The Bentley Continental GT is on it’s eleventh year in the US, and for ten of those years, the only engine option was the twin-turbo W12, making between 500 and 620 hp. A fine engine, no doubt, for the grand touring character of the car. But what about all that bad-ass Bentley heritage we keep hearing about? Playboys street racing their Blower Bentleys, the vigor of fighter aces, remember those days? Me either, but trust me, they happened.
Now, we’ve got a new Bentley GT, this time with a smaller, 4.0L twin-turbo V8 engine shared with the Audi RS6, RS7, and S8, and even though it only makes 520 HP, it takes some much needed weight out of the nose and shifts the balance rearward, bringing a much welcome soundtrack to the party. How’s it drive on the tight canyon?
The Mercedes E-Class is, without a doubt, a high quality vehicle. In a CLS, a handful of things might even be a bit nicer. Open the door to an S-Class though, and it’s an entirely different ball game. That interior has flagship written all over it. Not only is every last bit made from top-of-the-line materials, but the entire dashboard is divided into only very few, rather large panels and items such as the air vents, clock, and AC buttons look completely integrated as opposed to tacked on. The superiority over its siblings continues in many areas, my favorite being the curved COMAND control panel which is much more premium-looking when compared to any other Benz.
Logic dictates that it’s a rather special automobile: why else would anybody cough up at least two grand every month on a two year lease? Right, they wouldn’t.
There is nothing in the big Benz that isn’t at least very good. Most things are actually rather superb.
The S-Klasse feels relaxingly disconnected. For instance, the steering resistance stays exactly the same at all times, no matter the degree of input or road surface conditions. While that may sound somewhat disconcerting, it isn’t. You do get some sense of what’s going on, but in the end, you just don’t need to. The chassis never really gets unsettled, and even when you do go a bit overboard, the computers are right there to seamlessly keep you on track. Seamlessly is the important word in that last sentence.
Because a luxury sedan needs to still be comfortable with four people in it and can’t be slammed to the ground when there are, Mercedes’ weapon of choice is the AIRMATIC air suspension. Instead of using steel springs, computer-controlled valves activate a compressor to fill bellows with just the right amount of air to maintain ride height and spring rate at the desired levels in any situation. The result needs to be spoken out in the most appropriate Clarkson-voice you can come up with: “It’s as if… they have replaced your dampers with Jennifer Lopez’s buttocks”
The 2.2 tons the S easily puts on a scale combined with its sheer size are still very much noticeable whenever the front wheels aren’t pointing straight, but you never truly care at all. Even at 155 mph, the Benz is unbelievably stable through long autobahn bends. It can also be made to go up on-ramps much faster than would seem reasonable. Sure, the tires will beg for mercy, but that’s okay: as long as the windows are closed, you have plausible deniability all day long.
The long-wheelbase version (W222 = regular, V222 = long, X222 = Mercedes-Maybach) isn’t a difficult car to drive. Still, the 360° camera is pure gold in some situations, as it would be in any car. Cameras all around the car are utilized to generate a birds-eye view of the car.
You get used to driving the big Benz quickly and it becomes natural in a matter of hours. The weirdest sensation has got to be going from an S to an E. You would not believe how much like a lightweight canyon carver the E-Class can feel.
When it comes to the long list of amenities, I’d like to address two in particular. The car’s stereo and the interior lighting.
Stereo first: the Benz comes as standard with a very, very good Burmester sound system. You need to put down another $6,400 though. Need to. It is an upgrade worth every penny. It will even say High End on some of the speaker grilles. Not only does the 24-speaker system sound absolutely spectacular, but watching the tweeters rotate out of their housing is quite the sight.
Now, Mercedes had interior lighting on the dash and door panels in the 221. It was very subtle and exactly what you might expect when Stuttgart develops mood lighting for their CEO and politician transporter. This time around, they’ve gone Fast and Furious with it on the 222. Yes, it can still be classy if need be, but set it to dawn red – which really means pimpin’ purple – and you are rolling in a mobile night club. This must mean that the millennials are starting to grab those upper level jobs and are now being considered potential customers for full-size luxury sedans. It’s a ballsy move and I definitely give it the thumbs up.
While spending time with the S-Class, I’ve gathered a few fun facts. Some are very important scientific discoveries. For example, the TV signal will start to drop out at around 125 miles an hour.
The new night-vision system now actually does a good job of spotting humans and suicidal deer. It won’t, however, let you go all gangster with it, as the night-vision function is locked once you turn the lights off.
You have to get an AMG if you want an actual manual mode for the gearbox. The regular cars have fully functional paddles that can be used to temporarily shift manually, but the computers will take over if you don’t shift for a few seconds.
You can let the Benz do all the driving for about ten seconds before it starts gonging at you and eventually just shuts the system off; a soda can and a roll of duct tape can apparently help to trick the computers.
Driving an S-Class certainly is a first class experience. Trying out technology that will trickle down to more affordable classes in a few years’ time is the most interesting part. Cruising at night with the LEDs set to pimpin’ purple and your tunes on the Burmester system is the best part. But then there’s the money.
NBA players in their first year are required to attend the league’s rookie transition program. Advisors tell them how to talk to the media, which fork to use first at a fancy restaurant, and they even have a pro athlete version of the talk: handouts are given to the young men listing how much money could go towards child support payments should they ever find themselves in that sort of pickle. Luxury items come up and there are a few basic concepts they try to make the rookies follow: you are not obligated to pay your friends’ bills, go easy on the wallet, one of everything is enough, and certainly don’t buy stuff that is hugely expensive today and worth next to nothing tomorrow.
The S-Class isn’t for rookies then. I researched both the American and German used car market in regards to the S-Class and my findings were identical: five years and 70.000 miles or so will cost you around 75 per cent of its original retail value. Without one service, without insurance, without taxes, you will pay an easy 90 grand for five years of S-Class ownership. That is if you buy the S550; go for a 600 or an AMG, and it’ll be even worse.
I am not saying not to buy an S-Class. I am saying be LeBron if you do.
Thomas Hellmanzik operates the YouTube channel AutobahnDriver. Check out his video review of the S-Class Here:
I had planned to post this video today anyway, but after the very recent passing at 105 of Yutaka Katayama, “the father of the Z,” it only seems more fitting. To think that this car is 44 years old is pretty unbelievable, as the styling really holds up even today. Cameron Carter’s 1972 Datsun 240z is a clean example that’s been tastefully modified with a 280Z engine running triple Weber carbs, widened wheels on modern tires, and upgraded driveline components to match. Let’s see how it handles a very tight canyon, and then check out Cameron’s car on Wheelwell to see his exact modification list.
New Zealand, if you haven’t figured out by now, is possibly the most spectacular country a petrolhead could visit: the roads are endlessly twisty, technical, and have unfathomably stunning vistas. The cars are the forbidden fruit of the Western World (no joke, you can buy Mitsubishi Evo 4&5 on the side of the road for like $5,000 all day long), and the people are equal parts gracious host and utter psychopath (in a good way).
In this episode of the podcast, recorded from the strangest hotel room in all of Auckland, the entire TST crew is joined by Andy, Caswal, and Rob, the creators of Automation, The Car Company Tycoon Game, and our hosts down under. We go through the whole trip, talk about the cars, the people, the locations, and share some of our best and worst moments of the trip.
Remember the 1990’s? Some of us do; and what stood out to me most about the early 1990’s was the invasion of Japanese super coupes: The Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo, Toyota Supra, and Mitsubishi 3000GT, which was sold in Japan in top-trim as the GTO. All these cars got priced out of the American market around 1998-99, just in time for The Fast and the Furious to inspire kids to scoop them up used and shove a bunch of boost under the hood. The 3000GT is a rare sight on the road today, as they tended to suffer catastrophic engine failures later in life, sending most of them to a dusty graveyard, but we seem to have found a cherry example in New Zealand. While filming the insane R34 Skyline, a kind gentleman named Rene, who happens to be an editor at NZ Performance Car Magazine offered up the keys to his super-clean 1991 Mitsubishi GTO, and we couldn’t resist a quick spin. Check out the video, then have a look at Rene’s Wheelwell page to see the details about the car.
The F-Type R-Coupe has undergone a massive change since I actually got behind the wheel of this 2014-model press car late last year. And that changes the perspective in which we appreciate this car: it’s already dead, because it’s rear-wheel-drive, and all 2015 and up F-Type R’s will be all-wheel drive. This, I believe is a good thing for the general public, and a bad thing for people who like crazy cars, as I will demonstrate here.