Monday, September 8, 2014 at 10:00AM

Sergio Marchionne. Editor-in-Chief's Note:
I've written about The Great Sergio's unmitigated arrogance, his runaway ego, his relentless micromanaging, his unflinching belief that he's the smartest guy in the room and that all others are mere poseurs and annoying trolls, his taking credit for products he had nothing to do with, and his constant, quixotic bleating about the promise of Alfa Romeo, but even Sergio has outdone himself this time. As reported by Bloomberg, Marchionne had the temerity to criticize
Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, saying that the F1 team must improve its unacceptable performance, after speculation was rampant that Montezemolo might be departing to run Alitalia, the Italian airline. For his part, Montezemolo insisted that he would be the one to announce any news regarding his future “if and when” it was necessary, in other words, no one at Fiat SpA was going to tell him what to do. Well, Sergio took great umbrage with Montezemolo's tone, telling reporters in Cernobbio, Italy, that, “Everybody is needed, nobody is indispensable. Nobody should ever get it through the head that you could threaten or suggest that the house should be in trouble if you don’t run the company." Oh really, Sergio? Aren't you the genius executive who has set-up Fiat Chrysler to fail after your departure, creating inevitable, long-term havoc with your 30-something direct reports and your heavy-handed micromanaging, so that you can say, "See, they can't function without me" after you retire to a life of smugness and I told you so's? And commenting on Formula 1? Uh, excuse me, but what the hell do you know about F1 besides n-o-t-h-i-n-g? Saying that Ferrari had the "best" drivers and should be winning? Best drivers? Please. Alonso is still great but beyond that Ferrari is getting their asses handed to them because technically they're also-rans. Simple as that. I gotta hand it to you, Sergio, your blind arrogance truly knows no bounds, and every time I think you can't look more foolish, you manage to take it to an entirely new level. Truly pathetic. And memo to the powers that be whose charge is protecting the Ferrari brand? Keep Sergio far, far away from it. - PMD  UPDATE: Bloomberg is now reporting that Montezemolo, who has led Ferrari for more than 20 years, may in fact be out. Marchionne wants to get his hands on Ferrari, which is 90 percent-owned by Fiat, so he can expand production and make more money. Montezemolo, who took charge of Ferrari in 1991, wants to maintain Ferrari's autonomy and limit sales to about 7,000 cars a year to preserve the brand's exclusivity. Montezemolo's disdain for Marchionne has now come to the surface. "Ferrari is now American," which represents "the end of an era," Montezemolo told close associates, Il Corriere della Sera reported today. So the mercenary deal maker, who has no respect for the integrity of the product or the brand exclusivity of Ferrari, wants to expand production to make more money so he'll look like even more of a genius, at least in his own mind. In other words, Marchionne is fulfilling his mission as the consummate stronzo. I've seen this movie before at other car companies, and it never ends well. - PMD UPDATE: As feared, it was announced today (September 10th) that Luca Cordero di Montezemelo will step down from his role as chairman of Ferrari effective October 13th. He will be replaced by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne. Not Good doesn't even begin to cover it. - PMD

M. Editor-in Chief's Note: CEO Mary Barra says that GM will have advanced "Super Cruise" technology available in an unnamed 2017 Cadillac that will allow a vehicle to drive itself on highways at full speed or in stop-and-go traffic. Wow, that's all well and good, but does this sound like a long-term answer for Cadillac's stagnant sales in the market happening right now? No, of course not, but it made for great media coverage after her speech to the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems happening in Detroit this week. No, Cadillac's problems run much deeper than coming up with a package of advanced technology three years hence. The Big Question remains, as in how is it that a car company that is building such excellent driving cars can't figure out how to convince consumers that they're worthwhile to own, or even look at? - PMD

(Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)
The new Mercedes-AMG GT is aimed squarely against Porsche. The GT is the second sports car developed entirely in-house by Mercedes-AMG. Featuring a front mid-engine design with a rear transaxle, aluminum construction and a newly developed AMG 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine, the Mercedes-AMG wants the GT to make quite a splash in the market. The GT features the first sports car engine from AMG with internally mounted turbochargers ("hot inside V") and dry sump lubrication. There are two output ratings available: The "base" GT has 456 hp (340 kW) and the GT S has 503 hp (375 kW). Mercedes claims 0-60 mph in 3.7 seconds (preliminary) and a top speed of 193 mph (310 km/h) for the S. Mercedes says that "The new GT combines driving dynamics and first-class racetrack performance with superb everyday practicality and efficiency that sets new standards in the segment." We'll see about that, won't we?

"With the new GT we are positioning Mercedes-AMG even more aggressively than to date as a dynamic sports car brand", says Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. "With its technological substance, the Mercedes-AMG GT fulfills our high aspirations with regard to driving dynamics, agility and sportiness. The new GT is the second sports car developed fully independently by Mercedes-AMG. The car is manufactured according to the motto 'Handcrafted By Racers' – which perfectly encapsulates our heritage and our spirit."

Other details? An aluminum space frame, the aforementioned V8 biturbo engine with dry sump lubrication, seven-speed dual clutch transmission in transaxle configuration at the rear axle, locking differential, sports suspension with aluminum double wishbone suspension, and a weight distribution of 47 to 53 percent between the front and rear axle.

The GT has internally ventilated, perforated 14.2” (360mm) brake discs all-round; on the GT S the discs measure 15.4” (390mm) in diameter at the front, with red brake calipers. A ceramic high-performance compound brake system is available for both models as an option. The ceramic brake discs have a diameter of 15.8” (402mm) at the front and 14.2” (360mm) at the rear. The GT comes standard with 10-spoke light-alloy wheels, 9 x 19 inch (front) and 11 x 19 inch (rear), with 255/35 R 19 and 295/35 R 19 tires. On the GT S the dimensions are 9 x 19 inch (front) with 265/35 R 19 tires and 11 x 20 inch (rear) with 295/30 R 20 tires. In combination with the AMG DYNAMIC PLUS package, specially developed sports tires (Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2) are available for the GT S as an option.

The 2016 AMG GT S will arrive in the U.S. in the spring of 2015. The AMG GT will launch in the following year.

(Photos courtesy of BMW)
BMW has announced the new BMW 2 Series Convertible. Available in the U.S. as the 228i and M235i, the BMW 2 Series Convertible will make its world debut at the Paris Motor Show. The 2015 M235i and 228i as well as the 228i xDrive will arrive in U.S. showrooms in early 2015. Prices? $38,850 for the 228i, $40,650 for the 228i xDrive and $48,650 for the M235i, including $950 destination and handling.

(Images courtesy of Jaguar)
The Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan has been unveiled at an elaborately-orchestrated event held at Earl’s Court, London. "A true driver’s car," according to the manufacturer, "the Jaguar XE redefines the concept of the sports sedan thanks to its advanced lightweight construction, streamlined styling, luxurious interior, and outstanding ride and handling." The aluminum-intensive Jaguar XE S is powered by a direct-injected, supercharged 3.0-liter V6 with 340hp and 332 lb-ft of torque that it shares with the F-Type. Utilizing an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift controls, the XE S accelerates from 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds and has an electronically-limited top speed of 155 mph, according to the manufacturer. The Jaguar XE is the first model developed from the new JLR modular vehicle architecture.

The interior design of the Jaguar XE takes many cues from the F-Type. A choice of gloss black, textured aluminum and contemporary wood veneers are available, and ambient lighting in a range of up to 10 colors is also available.

The all-new Jaguar InControl® infotainment system will be offered on the XE, which "provides the latest technologies to connect the car, driver and the outside world," according to Jaguar. The new XE will be available with a range of Meridian™ audio systems. Available systems range from 250 watt, 11-speaker systems to 825 watt, 15-speaker systems, both equipped with stereo and surround sound processors.

The new XE has a drag coefficient of 0.26, according to Jaguar. The XE also features a sophisticated double wishbone front suspension. The aluminum front spindles are forged from cast blanks using a patented production process, while the rear suspension features an integral link system. Aluminum has been used extensively in the suspension, minimizing weight. Electric power steering (EPAS) will be standard on the XE.

The XE goes on sale in 2015 in global markets and in 2016 in North America. The high-performance S model will be at the top of the global lineup at launch in 2015. Details of the Jaguar XE North American model line will be announced closer to the vehicle's launch in 2016.

(Lincoln Motor Company)
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator features a new 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged EcoBoost® engine delivering more power and torque and better fuel economy than the previous-generation Navigator. The available Reserve Package includes leather-wrapped instrument panel, armrests and gear shift, premium Ziricote wood trim, upgraded premium leather on all three rows of seats and 22-inch polished aluminum wheels. It will be available later this year.

Editor-in-Chief's Note: Our "Quick Take" has us in a 2015 Audi A8 L 4.0T quattro Tiptronic this week. The A8 L is a stunning car in every respect, a car that's hard to find fault with. It projects the best of Audi both inside and out in terms of its detailed presentation and carefully nuanced and at times subtle execution. This machine just oozes "Audi-ness" from every pore, and that's a very good thing. I actually prefer this big Audi over the S8, because the "S" treatment doesn't seem to lend itself to the basic mission of the A8, which is to present Audi's best thinking in the full-size luxury space. Not that this Audi lacked for power by any means, because its 435HP provided enough oomph for even the most jaded enthusiast. And it's an absolute freight train on the highway at triple-digit speeds, consistent with the best German luxury-performance cars. This machine just feels right, it's one of those cars that has you walking away from it saying, "Wow, that's some car" or something like that. It's that impressive. This big Audi's raison d'etre is to comport its driver and passengers in an exceptionally capable and sumptuous way, and it does so with a level of grace and style that's very hard to beat.  - PMD

2015 Audi A8 L 4.0T quattro Tiptronic: $103,875 ($90,400 Base Price; Phantom Black pearl effect; Black Interior with Valetta leather; Vavona wood with assam gray inlays; 4.0-liter TFSI V8 with 435HP and 444 lbs-ft of torque; quattro permanent all-wheel drive with 60/40 torque split; Eight-speed Tiptronic transmission; 19" 15-spoke-design wheels with 255/45 all-season tires; Electronic Stability Control; Ventilated disc brakes front and rear with ABS; Electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering; Power sunroof; Power trunk open/close; Full LED headlights (DRLs, low/high beams, turn signals); Auto dimming and power-folding heated exterior mirrors; 18-way power adjustable front seats including lumbar adjustment, with heating and driver memory; Four-zone automatic climate control; Audi advanced key (keyless entry and ignition); Audi navigation plus with MMI touch; Audi connect with six-month subscription; SIRIUS Satellite radio with three-month complimentary subscription; Power adjustable tilting & telescoping steering column; 4-spoke, leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles; Garage door opener (Homelink); Preparation for mobile phone (Bluetooth); Audi parking system plus with rearview camera; Power rear and side sunshades; Premium Package - Audi side assist, Audi pre sense rear, Top View camera system, Audi head-up display, 22-way power front seats, Ventilation and massage function, front seats - $3,950; Luxury Package - Alcantara headliner, Comfort Sport seats with diamond stitching, Valcona leather interior, Dual pane acoustic side windows - $3,400; Driver Assistance Package - High-beam assistant, Audi active lane assist, Audi pre sense plus, Audi adaptive cruise control - $2,250;  20-inch wheel Package - 20" 10 Parallel-spoke wheels with 265/40 R20 all-season tires - $1,200; Panoramic sunroof, $1,000; Cold Weather Package - Rear seat pass-through, heated steering wheel with shift paddles, heated rear seats - $750; Front filler panel, included; Destination charge, $925)

Adherence to Brand Image:
 The Audi A8 L is everything the Audi brand represents in one exceptionally well thought out luxury-performance sedan. To me it represents everything that we've come to expect from Audi and then some. - PMD

Article originally appeared on Autoextremist.com ~ the bare-knuckled, unvarnished, high octane truth... (http://www.autoextremist.com/).
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