VW, Matthias Mueller. Editor-In-Chief's Note: Bloomberg is reporting that Volkswagen AG CEO Matthias Mueller is accelerating a technological and organizational revamp of Europe’s largest automaker despite internal opposition and expects his efforts to begin bearing fruit in two to three years. Really? What percentage of VW dealers here in the U.S. will be left by then? -PMD
In case your Macan Turbo was feeling a little anemic, Porsche has just the answer for you: The new Macan Turbo equipped with the Performance Package is now the top of the model line. The newly tweaked, 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6 now has 440 hp (40 more horsepower than the Macan Turbo) and 442 lb.-ft. of torque (an increase of 36 lb.-ft.). 0 to 60 mph comes in 4.2 seconds (a reduction of 0.2 seconds), and it achieves a new top track speed of 169 mph (an increase of 5 mph). There's more, including a newly developed brake system, a lowered sport chassis, the Sport Chrono Package and a sport exhaust system. The front axle features grooved brake discs with a diameter of 390 millimeters – 30 millimeters larger than the discs fitted on the standard Macan Turbo – and six-piston brake calipers painted red (Really? Haven't we seen this before on like, everything?). The Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) with air suspension has been lowered by 10 millimeters and features a self-leveling function and height adjustability.
And because this is Porsche, you can always spend more money, meaning that there are options within options. You can get a Turbo Exterior Package, and options available with this package include 21-inch 911 Turbo design wheels with spokes painted in high-gloss black, LED headlights equipped with Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) Plus, and numerous other black elements. The Turbo Interior Package features a black leather interior with Alcantara® elements, color appliqué in numerous areas and carbon elements such as the door entry guards with the model logo lit up in white (Gee. Whiz.).
So how much does it cost to get 40 more horsepower, 36 lb.-ft. more torque, a reduction of 0.2 seconds in the 0-60 mph time and 5 mph more in top speed? The Macan Turbo with Performance Package starts at an MSRP of $86,445, excluding title, tax, registration, dealer charges - including the dreaded "acquisition" fee - and delivery, preparation, and handling fee. It's called Hose-O-Rama, folks, and no one does it better than Porsche.
The undisputed King of parsing the market with niche upon niche (BMW is a very close second), Mercedes-Benz - in the guise of Mercedes-AMG in this case - is once again extending its product portfolio. The new Mercedes-AMG GLC43 Coupe "combines a sporty, elegant design with the brand's hallmark driving performance and the advantages of an SUV in terms of seating position, interior flexibility and traction off-road," according to the manufacturer. The high hard ones? 362HP 3.0L V6 biturbo engine, 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission with shortened shift times and AMG Performance 4MATIC® all-wheel drive configured with a rear bias. The AMG Sport Suspension is based on the multi-chamber air suspension system, AIR BODY CONTROL (Mercedes insists on ALL CAPS for its technical features. Why? Who knows, but it is definitely annoying), with adaptive damping adjustment, and pneumatic all-round self-leveling. Additionally, the manufacturer claims that the AMG GLC43 Coupe "is able to undertake occasional off-road excursions" and in order to do so the ground clearance can be increased at the touch of a button. (Insert guffaws. Really? Let's be clear here: The only time owners are going to go off-road in these things is if they veer off the road while texting, or, after too many pops at the club.)
The GLC43 Coupe does zero to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and its top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph (probably a good thing, given the clientele.) "The new GLC43 Coupe is characterized by a high level of agility and sporty driving dynamics. With its expressive design and high everyday practicality, the Coupe is able to appeal to new target audiences," according to Tobias Moers, Chairman of the Board of Management of Mercedes-AMG GmbH. Editor-In-Chief's Note: Why auto industry PR minions insist on having these faux quotes attributed to their leaders is beyond us. It sounds silly because it is silly. -PMD
You knew that it wouldn't be long before GMC would do a Canyon Denali and so, here it is. The new 2017 Canyon Denali includes a "Denali-signature" chrome grille; 20-inch ultra-bright machined aluminum wheels with painted accents; Tubular chrome assist steps; Polished exhaust tip (V-6 only), because you can't get enough of that, apparently; Spray-on bedliner; Heated steering wheel; GMC IntelliLink with Navigation and an 8-inch-diagonal color touchscreen; 4G Wi-Fi hotspot; Automatic climate control; Remote start and other blah-blah-blah. It also features a freshened, 308HP 3.6L V-6 with 275 lb-ft of torque that’s paired with a "segment-first" Hydra-Matic 8L45 eight-speed automatic transmission. Inside, the Canyon Denali has a Jet Black interior with unique leather-appointed, heated and ventilated front seats, along with a unique instrument panel, console trim and Denali-logo sill plates and floor mats. Judging by the pictures, the inside of the Denali does not impress. Maybe because the Denali IP and interior are not all that impressive to begin with. There's also a new, "off-road-inspired" All Terrain X package for 2017 (below). This special version of the All Terrain package offered on the SLE model will be "the most off-road-capable Canyon" according to the manufacturer, if that's what does it for you. We, on the other hand, couldn't care less.
Editor-In-Chief's Note: BMW calls the 650i "Performance. Art." on its website, and as much as I'm vigilant about the use of hype and bullshit by marketing mavens at these manufacturers, I can't say that I disagree. Sophisticated and visceral, with just the right amount of throaty growl, the BMW 650i is an eloquent rebuttal to those who would want us all to rush headlong into the Autonomous Abyss. This is a GT car, and as much as sports car enthusiasts might be dismissive of the concept, they'd be foolish to overlook the performance potential of this 4200-lb. machine. I know that I brought my own preconceived notions about what I thought the 650i would be about, and I was wrong. I expected a languorous, luxury coupe that was impeccably turned out but not all that interesting to drive, but the 650i is almost the opposite of that. Yes, the Cognac with Black Nappa Leather interior was beautiful and superbly finished, but this big BMW coupe was all about being fun to drive, and it's remarkably quick. The 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 is a stunning piece, providing responsive, right now power and reminding you with every burst of acceleration how fantastic V8 power really is. I think too many of us have become resigned to the fact that 4- and 6-cylinder engines are our lot in life while waiting for the inevitable slide into pod cars and disemboweled "driving," but when you drive a real live V8 with serious horsepower there's absolutely nothing else like it. (This is coming from someone who much preferred the V8-powered, 6-speed Audi R8 over its V10 sibling.) You can putter around in the urban slog quite nicely with the 650i, but when the need arises this machine loves to run and responds to a heavy right foot in a way that will make you smile every time you partake of its performance potential. Okay, the 650i is expensive, but then again when you're playing in that league it's really not out of line in comparison to the other machines in the segment. And given what you get with the 650i, I'd say it is very much worth it. -PMD
2016 BMW 650i Coupe: $91,500 ($87,900 Base Price; Alpine White; Cognac/Black Nappa Leather; 4.4-liter, 32-valve, BMW M TwinPower Turbo V8 engine with variable valve control, Double-VANOS, Valvetronic and high-precision direct injection; 445HP@5500 rpm and 480 lbs-ft of torque; 8-speed Sport Automatic transmission with automatic Sport and Manual shift modes and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters; Driving Dynamics Control with ECO PRO mode; 4-wheel, ventilated, anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) with Dynamic Brake Control; M Sport suspension; Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) including Brake Fade Compensation, Start-off Assistant, Brake Drying, Brake Stand-by features with Dynamic Traction Control (DTC); Rain-sensing windshield wipers with adjustable speed; Adaptive LED headlights; LED fog lights; 20-way power, heated, front multi-contour seats with 4-way lumbar support and driver's seat memory; Automatic-dimming interior and exterior mirrors; Park distance control, front and rear with graphic display; AM/FM/CD/MP3 player HiFi Sound System with HD radio; Harman Kardon surround sound; Satellite Radio with 1-year subscription; Three-spoke, leather-wrapped, multi-function sport steering wheel; iDrive system with on-board computer and touchpad controller with eight programmable memory buttons; Rear-view camera; BMW Navigation system with 10.2" high-resolution screen, Voice command and Advanced Real Time Traffic information; Black Accent Package - 20" light alloy multi-spoke wheels, Fineline Brown wood trim, Ambience lighting, LED fog lights, Shadowline exterior trim - $1,400; Cold Weather Package - Heated steering wheel, ski bag - $400; Ceramic Controls, $650; Smartphone integration, $200; Destination charge, $995)
Adherence to Brand Image: I've said this before and I will probably say it again at least one thousand times more, but there are two BMWs at work in today's automotive era. There's the BMW dominated by the "we want to put a BMW in every garage" corporate minions who are comfortable with churning out a seemingly endless supply of crossovers and SUVs that pretty much have nothing to do with the original premise of the brand. And then there are the True Believers at BMW who build machines like the M2 and who make the 650i so eminently satisfying to drive. I'm not comfortable with that "chasing every niche" BMW at all, because it errs dangerously close to being just another car company. But as long as there are True Believers left who can create real BMWs like the 650i, I will be happy. -PMD