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German Vehicle Reliability Improves

By Michael Karesh

If German cars had a stellar reputation for reliability, Lexus would not be where it is today. TrueDelta’s latest Car Reliability Survey results, based on owner experiences through the end of March 2010, provide some evidence that a corner has been turned, but other evidence that work remains to be done.

Two years ago the current Mercedes C-Class had a relatively trouble-free launch, and in the latest results the 2008 is better than average. Nearly three-quarters of owners haven’t had a single repair in the past year.

The redesigned-for-2010 Mercedes E-Class appears poised to go down the same path. TrueDelta’s first reliability stat for the car, 56 repair trips per 100 cars per year, is very close to the average for all 2010 cars. For an all-new car with above-average complexity this is quite good. It’s also far better than the record compiled by the make’s SUVs.

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First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
May28

First Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

By Chris Haak

It’s not every day that a normal human being (as opposed to a superhero) gets the chance to drive a true supercar.  Last May, I had the opportunity to take a brief drive in a half-million dollar Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren at a media event; the SLR was and will probably remain the most expensive vehicle that I have ever driven.  But something was missing when I drove the car because of two issues:  I was driving an unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar road, and I was chaperoned by a Mercedes-Benz representative.  Basically, I was scared that I’d be unable to control the car if I really let loose, and perhaps even more afraid that my host would fear my driving.  So I took it reasonably easy and just savored the car, doing my best to etch its memory somewhere permanent in my mind, so I can tell my sons someday that I drove the car they’re reading about somewhere.

This year, I was at the same annual media event, and after having read the list of cars and trucks that were expected to make their appearance, I was licking my chops for some wheel time with a few of them:  Cadillac CTS-V, Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG, Audi R8, and Ford Fiesta piqued my interest, among others.  Then imagine seeing my jaw drop when I spotted an SLS AMG in the parking lot, along with those other cars.  I just had to take that baby for a spin, chaperoned or not.

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GM is Working on a New Small Pickup

By Chris Haak

that GM is hard at work on a new small pickup – smaller, more efficient, and less-expensive than the unloved and slow-selling Colorado and Canyon – that will return the company’s small-truck offering close to its S-10 roots.

As we reported a few weeks ago, Mahinda’s forthcoming India-built compact pickup will also push the reset button as it pertains to size expectations for small pickups.  Over the years, both full-size and smaller pickups have grown significantly in size, cost, and capability.  Full-size pickups today (particularly the HD/Super Duty variety) are nearasdammit medium-duty trucks and considerably larger than their ancestors from the 50s and 60s.  Though full-size pickup sales figures have dropped considerably from their peak a few years ago, they still sell in signficant quantities to both commerical buyers and personal-use buyers.

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Reports Say That Ford is Ready to Kill Mercury

By Chris Haak

Since Mercury’s new-product fountain seemingly dried up several  years ago, there has been speculation from time to time that Ford was considering shuttering its Mercury brand.  Each time, Ford denied that the rumors were true and promised that Mercury’s future plans would be clarified at some point down the road.  According to a report that first , Mercury may now have reached that fork in the road where its future must be decided, and the future may not be bright for the brand that once brought personal luxury to Ford, and now brings marginally tarted-up Fords with waterfall grilles to the market.

Meanwhile, the maintenance of the Mercury brand appears at its face value to be contrary to Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s strategy of focusing most resources on the core Ford brand worldwide and divesting itself of distracting niche brands such as Mazda, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and most recently, Volvo.  Although Ford announced just this past January 2010 that Mercury would receive a new Lynx based on the 2012 global Ford Focus, the brand’s current lineup is about to shrink to two cars after the demise of the geriatric Grand Marquis and unloved Mountaineer SUV.  The remaining models will be the Milan midsize sedan (a rebadged Ford Fusion) and the Mountaineer crossover (a rebadged Ford Escape).

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Review:  2011 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
May27

Review: 2011 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD

By Chris Haak

I just finished a week with Toyota’s all-new 2011 Sienna, and put it through one of the toughest tests that I knew how to put a vehicle through.  (Don’t worry, folks, no minivans were harmed during this testing).  The test I’m speaking of is the family road trip with two preschoolers in the back seat.  Did I mention also that those preschoolers don’t care to entertain themselves in the car on long trips?

Honda was onto something a few years ago with its “Respect the Van” ad campaign for its Odyssey.  I don’t know that there is another vehicle on the road more suitable for families with young children than the modern minivan.  Available in prices that range from the low-$20,000s to the upper-$40,000s, there’s a minivan to match every budget, and nearly every one is available with the kid-friendly essentials:  easy-to-clean leather seats, power sliding doors, and a DVD player.  If you step up to the CadillacLexus of minivans, you can get such features as adaptive cruise control, xenon HID headlamps, Bluetooth streaming audio, navigation, power rear hatch door, dual sunroofs, 18 inch wheels.

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