Hot on the heels of yesterday's Mercedes Review Roundup, we're back with yet another batch of Mercedes reviews, with testers this time weighing on the Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series, the C180K BlueEFFICIENCY and the A170. As is the case with each and every one of our Mercedes Review Roundups, you can find excerpts from each review as well as links back to the full articles immediately below.
Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series (via Motor Trend)
"Recession? What recession? Not in the cockpit of this $299,000 carbon-fiber bauble. Not in the engine bay stuffed full of 661 horses. Not anywhere near the sumo crouch of the new Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG Black Series, a limited-edition, twin-turbocharged two-seater that wards off any talk of "recession" like a mirror reflecting sunlight.
The new top model in the AMG lineup, the twin-turbo, V-12 SL65 Black Series is an extravagant plaything, indeed. If at first glance you mistook it for a DTM race car, you're forgiven. The SL65 Black Series nearly qualifies as one. Its fender flares, which jut out from the bodywork like circa-1980s David Byrne shoulder pads, stretch overall width to nearly six and a half feet. Every body panel except the rear fenders and the doors is made of lightweight carbon fiber-including the new fixed roof, which hides an integrated rollbar. The rear apron incorporates an underbody diffuser for added downforce; also assisting is a rear wing that automatically rises above 75 mph.
An all-new coil-over suspension lies under the carbon-fiber extravaganza. Wheels are 19-inch light alloys up front and 20-inchers in the rear, with high-performance Dunlop Sport Maxx GT rubber all around. Each corner wears a vented, perforated disc brake, with six-piston calipers forward and four-piston to the rear. Stability modes include ESP On, ESP Sport, and, if you forget how it feels to drive a rocket sled on ice, ESP Off.
Aerodynamics and power, not weight, matter most in top speed, and the SL65 Black Series would top 200 mph, Mercedes claims, if not for the standard electronic limiter. As a result, you'll have to make do with a governed top end of 199 mph.
The brakes set no standards for feel, being a bit squishy at times, but they stop hard-60 to 0 mph in 105 feet-and never fade. Handling grip is impressive, the Black Series circling our Motor Trend figure-eight course quicker than the Ferrari 599 GTB. There's no comparing the Ferrari and the Benz on ride quality, though: The Black Series rides hard. It prefers the racetrack, while the Ferrari is perfectly at home on the open road.
Will anyone who can afford the SL65 Black Series care? Not likely. This is a statement car, an "I've-got-more-power-than-you" megabruiser that screams, "Just try me." It wears its speed on its carbon-fiber sleeve, daring other sports cars to trespass, gloating over mortal automobiles in the valet lane, elevating its driver to the status of Hercules. "
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Mercedes-Benz C180K BlueEFFICIENCY (via car)
"What is this Mercedes BlueEFFICIENCY all about? BlueEfficiency is the umbrella term Mercedes uses to describe the optimization of aerodynamics, use of lower rolling resistance tyres, lightweight design and energy management to cut fuel consumption and slash emissions.
Rather than roll out a set number of eco-initiatives across its range, each class gets a set of bespoke BlueEfficiency measures that suits it best. So the C180 K gets a thinner windscreen, lighter but more effective noise insulation material, lightweight forged alloy wheels for a 32kg weight reduction, bespoke Michelin tyres with 17% less rolling resistance and a intelligent energy management system.
There's also a number of body tweaks - smaller exterior mirrors, complete with LED arrow-shaped indicator lenses, a smooth underbody, enhanced panel seals, lowered suspension and a partially blanked grille – for slipperier aerodynamics. Oh, and lighter, smaller 1.6-litre engine. It’s no tyre-smoker, but if no one told you, you’d never know that there was such a small powerplant under the bonnet. That’s because despite the 200cc drop in capacity, performance - 156bhp at 5200rpm and 170lb ft at 3000rpm – remains unchanged but now with significantly better economy and emission levels. With a useful 170lb ft of torque kicking in at 3000rpm – bang on the nose for powering past middle-lane dawdlers on the motorway – performance is brisker than you’d expect given the engine’s modest size and outputs.
Aren’t those supercharged four-pots pretty nasty affairs? Not in this application. The overriding impression is one of top-drawer refinement. For the most part, the smooth engine is almost inaudible. It’s only near the redline that the engine’s induction rasp can be heard – and with a low 5200rpm power peak, extending the engine is not what it’s all about. Better to waft along on that torque and let the (optional) five-speed autobox slip unobtrusively through the gears.
Bet it’s not much fun to drive, though… Well, it’s a C-Class so yes, it may lack that ultimate chassis sparkle BMW drivers endlessly harp on about, but for 99.9% of the time, it’s a fine steer. The steering is light but unerringly accurate, the chassis feels taut and the ride quality is exceptionally well damped. So you have a car that can take a 500-mile motorway drive in its laidback stride, yet still feel alert and engaging come the corners. It’s also a fine place to pass the time - the well-appointed and intelligently configured cabin is superbly insulated from the wind, drivetrain and road noise, and it feels solidly assembled."
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Mercedes-Benz A170 (via Popular Mechanics)
Reviewer's rating: Unspecified
"Despite its small footprint, climbing into the Mercedes-Benz A170 sedan reveals a surprising amount of space. The door shuts with a reassuring clunk, and familiar Mercedes landmarks are everywhere—from the big, clear analog instrumentation to the command center in the middle of the dash. The cloth seats are unlike anything you'll find in North American Benzes (the lowest-level trim we get is fake leather), but the somewhat firm A-Class seats are accommodating enough for long drives.
Click the shifter into "D," and the engine pulls smoothly—if modestly—as revs rise. Because of the nature of continuously variable transmissions, the engine will rev only as high as it needs to. Ease off the gas a bit and forward propulsion becomes more efficient, with revs dropping but speed remaining somewhat constant. You can also simulate semiautomatic gear shifts using the "+" or "Ð" shifter positions. Because peak horsepower occurs at 5,500 rpm and torque maxes out between 3,500 and 4,000 rpm, revving close to redline produces, well, not a whole lot of additional thrust. With a 0 to 62 mph time of 10.9 seconds, this A-Class is in no danger of breaking any land speed records. But from the driver's seat, acceleration feels perfectly adequate.
The A170 offers easy driving around town, with its compact proportions darting in and out of traffic like a Honda Fit, but the real surprise came on the unlimited sections of the autobahn. With the accelerator pinned and the 1.7-liter engine working with all its might, our speed crawled up to 117 mph—as we did our best to keep out of the way of mightier BMWs, Porsches and, of course, Mercedes-Benz S-Classes. At triple-digit speeds, the A170 felt impressively secure and planted. And if it's good enough for the autobahn, we figure it should be good enough for America, too.
Our fuel economy varied wildly while driving in Germany. At its best, we eked out 530 miles with a 13.4 gal fill-up, for an impressive 39 mpg. But with the gas pedal pegged during top-speed driving, our average dropped to 24 mpg É not quite SUV territory, but a number we'd certainly associate with cars bigger than this A-Class. Nonetheless, driving the A-Class felt efficient both in terms of physical space and fuel economy—its rear seats are reasonably roomy, and we had no problem fitting luggage into the rear cargo area.
If there's anything we learned during our time with the A-Class, it's that the U.S. still has some catching up to do in the area of small, fuel-efficient cars. The fact that the A-Class has been available since 1997 speaks volumes about European sensibilities and driving styles. The Smart Car was a novel response to bloated sport utes and oversized sedans, but the A170 is a more relevant and purposeful answer to seesawing fuel prices. Unfortunately, the A-Class will remain unavailable stateside at least for the foreseeable future."
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