2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

The all-new Mercedes-Benz C-Class had is coming out party this week here on Auto News Sunday, showing us an all-new design and important new luxury and safety features.

The new C-Class has grown 3 inches in wheelbase, 1.6 inches in width and is 3.7 inches longer overall but the company says it lost 200 lbs in the redesign due to a new body structure comprised of up to 50% aluminum.

The design is a bit rounder than before with DNA similar to the new CLA and S-Class sedans released in recent times. The headlamps, grille and hood have a low slung look while the greenhouse gets a more coupe-like silhouette.

An all new interior promises more space than before and Mercedes-Benz says is lined with improvements of high-quality materials throughout. A head up-display also makes its debut in the new C-Class.

A host of new driver assistance systems will be offered including active lane keeping and Distronic Plus which now has follow assist. This feature will automatically follow the car in front up to 37 mph to aid in stop-and-go commute traffic.

The new C-Class is the first vehicle in its segment offering an air suspension Mercedes-Benz calls AIRMATIC. It offers continuous variable damping front and rear as well as auto leveling. The driver can adjust the suspension by choosing a variety of modes too.

The North American market will initially get two C-Class models. First is the C300 4MATIC with a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower. A more powerful C400 4MATIC has a 3.0L twin-turbo V6 producing 329 horsepower.

Both engines come with a 7-speed automatic transmission and as noted by the model names, all-wheel drive. Mercedes-Benz says that a rear-wheel drive only version of the C300 will be launched later in 2015.

The all new 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class will arrive at U.S showrooms any day now.

IIHS Small Car Crash Ratings

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety this week released the findings from their latest round of crash testing of a dozen small cars, with mixed results.

The grouping of compact cars was subjected to a full battery of crash tests including the challenging new small-offset test which has been the great leveler of many popular models, causing many automakers to go back to the drawing board since the test began in 2012.

The Mini Countryman was the only car in-fact which scored a “Good” rating on the small-overlap crash test, and scored the best of all cars tested across the board getting only an Acceptable rating on structure.

The Chevrolet Volt also scored high earning the IIHS Top Safety Pick + rating, the highest rating a car can earn. It performed well in frontal and side impact tests, and received and acceptable rating on the small-offset test.

While the Mini Countryman actually scored better than the Volt, it didn’t earn the Top Safety Pick + rating because starting this year the IIHS requires cars offer a crash prevention system to qualify for it.

Cars not doing so well in this round of testing were the Nissan Leaf and Mazda 5. The Leaf earned a Poor rating in the small-offset test, the passenger compartment crushing considerably into the survival space.

The Mazda 5 scored the worst in the small-offset test earning a “Poor” scoring in five out of the seven categories. Mazda issues a statement after these findings saying they are reviewing the results and will seek to improve future designs.

Other cars scoring low in the small-offset test included the Fiat 500L and Nissan Juke, both with Poor ratings due to poor structure performance.

As you can imagine, the automakers have mixed views on the new small-offset crash test. Those who perform well like it, those who don’t question it.

First Look: 2015 TRD PRO Series 4Runner

Toyota is rolling out their special off-road tuned 2015 TRD PRO Series 4Runner, and we recently got out first look.

The already well trained 4Runner gets a full package of off-road tuning in the TRD PRO Series starting with a special suspension which raises the front height by an inch and offers up an inch of additional travel both front and rear.

TRD-tuned springs and upgraded Bilstien digressive dampers are mounted with remote reservoirs at the rear. This all goes along with TRD 17” alloy wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler P265/70R17 all-terrain tires.

A hefty 1/4” thick aluminum front skid plate with “TRD” stamped in it is one of your first indicators of what is going on here along with special badges and fascia treatments.

The interior is fully packed with black SofTex trim with red stitching, heated front seats, logo floor mats and premium audio with navigation system. The look is sporting and premium.
On our short drive with the TRD PRO Series 4Runner the off-road tuned suspension had the well damped compliant feel expected for the rough but still handled well on curvy paved roads.

The 4.0 liter V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission remain carryover in the 2015 TRD PRO Series 4Runner which will be available exclusively in colors Inferno, Attitude Black Metallic and Super White.

The 2015 TRD PRO Series 4Runner will arrive in September, starting at $41,110.

Test Drives

This week in test drives summer has arrived as we enjoyed the top-down fun of the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Twenty five years after the first Miata arrived in the States, the two-seat roadster still serves up the recipe of simple affordable fun that made it famous.

A willing four-cylinder engine and a superlatively tuned chassis make for a car that is easy to live with and puts a smile on your face every time you get behind the wheel.

While ours was well optioned the MX-5 still remains pure to its roots with an uncomplicated interior and cockpit, pure to the original.

Also driven this week was the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid. The full sized front-wheel drive sedan from Toyota is the only one in its class to offer the gas-electric powertrain for maximum fuel economy.

Rated at 40 mpg, the Avalon Hybrid comes with the same four-cylinder engine and Hybrid Synergy Drive found in the Camry Hybrid and Lexus ES300h.

This we we’re behind the wheel of the 2014 Nissan Rogue which is all new for this year with a completely updated design inside and out.

The compact crossover SUV competes in the hotly contested segment with Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV and Ford Escape. We’ll have a full report next week.

For these reviews and many more, log onto TestDriven.TV or our YouTube Channel.

Reality Check: Nissan “Tough Love” Commercials

In our Reality Check segment this week, I just can’t help but to smile. Fellow Phoenix resident and rock star Bret Michaels teams up with Nissan to market……their NV Series commercial van proving ground tests.

Nissan is touting their NV Series commercial van’s robust proving and testing process with rocker Bret Michaels who stars and narrates a host of video pieces talking about the vans and their testing procedures.

The highlight is a rock video featuring a rewrite of the hit 1980’s song Endless Love, set in the Arizona testing lab and proving grounds. Michaels sings and performs the ballad among the engineers in typical music video fashion.

It’s clear the campaign is meant to induce a laugh or two as Michaels delivers his serious performance attitude characteristic of the 1980’s in a setting that is almost hilariously juxtaposed.

In the individual spot videos, Michaels narrates a number of stories in which he shares personal experiences in highlighting the importance of various testing procedures at the proving grounds.

The campaign will be run both in social media and in print, aimed directly at the commercial van buyers, many of who are likely of the age which made them avid Poison fans in their youth. See it for yourself at www.NissanToughLove.com

While I wonder if Bret Michaels ever dreamed when he was starting out he’d be selling commercial vans when he grew up, I have to admit I think this campaign while perhaps deliberately cheesy is a brilliant creation.

Money Shot

For our Money Shot on Auto News Sunday this week we take you to Italy.

The Alfa Romeo 4C is due to show up any day now here in the States and from this angle just really has a presence. Called the sub $100,000 Ferrari, the new 4C promises to turn heads on the street when it starts showing up soon.