This trend is good for all levels of the market as non-premium car makers try to offer a better bang for your buck when purchasing the workaday wheels…
Premium brands are in demand no matter what the state of the economy.
This trend is good for all levels of the market as non-premium car makers try to offer a better bang for your buck when purchasing the workaday wheels. Loaded top-of-the-line flagship models frequently nip at the heels of their premium brand siblings.
But does Merc have a deal for you! The sporty 2014 Mercedes CLA, which stands for Coupe-Light A Class, starts at under $34,000. It sits on the less than sporty B250 hatchback platform but this sloping roof coupe-style four-door sedan is all fun.
Under the hood is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, matched to a 7G seven-speed dual clutch transmission generating 208 horsepower for the front-wheel drive machine.
It’s also fast, as I discovered at the launch in the South of France – zero to 100 km/h in 6.7 seconds with a top speed of 240 km/h. Estimated fuel consumption is around 6.2L/100 km. It also performed well on the very twisty mountain roads that roll away from the sun-blessed Mediterranean coast.
Audi is a powerhouse across its model-range but you can expect to pay premium prices for these powerful and beautifully crafted machines that just eat up the miles – sorry, kilometres – on roads worldwide. Travelling the motorways of the UK, you could be forgiven for thinking you are in Germany: every other cars seems to be either a BMW 3-Series/5-Series or Audi 3, 4 or 6.
The 2014 Audi S4 Sedan would tempt me if I had 53-grand-plus to in my jeans. Load it up and you will soon hit 60 and more. A few days in an S4 recently on a deserted high-speed highway south of the border spoiled me. The supercharged 3-litre TFSI V6 pumps out 333 horses and, with the aid of six-speed manual dual-clutch transmission, pushes the all-wheel drive S4 to 100 km/h in just 5.1 seconds.
It’s not just about performance: the leather interior is beautifully crafted and comfy to boot, which is not always the case with some of today’s leather upholstered cars.
Infiniti is an unabashed fan of Audi, in fact its brass frequently talk publicly about wanting to emulate the high standard set across its range by the German manufacturer. Now it’s looking to pass Lexus and tailgate the big three German premium brands.
The Infiniti Q50 is the first evidence that this is not some idle threat. It has the fingerprints of four-time F1 champ Sebastian Vettel on it though, I am told, not nearly as many dabs as the highly-anticipated Q30 due later next year.
On looks alone, it demands attention. It sports the popular coupe-styling but the sloping rear doesn’t impinge dramatically on head room for back seat passengers.
The base Q50 has a 3.7-litre V-6 engine putting 328 horsepower at the car’s disposal. The 6.7 litres/100 km highway fuel economy is an eyebrow raiser. Starting sticker price is $37,500, which demands those in the market for a premium brand should put the car on their tire-kicking list.
My next choice might surprise, but the BMWi3 electric car knocked me out when I attended its launch the other week in Amsterdam (featured in our first Driveway). It has a range of 160 kilometres, sells for $45,000, and if you cough up another $4,000 for the gas-powered range extending generator the far horizon is the limit!
One brief mention because a full test follows soon. The 2014 Acura MDX marks the strengthening of this Honda premium brand product in the mid-sized SUV segment. The three-row seven-seater has come under challenge in recent years. The longer all-new body with its lower stance distinguishes it considerably from the outgoing model.
With a starting price just below $50,000, it features a solid 3.5-litre, 290 hp V6 that consumes just 7.7 litres of gas on the highway.