Last post on Nov 30, 2005 at 6:50 AM
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Coupe, Sedan, SUV
Karl Brauer is the Editor in Chief of Edmunds.com, which means he finds himself in a different vehicle almost every day of the week. If you want a daily road test review regarding the latest cars and trucks to hit the market, along with commentary on everything from auto industry happenings to L.A. drivers to his latest close encounter with Johnny Law, this is the place to be.
#1 of 2391 Karl's Daily Log Book
Mar 01, 2005 (5:28 pm)
Great to have you in the Forums Karl!
Mar 01, 2005 (5:41 pm)
Welcome to Karl’s Daily Logbook. I'm glad you've tuned in for this premier installment. My daily drive involves the Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu Canyon and Mulholland Drive, as well as some long, straight stretches of road through deserted farm land. Mixed in with the meandering pavement and picturesque scenery is a steady stream of treacherous police activity, including multiple speed traps on any given day. Don't worry -- I've got a Valentine One radar detector that usually keeps me out of trouble.
The first contestant on this New Car Blog is the all-new 2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK350. Like BMW with its redesign of the Z3 (now called Z4), Mercedes is trying to get away from the "chick car" cross that these cute convertibles often bear. Now the SLK looks like a mini SL, which in turn looks like a slightly defanged McLaren SLR. The result is a more aggressive appearance -- I've even heard the word "phallic" used, suggesting Mercedes may be a bit too serious about injecting manliness into its Baby 'Benz roadster. Styling aside, the SLK's new 268-hp, 3.5-liter power plant feels as refined as any internal combustion engine I've driven. Forward thrust starts strong at idle and only gets better from there. What’s my favorite improvement over the previous SLK? The steering, which now matches the sports car promise this car has been making since 1997. Thank the "recalculating ball to rack and pinion" upgrade that came with the redesign. And in case the improved drivetrain and steering aren't enough, don't forget the retracting hardtop that offers coupelike ride quality when raised. I'll take mine in red with the six-speed manual and Airscarf system (possibly the coolest convertible feature ever invented -- even if the name somewhat contradicts the "anti-chick-car" direction Mercedes is going).
Check back tomorrow for my reaction to another all-new DaimlerChrysler product: Chrysler 300 SRT-8.
Mar 01, 2005 (10:34 pm)
that is one nice drive you have...
agree with your assesments on the looks and cache of the baby Benz convertibles...
#4 of 2391 Re: March 1 [editor_karl]
Mar 02, 2005 (6:11 am)
Nice job you have. Shouldn't you start with Minivans or something mundane like we drive in the real world.
Mar 02, 2005 (11:03 am)
The Chrysler 300 is BIG! It handles well, rides extremely well and has plenty of power with the basic 5.7-liter Hemi, but it's still BIG. The SRT-8 version has a hopped-up 6.0-liter, 425 horsepower Hemi that moves the car from quick to damn fast. With the larger, 20-inch wheels and sporty front seats it can almost pass for a sport sedan...but it's just too BIG to get away with it.
That said, the 300 SRT-8 could be the best combination of luxury and performance available for the money. I initially had this vehicle pegged in the high $40s when Chrysler showed it off last August at Pebble Beach. But it actually starts at just under $40K, and if you load it up it's still less than $45,000 (including navigation, Sirius, bluetooth and side curtain airbags).
Don't expect it to handle like an M5 or E55, because it can't. But for buyers wanting maximum luxury and maximum forward thrust for a price well below the premium German and Japanese alternatives, this car is a steal.
#6 of 2391 Thank the "recalculating ball to rack and pinion" upgrade
Mar 03, 2005 (9:46 am)
Is it really "recalculating" or more likely "recirculating" ball steering that was upgraded?
Anybody else I wouldn't have corrected, but the head honcho at Edmunds? I couldn't resist.
I look forward to enjoying this thread!
Mar 03, 2005 (9:59 am)
Volvo was kind enough to provide us with a long-term S40 recently, and I've had the pleasure of driving it on multiple occasions over the past few weeks, including last night.
The all-wheel drive on our model would normally be a waste of money and gas in Southern California, but the record rainfall we've seen over the past eight weeks has kept the roads plenty wet -- and muddy along my PCH commute. The all-wheel drive has proven its merit, helping me dodge various rocks,boulders and patches of displaced earth, especially at night.
The one issue I have with the S40 is the abrupt power delivery from the turbocharged five cylinder. It's less of an issue on the manual shift cars, but with the automatic the engine can feel sluggish when its caught in the wrong gear and turbo lag comes into play. Not a huge issue, but one to be aware of.
On February 16 the S40 took runner up (to the Audi A6) as the inaugural World Car of the Year, as voted on by 48 journalists from 16 countries. Considering its platform is shared by the Mazda 3 and European Ford Focus, the title seems appropriate.
For me, its the combination of safety, luxury and value that makes the S40 a solid choice in the entry-luxury segment. Gotta love that surround sound audio system!
Mar 03, 2005 (10:01 am)
The "recalculating steering" is only on new BMWs.
Someday they'll inject automotive terms into spell check and it won't make these "helpful" corrections...
Mar 03, 2005 (10:20 pm)
Every time I see or drive a Volvo XC90 I'm reminded of how much more the average American buyer is focusing on safety.
This car is not particularly attractive, and between its Volvo badge and chunky station wagon looks it's hardly "cooler" than any minivan. Yet this is one of Volvo's most successful models, and much of it has to do with the car's (well-deserved) reputation as a street legal bank vault for families.
My ongoing problem with the XC90 was always the weak drivetrain options. Either you bought the more powerful T6 model and you had to put up with an outdated four-speed automatic. Or you went with the smaller 2.5T engine to get a modern five-speed automatic, but the car was left wheezing with only 208 horsepower (remember, that double-strength chassis is HEAVY; this car weighs over 4,400 lbs!).
But the 2005 version I drove today offers a 315 horsepower V8 and a SIX-SPEED automatic. Now that's more like it! At $46,000 it ain't cheap, but the XC90 finally brings performance, luxury and benchmark-setting safety together in one package (the styling still won't set your heart aflutter).
I can say this without hesitation: If divine enlightenment suddenly told me that my wife and kids were going to be in an accident tomorrow, and the only element I could control was the light duty vehicle they would be in when it happened, I would choose this vehicle.
#10 of 2391 Re: March 2 [editor_karl]
Mar 04, 2005 (8:06 am)
With the larger, 20-inch wheels and sporty front seats it can almost pass for a sport sedan...but it's just too BIG to get away with it.
Is it really that big or do the big wheels and small windows make it look bigger than it is?
I parked next to one in my E39 Bimmer (528iA) and noted that the 300 appeared only fractionally longer taller and wider. The E39 is classified as a "compact sedan".