Class in general. While snapping at the gears and chasing that sweet V6 sound, you’ll find yourself holding onto a new steering wheel – one which was first found on the S Class and E Class. I love the finish, styling and premium feel it gives you, as it features metal, leather and these hi-tech thumb touch-pads for scrolling through various menus on the digital display. It’s also a standard feature across the whole range, not just the AMG models.

Turn you attention to the fascia and you will also notice the new 12.3-inch instrument cluster. As common as they are becoming on new premium vehicles, each manufacturer has their own take on these digital consoles. Through this system, the driver can browse and adjust most settings and features on the vehicle. AMG variants provide a striking yellow design with a layout that simulates the classic round dials that we all know and love. The display can show you pretty much anything the heart desires regarding the vehicle and while live tyre pressure and the ambient temperature is…cool? Viewing live power, torque and boost levels were something that interested me more.

Mercedes-AMG C43

From the outside, a new redesigned front bumper and diamond grille differentiate the C43 compared to other models. The new 84 LED multi-beam headlights add subtle changes too. With the option of the Ultra Range system, these provide light for up to 650m and also feature the blanking out technology which means Hi-Beam can be selected all the time without dazzling other road users. New tail-lights are also apparent, as well as various rear bumper designs – depending on the package you select.

So, what’s it like then driving the face-lifted C43? Apparently, it’s just like the pre-facelift variant, only prettier and faster. Even though it’s an “AMG”, the vehicle is pretty comfortable when the driving modes are relaxed and set to comfort, dial in the sport modes and the C43 comes alive and provides the sharp AMG driving feel. There is more power on tap, which means the trees blur quicker on a straight line. The car still features Mercedes’s 4Matic system but this time sending 69% of the power to the rear wheels which improve the vehicle dynamically. This provides a nice balance as the power is still accessible all the time, unlike it’s older brother the C63, which likes to wiggle around corners. This is actually a good thing, because only those who know how to do the “AMG dance” should try going toe to toe with one, should they be brave enough. The C43 then is the safe bet among the fast C-Class variants, so if you want to just get on it, this may be the one you should ask for at a dealership.

The new Mercedes-AMG C43 Vehicle Pricing in South Africa:

Sedan                       Coupe                                  Cabriolet

R948,500                  R983,500                             R1,100,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s why you should buy the Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Alfa Romeo Giulia 

I know what you are all thinking, how does the Italian stallion compare to the ever so popular BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class or the third German moustache – the Audi A4?. All giants of the same segment.

This article isn’t going to be a long-winded and unnecessary comparison, the seats are like this, the wing mirrors are like that…if that’s what you came for you can copy and paste the above paragraph into the mighty Google search. This article is simply going to give you the reason why one should consider the Giulia- summed it up in one word: Difference.

Alfa Romeo Giulia

Let me expand this over a few hundred words.

You see, a BMW 3 series is a great proven product, likewise a C-class, they sell in droves partly because of this, but also because these brands are huge in this fine country of South Africa. Consumers buy BMW/Mercedes/Audi products for the same reason they buy Apple- because of how it interprets them and how they are viewed by their friends. I have happened to fall for this clever marketing ploy, you don’t sell the product, you sell the experience, the lifestyle…

Alfa Romeo Giulia

The first Alfa Romeo Guila I drove happened to be the QV, its fast and nimble front end caught my attention, so did the faulty electronics, and then a day later it ended up in a tyre wall ( through no fault of my own) It’s safe to say I didn’t get to spend much time in that specific vehicle, but after spending a good amount of time in the “standard” model, the Giulia just happens to also be a very good motor vehicle – shock horror.

However, I can’t just leave you with that to break the mould. We can all see its beautiful, but above that, it drives very nicely from both a comfort and performance perspective, it’s darn comfortable, the interior is fairly splendid and features technology which belongs in 2018. The Giulia’s 2.0 Petrol with 147 kW 8-speed automatic transmission offers just a good if not a better driving experience than its direct competitors. So here is what you need to ask yourself, why not be different?

Alfa Romeo Giulia

You see, life isn’t always what your friends think. While on route to test drive the “you know whats”, break the stereotype and pull into your nearest Alfa dealer. You never know unless you try and let’s be honest, if I had a Rand for every 320 M-Sport I passed on the morning commute, I wouldn’t be making a morning commute…

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Driven

A mid-sized family orientated SUV with 375kW and 700Nm may sound quite preposterous, in fact, it can be likened to those superhuman toddler gymnasts you see on YouTube. At the age of four, their biceps are bigger than their little heads, causing you to ask, “why?”

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

Many may ask the same question when it comes to the new Mercedes AMG GLC 63 S. Personally, I didn’t ask why when learning about this car, because I’m a fan of speed and power in any shape or size. I can imagine many motorists share the same sentiments as me as well. What may seem like just a statement from Merc, is actually more than that, it’s a shift based on consumer behaviour. The reality is that many consumers who drive sedans are now changing their buying behaviour toward SUV’s, such as the GLC. Reasons such as safety, size and presence are all factors leading to this change. Then there are those who drive the performance variants of popular sedans, such as the burbling Mercedes AMG C63 or BMW’s M3. These guys need a replacement for the performance they’re used to, if they decide to do the SUV jump. The new GLC 63 S seems to be an answer, but can it provide the same thrills? Can an SUV provide as much fun, performance and driving experience as a sedan AMG, such as the C63 S? Let’s find out…

An early flight navigated me from Durban to Lanseria, where we jumped into a van and arrived at Zwartkops Raceway, which would be the base for our testing. The first few hours including a high speed “brake and steer” test, a slalom and drag races. While all this is was fun, it also showed us what we could expect from the GLC 63 S, when we would begin our full laps. Not only that, it showed us how much confidence Mercedes-Benz has in their vehicle. For example, our slalom runs started with ESP on, as we progressed we eventually were encouraged to switch of the car’s ESP system, allowing us to feel how the limited slip differential works when the vehicle is unencumbered by the safety systems.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

It’s worth noting, the ESP system on the GLC 63 S is very sensitive, with good reason too – it’s still a family car. One with a lot of power. This vehicle also carries quite a bit of weight. In the wrong hands, it could lead to some not so desirable outcomes should an overenthusiastic overcook it. Back to the story.

So here we are, on the track and ready for some laps. We started with ESP on and gradually went through the modes until everything was off. Not half off, but “off off off” as we call it in the office. As you can imagine, with ESP in full force, throttle output is easily hampered coming out of corners, especially when power was applied sharply. From a safety perspective, it made sense but on a track, it can be annoying. Which sounds like a pointless statement because a track day in a GLC 63 S is more a treat for journalists, as opposed to a reality for an owner. Sport, Sport + and Race modes were also tested, which give you more freedom, more slip and more AMG noise on each mode – which by the way is fantastic. AMG have a whole division focused on exhaust sound – a great division if you ask me. I digress however…After a few laps toggling between various modes and even with ESP off, I became very frustrated with my track experience.  I wasn’t getting what I expected out of the vehicle and quite frankly, I was unhappy with my laps. At each apex, when I wanted to power out of the corner, the car was cutting power quite abruptly – arrghh. This is not what I expected from a car that uses the 4Matic + system, the same one that is in the highly regarded Mercedes AMG E63 S, less the drift mode.

All is not lost.

On our slow down lap, I discussed with Francisco and the AMG Driving instructor. I explained that perhaps my driving style is wrong for this extremely powerful SUV. The instructor agreed and like a good coach during half time in a bag game, he gave me a few pointers to get the most out of a car of this size. So, after pumping myself up, we headed back onto the track. The aim? Turning in later, getting more steering into the corner before the apex, allowing me to unwind the lock before accelerating out of the corner.  This would allow the GLC to not panic, causing the “fail safe” safety systems to activate even when they’re meant to be off off off. Again, a necessary measure for a family SUV.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

The result? Pretty brilliant. The limited-slip diff worked well, sending power to the front when needed and pulling the GLC out of corners. After the little teething issues we began with, due to my driving style, the vehicle became the dynamic, fast and precise track weapon I wanted it to be. Not the words you expect to hear about an SUV – Merc is onto something with this setup.

So can an AMG SUV provide as much fun, performance and driving experience as a sedan variant, such as C63 S? Well, regarding performance,  the head of the AMG driving academy told us that he could probably set similar laps times in the AMG GLC 63 S as he would in an AMG GT S, which is quite the statement to make. The question of fun and driving experience still needs to be answered however. I may be a young journalist, but over the past few years I’ve done my fair share of driving on and off the track. Honestly, driving the AMG GLC 63 S fast around a racetrack was one the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had to date. You may not be able to do tyre smoking drift sessions in the car, but the reality is even most who own C63 S’s can’t either – even though their vehicles can. So there’s not much to miss in that department. That being said, the GLC does allow for a fair bit of a movement, since it sends its power mostly to the rear tyres.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S

I probably enjoyed this track experience as much as I did, because I wasn’t really expecting the car to be as good as they say it is, it is an SUV after all. Or perhaps it was due to the fact that I had to work harder for cleaner laps. Either way, it was exhilarating and a good glimpse of the future of smaller performance SUV’s.

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Pricing in South Africa

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S SUV: R1 572 602

Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupe: R1 689 067