On Motoring Monday we have the new luxury yacht known as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet. Also we look at what’s new for the 2016 Honda Accord and take a tech tour of Chrysler’s 2016 Pentastar V6.
In our Reality Check, this week I tested the 2016 Ford F-150 Pro Trailer Backup Assist and have a little of that to show ya along with my thoughts on it.
Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet
As if Mercedes-Benz didn’t already have a flagship, a land yacht commanding everyone’s attention on deck, this week they unveiled the S-Class Cabriolet.
It’s not an SL roadster, no this is a healthy meaty new drop-top variation of the top-end S-Class Coupe for those among us who don’t need to fight for a roomy parking space in the streets of life. And if it’s anything like the classic SE Cabriolets of the 1960’s and 70’s, these will be kept close and babied well.
With the open air, Mercedes says the S-Class Cabriolet remains exceptionally rigid with added bulkheads and bracing made of aluminum and magnesium. Even with the robust pyrotechnic roll-over protection system, they say its weight is on par with the S-Class Coupe.
In addition to being the height of rolling large in terms of style and elegance, a great deal of attention was given to making it both quiet at speed with its soft top down, as well as comfortable. AIRSCARF neck-level heating, heated seats front and rear as well as heated armrests are just the beginning of the list.
And you heard that right, this has a soft top, not the folding hard top which has been such the rage in the last decade. It keeps the coupe’s profile and stows neatly away as you’d expect and you can have it in black, dark blue, beige and dark red to add some extra style.
Power comes from a 4.7 liter V8 in the S550 Cabriolet, an engine offering up 449 horsepower to the rear wheels through a 9-speed automatic transmission. For those wanting more, the Mercedes-AMG S63 4MATIC has the larger 5.5 liter twin-turbocharged V8.
That engine with its 577 horsepower will come with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports transmission, and as noted the all-wheel drive of 4MATIC. Mercedes says it will accelerate from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds.
Arriving in North America in the spring of 2016, the Mercedes-Benz S550 Cabriolet and Mercedes-AMG S63 4MATIC Cabriolet will be expensive. And it’s safe to say will be pretty exciting.
2016 Honda Accord
While mid-size sedans sure don’t seem exciting, they’re some of the best selling vehicles on the planet, and the freshly redesigned 2016 Honda Accord obviously plans to keep it’s spot on the sales charts.
So, what’s new here? Well we start with a new front fascia which has sharper creases, deeper air inlets and some sexy new LED fog lights. A new aluminum hood with sharper lines gives more character which is accented by a larger and more prominent grille.
At the rear of the Accord are new LED taillights and a more aggressive rear fascia that mimics some of the design cues from up front. New wheel designs come across the lineup including the first ever 19-inch wheels on the top end Sport and Touring models.
The interior gets a healthy dose of new technologies that include and upgraded 7-inch display audio system which can now be had with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The new smart phone paring platforms will offer an expanded array of features and connectivity.
Honda also upgraded the cabin with available 60/40 split folding rear seats, though it’s still amazing to me that such a feature could be new in this day and age, let alone still an option. There’s also heated rear seats, rain-sensing wipers, and parking assist available.
Chassis upgrades include a comprehensive stiffening by adding more structural bracing up front and at the rear, upgraded dampers all around, and a re-tuned electric power steering rack. All of these should bring a sharper and more solid driving character.
Both the re-designed 2016 Honda Accord sedans and Coupes are on dealership lots now. Honda sold nearly 41,000 Accords last month, making it number one in the game. I don’t think that’s gonna change.
2016 Chrysler Pentastar V6
Chrysler’s 3.6 liter Pentastar V6 engine gets a healthy change for 2016 with enough new features and technical goodies, that I thought it was interesting and newsworthy enough to share.
Now, this engine is under the hood of a lot of vehicles from Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler and RAM Trucks. And to keep progress moving in power gains and better efficiency, Chrysler gave this engine a healthy makeover.
A new valve-train features a two-mode variable-valve lift system. With two modes, it can operate with low lift which is more fuel efficient. It can also open them more on high lift mode which enables free breathing and more power when needed.
And to that, the maximum compression ratio has been increased to 11.3:1, with those cylinders fed with an all-new intake system that now uses cooled EGR. This is something new, a feature usually only found in modern diesel engines.
By cooling the recirculated exhaust-gas that gets introduced back into the fresh-air intake, a more aggressive tune can be maintained for maximum power, with less detonation that would be caused by the higher heat.
With these and several other improvements, the new 2016 Pentastar V6 picks up some 15 percent more torque, and a few more horses. And most importantly, it does this while also offering up better fuel economy.
Now, final specs weren’t yet announced for the new engine, but it will first appear in the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the roll out across the line of vehicles one by one.
Test Drive: 2015 Nissan Pathfinder
In our test drive this week, we tested the 2015 Nissan Pathfinder three-row crossover SUV, one of the more popular players in its class.
Now I will be honest right up front, I miss the old Pathfinder with its truck chassis, bold style and true off-road cred. So in testing this one, I had to get over that and try to appreciate it for the versatile family car it is.
In so doing, I drove it on the back roads, the highways and around the suburban jungle to see how well it behaved. What I found was a reasonably refined front-wheel drive sleigh, though a bit under-powered with its 260 horsepower V6.
Soccer moms aren’t likely to be too upset though as it has a well done interior with seating for seven, seats that fold and tumble easily and a lot of room for all the gear and doo-dads we carry around with the family.
Fuel-economy is however much better with this new crossover Pathfinder than the old heavy truck it once was, coming in at 23 combined mpg for our week with it. And, it does drive and handle more like a modern-day car, than a third-world agricultural implement.
You can get our full review by clicking on the link here.
Reality Check: 2016 Ford F-150 Pro Trailer Backup Assist
This week I had the chance to test out for myself, the new 2016 Ford F-150 Pro Trailer Backup Assist system which has gotten a lot of attention and color comments in the video we did on it last spring.
Basically, the overwhelming opinion of many of you that commented on our initial presentation on this was essentially, “If you can’t back up a trailer without that crap, you ain’t got no business driving a truck”.
Well, honestly I kind of agree with that sentiment, and am myself quite a damn good trailer backer upper. So, I went to a local demonstration for this new feature with a bit of an attitude and skepticism on how valuable it could really be.
So there I was in a nice new 2016 F-150 trying out this new system which uses the truck’s back-up camera and electric power steering along with a marker you place on the tongue of your trailer to assist the process.
With a knob on the dash, you simply watch your mirrors and the display on the dash and turn the knob in the direction you want the trailer to go. This is different than the standard way of doing it where you turn the steering wheel opposite.
First demo challenge was backing in a straight line. Seems easy enough, but no matter how good you are, you always need to correct and turn as you go. With the system, no wheel or knob turning is needed, it keeps you backing straight not matter what. This I actually kind of liked.
Backing a trailer on the other hand was another matter. My first attempt was the regular old fashioned way, in which I put my trailer right on target on the first try, impressing everyone who was there. I was proud.
The second pass was using the knob. Not as easy at first because it was counter-intuitive to how I had learned to do it. And because the knob turn doesn’t give equal steering inputs as the wheel is flailing back and forth, it takes some practice.
So, I actually found it harder in this case, but I think for people who aren’t already experts it might well be easier for them. And there is one key benefit here, the assist system will not let you jackknife the trailer.
Now, the only missing part of this toy, is a wireless back-up camera for the back of the trailer. You still have to watch your mirrors and judge how far back to go. It will still let you back your trailer right into what’s there, just more accurately.
Now it’s time for our Money Shot where we take the best photo from this week’s automotive news and we show it to ya!
Making its official debut soon at the Frankfurt International Auto Show, will be Jaguar F-Pace. The first sport utility from the English brand, the new aluminum bodied F-Pace looks like a cool cat from where I’m standing.
Which reminds me of of something an old Mercedes-Benz buff said to me years ago when the ML-Class first came out. I asked him what he thought of Mercedes building an SUV. He thought it was all wrong saying, “It’s kinda like Rolex making a clock radio”. He probably owns one now.