Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic in India Review

Mercedes India have been on a quiet note the entire first half of 2011. Well, they have allowed their sales to do much of the talking out here. Sales which had diminished in the wake of competition coming in the form of Audi and BMW, have seen better days in 2011 than earlier. Come to think of it, Mercedes in a bid to improve their brand image have been going around conducting their Mercedes StarDrive events all over India. These events were done keeping in mind that BMW and Audi have a more sporty image while Mercedes only has a stately image in the minds of luxury car buyers. The StarDrive needless to say proves beyond doubt that Mercedes vehicles are also sporty if driven in the right way. Point taken. However one car which caught our attention at that event was the presence of the Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic. Now, we know that’s a long name for a car but the entire print comes on the back of the vehicle. Now, this Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic in India is a uniquely positioned car and one which has no competitor. The situation is said to remain the same until 2012 when BMW bring in their MPV version of their famous 5 series sedan. That’s strange considering that they already have the 5 GT here in place. So today, we have got the review of one huge vehicle which is dimensionally similar to Audi’s Q7. Unfortunately this expensive piece of machinery namely the Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic wasn’t available off the shelf and hence we had to wrangle it out of Mercedes after a 5 days request. Check on Road Price

Looks

As for its looks, the AMG version grille from Mercedes stables seem to satisfy the driving purists. The grille is in the same league as the Audi Q7’s. On papers though the Q7 is longer than the R class. Why the Q7, even the newly introduced Mercedes GL class is also longer than the R class. As for the head lamps, they are of the neat variety and there is no LED gimmick in them. Just pure halogen gimmicks. In place of the fog lamps come in the traditional Mercedes Day Time running LED strips. The wing mirrors are the typical Mercedes fare with their swooped cuts and stuff. The 18 inch alloys along with their 255/55 configuration look good on this MPV. However the MPV stance doesn’t emphasize itself from the 147 mm ground clearance. Yes, that’s the ground clearance which some of the sports cars possess here. The rear slopes into a CRV like coupe roofline. As for the rear, there are twin exhausts which look like they would blow away Nigeria in a jiffy. The tail lamps, though LEDs have a boring design to them. A single slab of chrome is present as the tail gate lifter. From a distance, if you remove the badge, then the Audi Q7 and the Mercedes R class look very much the same.

Interiors

The doors open real wide that you can really walk into them. Once inside, you would realize that this is typical Mercedes fare with the 5 spoked multi function steering wheel with the persistent mud color on it. Quality is evident from the way the materials have been put together. By the way, the R class is the only car which comes directly from the US and not somewhere nearby. The AC vents have a shutter effect to them. The meter dials are two aloof units which have a multi information display in the center. The fake wood trim in the central panel means looks awesome and the fit as also finish are immaculate. The Harman Kardon music system, as always makes its presence here as well and is a fantastic sounding unit with aux and USB input to it. The steering wheel has the usual Bluetooth, audio and cruise controls on it. The seats themselves are comfortable and have electric controls thrown in. These controls can help the driver as well as front seat passenger to adjust the seating position according to their preference. By the way, this is a 6 seater MPV with individual captain chairs for all the occupants. DVD screens at the back of the head rests of the front seats are also present. The buttons and stalks all work with a precision which we have come to expect from Mercedes Benz vehicles. The second row of seats is also comfortable, even with the front seats pulled all the way back. With the captain seat configuration for the seats, the second row of seats can also be slid back or forth. The third row of seats is also very comfortable considering that most of the MPVs with a third row in place don’t have good under thigh support. Equipment levels are similar to what the others from Mercedes stables offer and there is a reverse camera as also front parking sensors. Access to the rear most seats is also of the easy types. However with all the seats in place, the boot space is highly affected. Especially the 310 liters of space is hardly recommendable for 6 passengers on a picnic trip. However there are many deep pocketed cubby holes in the cabin which more than make up for the lack of space in the stowage zone.

Handling and ride quality

The Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic in India is a MPV which is supposed to ride well and let the cornering duties be taken over by its more agile companions like the ML and GL class, leave alone the saloons. A 4 wheel drive configuration means that the R350 transfers all its power via a 4ETS system. This Electronic Traction System is one of the advanced versions of the 4WD and has a different nature of operation as opposed to a differential lock. However both use the same principle for their operation. If the system detects that a particular wheel is losing traction, then it automatically applies brakes to that feel so that it stops spinning or either reduces the rotations to the same rotations as the opposite wheel. Theoretically this means that even when there is too much of muck outside the cabin, the R class would still be in motion. This MPV gets Mercedes’ famous Airmatic suspension. One can actually jack up the suspension or lower it based on the road surface that one is traveling on. On Indian roads, given the ground clearance of the R class, it is mot likely that drivers would rather raise the suspension than lower it. But then this system works only when the MPV is traveling at speeds lower than 30 kmph. Once past this speed, the MPV resorts back to its original stance. This system is not automatic as well since it cannot detect change in terrain and lower or jack itself up.

On more than once occasion we experienced this phenomenon the hard way when the nose of the Mercedes touched a huge speed breaker. Well, a Tata Nano with its roof lowered would easily fit into the wheelbase of the R class. This is one of the reasons why Mercedes have given the R350 three different modes to choose from amongst the suspension settings. One is the Comfort mode. In this, the R350 smothers everything which comes in its path. Much like the Audi Q7 and LC200 which use their sheer brute strength to crumple all the bad roads into submission. This is one Mercedes quality which has been retained in the R class amidst others. The steering wheel carries more feel than most of the Mercedes cars and this is a nice trait. However lock to lock, the R class has a bigger turning radius than most Mercedes cars. The typical Mercedes nimbleness is missing. The R class feels like a whale out of water in the city limits. However NVH has been relegated to oblivion with the use of sound deadening materials inside the cabin which more or less show the level of commitment Mercedes has for its customers.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

The Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic in India is available only in a single engine configuration and that engine happens to be a petrol drinking one. It’s a transverse V6 engine with 4 valves per cylinder and displacing 3.5 liters of cubic volume. It makes 273 Bhp of power at 6000 rpm whereas the torque figure reads as 350 Nm from 2400 rpm. It is aligned with a 7 speed triptronic transmission called as 7G Tronic in Mercedes speak. This coupled with the 2.2 tonnes kerb weight means that the R-class on papers would be slower than what it appears to be. However figures on papyrus would seem far fetched because when it comes to real world performance, the R350 is quite brisk off the line. For the 0-100 kmph dash, it dispatched that in only 9.4 seconds whereas the top speed was close to 186 kmph. What the figures don’t suggest is the eagerness of the engine as a whole. It is more than an eager performance and its performance can be called as akin to a puppy which is always ready to fetch a stick. The gearbox is a nice unit as long as you are in the city limits however out on the highway, it surprisingly is a reluctant companion. Any joy which can be derived out of the engine performance is killed with the gearbox combination. The gearbox even in manual mode fails to upshift at the right moment and when exiting corners, one is left for lack of any power going to the wheels. The gearbox has a mind of its own and overtaking maneuvers have to be very carefully executed since one would never know what the gearbox would decide next.

The power delivery from the engine comes in as linearly as can be possible from a petrol motor. We are being told that the gearbox’s slow to react attitude is mainly so that it can contribute to a good fuel economy. Mercedes BlueEfficiency techniques have been working overtime in this car since inspite of its bulk and V6 engine, it manages to return 6.3 kmpl in the city and 12.2 kmpl on the highway. 6 airbags as also a collapsible steering column along with various crumple zones and seatbelts with pretensioners and restraints comprise the safety factor. Moreover, there are various braking aids assisting the all wheel disc brakes. Some are the ESP, traction control and ABS.

Verdict

The Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic in India is one MPV which would grant you immediate distinction. The fact of owning a 3 pointed star and also having the costliest MPV on sale in India. The R class has its merits with the fact that it is the most spacious and luxurious MPV in this price. Build quality and also the feeling of luxury is amplified maximum in this big MPV. However that apart, the R class has a very low ground clearance for Indian conditions, has a weak gearbox, low fuel efficiency, is quite a handful in the city and also high sticker price. Coming to the price, the Mercedes Benz R350 4Matic price in India is Rs 60 lakhs. This price is ex-show room, Mumbai. Adding some more money to this package means that one can go in for the slightly bigger but much better GL class. The GL also comes with a diesel engine which means that running costs would also be on the lower side as compared to the R class.

Volvo S60 vs Mercedes C-class vs BMW 3 series

Since the time the Volvo S60 has debuted in the Indian car market, it is almost like Volvo India have set in a car amongst the pigeons. Whilst the other cars in its category harp on their German routes and attention to detail, Volvo S60 in India brings in a welcome cheerfulness to the equation. So it is eventually inevitable that we bring to our readers a comparison of how the Volvo S60 stacks up against its competition. The competition here is from the BMW 3 series and the Mercedes C-class, the two highest sales rakers for their respective manufacturers. Since statistics say that most buyers in this class prefer diesel cars, we have taken all the three top end diesel versions of the cars and have compared them here. So in come the Volvo S60 D5, Mercedes C220 CDI and the BMW 320D. Except for the Volvo, all the other 2 are dated and would go in for a replacement very soon. Moreover we have reviews or test drive reports of all the three cars on our blog, individually. The current segment leader of course is the BMW 3 series. So the gong rings and the battle starts to find out if the BMW 3 series throne has been usurped by the Volvo S60.

Looks

Volvo S60 D5 : The Volvo S60 D5 in India is the newest kid on the block. It has got that stout boot and also the longest hood of the trio here. The change in Volvo’s design team has brought about a sea change about the perception that one has for the Scandinavian designs. The Volvo also looks the freshest amongst the three. The only fly that is there in the ointment is the largish Volvo logo. Some one should tell Volvo that they need to go in for a new brand image as well. The 17 inch wheels do a good job of masking the flared wheel arches. The coupe like stance coupled with the inverted tail lamps and the twin tail pipes lend an air of distinctiveness to this car. Oh, mimicking the BMW design is a Hofmeister kink at the rear.

Mercedes C220 CDI : The Mercedes C220 CDI in India is a dated design and now the oversized three pointed star on the grille also looks a bit awkward. The head lamps however aren’t too big and they flank the 3 pieced grille. The wing mirrors are shared with the other Mercedes cars whereas the 17 inch wheels at the best, look stately. The rear of the car also looks a bit bland now however the chrome tipped single tail pipe is the talking point with its chunky character. One thing is for sure. No matter to whichever strata of the society you belong to, a 3 pointed star announces to everyone that you have arrived in life.

BMW 320D : The BMW 320D in India looks the most dated out of this trio however it is the twin corona lamps which save the day for it. The twin kidney grille and the crystal clear fog lamps do show the sinister intent of this car. If the Volvo and Mercedes look kind of stately, the BMW is the ruffian. The 16 inch run flats look as if the tyres are actually punctured. However the alloy wheel design is bit refreshing than what the others in this comparison promise. The all LED lights at the rear also cut the monotony of the design a bit. BMW’s trademark Hofmeister kink is also present. There is a single tail pipe doing duties though and that coming from a BMW is disappointing.

Needless to say, the Volvo S60 D5 in India wins this round followed closely by the Mercedes and then the BMW.

Interiors

Volvo S60 D5 : Opening the doors of the Volvo reveal a cabin which is pleasantly different from the Germans. It is usually noticed that  people have an affinity for German cars but then not so much anymore. The Volvo has got seats which beg one to sit in them. The half wood and half leather combination works to its advantage plus the floating central console. However there are a tad too many buttons flocking the central console and also understanding them takes a bit of time. The steering wheel also feels a bit largish but then it accommodates not only the regular gadgets but also some of the essential safety features of the car. The build quality is also impressive with all the panel gaps tightly concealed. Seats are an all electric affair whereas the rear ones are most comfortable in this class. However leg space is at a premium at the rear and Volvo’s intention of directly hitting at BMW with its driver centric car is evident here. Boot space is also good at 380 liters however the split seating at the rear helps the Volvo to accommodate more, should the need arise. Oh, did we forget to mention that the Volvo also gets the best clocks in this comparison.

Mercedes C220 CDI : The Mercedes C220 CDI in India now gets silver inserts in the clock design. They somehow make this car detract to from the luxury feel. The front seat takes a tad bit of time getting into and finding the ideal driving position. Though the steering wheel is large and 4 spoked, the controls on it come in the way of the horn. The C220 CDI gets the COMAND system which Mercedes offers in its cars however it isn’t a user friendly device. The Merc also features seat adjustments on the side of the doors. The utility aspect has been taken care of with the Mercedes C220 offering many cup holders and deep door map pockets. If Mercedes were planning to project this car as chauffer driven, then may be they have got it wrong since the C class doesn’t boast of good space and the new Volvo offers slightly more room. Boot space is in the region of 475 liters and this is the biggest offering in this class. Moreover the boot is highly usable due to the lack of suspension intrusions.


BMW 320D : The BMW 320D in India features a set of boring meter dials however the rest of the package indicates high quality. The front seat is very comfortable even for taller drivers whereas the overall layout of the dash is also user friendly. The Idrive system now boasts of easier controls plus accessing it on the go isn’t a problem anymore. BMW have also offered deeper door map pockets, cup holders and glove box. The rear seat as we have experienced in the Surat Auto Expo, was also commendable. Infact it boasts of a better space utilization than the Mercedes. It is more in the ball park of the Volvo but then the Bimmer offers just a wee bit space more. Boot space of 460 liters isn’t as usable as the others in this comparison.

It would be the Volvo S60 D5 again for the number of features it offers with the BMW coming in second and Merc last.

Handling and ride quality

Volvo S60 D5 : The Volvo S60 D5 in India is a monocoque construction which has got McPherson strut with stabilizer bar in the front and independent suspension with stabilizer bar at the rear. The steering wheel is communicative enough but then as speeds rise, it doesn’t project perfect feedback. The suspension has been tuned to be on the softer side and this shows when the car absorbs all the bumps thrown its way and doesn’t even protest a bit. It also eliminates the heaving and pitching action that one experiences under heavy braking. Handling is also good and driving this car is overall an enjoyable experience. NVH is also pretty much damped and one would be hard pressed to tell if it’s a diesel or petrol motor under the hood. Its only at elevated speeds and that is to be expected, that the diesel clatter filters in the cabin.

Mercedes C220 CDI : The Mercedes C220 CDI in India comes with a Mcpherson strut coupled with a torsion bar in front and Multilink torsion bar at the rear. This package is also setup to be on the softer side however the C class deals with potholes in the same manner as the Bavarian. It crashes into potholes. The steering wheel is ultra light and remains the same even at elevated speeds which robs the confidence of pushing the car to its limits. The handling is soggy with the car protesting under hard cornering. What is commendable is that the NVH characteristics of this car are the lowest amongst this class. The engine is the smoothest as well.
BMW 320D : The BMW 320D in India comes with double pivot struts in front and Multi link coupled with anti roll bars in the rear. This setup is on the stiffer side and hence keeping occupants isolated from the road irregularities is one of the least concerns of this car. It is not that it doesn’t absorb bumps but the run flats also contribute to the harsh ride quality. However once the speeds rise, the ride quality becomes absorbent. It is this stiff setup which allows this rear wheel driven car to be enjoyed to the maximum amongst hilly sections. The steering is very precise and brimming with feedback. However it is a bit too heavy at parking speeds and this makes it tiresome in the city. NVH is on the lower side for most part of the drive however once past the 4200 rpm mark, the BMW motor is on full song and one which everyone would unanimously like.


Combining a mix of good handling and ride quality, the Volvo S60 D5 wins this round and this time also it’s the Merc which is following the Bimmer.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

Volvo S60 D5 : The Volvo comes with a familiar diesel engine which is present under the hood of almost all the Volvo cars in India. The 2.4 liters engine gets 5 cylinders and longitudinal installation. This engine makes 205 Bhp of power and 420 Nm of torque. It is mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission. The engine is very lively and takes this car from 0-100 kmph in only 7.1 seconds. Arguably, it is the fastest in this test. The gear box is also no laggard and downshifts immediately. It also has a higher top speed than the others in this comparison at 225 kmph. Brakes are a bit wooden though and take a bit of getting used to. However one thing is for sure, even if you don’t apply the brakes, this car has the potential to stop itself and that is really an eerie experience. ABS and ESP also complement the brakes. The most number of safety features that one can find as options in many of the cars are standard in this one. Also there are some unique ones which you can read in the Volvo S60 test drive. Fuel efficiency as certified by ARAI stands at 14.7 kmpl.

Mercedes C220 CDI : The Mercedes is available with a 2148 cc engine with 4 cylinders. This engine makes 170 Bhp of power and 410 Nm of torque. It is mated with an old school 5 speed transmission. The Merc crosses the 0-100 kmph mark in 9.3 seconds and maxes out at a top speed of 215 kmph. The gear box is a laggard and best left in the auto mode. Putting sports mode doesn’t bring about any significant change. This engine is the epitome of smoothness though. Brakes are good and do the job of stopping the car quite well. The all wheel discs are assisted by ABS and ESP. ESP can be turned off via a switch on the console. Safety aspects also have been duly covered in this Merc however the safety features are not as abundant as in the Volvo. Fuel efficiency as quoted by ARAI is 14.2 kmpl.

BMW 320D : The BMW 320D also gets an age old engine which has a capacity of 1995 cc and is capable enough to produce 177 Bhp of power as also 350 Nm of torque. It gets a 6 speed auto for handling the transmission duties. Though it may be lacking in power or even the torque as compared to the Volvo, it stays right on the tail of the Volvo during the comparison. The transmission is a tad better than the Volvo and this helps immensely to propel this Bimmer from naught to 100 in only 8.2 seconds. It achieves a top speed of 217 kmph. Brakes are the best in the Bimmer with the all wheel discs giving a perfect feel of being in control at all the times. There are many electronic aids present in this car which help accentuate the perfection in its stopping prowess. Safety is also at par with the Mercedes if not a bit more. Fuel efficiency is also the highest in this comparison at an ARAI certified 16.2 kmpl.

The BMW 320D wins this round simply because its engine is more fuel efficient and also induces more smiles while driving than the others. It is followed by the Volvo and then the Mercedes.

Verdict

Well, the outcome is quite clear. The BMW 320D is no longer the segment king and the Swedish Volvo has toppled it from its perch. The reason is that the exclusivity factor works for the Volvo. Moreover, it has some of the best safety features that one can buy in the world. Space and image aren’t also an image with this car. It gives nearly the same driving pleasure as a BMW. The only thing that seems to be a problem in the Volvo setting the sales chart on fire is the fact that they don’t have a brand presence in India and plus it is the costliest in this comparison. The Volvo S60 D5 price in India is Rs 37 lakhs. The BMW on the other hand has been relegated to the second spot. If you are looking for a sporty sedan, then your search should end with the BMW. It has also got good fuel efficiency to boot for. But then ride quality is highly compromised. It is also expensive by any standards retailing at Rs 35.7 lakhs. The Mercedes C class has been relegated to oblivion with the onslaught of fellow Germans, a Brit and now a Swede. It is for those looking for a no frills sedan and one with a 3 pointed star on the nose. The very fact that it is the least pricey amongst the trio might make it appealing to some. The Mercedes C220 CDI price in India is Rs 30.2 lakhs. All these prices are on-road prices in Mumbai.

BMW 740Li vs Audi A8L 4.2 FSI vs Mercedes S350L

The other day, my US colleague was teasing me that he got to drive the Audi A8L in US and he has written a review about it to which my answer was that even I got to test drive one here in India. Now, today, later on, I can email him saying that we actually got to compare the stalwarts in this segment and even proclaim a winner of the battle royale. The 2011 Audi A8L launched just a few days back is all set to challenge the Mercedes S class and the BMW 7 series for the throne of the ultimate luxury car here in India. The Mercedes S class ruled the roost for long with the BMW 7 series taking over the mantle a few years ago. It is now upto Audi to challenge the reigning king of the throne, the BMW 7 series and the omnipresent Mercedes S class. So basically, we have pitted all base petrol motors here since most of the buyers in this category, since they have the money, wouldn’t choose diesel motors. The stats say this. Without any further ado, here is the comparison between the three warring Germans.

Looks

BMW 740Li : The BMW 7 series is the 5th generation model that we have in India here. Changed than its previous generation controversial version, the BMW 7 series does pack a punch and in its long wheelbase version, it is all the more distinguishable than other BMWs. The BMW 740Li in India sits a tad lower than its competition.I must say that it has got the most tastefully done alloy wheels in this comparison. Those corona head lamps make it look distinct. Two miniscule fog lamps adorn the air dam. The typical Hofmeister kink along with the twin tail pipes housed in the lower bumper section does cut a distinct figure here.

Audi A8L 4.2 FSI : The newest kid on the block, the Audi A8L 4.2 FSI in India doesn’t look far different than its predecessor. The full setup of LED lamps with that traditional Audi grille does make the Audi A8L look very butch. It has got no fog lamps and moreover the rear profile shows nothing distinguishable than the other Audis. It has got the twin tail pipes which are actually different from the rectangular ones found in its competition.

Mercedes S350L : The Mercedes S-class has been around since ages. To be exact, from 2005. It has moved on mostly unchanged except for a few changes. Indians still do revere the 3 pointed star on the hood and the Merc has got LEDs as part of its fog lamps whereas the head lamps are powerful Xenon units. Out of the three cars here, the Merc looks the most stately from the front. Like the BMW, it has also got twin tail pipes and ones which are rectangular in shape.

Tough one, this is. However I would give it to the BMW 740Li for been the most distinguishable of this lot.

Interiors

BMW 740Li : The BMW 740Li in India boasts of having one of the simplest multimedia interfaces amongst the three. I can just wonder how roles have been reversed. Few years back, all I could hear or read was how un-intuitive the Idrive system was but now it has changed. The overall cabin design looks very simple and especially so for a flagship car. It has got wooden inserts in the steering wheel and uses more wood in the cabin than the others here. Keeping in mind, its driver focused interiors, the front seats are one of those firm gripping ones. They are almost arm chair like and one gets that typical BMW feel everywhere. The rear seat which is the most likely place for the owners of the BMW 7 series, is a bit low but then first class comfort is what you can expect here. No dearth of space either as this is the long wheelbase version. There are many gizmos to play around with as well. Massagers are available as an option for the rear seats. Boot space is something in which I wouldn’t delve into since it is not expected that 7 series owners would hardly carry any luggage. Instead, they would have their own separate Innovas to carry the luggage part.

Audi A8L 4.2 FSI : What a stark change from the old Audi A8, the new one boasts of a headsup display system in the central console and is one of the brilliant cabins that Audi has ever built. The front seats however aren’t too supportive like the ones in the BMW. Individually they are good but in company of the BMW, they don’t shine as much. Giving a genuine look is the wood trim around the central console. The MMI interface now integrates a handwriting gesture recognition feature.The dashboard however looks cluttered with the plethora of buttons. The beautiful part is the rear seats with their Executive Seating arrangement. The space is enormous and every command of yours is obeyed with the single press of a button. Take for example the way, the front seat slides ahead revealing a little foot stool and a table popping out of the rear center console to accommodate your laptop or important papers. Pampered luxury, I would say. Everything has an attention to detail which the BMW cannot match nor can the Mercedes.

Mercedes S350L : The Mercedes S350L in India has that same muddy upholstery color which one expects from all the Mercedes cars. The interior design theme looks a bit boring and dated now. The half wood, half leather steering wheel also doesn’t feel too good to grip. The COMAND system used by Mercedes for controlling the various functions of the car is limited in its applications as compared to the other two Germans in this comparo. But come to the seating arrangement and the Merc gives a tough fight to the others here. It was the first car to have the massaging seats concept and the others have simply picked it up and moved on. Everything has a soft feel to it and the head rests make for one helluva touch of luxury. Cut to the rear seats and the all black interiors make it feel less spacious than it is. It for sure, cannot match the backseat leg room that the others can offer here.

I will hand it over to the Audi A8L for having the most comfortable backseat as well as nicely put interiors. One more thing is that though all the cars feel well built, it is the Merc which stands out with its solid feel.

Handling and ride quality

BMW 740Li : The BMW 740Li in India uses the independent multi arm axle with anti dive in the front whereas the rear section uses independent anti dive , anti squat construction for the suspension. True to its driver’s car tag, this one is a bit stiffly setup than the others here. It has different modes like Comfort, Normal, Sports and Sports+ to aid it in giving the best possible ride and handling package. Slot it in Comfort mode and the car delivers the best ride possible. Sure, the suspension does let you know what it is exactly doing and isn’t as refined as one would like an executive saloon to be. The handling is the best part and to really experience it, one has to slot the suspension mode to Sports+. The suspension tauts itself and steering responses become more linear. However the older steering feel is now gone and the steering now feels slightly vague. BMW has actually lowered its goal post now. But still belying its size, the BMW 7 series just obeys commands like a hatchback.

Audi A8L 4.2 FSI : The Audi A8L 4.2 FSI in India gets an anti roll bar, multi link front suspension with double wishbones whereas an anti roll bar with trapezoidal wishbones does duties at the rear. The A8L just swallows every bump that you throw at it but some of its war with the road does spill over inside the cabin. The very sharp bumps sometimes catch it off guard. Like the BMW, it also gets the Dynamic and Comfort modes. The steering does place the car exactly where one wants it to be but then go fast and it disconcertingly becomes a bit numb. It is totally devoid of feel and more like the Audi A8L asking you to go slow. NVH is nicely damped but still some slight road noise does filter inside the cabin.

Mercedes S350L : The Mercedes S350L in India gets Airmatic front suspension with four link gas shock absorbers whereas the rear end boasts of multi link with anti dive anti squat construction. The Mercedes just glides over everything in its path. The air suspension does provide for a good pliant ride quality which the others cannot emulate in this comparison. However the low NVH levels for which the Merc was earlier known for, has been overthrown by the Audi A8L. The motor in the Merc becomes raucous when it nears its redline. The steering surpasses the BMW’s in terms of feel and feedback. But then the handling isn’t up to the mark and the softly sprung Merc does roll around quite a bit when forced into a corner. It actually is very boring to drive the Mercedes S-class.

The BMW 7 series for sure on this one.

Engine, performance and fuel efficiency

BMW 740Li : The BMW 740Li in India gets a 3 liter straight 6 petrol motor with twin turbos and developing 326 Bhp of peak power with 45.88 kgm of torque coming in between 1500-4500 rpm. The transmission used is a 6 speed auto. For the record, the 0-100 kmph run ends in 6.60 seconds whereas the top speed is an electronically limited 250 kmph. This engine loves to be revved and seems unstressed even when it has neared its 7000 rpm redline. But then your chauffer would be doing some hard work since this engine lacks the lower down poke. Braking feel is very good and brake assist, EBD, CBC, ABS with traction control ensure that things remain sane even when the going gets tough. For the safety conscious, the BMW 7 series offers 6 air bags, night vision camera, 3 point ELR with pretensioners, lane change warning and many others. Fuel efficiency is 6.6 kmpl in city and 11.2 kmpl on the highway.

Audi A8L 4.2 FSI : The Audi A8L 4.2 FSI has a 4.2 liter V8 engine which makes 372 Bhp of peak power at 6800 rpm whereas its peak torque of 45.37 kgm comes in at 3500 rpm. It is assisted by an 8 speed auto transmission. It expectedly crosses the 0-100 kmph barrier in only 6.4 seconds and its top speed is electronically restricted to 250 kmph. The ZF 8 speed auto feels as effortless as it can be. The engine is highly tractable and can even do overtaking maneuvers on the highway without even breaking into a sweat. All around discs coupled with ESP, ABS and Electronic Differential Lock (EDL). Safety is handled by the crash detecting Pre Sense system which prims the car before a car occurs, 8 air bags, side intrusion beams and the collapsible steering column. As far as fuel efficiency goes, it is 8.4 kmpl in city and 12.3 kmpl on the highway.

Mercedes S350L : The Mercedes S350L in India has got a 3.5 liter V6 motor which makes 272 Bhp of power and 35.69 kgm of torque. It is aligned with a 7 speed auto transmission. The car completes the 0-100 kmph run in a lazy (in this comparison) 8.8 seconds whereas it has got the same electronically limited top speed of 250 kmph. The auto transmission is very slow to respond and it would be best in the hands of the chauffer who would have to battle it out in traffic or the highway. Brakes are a bit mushy in their application but do the job well of stopping the car well within the limits. The braking aids like ESP, ABS, traction control and active braking are also present. The Merc gets 6 air bags, PreSafe technology, night vision camera, rear view camera, driver alert system and many more safety aids. As far as fuel efficiency is considered, the Merc returns 6.7 kmpl for the city and 9.4 kmpl on the highway.

The Audi A8L wins this round.

Verdict

Based on the above analysis, it is the new 2011 Audi A8L in India which wins this round. However it isn’t without its faults. It has got an underwhelming driving experience and should you be the one who likes to occasionally take the wheel, then you would be disappointed. However when you are in the rear seat, it would pamper you like no other car in this category can. If you are looking for driving pleasure, then have your cheque books ready for the BMW 740Li in India. It has got the most distinct identity amongst all the cars here and more or less offers everything which the Audi A8L can provide for. It however skimps on some essential equipments, something which the Audi offers as standard. The Mercedes is the dark horse of the lot and it remains the same without springing any surprises during the test. It is by far, the most solidly built car amongst this trio. But then the interiors and also the exteriors are no patch for the others in this competition. Moreover, its engine and transmission options seriously need a revamp.

The Audi A8L 4.2 FSI price in India starts at Rs 89 lakhs whereas the BMW 740Li price in India starts at Rs 85.40 lakhs. The Mercedes S350L price in India stats at Rs 85.14 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai.

For references of the test drives of each of these cars, the links are

https://www.indiandrives.com/mercedes-s-class-in-india-test-drive.html for the Mercedes S class

https://www.indiandrives.com/audi-a8l-in-india-test-drive.html for the 2011 Audi A8L

https://www.indiandrives.com/bmw-7-series-in-india-test-drive.html for the BMW 7 series

Mercedes G55 AMG in India test drive

India’s first luxury car maker, Mercedes Benz India Limited had recently launched the Mercedes G55 AMG in India. The Mercedes G55 AMG, the first time when I saw it actually got an expression of “Are you sure that is a Mercedes” expression on everyone present at the unveiling. To be true, it was more like a Tata Sumo with a Mercedes badge on it. Never imagined that this beast is afterall a “Mercedes”. The reality of the facts took some time to sink in. One can say that is the Dr Hyde version of the Mercedes G class sold in India now. The very say that this car was launched in India, we had requested Mercedes for a test drive of the same but then Mercedes had politely made it a point to defer the test drive date. So, finally got my hands on the Mercedes G55 AMG in India for a test drive. No review, sorry. Check on Road Price

The Glendwagen as it is called everywhere is a true military vehicle as the tradition says. Unfortunately, it attracts as much attention as a modified Tata Sumo would attract. Out on the road, people were oblivious to its presence and all my hopes of getting attention like what people usually get in a Mercedes, were quashed. Do you really want me to go into the looks section? Okay, wish granted. The ground clearance of this SUV is more than the Tata Sumo and with the front bull bar, supported by two plastic claddings. Apart from that the center of attraction is the 3 pointed star in the middle of the chrome grille and those circular head lamps flanking it. The air dam looks similar to an AC vent from the Sumo. The miniscule fog lamps are placed in the lower bumper. The side profile brings back memories of the Mahindra Bolero. Ohh, the turn indicators are placed atop the bonnet. Truly retro, eh! The 275/55 R19 tyres were truly humongous and befitting the SUV. Somehow, my personal opinion, the build quality felt only a tad better than the Mahindra Bolero’s. Mind you, I am yet to step into the interiors. Those protruding hinges and all make it look very odd, especially with a Mercedes badge. One more thing of notice was the tail pipes peeping at everyone from the side of the SUV. There are four in all. Two on each side.The rear is nothing much to speak about with a small glass area and inverted wiper, with those ugly hinges again supporting the door frame. Tail lamps are mounted on the lower bumper with the single reversing light even lower. The spare tyre sits on the rear door.

The interiors are what would separate the Merc from the Sumos and Boleros that I have made reference to in this article. The dirty muddy brown color used for almost all of the Mercedes car interiors is the prevailing theme here as well. The steering wheel is a new unit unlike the other Mercedes ones that  I am used to. It gets fat buttons for the audio, cruise and Bluetooth controls. It is a 4 spoke unit partly covered by leather and partly by wood. The seats are 6 way adjustable and have typical comfort that Mercedes cars exude. The meter dials are also typical Merc units but with an unknown finesse. I would rather backtrack on my statements about the build quality as the interiors are fantastically put together. Comfort has been elevated in the front seats but the back seats do really take a back seat as far as comfort goes. Being a 6 footer, I found it hard enough not to brush my knees against the front seats. Head room is adequate but shoulder room is also a bit tight. The boot space is a useful 480 liters which increases to 2262 litres of space once the rear seats are flopped down. Interesting enough.

The Mercedes G55 AMG in India is not a soft roader but a true brute of an SUV. I only had 5 minutes to check its off-roadability and the car was more poised in the mud rather than on the road. It has got, a world’s first, three lockable differentials. This combined with the sheer muscle of the engine were enough to power me out of one particularly sticky patch. The only problem is that quad exhausts on the sides. They are a bit lower than my liking and I am sure where a Land Rover would just move out of the mud patch, with the Mercedes G55 AMG in India, it would be a problem as those silencers may get grounded. Speaking of the exhaust systems, they have been tuned by AMG to deliver the sporty growl that a sports car would produce. At part throttle speeds, the car displays its V8 muscle. Screech it to the redline and it would have that extra sports car thrill that you always desired, but from an SUV, no way. Its behavior on the road is a slightly nervous affair. Its tyres provide immense grip but then they wouldn’t satisfy the cornering enthusiasts. It has got body roll but in limited proportions and certainly not expected from such a tall SUV. The suspension is on the stiffer side and this means lower speed bumps get amplified but not overtly uncomfortable. Speed up things and everything feels well planted. The steering wheel has more locks that even Godrej can think of and it is devoid of feel as well.

The engine in the Mercedes G 55 AMG in India is a 5.5 liter V8 unit which pumps out 507 Bhp of peak power at 6100 rpm whereas the peak torque of 700 Nm comes in between 2750 – 4000 rpm. No, its not a diesel engine but a petrol unit tuned by AMG. It is mated with a 5 speed auto transmission. The transmission is silky smooth and is one of the best transmissions in the Mercedes stable other than the 7 speed ZF one. Since it was a 30 minutes test drive, I could actually time the performance figures. The 0-100 kmph run was achieved in a scarcely believable 6.1 seconds. The run actually made people passing close by watch in awe as if a supercar just passed by them. I am sure more than the exhaust note would have made them think of the same. I couldn’t check out the top speed however. But a certain Mercedes engineer present told me that it has an electronically limited top speed of 215 kmph. Come to think of it, it has got a 2.5 tonne kerb weight. Brakes were also highly effective and they were aided by the usual four channel ABS, EBD, traction control and ESP. For the safety thing, there are 4 air bags, side impact beams, seat belt pretensioners, panic alarm, security system and also tracker system. There is also a reverse camera provided. Very useful in this car, I would say.

It been an AMG and all, expect the mileage figures to be in single digits for both the city and highway runs.

Test drive done and now time for some analysis. If you are looking at sheer performance plus off roading capability, then look no further than the Mercedes G55 AMG in India. It gives a rush that no 2.5 tonnes vehicle can give you. Moreover, its off roading capability is legendary. So if you own a farm house somewhere near Chikmagalur and want to reach there faster and in proper shape, then the Mercedes G55 would be the best bet. That is only if you can look past its looks, which wouldn’t give you the second glances that every Mercedes warrants. One more thing that you cannot ignore is that the Mercedes G55 AMG price in India starts at Rs 1.1 crores ex-show room. I had actually heard one of my fellow scribes repeatedly asking me if the price was right and my answer was a patient yes. Now, if you have enough moolah, then go and buy yourself one fast as Mercedes are going to sell this SUV in limited numbers here.

Mercedes C200 CGI in India test drive

Mercedes segment on our website has been lying dormant since the last post about the Mercedes event that we had covered. Forget the news part of it. I am talking about the test drives and reviews for this brand. Mercedes are on the path to regain their number one spot in the Indian luxury car market and they have amply proved it with the first two months sale in 2011 being way ahead of the others in its class. Moreover, its arch rival BMW has presence in almost all segments of the luxury car market and Mercedes has followed suit by launching different cars from its international lineup here in India. Classic example is of the Mercedes C200 CGI in India.The only difference been the use of direct injection in the engine of this car. Nevertheless it makes sense than the more costlier AMG versions cars from Mercedes. To check what the hullaboo was all about for this car, I decided to go on a test drive and then report the same here. Maybe a new version of the C-class, rumored to be here by this year is said to carry more technology and some of the BlueEfficiency features as standard that Mercedes have been harping on. Check on Road Price

Visual difference between the various Mercedes C-class variants is difficult unless you happen to read the badge at the rear. Also the Avantgarde trims are easier to recognize with their wide spacing in the central grille and the 3 pointed star descending down to the middle of the grille. Elegant lines define this car. No hint of sportiness or anything. It is as good as any Mercedes that you can buy off the shelf. Subtle and stately are the terms that would aptly describe this car. The 225/45 R17 tyres also are scream the same subdued things that the other features in the exteriors talk about. Wonder why none of the manufacturers offer tasty looking alloy wheels. All offer the same boring looking design. The wing mirrors also have two air deflectors which increase the aerodynamic efficiency. The rear end is also nicely shaped. No gimmicks here except for the LED stop lamps and that fat tail pipe. The tail pipe somehow brings in some of the sportiness that this car is known for.

Cut to the interiors, there is nothing different than the other Mercedes C-class cars. You get the same leather seats all around and surrounding wooden trim for the door handles part. The high quality that Mercedes were known for earlier has now returned. Took some time to actually fit in the C-class’s driver seat but the seat adjustments were very easy. The instrument cluster is also innovative and a far cry from what BMW offers. BMW’s instrument panel looks good in the night whereas the Mercedes one looks good in day light. The music system now doesn’t have the Harmon Kardon Logic 7 system and nor is there any provision for a USB port. Cubby holes abound for storing all the knip knacks. My personal opinion is that the BMW and Audi’s interiors feel much more luxurious than the gray option that Mercedes gives. Circa to the rear seat, not comfortable as the Audi or even BMW. Even though the C-class looks like it has grown over its predecessor, it doesn’t feel so the same on the inside. For me, it was more like the seats of a Hyundai Santro. The knees brushing the front seats, even at half travel. Boot space is comparable with the rest in its class and the 60:40 split seat arrangement adds to the convenience. There is a light in the boot loading area and this helps while loading the car in dark areas.

As for the ride and handling package, the Mercedes C200 CGI in India is right up there with the rest of its ilk. As a special package, it gets the Agility Control suspension. This suspension adjusts itself according to the driving conditions and demands of the driver. The steering wheel has been also blessed with this package. However I did note that this steering wheel felt a bit artificial in its operation. Most of the steering commands were executed without even a whimper by this special steering wheel. Ride quality for Mercedes has been always superlative and the new suspension package brings it to the forth. Moreover, the noise insulation is excellent and even the engine doesn’t let its whimper crawl into the cabin. Its only at speeds in excess of 140 kmph that some wind noise creeps in. This thing, I guess is even common to the E63 AMG which we had sampled in the StarDrive event.

Coming to the engine, which is the star in this entire car. For starters, this car like a diesel direct injection one uses piezo electric injectors. Unlike other fuel injectors which can spray only once during a combustion cycle, this one can actually spray multiple times. The delivery pattern for the same is also very consistent and hence results in a fine fuel mist. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. But with the Mercedes C200 CGI in India, you can actually do it. Replacing the supercharger from the earlier Kompressor variant is an all new supercharger. The 1796 cc engine now makes 186 Ps of maximum power at 5600 rpm whereas the peak torque of 285 Nm comes in between 2400-4000 rpm. In comparison, the older Kompressor model made 4% less power and 45 Nm of less torque at a higher rpm. Mated to this engine is a 5 speed automatic transmission which is very quick for the upshift but for the downshifts, it seems a bit lethargic. Nevertheless, the car raced from 0-100 kmph in only 8.3 seconds and its top speed is held at 190 kmph. This is a test drive and how could I bring you the performance figures would be your next question. Well, this car is surprisingly fast and before I could realize it, I had already climbed to speeds of 120 kmph. So the 0-100 timing could be tapped in. For the top speed, this was a hint by one of my friends whose boss owns this car.

As far as the brakes are concerned, they are right upto the mark with discs in front and rear. The usual ABS, EBD and ESP are present to stop the car in emergency situations. The newest feature amongst Mercedes cars, Pre Safe has been installed in this car. This system primarily works on the fact that upon sensing a collision, the sun roof as well as windows (if they are open) close on their own accord. Moreover, the seat belts also have pretensioners which tighten their grip around you. The brakes are also adaptive units whereas there are 8 air bags in all nooks and crannies of this car. Fuel efficiency is also said to be on the higher side with an ARAI certified 11.47 kmpl. Remember, I mentioned that with this car, you can have your cake and eat it too.

The car finally returned, here is the chance to dissect its pros and cons. First, this car is a huge image booster and especially for those looking for an entry into the 3 pointed star club. The equipment on offer is more than what a similarly priced BMW 320i would give, it has got the go to match the show outside, inspite of been performance happy, it is surprisingly fuel efficient as well. The cons now are that its got less space inside, is pricier than rivals, servicing costs are monstrous and some of the features from the earlier Kompressor variant have been deleted. Mercedes Benz India website shows only three models in its entire lineup for the C-Class in India. Those are the C200 CGI BlueEfficiency, C250 CDI BlueEfficiency and the C250. Earlier there was the Mercedes Benz C 200 Compressor Elegance MT, Mercedes Benz C 200 Compressor Elegance AT, Mercedes Benz C 220 CDI Elegance MT and the Mercedes Benz C 220 CDI Elegance AT. Apart from them, there still exists the Mercedes Benz C63 AMG. The Mercedes C class price in India starts from Rs 26.12 lakhs and ends at Rs 35.90 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai. Now for some cake eating.

Mercedes-Benz StarDrive Experience – truly head spinning

As promised, here we are sharing the experience of the Mercedes-Benz StarDrive. It was a Sunday and we had booked our time slot from 10 am till 12 in the noon. When we finally reached the place, it was filled with all types of Mercedes passenger as well as SUV range of cars. The only ones missing were the Mercedes E-cabriolet and the CLS. Any man’s wet dream, the AMG range of cars were also present as was the Mercedes SL 65 AMG and its sedan version, the E63 AMG. Not many have the privilege of seeing all these beauties at the same time and at the same place. I very much doubt if the same are even available in the show rooms.

First of all, the event organizer, Mr Karan Singh came upto us and welcomed us all. He asked us to initially register the name of our group and then after we were done with the same, were asked to proceed to the Mercedes Star lounge wherein we were provided refreshments. But then so eager was our team to have the experience that we just sipped some water and were out to foray. We then rush to the SUV counter wherein a small shed awaited us. Inside, Karan said that we would have our first go in the Mercedes GL class and also the smaller ML class. He presented a small demo on what all features are there in the car and how it would go through, the ride height increase, tilt angles etc. But these things don’t make any sense unless you experience them first hand. Sensing our impatience, Karan took us for the big drive. Since we were 6 of us, he correctly asked us to bundle in the GL class. Our drive guide was one Mr.Sunny. Before he got the clearance from the field manager for taking us on the drive, he explained the various features in the car and how he would be using them effectively to go around the track. He stressed on all the occupants to wear the seat belts. The very next moment we started rolling, we were up a gradient. I wish, I hadn’t had a sumptuous breakfast in the morning.

The heavy GL class was hanging with one wheel up in the air. If it would have been some other SUV, I am sure it would have hung up its boots, but not the mighty GL class. It trundled along quite comfortably without even breaking into a sweat. The very next moment, we were up a steep incline which had a 40 degree angle to it. Sunny told us that the GL could go upto 45 degree inclines. We never doubted his claim on that after seeing how easily we were all plastered near the side windows and the GL gleefully carrying along. Next was the hill downside assist demo in the same car. We were to climb up a 45 degrees ramp and then descend it. We did feel that it wasn’t the machine which was taking the brunt but it were we people. How else can you describe climbing something with a 45 degree angle to it and with a behemoth of an SUV for company? Sunny amply selected the down hill speed as 4 kmph from the cruise control stalk and lifted his foot off the accelerator and the brake. The SUV was easily rolling along as if some celestial force was guiding it.

After getting off the SUV, we rested for about 10 minutes ( I am sure words wouldn’t be able to describe the experience and you would have to actually experience it) and then rush to the next shed which was called the Pre-Safe shed. Here one Mr Ranvir welcomed us and explained the safety features to be found in Mercedes sedans and needless to say, the SUVs. After the narration, we were told that we would be seated in the Mercedes E63 AMG car. Oh boy! Imagine people, roughly in the age group of 28 years and all giggling on the thought of been seated in the ultra luxurious E class and that too the AMG variant. Our driver or rather the demonstrator was Mr Sunny and he was very keen on showing us the various safety features practically. The usual procedure of tightening the seat belts and everything was done and then he took off (no pun intended). 0-100 coming up in only a scant 4.8 seconds. Within a kilometer stretch in the Juhu Aerodrome, the E63 blasted to 140 clicks. The aural delight of the twin tail pipes is something which many would always have etched in their minds.

To demonstrate the Pre-Safe features, the windows were rolled down and the sun roof was also opened. Sunny told us that when at high speeds, if we notice a sudden obstacle and we try to swerve around it, then the windows as well as the sunroof close on their own. This is done so that passengers are safe and secure inside the cabin and don’t get hurtled outside nor do outside objects come inside. At the speed of about 120 kmph, he fish tailed the car and avoided the barricade. At the same time when he was attempting this manoeuvre, the windows eerily closed with about 2 cms gap left. The sunroof closed completely. He explained that if the vehicle were to sense a collision, the air bags get ready for deployment. While the air bags deploy, there is so much of pressure inside that chances are that the driver and side passenger would get suffocated. To release the pressure, the windows are slightly open. In the AMG version, the person seated in the front passenger seat can actually feel the seats hugging him. Eerie as it may sound, it was true. With Pre-Safe, if one isn’t wearing the seatbelts, they actually nudge you as if gently coaxing you to wear them.

Alas, we couldn’t get a drive in the SLS cars featured there. By the way, on our request, the Sales Manager out there popped open the hood of the SL 65 AMG and showed us the engineer’s signature which was present on top of the engine of the car. The barely decipherable signature said Philip Walbier, if I decoded it correctly.

Finally out of the cars and back onto our way home, we couldn’t but help stare at the G55 SUV standing there. Now, the G55 is the SUV which would be launched today. The first look of this SUV is what one would scoff at. It looks exactly like the Tata Sumo from the pre-Victa age. The only difference is that the tail pipes protrude from the sides and the interiors is something which Tata Motors cannot even hope to achieve. We were told that the price is in the region of Rs 1.50 crores. The reason cited is that it is the fastest SUV in a straight line and also a true off-roader. It is a CBU unit as well. It has got a V8 AMG engine (printed on the side panel) but then the stats weren’t clear and so we would refrain from quoting them here.

The best thing to say about the whole experience was that it was well hosted and the general public were well catered to. We are still reeling under the effects of what we have actually seen and gone through. I can proudly say that this is a once in a lifetime experience and as my boss would have described it , a freakingly amazing thing. Thank you Mercedes for organizing such a wonderful event.

Click Here To See Photo Gallery Of Mercedes-Benz StarDrive Experience

Buyers Guide for Mercedes Benz

‘Mercedes’ naam toh suna hi hoga. I know it is one of the cheapest statements I can ever manage to write. But trust me this one of the best introduction I could possible fetch you with. Mercedes is actually one of the popular car manufacturing brands in India and across the globe as well. Even my 4 year old nephew knows what does Mercedes stands for. This brand has been graced with many coolest vehicles which have had toped the charts every now and then. There are many top vehicles from this car company and we have limited space. So, fortunately unfortunately I’ll be choosing only the best possible vehicles from this company and will be updating you with their details.

Mercedes Benz C Class

Mercedes, doesn’t the name seems familiar to you?Oh hell, yes it does. Only a fool won’t be able to know what a Mercedes is. So, first and foremost this car makes its own statement the moment we say ‘Merc’. Besides the famous name of its brand, this car also posses a superb cool body. Those right curves on the right places and the detailed lines etched across its front to back make it even better looking. To support your pocket size, this car is available in four engine options. This car is available in C200 K and C220 CDI petrol engine, C250 diesel engine and a super performance C63 AMG engine. The ride quality is really comfortable and to add to this comfort this car is available with the comfort features lined up for the passenger and driver. Hmm… though this car could have been much sportier than it actually is but still you just can’t be wrong if you just adopted the keys of this car with a little fee against it.

Engine Options:
1799cc\ 2148cc\ 2497cc\ 6208cc

Powertrain:
5 speed automatic\ 7 speed automatic (2497cc & 6280cc)

Power:

178 Bhp @5600 rpm\ 170 Bhp @3700 rpm\ 201 Bhp @6100 rpm\ 457 Bhp @6800 rpm

Torque:
24.5 Kgm @4500 rpm\ 41.8 Kgm @2000 rpm\ 25 Kgm @5500 rpm\ 61.18 Kgm @5000 rpm

Thumbs Up:
The all round performance.

Thumbs Down:

Not as sporty as it can be.

Head on Competitors:
BMW 3 series, Skoda Superb and Audi A4

The Catch:
Rs 29 lakhs to Rs. 57.8 lakhs.

Mercedes Benz E Class

After much thought and less distinction from its predecessor, the all new Mercedes Benz E Class was launched recently. I might have overstated myself but this car actually isn’t very different from its predecessor except for the new sporty stance this car is graced with now. Anyways don’t just judge from what I said earlier, as I was only cribbing because this car doesn’t look much different from its predecessor but wait, it is much more different in its performance than the former one in its performance. But let us first describe how does it look like? This car is sophisticated yet sporty. It looks like the much older version of Mercedes that has been awarded with modern curves. Now, the performance is awesome. Wait, awesomer. No, not yet over its awesomest. I know there isn’t any word like aweomest but then there are no words which can describe its performance. This much edgier and much aggressive car is available in 5 engine options. I know I have blurted enough bad about this car but still this car stands out in the sea of various other cars. So, it is clear that this car is one of the best cars in its category and therefore undoubtedly the best buy.

Engine Options:
3498cc\ 2987cc\ 2497cc\ 2143cc\ 1796cc

Powertrain:
5 speed automatic (2143cc & 1796cc cc)\ 7 speed automatic

Power:

272 Bhp@6300 rpm\ 231 Bhp@3800 rpm\ 203 Bhp@6100 rpm\ 203 Bhp@4200 rpm\ 183 Bhp@5600 rpm

Torque:
36.2 Kgm @4500 rpm\ 55 Kgm @1600 rpm\ 25 Kgm @5000 rpm\ 51 Kgm @1800 rpm\ 29 Kgm @4000 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Quality, ride quality, handling, awesome engines and their performance and the all new sporty look of this car.

Thumbs Down:
Nah, not much to complain about.

Head on Competitors:

BMW 5 series and Audi A6

The Catch:
Rs 39 lakhs to Rs. 65 lakhs.

Mercedes Benz S Class

I tried to ask many of my friends why they like this car. But beside that contempt smile I didn’t get anything else as answer. So what about this car makes them smile? I mean, there is such a tough competition (Audi A8, BMW 7 series and Porsche Panamera) under this category but then this car still tops the chart. How? Hmm… let’s see. This car is definitely elegant, class apart and makes a statement of it own. Inside, the comfort features definitely makes you feel like one of those who always gets the preferential treatment. This car is available in 4 engine options. The best of the lot is the 12 cylinder AMG engine. I’ll borrow some words from my close friend who seems to love this car, “this car now, might not be the best car amongst its category but it is very close to the best”.



Engine Options:

3498cc\ 2987cc\ 4663cc\ 5980cc

Powertrain:

5 speed automatic\ 7 speed automatic

Power:
305 Bhp@6500 rpm\ 256 Bhp@3600 rpm\ 432 Bhp@5250 rpm\ 625 Bhp@4600 rpm

Torque:
37.4 Kgm @3500 rpm\ 63.1 Kgm @1600 rpm\ 71. 3 Kgm @1800 rpm\ 102 Kgm @2300 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Comfort, luxury, comfort, luxury, comfort, luxury, comfort… I just can’t help myself

Thumbs Down:
You really expect me to say something and make a fool of myself.

Head on Competitors:
BMW 7 series and Audi A8

The Catch:
Rs 82.7 lakhs to Rs. 2.80 crores.

Mercedes Benz SLK Class

Ok so today I’ll be revealing why I have an unclaimed love for convertibles, not that you care but I need to tell you. The moment I look at one of the convertibles, a sudden gust of breeze filled romance and the tenderness hits my tummy and makes me go week in my knees. Yeah, you are allowed to laugh but it is my personal feeling and none of your business. Chuck that. Ok, so this car is again one such car which literally pulls you towards it and hold on to your eyeballs until you actually starts liking it. Besides the looks, this two seater car delivers an amazing performance. All the three engines are the best amongst their category not that there are many options available in this category. Handling, ride quality, feel, and everything else about this car are simply amazing. To sum it up in just one line, this car is simply amazing.

Engine Options:
1796cc\ 5439cc\ 3498cc

Powertrain:
5 speed automatic\ 7 speed automatic

Power:

182 Bhp to 520 Bhp

Torque:
25.2 Kgm to 64 Kgm

Thumbs Up:
The feeling you get while driving this car and the performance of its engines especially the AMG one.

Thumbs Down:
Not much of a choice is available.

Head on Competitors:
BMW M3 and BMW Z4

The Catch:
Rs 45.7 lakhs to Rs. 85.5 lakhs.

Mercedes Benz SL Class

Convertible after convertible, I love it. Ok, so after the unchained melody of Mercedes SLK, now its time for the unruffled Mercedes Benz SL Class. Like the one mentioned above, this car is also a two seater, amazing looking car. The best feature that I personally feel about this car is the time this car unfolds or fold the hardtop roof. This car has been graced with a very different yet aggressive looks. Besides the looks this car is also similar to the SLK Class in its performance. Performance of this car is simply amazing. This car will seriously thrill you with its performance especially of the one you are driving sports an AMG engine.


Engine Options:
6208cc\ 5513cc

Powertrain:
5 speed automatic\ 7 speed automatic

Power:
182 Bhp to 520 Bhp

Torque:
25.2 Kgm to 64 Kgm

Thumbs Up:
Looks and performance

Thumbs Down:
Choice?

Head on Competitors:
Audi TT and Audi R8

The Catch:
Rs 57 lakhs to Rs. 1.5 crores.

Mercedes Benz ML Class

So Mercedes actually keeps a track of its consumer demands. This ML Class offered by Mercedes is a mid size sports utility vehicle. This SUV is better known for its off roadability. This SUV is again one of the best looking SUVs in town, just like any other vehicle by Mercedes. This SUV caters to the high class with its price ranging from Rs 62 lakhs to Rs. 66.5 lakhs. Anyways the price of this SUV doesn’t deter us from appreciating its true beauty. From inside this SUV will make you much engrossed with its ultimate comfort toys. Also this SUV will give you a much relaxed feel with the help of its elegant and class apart interiors. This SUV is available in two engine types. Both the engines deliver an exceptional performance especially on off-roads.

Engine Options:
3498cc\ 2987cc

Powertrain:
7 speed automatic

Power:

272 Bhp@6000 rpm\ 224 Bhp@3800 rpm

Torque:

35 Kgm @3500 rpm\ 51 Kgm @2800 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Its off -road skills and the build quality

Thumbs Down:
Ride quality

Head on Competitors:
BMW X5

The Catch:
Rs 62 lakhs to Rs. 66.5 lakhs.

Mercedes Benz GL Class

Ok, so first and foremost would some body tell me what the difference between ML and GL Class is? I know that is my job, but trust me I’m as confused as you are right now. So, lets try and uncover the mystery that why Mercedes have manufactured same vehicle with two names. This SUV has five seating capacity just like ML Class. It looks exactly same as to the former one. Performance is also exactly similar. So, where is the difference? Ah… the difference is the variants available. While the ML Class is available in two variants this SUV is available in only a single engine option. This SUV, the company claims is one notch above the previously discussed one, but if it is just because of the variants then I doubt it.

Engine Options:
2987cc

Powertrain:
7 speed automatic

Power:
224 Bhp@3800 rpm

Torque:
52 Kgm @2800 rpm

Thumbs Up:
Its off road skills and the build quality

Thumbs Down:
Ride quality

Head on Competitors:
Audi Q7

The Catch:
Rs 66.5 lakhs.

Mercedes Benz R Class

Ok, so this vehicle right here by Mercedes is the high end option in the MPV category. One generally opts for Mahindra Xylos and others under this category, but if you want to add a touch of class in them then my sincere suggestion would be Mercedes Benz R class. This MPV is available in only a single engine option. But the engine has enough grunt to keep you satisfied (we are talking about the power of this vehicle and nothing else). Being one of the ‘Mercs’ innovation, this vehicle assures you the safety. This MPV is definitely a family vehicle. Best for picnics where you want more space to fit in the luggage, as this MPV has multiple luggage option. So if you want a luxurious and comfortable ride for your entire family and your ready to shell out a little more than you actually intend to, then this MPV is the best option in front of you.

Engine Options:
3498cc

Powertrain:
7 speed automatic

Power:
272 Bhp@6000 rpm

Torque:
35.6 Kgm @5000 rpm

Thumbs Up:
The unknown X factor.

Thumbs Down:
Its minivan traits

Head on Competitors:
BMW 5 GT

The Catch:
Rs 58 lakhs

The growth story of the year-Mercedes-Benz registers 80 percent growth

It was all hunky dory for the luxury car segment in India, which oversaw a phenomenal growth in 2010. Even the general cars sale figure showed an upward trend of 30 per cent. Many, if not all, global manufacturers of luxury cars posted a high growth rate.

In the latest development it has been revealed that German luxury legend Mercedes-Benz has posted a growth rate of humongous proportions, 80 per cent growth for the year 2010, with the record breaking parley in the month of December. The company reportedly sold 5,819 cars in the last year, a rise of 80 per cent over the figures of 2009, 3,250 units. That translates into a net rise of 2569 units. The key models those were instrumental in driving the sales northwards were Mercedes-Benz C-Class, E-Class and Sports Utility Vehicles which comprised of the trio of R-Class, M-Class and GL-Class.

A surprising fact emerged out of these sales figure that the most number of sales happened in the month which is famed for being a lean period. The month of December oversaw a record number of sales with the number of units sold clocking 710 units, which comprised of SUV segment, C-Class and E-Class.

The report further divulged the strategy adopted by the company, which included aggressive launches, portfolio of comprehensive products and a bigger and more efficient network in smaller cities and towns.

Mercedes Benz CLS 500 in India

The coupe version of Mercedes Benz C class is out. Now why would Mercedes Benz India Limited think of launching the Mercedes Benz CLS 500 in India? Think about it, it is on a resurgent path to getting its numero uno position in India. The one which has been claimed by BMW India and with Audi India also closely snapping at its heels. Both the companies have a motto of getting in cars which were unheard of in India. This happens mostly with the cars been simultaneously launched both in India as well as foreign markets. So that we don’t get staid products in India. Now, Mercedes Benz India Limited always launched their products first in foreign markets and then after maybe 2-3 years, percolate the products down to India. Now, the top brass have realized that they need to change this and so they are also going the BMW and AUDI way of launching new products at the same time for foreign and Indian markets.

The latest car which is to be simultaneously launched is the Mercedes Benz CLS 500. It is a coupe form of the ever successful bread and butter model, the Mercedes Benz C-class. Now, why a coupe form when we know that those aren’t that successful in the Indian market. This car signals the quality levels that any Mercedes Benz car came to be known for however was lost somewhere down the plot. This is a good sign for the car buying public. The nose of the car signifies the corporate look of the company and has a mesh air dam just beneath it. This car looks more like the AMG version of some other car rather than the C class. It actually represents the SL AMG fighter car that was a craze in the late 80s. The fog lamps are fully LED. Speaking of LEDs, the Mercedes Benz CLS 500 in India would come with full LEDs for even the head lamps. Don’t believe it? Even more shocking is the fact that there are 71 LEDs in the head lamp assembly. And more so that 37 engineers from the company had to work on it to get it right. The company says that this is to improve night time driving and also for increased safety. Even the tail lamps are full LEDs. The bonnet is highly raked. The 17 inch bispoke alloy wheels add an element of cool quotient. Unlike BMW, Mercedes Benz prefers to go with high profile tubeless tyres. Anways, run flats aren’t suited for the Indian roads and it is high time that BMW India understood that.

The rear features Mexican wrestling mask type rear lamps. There are twin tail pipes and a LED stop lamp between them. Come to think of this, this car is a design revolution. Moving onto the interiors, it seems to be built more on the chassis of the E class rather than the C class. The interiors reek of quality from the much expensive S class. A new upholstery trim namely the Aubergine finds its way in. It is a sort of dark chocolaty. The steering wheel seems to be derived from the Volkswagen family since it has a chrome insert at the third spoke. It however is more artistically made than the Volkswagen unit. The positioning of the audio controls and other parnphelia is very clever. The multi media system is taken care by the latest generation COMAND system. The analogue dials are made to a good effect and the digital display in the speedo has a color variation to it and provides with much more info, so much so that it can be safely called as a second COMAND system. On to of the dash is an immaculately stitched leather. Also classily laid out is the matt silver inlays which can be found around the aircon vents. The Mercedes Benz special, Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system has 14 speakers and sounds very good. The seats themselves are way too comfortable and the front ones have the massaging and pulse function in them. The rear two seats unfortunately make do without them. We would have preferred them at the rear, the most. There is an increased sense of space inside since this is a 4 seater. There is a huge central column running across and which features the controls for the rear passengers as well.

There is no skimping on equipment or even on the options list. This car has everything imaginable and some more.The Tronic and Assist suffix has been used for almost every feature in the cabin. It features distance control, traction control, lane departure, blind spot detection, night view, parking, climate control and ESP. There is a system that combines with ESP to brake the outside rear wheels. Speaking of the safety aspect, there is more safety equipment than others in its class and similar to a Volvo. On the short spin that we had on the car, we were assured of its chassis competency and the way it steers around corners. To keep the fun pure, this car is offered only in rear wheel drive. There is no option of 4 wheel drive. There are 4 engine options available on the Mercedes Benz CLS 500 in India. Starting the range is the 3.0 liter diesel which pumps out 264 Bhp and 620 Nm of torque. The 3.5 liter petrol V6 makes 300 bhp and 700 Nm of torque. The 4.6 liter V8 petrol makes 406 Bhp and a super car rivaling 720 Nm of torque. Wait, there is one more potent motor under the hood of this car and it is the 5.5 liter V8 AMG which makes 537 Bhp of power and 763 Nm of torque. The best thing is that all these motors, with the exception of the AMG version are quite fuel efficient than the others in their class. It literally translates to having your cake and eating it too.

To put words into figures, the Mercedes Benz CLS 500 in India with the base diesel engine would give 19.4 kmpl on the highway. The others would follow with figures of 16.3 kmpl, 14.5 kmpl and 10.6 kmpl respectively. Considering the performance on tap, these are more than acceptable figures. For all these engines, there is a 7 speed auto transmission with paddle shifts. The transmission worked well however was a bit lacking in the kickdown department. This was something which is can be easily overcome by the use of paddle shifts. This car also comes with springs as well as electric air suspension. Only outside the cabin would one find the engine singing. Inside the cabin, these was absent. Such is the kind of noise dampener used that not even wind noise percolates in. Cross country trips can also be undertaken without any kind of fatigue creeping in at the end. Truly a wonderful experience and we are awaiting for this car eagerly in India. Expect it to be launched by mid of May 2011 and Mercedes Benz CLS 500 price would hover around the Rs.53 lakhs mark for the base diesel version. A dose of exclusivity, definitely.

Technical specifications of the Mercedes Benz CLS 500 in India

Kerb weight: 2177 (kg)
Overall Height: 1821 (mm)
Overall Length: 4634 (mm)
Overall Width: 1876 (mm)
Rear track: 1525 (mm)
Wheelbase: 2830 (mm)
Boot space: 505 (Litre)
Front Track: 1517 (mm)
Fuel Tank capacity: 83 liters
Gross Vehicle Weight: 2870 (kg)
Ground Clearance: 207 (mm)

Front suspension: Semi-active air-suspension with ADS II, Integral support anti-dive control. automatic level control and stabilizer, 4-link suspension.

Rear suspension: Suspension, Semi-active air-suspension with ADS II, anti-squat / anti-lift, automatic level control,MB-Multi-Link independent rear and stabilizer.

Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet

Mercedes Benz India Limited {MBIL} are been credited as one of the first to come in India and establish a name for themselves as a premium luxury car maker. While its position as the numero uno may have been toppled over by the so called late comers like the Audis and BMWS, it still is considered as one of the best in what it does. If you want to announce to the world that you have arrived in life, buying a Mercedes is the best bet. The entry to the 3 pointed star club is a real privilege. Earlier memories of my childhood are clouded with pictures of Mercedes cars moving around and announcing that they bring with them a sense of opulence and wealth. So when I first saw the Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet, in a gleaming blue standing there and begging me to drive it, I was more than consenting. It was as if I was invited for a free raunchy session with Pamela Anderson and get to make my own video as well. So here comes the video oops vide description of my tryst with the Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet.

Looks

A cabriolet design actually wouldn’t work in India given our ever so changing climate conditions. But then you would argue that even super cars don’t work in India given the roads or the lack of it, so why is the Buggati Veyron Grand Sport in India? Forget all these useless discussions because the only way a company can stay in contention is by staying ahead or at par with the competition. Earlier Mercedes products were considered stately and this was the main reason for the brands demise in lieu of the fresher and better looking models from the competition.

The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet looks similar to the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class launched in India. The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet has the AMG type grille at the front complemented by the big 3 point star right in the middle of the grille. It is flanked by the two head lamp slots. One which houses the parking lamps and the other, the main beam. Both are HID kits and make daylight of the night driving. The air dams are a subtle affair with it getting bifurcated by two horizontal slats. In placed of the fog lamps are inverted golf club type LED lamps. The bonnet is steep however the windscreen is small as can be expected from a cabriolet design.

The side profile doesn’t have huge flared wheel arches as expected however it does have 17 inch 5 spoke alloy wheels. The outside rear view mirrors are anything but good looking. They however do their job well. There are two lines running across the side and both terminate at the rear wheel. The rear wheel arch is flared more than front one.

The rear end features a rather stubby boot. It has longish horizontally staked tail lamps which are bifurcated by the boot lip. The LED stop lamp is mounted atop the boot lip. Jutting out from the rear bumper are two oblong tail pipes.

Interiors

Typical Mercedes-Benz interiors greet you when you open the door of the low slung Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet. The first thing that you notice is the Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control {do you need one in an open top?}, leather upholstery, COMAND electronics interface and the three spoke steering wheel with all the controls on it. Speaking of the steering wheel, it is dark like the rest of the cabin and is contoured in the right places. The seats are also very good and provide just the right amount of bolstering for every occupant. A novelty gimmick in the Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet is that the moment you sit in the seats, the seat belts automatically extend towards you. Once you wear them, they just fit you snugly.

To access the rear seats, one has to just push a small button near the front seats. The front head rests would automatically fold and the seats would automatically whirr ahead. Spooky, isn’t it? But then that is the charm of owning a Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet. The soft top roof is a party trick and it would retract into its hood within 21 seconds. Getting it back on your head would take it 26 seconds. The rear seats are practically useless and a sub 4 lakhs Maruti Suzuki A-star or better still the Rs.2 lakhs Tata Nano has more space. It is befitting kids or those of you who are vertically challenged.

The dashboard is made of non reflective surface coating. It however feels soft to touch and the build quality is impeccable as well. The Mercedes-Benz E class feels a tad bigger than the Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet. It has the MB-Tex premium vinyl soft top. It seems not too well made and this is surprising coming from Mercedes-Benz family. However what it still does well is isolate you from the engine noise. I have a doubt that there might be a leak or two during monsoons.

The boot is miserable and it is obviously due to the roof retracting into it and all that gimmick. It is now comparable to that of the Tata Nano. For the record, the boot of the Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet is only 120 liters.

Handling and ride quality

Mercedes-Benz have always known to be having a fairly good ride and handling package in all their cars. The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet is no different however due its body form, handling takes precedence over ride quality. The car would do your bidding across hairpin bends however it would definitely make you aware of what is going on while it is doing it. The steering is strictly okay and not fitting a sports car or one with sporty intentions. It is moderately light in city speeds but doesn’t offer good feedback at higher speeds. It is not as sporty as say, the BMW 5 series coupe or the Audi A6 Avantgarde.

Ride quality is typically stiff and unlike any Mercedes-Benz car that you may have experienced. It is however better than its German competition. The ride would jut over sharp bumps and smother the not so sharp ones.

The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet is quite a quiet car. Even though it has a soft top, it doesn’t let noise filter through even at high speeds. You can hear that sports car burble but not so much as to disturb your conversation inside the car.

Engine,Performance and fuel efficiency

The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 petrol engine producing 272 Bhp @ 6000 rpm and about 355 Nm of torque @ 2400 rpm. This might not be sports car power figures however it does propel the 1765 kg car from 0-100 kmph in 6.8 seconds. It reaches a top speed of 225 kmph {restricted}, one which I couldn’t verify on the short drive. There is an AMG slated version putting out 518 Bhp which is doing the rounds of the international market and is rumored to make it to India some time next year. The gearbox is the seven-speed automatic transmission as the bog standard. It doesn’t have paddle shifts and this is a huge glaring omission. Without paddle shifts, the car does feel strained. The gearbox in itself is smooth and does make easy work of driving this big car around.

Braking is achieved via 4 wheel disc brakes coupled with ABS, traction control, Electronic Stability Program {ESP} and Electronic Brake Distribution {EBD} for good measure. There is also a special Driver Assistance Package available which brings in a lane departure warning/correction system, blind-spot warning system and PreSafe braking.

Safety is also taken care with the rigid body shell, designed to take care of dispersing energy in the event of a crash. It is supported by the usual 3 point ELR seat belts, anti whiplashes, PreSafe {this one anticipates a crash and secures the occupants accordingly}, Attention Assist {detects drowsy driver behavior and warns with a gentle nudge on the steering wheel} and 6 air bags.

Fuel efficiency, should you want to know, is 6.2 kmpl in the city and 10.4 kmpl on the highway. This is ARAI certified figures.

Verdict

Even though you would have crores to spare, a Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet isn’t a sensible buy. But then, it isn’t made for the sane person. It is only for those who want exclusivity and wouldn’t care more about all the pan stains, occasional pigeon poop and all. I don’t know if you would ever get to even drive open top given the Indian climate. But, if you ever buy one, you would be the envy of everyone in and around your locality and friends circle. If you are single and very rich, then this should be your choice of drive. Given its price tag of 64,50,000 { Delhi ex-showroom }, you are definitely gonna be exclusive and may be even get one of those dreaded phone calls.

Technical specifications of the Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet

Engine stats

Base Engine Size: 3.5 liters
Base Number of Cylinders: 6
Base Engine Type: V6
Horsepower: 272 Bhp
Max Horsepower: 6000 rpm
Torque: 355 Nm
Max Torque: 2400 rpm
Drive Type: RWD
Turning Circle: 34.9 ft.

Exterior

Length: 186 in.
Width: 70.5 in.
Height: 54.9 in.
Wheel Base: 106.7 in.
Ground Clearance: 5 in.
Kerb Weight: 1765 kgs

Interior

Front Head Room: 37.8 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 53.1 in.
Rear Head Room: 36.5 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 46.9 in.
Front Leg Room: 43 in.
Rear Leg Room: 30.6 in.
Luggage Capacity: 120 liters
Maximum Seating: 4
Transmissions : 7 speed automatic with manual override.
Front tyres/wheels: 245 / 40 R 17
Fuel and consumption combined: 7.6 kmpl
Rear tyres/wheels: 265 / 35 R 17