2015 S65 AMG Coupe

In our if you have to ask the price segment, Mercedes-Benz announced their new 2015 top-line twin-turbocharged V12 S65 AMG Coupe.

The voluptuous Coupe is the place you go when the S63 AMG just isn’t enough. Here you get the silky smooth horror of the 621 horsepower 6.0 liter twelve-cylinder engine and its 738 lb-ft of torque to whisk you fast away from a shopping binge at Saks.

With this exotic hardware under the hood, the S65 AMG Coupe accelerates from 0-60 mph in 4.0 seconds and has a top speed of 186 mph

It’s not all brute power, the seven-speed automatic transmission has three drive modes starting with Controlled Efficiency, then Sport and Manual. Sport and Manual modes are self explanatory.

It’s the Controlled Efficiency mode which takes a breath and lets cooler heads prevail and activates the ECO start-stop system for the engine. Thank God because buyers of this car will care about fuel economy.

Another hallmark feature is its adaptable Magic Body Control suspension. It features active body control, road surface scanning, and a unique curve tilting function that leans the car into corners like a motor cycle.

That’s all very cool, but must it be called Magic Body Control? Seems a bit twee no?

2015 FORD Expedition

This week Ford launches their mostly fresh 2015 Expedition SUV line, giving it an all-new grille and headlights, and EcoBoosts its power-train.

As you can see, the big news isn’t the styling but what’s under the hood. The 2015 Expedition gets only Ford’s popular 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

While it may seem a risky move, Ford’s 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6 engine has a good deal more horsepower, torque and fuel efficiency than the 5.4 liter V8 it replaces.

With 465 lb-ft of torque it not only better’s the Chevrolet Tahoe in power, but offers up to 9,200 pounds of towing capability which also makes it the top of the class for capability.

As before the Expedition will be available in both a standard 119” wheelbase as well as the longer Expedition EL with a 131” wheelbase to compete with the Suburban.

With the freshening, drivers will enjoy a raft of Ford’s latest techno-gear including SYNC with MyFord Touch, push-button start and radar based driver aids like Blind Spot Information and cross-traffic alert.

Exterior styling is the only place that really didn’t get anything to write home about. Save for a new front fascia, headlamps and tail lamp treatment there is little new as the Expedition has the same basic body shell as the 2003 model introduced over a decade ago.

Ford has obviously decided to remain in second or third place in sales as its competitors have re-designed their products from the ground-up twice during the Expedition’s lifetime. At least Ford buyers will have the upper hand when it comes to horsepower and towing.

Smart Fortwo & Forfour

Showing us what a re-design is really all about, Smart pulled the cover off their new Fortwo and Forfour micro car, due on our shores next year.

With all new styling, the new Smart cars have a more pugnacious look than before with what the company calls rhombic front lamps and U-shaped daytime driving lights.

It keeps the trademark color contrasting Tridion cell,body panels and grille treatment. A new Smart logo badge debuts this year too.

The big news is the new ForFour model which now provides a true four-door and four-passenger model to the line. Rear doors open a full 90 degrees for easy access to its new back seat.

In Europe, a number of engines and transmissions will be offered. For the States, we will most likely get only the top-of-the line power-plant which is a 90 horsepower .9 liter turbocharged three-cylinder.

This engine will now have an automatic start/stop system to save fuel and we will likely only get the twinamic six-speed dual clutch transmission in America as is the case now.

In Smart tradition, the new models will be available in 40 color combination options for exterior and interior customization, much like the Swatch watches which inspired the brand to begin with.

2015 Mustang gains weight

With all the news coming out about the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang in the past year, one bit of information has been oddly missing, its weight.

This is notable as all the chatter in the past couple year is that the all-new Mustang would be up to 200 lbs lighter, so we have been waiting on this little detail

This week however Ford finally let the cat out of the bag that the car is indeed a bit porkier, spinning the story with lots of colorful prose about increased content, better power to weight ratios, and more safety features.

Talking about power power to weight ratios. The 2015 Mustang GT has now 435 horsepower and a ratio of 8.52 pounds per horse. The math makes the new Mustang GT 5.0 weigh in at 3,706 lbs. That’s a weigh increase of about 87 lbs.

Ford explains that the new 2015 Mustang body-in-white is actually lighter than the outgoing model. It’s all the features you want which they had to add to keep you people happy and safe that made the car heavier.

They also explain the 2015 Mustang had to be designed to meet new, more stringent crash safety standards. Content like the new independent rear suspension reduces un-sprung weight for far better handling.

In fairness, this is all true. While we all wanted a lighter Mustang, everyone clamored for IRS, more safety, and a higher quality interior. And Ford thinks we wanted infotainment systems like SYNC and MyFord Touch. These things all weigh more.

We’ll have to wait until we get behind the wheel, but Ford says, that despite the extra weight the 2015 Mustang GT beats lap times of the 2012-2013 Mustang Boss 302. We’ll see.

Test Drives

In our test drives this week we played with the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Tralhawk which is the more manly of the Cherokees.

Fitted with off-road underbits and exterior visuals we did what instinct dictated, found the nearest mud hole and went to work.

The Trailhawk indeed has bonafide off-road cred with a true low range four-wheel drive mode, a 56:1 crawl ratio, and an additional inch of ground clearance.

It offers this alone in its class which is awesome, but it fell short in other areas that it still needs improvement. These being namely the nine-speed automatic transmission and some questionable interior trims.

We also tested the the 2014 Hyundai Tucson compact crossover SUV. Not so much a competitor to the Cherokee, the Tucson’s peers include Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Ford Escape.

It showed it can offer an attraction option that is priced slightly less than many for its feature content, but is slightly smaller than the rest in terms of overall size.

In our garage this week is the 2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid sedan. We’ve been pushing it hard on the mountain roads to see if it’s sport sedan abilities were compromised in translation to world saving hybrid.

We’re also testing the Hyundai Azera, the company’s full-size front-wheel drive sedan. It’s the choice among boomers who might also look at the Avalon, Impala and Taurus, so we’re looking to see how it stacks up against them.

For these and many other test drive reviews, log onto TestDriven.TV or our YouTube Channel.

Reality Check: GM Models top list of IIHS used cars for teens list

In our Reality Check segment this week GM cars were the favorites for the IIHS newly minted list of recommended used cars for teen drivers.

So what kind of cars do you think an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety might suggest we put our teenagers in? Well here are a few examples.

The 2011 Buick Regal and 2010 Buick LaCrosse topped the list offering plenty of room for friends and sports gear. What teen wouldn’t be proud to take their significant other to the prom in one of these.

Also making the list was the 2010 Chevrolet Malibu and 2012 Buick Verano, again cars that while teens haven’t yet tested in games like Need For Speed, offer up a sporty character and better fuel economy.

SUV’s even made the list, offering the kind of adventure and active lifestyle imagery that plays well in the hearts of youth who want for a vehicle perfect for tailgating with friends at football games and homecoming parades.

These included the 2011 Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse three-row crossovers. The 2008 Saturn Vue crossover also made the list, though it is now out of production.

Of course, these vehicles likely offer more passenger capacity than most states’ laws allow for teens to actually have with them when they’re under 18. But they do have plenty of room for band equipment and pep rally gear.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard the many cars my teenagers actually want and don’t recall any of these once coming up in conversation.