Monday, 27 February 2017

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Review

What’s it all about?

As part of Mercedes-AMG’s compact car offering, the CLA 45 is the company’s stove-hot, ultra-fast, small-sized steroidal sedan. It’s the most potent CLA-Class vehicle you can buy today, pinning you into its lush bucket seats at full noise, with a streetwise look via its sporty body kit and big 19-inch alloy wheels.

The CLA-Class was updated ( in August 2016 with equipment upgrades, a subtle new look and a power boost for the AMG CLA 45. The AMG’s wild 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine adding 15kW and 25Nm for a total of 280kW and 475Nm – making it the world’s most potent 2.0-litre production car engine.

With an all-wheel drive setup with enough snatch and grab to accelerate to 100km/h in 4.2sec, but claims to offer fuel consumption of just 7.4L/100km, the stylish sedan can switched between brutal and banal at the touch of a button.

Regular readers will know I’m not the best at achieving low fuel economy figures but my week-long drive resulted in 12.8L/100km, which isn’t bad considering how easily you can point and shoot this machine.

How much will it cost?
Pegged at $92,215, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 is $2715 more than the 2016 model and is quite a stretch from the entry-level CLA’s $52,500. You get a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty and plenty of fruit with the car, including semi-automated driving functions (acceleration, braking, steering) via adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistants.

Some of the other standard features include the AMG Driver’s Package and Performance Seats (feels sporty), AMG Performance Exhaust (sounds sporty), AMG high-performance braking system (stops sportily), plus a Harmon Kardon Logic 7 surround sound audio system with top-shelf infotainment and sat nav.

It’s a beautiful car to sit in and makes you feel like a prince (or princess) with a stylish and utterly opulent fit out. I love the touch-points too. The AMG gear-shifter and steering wheel are luscious, while crimson seat belts and scarlet highlights throughout add a little razzle-dazzle.

There are a few downsides to the cabin. Cheap plastic temperature dials are a hangover from the A-Class’s $30,000 budget car origins, and manual adjustment of the steering wheel is disappointing. The lack of a 360-degree parking camera ain’t great either… with shiny wheels like these, a reverse camera isn’t enough!

Why should I buy it?

In my view it’s not the best value-for-money performance car you can get for nearly $100,000, but it’s exceedingly fast, it’s surprisingly loud (though there are “quiet” modes) and hugely entertaining across a range of scenarios. The way it snarls and barks when you’re giving it heaps is awfully immersive and turns heads quicker than zombie flash mob.

It blitzes the traffic light duels and straight-line sprints with intensity, its seven-speed dual-clutch paddle-shift gearbox visceral control of engine speeds. It rips up winding coastal roads too, attacking apexes with gusto and rocketing from point-to-point with startling pace.

There is a touch of understeer at the limit and it can be a bit firm on crumbly roads but overall it’s a cracker to drive. The cabin is Tuetonic sportiness at its best and the exterior is stylish too, all of which conspire to make this a satisfying vehicle to look at, touch and drive.

When is it available in Australia?
The car is already on sale locally and for buyers who prefer a wagon there’s the long sausage version too, only it’s a called a Shooting Brake ( A high-tech German car with a quintessentially 19th-century moniker? No doubt the British aristocracy will be chuffed!

Despite having a more flexible load space the wagon is same price, $92,215. So unless you have to have the swoopy-coupy look (which is pretty slick) the wagon is the judicious choice.

Mercedes-Benz is working on the next-generation 2.0-litre banzai motor ( for the next A, CLA, and GLA-Class vehicles that will reach 300kW, but these vehicles are unlikely to emerge until 2018 before going on sale around 2019.

Who will it appeal to?
Well people like me I reckon. Active lifestyle, enjoy the beach, going to bars, pretty hip and happening really. In all seriousness, there’s broad-spectrum demographic appeal here, from young executives and IT professionals through to mature aged rev heads.

Given the almost six figure price tag buyers are likely to be either successful business people and/or criminals who want something small enough to get around town but with enough mumbo to eat up open road miles too.

Realistically it can accommodate four adult passengers, but there’s seating for five. It’s got a certain level of pragmatism and although rear-seat head and leg-room is tight for taller sorts, the boot is surprisingly deep for a car of this size.

Not that I’m suggesting putting bodies in the boot… But they would fit. Anyway, the AMG has a very useful 470 litres is just 10 shy of the bigger BMW 3 Series’ 480-litre boot.

Where does it fit?
If I was standing in a car dealership showroom having a squiz at this car, I’d call it a small sedan with big muscles. According to VFACTS, the group that records Australian new car sales, it’s a “medium-sized car above $60,000”.

Considering you can buy a regular CLA-Class car for under $60,000 and that it’s 22cm shorter than the best-selling medium car in Australia, the Toyota Camry, I think my definition is far more apt.

Then again, Benz calls this car a coupe, which is just as confusing, considering it has four doors and is clearly not a coupe. Nevertheless, it’s an absolutely bottle rocket with lashings of luxury for good measure.

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Thursday, 2 February 2017

How Ireland is shaping the future of connected cars

VW designers explore new shapes for EVs

The I.D. hatchback is the first in Volkswagen’s new family of battery-electric vehicles.
Volkswagen is developing a fresh design language for a new generation of purpose-built electric vehicles.

Klaus Bischoff, VW brand’s head of design, said battery packs make it possible to change the fundamental shape of the vehicle. That will lead to vehicles that are taller and have short overhangs, shorter hoods, longer wheelbases, more-raked windshields and bigger passenger compartments.

VW is developing a new family of battery-electric vehicles. The first of at least three models slated for production is expected in 2020.

These cars, starting with the Golf-like I.D. hatchback that debuted in the U.S. at CES in Las Vegas this month, will all be based on the new MEB modular architecture.

Purpose-built electric cars, however, pose different challenges for designers, who have had to account for an engine compartment and long hood. EVs such as the I.D., which goes on sale in 2020, generally are taller than vehicles with internal combustion engines, to accommodate floor-mounted power cells.

“To cope with that we need to correct proportions,” Bischoff said in Detroit this month. “Essential for this is huge wheels, huge in diameter — but also wide.”

Because the need for an engine compartment disappears, the A-pillar can be moved forward substantially. This lets designers shrink the hood to essentially only what is needed to meet crash regulations and pedestrian impact guidelines. This allows the windshield to be inclined at a more level angle for better fluid dynamics, he said.

“To gain the travel distance — range is essential — we need to have outstanding drag coefficients, and this will also influence the shape of the cars quite a bit,” Bischoff said.

With virtually no front to the car, overhangs can be extremely short, maximizing the wheelbase and expanding the passenger compartment. VW designers also pushed the dashboard forward by 5 inches to give even more legroom.

“The I.D. has the interior space of a Passat [midsize] with a footprint smaller than the Golf,” Bischoff said.

Also important for Bischoff is redefining the front of his new EVs, taking a page out of Tesla cars by doing away with the front air vents and curtains initially needed to cool the motor.

“We don’t want a grille,” he explained. “Volks-wagen, if you look back [at the Beetle], was born without a grille. The engine was in the back.”

In the interior, VW designers are shooting for the “ultimate reduction” — eliminating console elements in favor of a tablet and a heads-up display enhanced by augmented-reality.

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Safety scheme hailed as crash tests show advances in car design over 20 years

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Audi workers threaten strike at A3, TT plant in Hungary

A TT Roadster gets a finish and surface check at Audi’s Gyor plant.

BUDAPEST — Audi workers in Hungary have set up a strike committee to push for higher salaries in the latest sign of how labor shortages in the country are driving up wage expectations.

The AHFSZ union said in a statement published on Monday that the most recent management offer was “unacceptable” as it proposed to hike wages gradually, while a previously flagged bonus program was scrapped.

The strike committee aims to continue talks with Audi management, the statement said.

A press official for Audi could not comment immediately.

Audi builds A3 compact sedan and convertible cars and TT sports-car models in Hungary at its plant in Gyor, according to Automotive News Europe‘s European car assembly plant map.

The action by Audi workers follows a December agreement with unions at rival carmaker Daimler’s Hungarian factory that will see base salaries increase by 10 percent in each of the next two years.

The production and export of cars by foreign automakers is a key driver of economic growth in Hungary, where wages for skilled workers are well below Western European levels.

The car sector accounts for more than a quarter of total industrial output in the eastern European Union member.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who faces an election in early 2018, has agreed with employers that the minimum wage will increase by 15 percent this year and another 8 percent in 2018, while the payroll tax will also be lowered.

Gross wages in Hungary rose by 6.2 percent year-on-year in the January-November period. The unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent, the lowest in at least a decade, in September-November from 4.7 percent in August-October.

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