John's Journal: John McElroy's multimedia blog about the automotive industry

Seat Time: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC Wagon

July 29th, 2014 at 9:09am

2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC Wagon

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Chip Drake
Manufacturer: Daimler AG
Make: Mercedes-Benz
Model: E350 Wagon
Type: Sport Wagon
Competitors: Volvo XC70, Acura TSX Sportwagen, Cadillac CTS wagon (BMW 5 Series wagon, Audi A6 Avant — currently unavailable in U.S.)
Price: $58,600 (base); $73,275 (as tested)
Made in: Final Assembly: Sindelfingen, Germany (Engine & Transmisson from Germany)
Drivetrain: 3.5-Liter V 6 Engine w/ Direct Injection (302horsepower)
EPA Ratings: 19city, 26highway, (21combined)

Final Impression:

2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC Wagon InteriorThe station wagon was once an unquestioned icon of American car culture. From the ’60s Woody Wagon to the Griswold’s Family Truckster to the even Simpson’s animated Canyonero, it was the moveable feast for a variety of U.S. families. But then the minivan became de rigueur followed closely by the crossover, leaving the wagon wandering for 21st century relevance. But thanks to Europe, the station wagon never fully disappeared from American roads. Volvo and VW continue to lead the way with the German luxury brands adding models to the station wagon stable until there was only one. So when the LAST LUXURY WAGON STANDING — a Mercedes-Benz E350 — showed up in the Autoline driveway it was time to evaluate the state of today’s station wagon.

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AAH #251 – 2014 Automotive Fantasy Draft

July 25th, 2014 at 3:39pm

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It’s that time again! Join us for the Autoline Automotive Draft as some of the best minds in the auto business assemble their fantasy car companies. This year’s event features some all-new challenges; team owners will have to choose at least one executive from outside the auto industry, choose a premiere vehicle and even fire an executive during the course of the contest.

2014 Roster:
Gary Vasilash, Basic Motors
Aaron Bragman, Ursus Motors
Paul Eisenstein, Motor City Mammoths
Jeff Sabatini, Automobiles Portlandia

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

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Get Ready for the 2014 Automotive Draft!

July 23rd, 2014 at 9:00am

Once again it’s time for our panel of expert journalists to assemble their fantasy car companies. See what’s new for 2014!

Check out the 2014 Categories and Rules»

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AAH #250 – Lawyers, Luxury & Life After Sedans

July 18th, 2014 at 5:15pm

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UP FOR DISCUSSION:
- GM CEO Mary Barra gets grilled in front of the U.S. Senate… Again.
- Are B-segment CUVs and luxury cars set to boom?
- VW announces its CrossBlue SUV will be built in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

All that and much more with Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production; Keith Naughton, Bloomberg; Michael Robinet, IHS; Bill Visnic, Edmunds.com.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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Seat Time: 2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

July 11th, 2014 at 5:11pm

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 S

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: Volkswagen AG
Make: Bentley
Model: Continental GT V8 S
Type: 2-door coupe
Competitors: Rolls-Royce Wraith Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG
Price: $233,325
Made in: Crewe, England
Drivetrain: 4.0 twin turbo V-8; 521 hp, 502 lb.-ft.; 8-speed automatic
EPA Ratings: 15 city, 20 highway, 18 combined

Final Impression:

2014 Bentley Continental GT V8 SWhen the delivery crew pulled into our parking lot at work someone looked out the window and said, “Hey, they’re dropping off a Bentley.” I quickly corrected him. “No,” I said matter of factly, “They’re dropping off my Bentley.”

I really wanted to get in this car, and for one very simle reason. This is a stunningly beautiful machine. Despite having a 10-year-old body style, everywhere I went people stopped dead in their tracks and pointed. That’s because this was what Bentley calls the Continental GT V8 S “in Beluga.” And “in Beluga” proves the critical importance of having the proper color and trim in a motorcar. I mean, how else can you explain people fawning over a 10 year old design?

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AAH #249 – Hyundai Sonata Sings a New Song

July 11th, 2014 at 4:10pm

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UP FOR DISCUSSION:
- Is the next automotive recession due to arrive in 2017?
- First drive impressions of the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C.
- Can recalls actually help sales?

SPECIAL GUEST: Mike O’Brien, VP, Corporate & Product Planning, Hyundai
- Among other vehicles, is there a pickup in Hyundai’s product plans?

All that and more with John McElroy, Autoline.tv; Henry Payne, The Detroit News; Doron Levin, Journalist & Author.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Hyundai

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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Thanks to our partners and friends AutoFieldGuide.com and WardsAuto.com for embedding AAH!

Seat Time: 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE Coupe

July 9th, 2014 at 2:33pm

2015 Jaguar F-Type Coupe

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Chip Drake
Manufacturer: Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC
Make: Jaguar
Model: F-TYPE Coupe
Type: 2-seat performance car
Competitors: Porsche Boxter, Porsche Cayman, Chevrolet Corvette, Mercedes-Benz SL, Audi R8
Price: Coupe (base) $65,000; S Coupe $77,000; R Coupe $99,000
Made in: Castle Bronmwich manufacturing plant in the British Midlands, United Kingdom.
Drivetrain: Coupe: 340hp 3-liter Supercharged V6; S Coupe: 380hp 3-liter Supercharged V6; R Coupe: 550hp 5-liter Supercharged V8; all models equipped with 8-speed “Quickshift” automatic transmission
EPA Ratings: Coupe: 20city, 28highway, (23combined); S Coupe: 19city, 27highway, (22combined); R Coupe 16city, 23highway, (18combined)

Final Impression:

2015 Jaguar F-Type CoupeOn the heels of its very successful convertible launch last year, Jaguar unveiled its F-TYPE Coupe to journalists last month. The car is essentially the convertible but now equipped with a roof made with a high-strength steel, hydroformed aluminum alloy beam; That beam allowed designers to go from the A pillar to the rear of the car without the traditional B pillar giving the vehicle its sleek sports car look. And according to Jaguar engineers, the Coupe is 80% stiffer than the convertible thanks to the vehicle’s aluminum architecture.

Now if you don’t know before you take it out for a drive on the freeway, you soon find out that the Coupe comes equipped with a hidden spoiler that sits in the tapered shut-line of the tailgate. Jaguar says its there for the rear aesthetic of the car as well as reduce lift. But what’s disconcerting about the spoiler — if you don’t know it’s there as I didn’t — is that deploys at 70 miles per hour and then returns at 50. Seeing it in the rear view caused me to stop twice on the Interstate during the drive to find out what was going on. Unfortunately, Jaguar didn’t warn us about it and my driving partner couldn’t find anything in the owner’s manual about the spoiler. That all said, it was cool once I knew it was there.

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Seat Time: 2015 BMW M3, M4

July 7th, 2014 at 5:32pm

BMW M3, M4

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: John McElroy
Manufacturer: BMW
Make: BMW
Model: M3, M4
Type: 2-door coupe, 4-door sedan
Competitors: Cadillac CTS-V, Audi RS5, Mercedes C63 AMG
Price: M3: $62,295; M4: $65125
Made in: Regensburg, Germany
Drivetrain: 3.0 L in-line 6: 425 hp, 406 lb-ft; 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DCT
EPA Ratings: 17 city/26 highway/20 combined w/6-speed manual
17 city/24 highway/19 combined w/7-speed DCT

Final Impression:

BMW M3 SedanWhen BMW set out to develop the new M3 sedan and M4 coupe they took them to the historic Nordschleife track in Nurburgring. When they decided to let a group of American auto journalists wring the cars out they took them to the historic Road America track. Good thing they did, because these are definitely track cars. Oh sure, you can drive these Ms out on the open road. But you can’t appreciate what makes them so special unless you’re on the track.

Here’s one small example why. These Ms have 7 different heat exhangers to keep everything cool no matter how hard you hit the hammer. The engine coolant, the engine oil, the transmission oil, the inlet air, and even the turbo bearings all get their own cooling systems. Here’s another example. You can’t get 20 inch tires and wheels on these Ms. They come standard with 18s and 19s are optional, all with the idea to keep unsprung weight down for higher cornering speeds. You want 20s? Go take your bling fetish somewhere else.

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Seat Time: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

June 30th, 2014 at 12:41pm

MY15 Hyundai Sonata

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Seamus McElroy
Manufacturer: Hyundai
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata
Type: 4-door mid-size sedan
Competitors: Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu
Price: Base = $21,960
Made in: Montgomery, Alabama
Drivetrain: 2.4L GDI Four-Cylinder w/ six-speed automatic. 2.0L Four-Cylinder Turbo w/ six-speed automatic. 1.6L Four-cylinder Turbo w/ seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
EPA Ratings: 2.4 GDI – 25MPG city/ 37MPG highway. 2.4 GDI (Sport & Limited) – 24MPG city/ 35MPG highway. 2.0T – 23MPG city/ 32MPG highway. 1.6T – 28MPG city/ 38MPG highway (estimated)

Final Impression:

The Sonata is currently the second best selling vehicle in Hyundai’s line-up, accounting for a quarter of its sales. But the past two years sales have dropped after peaking in 2011 to over 215,000 units. And the trend is continuing this year. But the company says its held back production in order to focus on quality over quantity. Never the less, its not a good direction to be heading.

Hyundai has just started rolling out the new model which it believes has the potential to be as successful as the outgoing model.

The 2015 Sonata features what Hyundai calls its Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design. The company says, instead of going with a bold and aggressive look like the previous model, it wanted to give the car a more premium look which I think it accomplished. But the company doesn’t want to lose the customers that liked the bold styling of the previous model. That’s why Hyundai created a new Sport model, that features a more aggressive looking front fascia and rocker panel moldings. Plus it comes with dual exhaust instead of single like the rest of the Sonata line-up.

2015 Hyundai Sonata InteriorInside, the style is also dialed back but the climate, audio controls along with the optional nav screen are well laid out. There’s plenty of room inside thanks to the increased passenger volume. And since Hyundai doesn’t offer a V6 with the Sonata its able to provide more passenger space than its competitors. The 2.0T model interior comes with a D-cut steering wheel with paddle shifters, a different gear shift lever, aluminum pedals and a instrument cluster with needle gauges. And like the exterior design of the Sport model, these sportier interior upgrades are meant to appeal to the buyer looking for more expressive styling.

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Seat Time: 2014 Scion tC

June 27th, 2014 at 2:35pm

2014 Scion tC

Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Seamus McElroy
Manufacturer: Toyota
Make: Scion
Model: tC
Type: 2-door coupe
Competitors: Hyundai Veloster, Subaru BRZ, Scion FR-S, Honda CR-Z
Price: Base Automatic = $20,965. As Tested = $23,166
Made in: Tsutsumi, Japan
Drivetrain: 2.5L 4-cylinder w/ 6-speed automatic transmission
EPA Ratings: 23MPG city/31MPG highway. Observed – 26MPG

Final Impression:

2014 Scion tC interiorWhile the FR-S is the car that’s been getting all the attention in Scion’s line-up lately, the tC is actually the best selling model for the company. Through May Scion has sold over 7,800 tC’s, a gain of nearly 10% compared to last year while sales of the FR-S have plunged 21%, to a little over 6,500 units.

Perhaps that’s due to the “newness” of the FR-S wearing off or maybe customers are realizing that the tC offers a better everyday driving experience. While it doesn’t have the performance of a FR-S, the tC is still a fun, sporty car to drive and is much more comfortable to ride in during your normal driving routine. The FR-S is good for a day out on the track but it can be kind of a harsh ride out on the road.

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