If you happened to be watching Jeopardy last night, December 13, you might have noticed a familiar publication—this one, in fact—appearing as a $800 answer under the category "Word War Z." We've received honors before, but this one is in a category by itself.

    Although two of the three contestants live in Michigan, where our headquarters is located—and one of them even comes from our own town, Ann Arbor—it was Jeanne Fuller of Irvine, California, who made quick work of the C/D answer (the correct question, of course, was, "What is a Zamboni?"). It comes in at 14:16 on the episode video below.

    Now, of course, you want to know what story this came from. Jeopardy reached all the way back to 2009 for this classic Zamboni story. Fortunately, there's also a video of that:

    Overview

    Forget hot hatches or other high-powered station wagons, the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon is a special breed of absurdly powerful and awesomely quick cars. Based on its equally extraordinary counterpart—the Mercedes-AMG E63 S sedan—this version boasts sexy longroof styling and extra practicality. While rivals such as the Jaguar XF Sportbrake are equally flashy, only the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo lineup has exorbitantly priced models that offer similar jaw-dropping performance.

    Engine, Ride, and Handling

    The E63 S wagon cages a sinister-sounding 603-hp twin-turbo V-8 mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and standard 4Matic+ all-wheel drive. This setup helped the superwagon we tested explode from zero to 60 mph in 3 seconds flat and obliterate the quarter-mile in 11.2 seconds at 126 mph. Consider this: the much lighter and similarly powerful Mercedes-AMG GT R we tested was actually 0.3 second slower to 60 mph and posted the same time in the quarter-mile. Other AMG upgrades on the E63 S wagon versus the regular Mercedes-Benz E-class wagon include a sport-tuned suspension, bigger brakes, and a rear-drive-only mode that enables ass-out antics. Every version rides on an adjustable air suspension that adjusts the ride quality, but the softest setting still feels firm. The E63's communicative steering and impressive braking ability—70 mph to zero in only 153 feet—confirm its high-performance pedigree.

    Interior and Technology

    Despite the E63 S wagon's exhaust-popping and tire-squealing demeanor, its sumptuous interior preserves serene noise levels and the company's luxury predisposition. Likewise, the list of standard cabin features includes customizable ambient interior lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, massaging front seats, and more. Every model has driver-assistance technology such as automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and self-parking assist; a slew of high-tech options include semi-autonomous driving aids. With a spacious back seat and up to 64 cubic feet of cargo space (35 cubes with all seats up), the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E63 S wagon is as amazingly quick as it is amazingly useful.

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. auto safety agency said on Friday it will investigate a 12th Tesla crash that may be tied to the vehicle's advanced Autopilot driver assistance system after a Tesla Model 3 rear-ended a parked police car in Connecticut last week.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) special crash investigation program will investigate the Dec. 7 crash of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 on Interstate 95 in Norwalk, Connecticut, the agency confirmed.

    Autopilot had been engaged in at least three Tesla vehicles that were involved in U.S. crashes since 2016. The agency’s special crash investigation team has inspected 12 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed that Autopilot was engaged at the time of the incident. In one of those, however, it was found that Autopilot had not been engaged.

    To date, the agency has also completed a report on a 2016 fatal crash in Florida in which Autopilot was engaged.

    Tesla, which did not respond to requests for comment Friday, and NHTSA both advise drivers that they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention at all times while using Autopilot. Tesla says Autopilot "enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane," but does not make the vehicle autonomous.

    Some drivers say they are able to keep their hands off the wheel for extended periods when using the system. Last month, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said Tesla should disable Autopilot until it installs new safeguards to prevent drivers from evading system limits that could let them fall asleep.

    NHTSA has previously confirmed special crash investigations in a number of Tesla crashes, but the overall number of crashes under review has not been previously reported nor has the agency's investigation of the Connecticut crash.

    In the Connecticut incident, the Tesla struck a state police car waiting for a tow truck to provide assistance to a motorist, and then struck a disabled vehicle. The Tesla driver said the vehicle was on Autopilot and he was checking on his dog in the back seat prior to the crash. The driver was issued a misdemeanor summons for reckless driving; no one involved was seriously injured.

    A Connecticut State Police spokeswoman on Friday referred questions about whether Autopilot was engaged to Tesla.

    "This crash could’ve been avoided. While autonomous vehicles are an exciting development, the tech is simply not ready to be deployed safely. Congress must act to protect the public from these vehicles until their safety can be assured," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a member of the Senate's Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

    Related Video:

    The Conservative party's victory in the UK general election means Prime Minister Boris Johnson can now go ahead and withdraw the country from the European Union, impacting automakers building and selling cars in the country.

    Before Thursday's election automakers had urged the British government to make a deal with the EU to safeguard the future of an industry that has been going through a renaissance in recent years as foreign brands invested in local plants.

    Johnson's emphatic win means car companies can plan better for the future and raises their hopes that there might be a "soft" Brexit that keeps close ties between Britain and the EU.

    "It brings certainty and that by any measure is a great result," a top UK automotive executive said, declining to be named.

    On Friday, the SMMT auto association said the British government's priority now must be to restore business and economic confidence and re-establish the UK's reputation as a great place to invest at a critical time for the industry.

    "When automotive succeeds so does Britain. We look to the new government to maintain our global competitiveness, which means delivering a deal with the EU that is ambitious, maintains free and frictionless trade, and drives growth and innovation to meet shared environmental goals," SMMT CEO Mike Hawes said in a statement.

    Automakers have warned that if Britain's exit from the EU leads to tariffs, UK-built vehicles would be uncompetitive when sold in mainland Europe.

    British factories would also be hit if imports of parts from suppliers in mainland Europe are delayed at borders. UK car factories are integrated into supply chains that can stretch around the world and operate just-in-time manufacturing processes, which mean some parts arrive minutes before being fitted onto vehicles rolling off production lines.

    Johnson's victory gives him the power to get his own way on Brexit, especially if he needs extra time to negotiate with the EU. He has said he will start to push legislation through parliament before the end of the year to meet the current departure date of Jan. 31.

    However, if Britain wants access to the bloc's single market, it will have to give up control in some areas, in particular taxation, labor and environmental standards. Hard-liners in the Conservative party are likely to object to that and push for a clean break from the EU at the end of the year. But Johnson's big majority could allow him to marginalize them and cut a deal that keeps the UK more closely aligned with the EU.

    Tariff fears

    Nissan Europe Chairman Gianluca de Ficchy has said that if a hard Brexit leads to tariffs of 10 percent between the UK and EU, the future of the automaker's Sunderland factory in northeast England would be in doubt. "If it means the implementation of World Trade Organization tariffs of 10 percent, the overall business equation is not sustainable for us because 70 percent of our vehicles are exported to Europe," he told Automotive News Europe in a recent interview.

    A Nissan spokesperson said on Friday that the company looks forward to meeting with the new government to ensure that the automakers Sunderland plant, continues as a successful international automotive hub.

    Jaguar Land Rover CEO Ralf Speth has said that the" wrong" Brexit deal would cost the UK car industry tens of thousands of jobs. JLR has three car UK plants from which it exports cars worldwide.

    Toyota has warned that it may end manufacturing in the UK if the country crashes out of the EU on unfavorable terms. Toyota built just over 8 percent of Britain's 1.52 million cars last year at its factory in Burnaston, central England.

    Here are the next steps for Johnson.

    Source link

    JULIAN, Calif. — An Aveo wanders in the lane ahead, its gas flap open and waving in the 30-mph slipstream as it creeps along some of the best roads in all of Southern California as swiftly as a retreating glacier. The 2020 Mazda CX-30’s speedometer needle quivers and then falls. The longing for a passing zone becomes unbearable. Even with a merely adequate 186 horsepower and a standard automatic, I can’t wait to smoke this Aveo as I arc into another corner, tap brakes to transfer weight, and scoot into the next. And then a sort of calm washes over, provoking the slightest smile.

    The smile is a realization that, short of a few performance models from the German brands, most compact crossovers don’t beg for this sort of action. The CX-30 is not most crossovers – it’s built on the bones of the dynamically overachieving Mazda3, making it legitimately rewarding to drive. Think of it more as a car that happens to be marketed as a crossover.

    The careful attention to vehicle dynamics means it doesn’t wallow like you might expect a jacked-up 3 might. What it feels like is a 3 variant, not an entirely different vehicle — analogous to the Subaru Crosstrek’s relationship to the Impreza, albeit with greater visual differentiation and a much more sophisticated driving experience.

    That’s a very, very good thing indeed – and let’s take a moment to review the virtues of the 3 to explain why. There’s nothing in its class that nails its brief so well. The interior looks exceptionally premium in higher trim grades, it drives better than anything in its class, and the sheetmetal “oozes sex appeal,” as contributing writer Jason Cammisa put it – although less oozing is present in the awkward hatchback. It’s even available with all-wheel drive. However, I respectfully disagree that the engine is refined – the Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter inline-four, a carryover from the last generation and shared between the 3 and CX-30, is harsh and clattery.

    In both vehicles it gets the job done. That 186 hp is backed up with 186 pound-feet of torque, channeled exclusively through a six-speed automatic in the CX-30. Front- or all-wheel drive is available in every CX-30 trim. And while there’s roughly a 200-lb weight penalty over the 3, the CX-30 manages to feel perky, not porky. Nor is the fuel economy hit as much as you might imagine. Its EPA-estimated numbers are 1-2 mpg off the Mazda3 hatchback across the board, despite every configuration of the 3 hatchback offering cylinder deactivation (it’s only available on the top-trim CX-30). For example, the CX-30 AWD delivers 24 mpg city and 31 mpg highway; the 3 hatchback AWD delivers 24 and 32, respectively.

    Inside, too, the design DNA is mostly 3. Mazda has the sort of interior ergonomic focus that we haven’t seen enough of lately. The major controls are well located and pitch-perfect. The steering wheel has a nice diameter and is meaty but not too thick, and steering effort is pleasantly light with phenomenal accuracy and directness. The shifter’s manual gate has things the right way around: pull back for an upshift, forward for a downshift. Even the small wheel-mounted paddle shifters are pleasing to use.

    Most important, there is no massive, portrait-oriented tablet adhered to the center stack. Instead, like other contemporary Mazdas, the standard 8.8-inch infotainment screen is set high and far away on the dash. It’s not a touchscreen, instead controlled by a rotary interface aft of the gear shifter, just like in the 3. As Cammisa pointed out, this arrangement has some awkward moments – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto just aren’t as intuitive with a rotary controller – but you simply don’t take your eyes off the road as much with this sort of system. It will make you wonder, as we often do, why regulators allow distracting touchscreen interfaces in cars at all.

    You’ll take in the dash from a pair of seats that provide more back support without dialing in lots of lumbar, and after four solid hours of seat time we’re willing to say they’re exceptionally supportive and comfortable. Adjust the front seats to accommodate a person a bit under 6 feet and there will be just barely enough leg room in the second row for someone of the same height.

    But the body’s shape means that there’s enough room to avoid claustrophobia. In the 3, it always feels like the A-pillar is looming right next to your temple. In the CX-30, there’s enough airspace around your head and shoulders not to feel cramped. Behind the second row is a large, accessible cargo area. The rear hatch opens much wider than the unit on the smaller CX-3, and with a lower reach-over height. The volume back there is 20.2 inches, just 0.1 cubes larger than the 3 hatchback.

    You might not expect it from what we’ve said so far, but the CX-30 is actually slightly smaller than the rakish 3 hatchback. The crossover is 173 inches long and rides on a 104.5-inch wheelbase. That’s 2.6 inches shorter overall than the 3, and a 2.8-inch shorter wheelbase. Considering the size difference, it’s remarkable how well-packaged the CX-30 is. It makes the too-small, too-cramped CX-3 look slightly absurd, too — and perhaps, with the CX-30 here, it’s not long for this world.

    If there’s criticism to be leveled at the CX-30, let’s start with the name. It’s apparently the spearhead of a new naming convention, but in the present, all it’s doing is creating some confusion about its relation to CX-5 and CX-3. Why not CX-4? Sure, the name applies to a different vehicle in China, but this happens all the time. Back in the day, the Ford Focus and Ford Ranger split off from foreign variants without creating chaos. The other critique is the body cladding. In short, it looks awful — cheap, plasticky, and very much tacked on. Better-integrated cladding would be worth whatever the cost is here. To be clear, there’s a good reason to have it, reducing the visual height of the CX-30 and telegraphing its SUV-ness. It just needs to be higher quality.

    At least the CX-30 is affordable. In front-drive base form, it starts at $22,945 — significantly less than the 3 hatchback, which starts at $24,520 in front-drive form. The Select trim is $24,945, and provides those features mentioned above as well as leatherette seats, keyless entry and 18-inch wheels. The Preferred trim ($27,245) provides upgraded audio, heated front seats, a power driver seat, a black gloss grille and a SiriusXM trial. The top-tier Premium ($29,245) adds a head-up display, leather, a power liftgate, moonroof, roof rails and LED lighting, and the aforementioned cylinder deactivation. All-wheel is available in all trims at a $1,400 premium.

    While we’re calling the CX-30 a subcompact, it really occupies a gray area in between vehicles like the CX-3 or Hyundai Kona, and the compact crossover class that includes the CX-5 and Subaru Forester. There are two other genre-straddlers that make for a decent comparison with CX-30: the Nissan Rogue Sport and the Subaru Crosstrek, which like the CX-30, has a regular car analogue and plenty of body cladding. Neither can touch the Mazda’s power. The Subaru makes do with 152 hp and the Nissan 141. All three have similar wheelbases, and the CX-30 is a tad shorter overall. The Rogue Sport manages 22.9 cubic feet in the cargo area in its most capacious spec, the Crosstrek 20.8 and the CX-30 just a hair less than that. And neither is nearly as engaging to drive as the CX-30. The Crosstrek, with standard AWD, rings in at $23,155; the front-drive Rogue Sport at $23,435. All this is to say that the CX-30 seems like a remarkable combination of power, drivability, and utility at a very competitive price.

    How about the CX-5? It’s a larger vehicle overall (its wheelbase is 1.7 inches longer and it's 6 inches longer overall) and there are more powertrain choices. The standard 187-hp 2.5-liter engine is similar to the CX-30’s but there are two up-level engine choices: a powerful 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four with 250 hp, and a torquey 2.2-liter turbodiesel. But the real differentiator is room – the CX-5 has a full 10.7 cubes more than CX-30 behind the second row, and a useful 3 inches more rear seat leg room. A base CX-5 FWD carries a $2,450 premium over the CX-30, which buys you that extra space but also a less carlike experience.

    To review: the CX-30 is space-efficient, fun to drive, and it starts well underneath its closest Mazda analogue, the slightly larger 3 hatchback. Mazda didn’t dilute things any by crossover-ifying the 3’s excellent underpinnings. And it’s a good deal, even considering the competition.

    While all that’s good news for buyers, it may be bad news for the 3, which is the reason we’ve been harping on the comparisons all along. Consumer tastes are leaning hard towards crossovers, and while the 3 is attractive, the CX-30 offers more for less – with the one exception being a manual transmission option that's exclusive to the priciest version. The 3 is certainly the enthusiast choice, tighter and more focused.

    But Mazda’s a tiny company, and the CX-30 is a phenomenal all-rounder. Put on your product planning hat and it’s tough to gin up a business case for the 3 – or the CX-3, which we wouldn’t miss in the least. We hope that the CX-30 isn’t the 3’s death knell, because making a buck isn’t everything in this business, particularly for a company like Mazda.

    Have you considered the Mazda 3? That's the first question we have for anyone interested in the 2020 Mazda CX-30. The CX-30 has barely more interior room and no more or cargo space than a Mazda 3 hatchback, and it can't match the fuel economy of the 3. But we get it. You want to sit high above the unwashed. You don't know what you're missing, snob.

    HIGHS: Clean design inside and out, pleasing material quality, it's a lifted Mazda 3.

    We'd also accept: It's easier to get in and out of the CX-30. But that's it, really. We've got no beef with the CX-30, it's just that we love the 3. It's won multiple 10Best awards over the years, and it treads the line between sportiness and refinement in a way few others in the compact-car space can match. The good news is that the CX-30 does all those things too because, at its core, it's a lifted 3. We don't think that the Mazda 3 needed lifting, but we are car people after all.

    Familiarly Focused

    Mazda recognizes that the CX-30 is the shape and seating position that buyers currently want. By their projections, the CX-30 will outsell the 3 without eating into the sales of the larger CX-5. Driving it made us feel a little better about the shrinking car market, because the CX-30 drives like a 3 with a higher center of gravity. The 3's secure handling, firm ride, solid structure, and engine are all present and accounted for. While the extra height might dull its responses a little, the CX-30 isn't far off the mark. Driving it leaves the impression that someone liked the 3 enough to make the CX-30 operate like one.

    Turbocharged engines are the norm in the CX-30's burgeoning segment, and as a result we've become accustomed to having a low-rpm rush of power. Maybe rush is the wrong word, but some thrust down low is the norm in this segment. As with the 3, the CX-30 is only available with a naturally aspirated inline-four engine. It's a relatively large four at 2.5 liters, but without a turbo it has to spin to 4000 rpm to find meaningful torque. This 186-hp engine doesn't make the 3 a powerhouse, and in the heavier CX-30 you're left working it pretty hard when you're forced onto a short freeway entrance ramp.

    When you do work it hard, the big four doesn't raise its voice in a rude manner. And perhaps the biggest differentiator between the CX-30 and the anonymous potato-shaped crossovers it competes with is that you get a six-speed automatic. There's even a normal shift lever between the seats—no push buttons, no guess-what-gear-you're-in toggle. While most of the class uses groan-worthy continuously variable automatic transmissions and even nine-speed automatics that often seem like they're juggling too many gears, the six-speed automatic in the Mazda has just enough ratios. It keeps the engine in its powerband when you're driving spiritedly, and it has a tall enough top gear to hush the engine at 80 mph while returning more than 30 mpg on the EPA's highway test.

    Polished yet Compact

    Mazda informs us that the CX-30 is the latest version of their Kodo design language that purports to be about the "soul of motion." The CX-30 looks like the rest of the Mazda showroom—clean, elegant, nicely proportioned (not a potato) with just the right amount of brightwork. The side cladding is a bit much, straying too far toward the hiking-boot side of the spectrum, but we like it. In back, the hatch opens to a low cargo floor, making it easier to load things. A quick word on Mazda's paint. On vehicles with metallic paint, Mazda chooses small metal flakes that give the car a glow rather than the bass-boat sparkle so popular with their competitors. It's nice.

    LOWS: Acceleration requires the engine to work rather hard, small rear seat, still not as good as a Mazda 3.

    Mazda's interior design matches the exterior. There's an elegant simplicity, and the materials in the places you look are excellent. The trend in interior design is to rethink and redesign things that have worked for decades. In the CX-30, the gauges are analog or digital versions of analog units, and they're large and easy to read. Instead of trying to be clever, the climate controls all have buttons and knobs that work the way you’d expect. Instead of throwing out what works, Mazda concentrated on making the buttons and knobs feel precise and expensive. Controlling the radio, settings, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions all falls to the knob between the seats. An 8.8-inch screen sits atop the instrument panel. It's not a touchscreen, so don't try reaching for it. Redundant quick-access buttons flank the knob, and it all works well enough with a bit of familiarization.

    Rear-seat occupants will have to be pretty familiar with each other because there's not a lot of space back there. At 104.5 inches, the wheelbase is nearly three inches shorter than the 3's. According to the specifications, the CX-30 has 1.2 more inches of rear-seat legroom, but even if it does, it's seriously tight back there. Overall, the high-roof CX-30 has one additional cubic foot of interior volume versus the 3. There's 20 cubic feet of cargo area, which is the same as the 3 hatchback but more than the CX-3.

    Double Play

    That brings us to the smaller CX-3. It'll continue to be sold alongside the CX-30, but the CX-3 will be the value play. Perhaps you're wondering why the CX-30 isn't called the CX-4. We asked. Mazda told us that there's a different vehicle in the Chinese market called the CX-4. Since that wouldn't affect anyone outside of China, we can't imagine anyone would care, and the logic of going from 3 to 4 needs no explanation. The need for two vehicles in what's arguably the same segment also needs no explanation after you learn that the CX-3 and CX-30's segment has gone from selling 200,000 units in 2014 to just shy of 800,000 last year. Mazda sees this mushrooming segment as having enough space for two small SUVs. Pricing for the CX-30 opens just shy of $23,000 and creeps up to more than $30K if you hit every option box.

    What we like about the CX-30 is that Mazda has made conscious decisions to avoid design for the sake of design. They've chosen tried and true solutions rather than reinventing what doesn't need to be reinvented. That's why there's a real shifter, gauges that look like gauges, and switchgear that's lovely to touch and easy to use. For a segment full of annoying mishegoss that gets in the way of driving, we found precious little to complain about here. Consider that a major win for the segment.

    Specifications

    Specifications

    2020 Mazda CX-30

    VEHICLE TYPE
    front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

    BASE PRICE
    $22,945; AWD, $24,345; Select, $24,945; Select AWD, $26,345; Preferred, $27,245; Preferred AWD, $28,645; Premium, $29,245; Premium AWD, $30,645

    ENGINE TYPE
    DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, direct fuel injection
    Displacement
    152 cu in, 2488 cc
    Power
    186 hp @ 6000 rpm
    Torque
    186 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

    TRANSMISSION
    6-speed automatic

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 104.5 in
    Length: 173.0 in
    Width: 70.7 in
    Height: 61.7 in
    Passenger volume: 94 cu ft
    Cargo volume: 20 cu ft
    Curb weight (C/D est): 3250–3450 lb

    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 7.2–7.5 sec
    100 mph: 19.6–19.9 sec
    ¼-mile: 15.6–15.9 sec
    Top speed: 123–126 mph

    EPA FUEL ECONOMY
    Combined/city/highway: 26–28/24–25/31–33 mpg

    DETROIT — The United Auto Workers union said on Wednesday that rank-and-file members at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV have voted in favor of a new four-year labor contract with the automaker, helping the Italian-American firm avoid a strike as it works to merge with France's Groupe PSA.

    FCA and PSA, the maker of Peugeot and Citroen, in October announced a planned $50 billion merger to create the world's fourth-largest automaker.

    FCA's 47,200 rank-and-file UAW members voted 71% in favor of the new contract. The deal follows contracts the UAW already concluded with larger rivals General Motors and Ford.

    “Every full-time production employee currently at FCA will be at top rate by the end of this four-year agreement,” Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president and director of the union's FCA department, said in a statement. She added that all temporary workers also have a path to full employment.

    “We are pleased to have reached a new agreement that allows us to continue our record of adding good-paying UAW-represented jobs,” FCA North America Chief Operating Officer Mark Stewart said in a statement.

    Ratification of the contract had not been viewed as a sure thing, as union members at FCA in 2015 rejected the first version of a contract. In addition, a federal corruption probe related to embezzlement at the union drew attention.

    The federal corruption probe led GM to file a racketeering lawsuit against FCA, alleging its rival bribed union officials over many years to corrupt the bargaining process and gain advantages, costing GM billions of dollars.

    FCA has brushed off the lawsuit as groundless.

    The contract with GM that was ratified by workers in October followed a 40-day strike in the United States that virtually shuttered GM's North American operations and cost the automaker $3 billion.

    The UAW has said the contract with FCA included a commitment by the automaker to invest $9 billion, creating 7,900 new jobs over the course of the contract. Of the $9 billion, $4.5 billion was announced earlier this year, to be invested in five plants and creating 6,500 jobs.

    The investments include $2.8 billion at Warren Truck Assembly plant in Michigan to build a new a plug-in hybrid SUV in 2021 and a potential increase of 1,500 jobs.

    FCA will also invest $160 million at its Toledo, Ohio, plant to build a new plug-in hybrid Jeep Wrangler next year, and $3 billion at its Jefferson Assembly plant in Detroit to a build a plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee in 2021 among other new vehicles.

    The first rule of customer service is that the customer is always right. If that's true, then the world's upmarket car buyers are to blame for the boom of fast SUVs and the decline of the sedans and coupes that usually make for a more rewarding driving experience. It's a trend the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 4Matic coupe was built to exploit. Its name makes its mission clear: It's a car for anyone who wants a Mercedes-AMG version of Benz's mid-sized luxury ute but can't stretch for a V-8–powered 63 model, and it's for those drawn to SUVs that look (slightly) like coupes.

    HIGHS: Plenty of power, refined cruising, familiar and sophisticated cabin.

    That might sound like two small niches, but the success of the previous-generation GLE43 coupe proved there was demand for both.

    Mercedes-AMG

    Ample Boost

    Like the rest of the GLE-class, the 53 sits on a new platform and uses AMG's mildly hybridized powerplant that combines a turbocharged and electrically supercharged 3.0-liter inline-six with a 48-volt motor-generator for short bursts of assistance. The internal-combustion engine makes 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque, and the electric motor kicks in up to 21 horses and 184 lb-ft only at lower engine speeds, and it does not change the total powertrain output. A nine-speed automatic is the only transmission option.

    The engine's the same as in AMG's' E53 and CLS53 models, but the GLE's size and bulk means it has to work against a sizeable increase in mass. As a result, the engine feels markedly less brisk. With an estimated weight of 5250 pounds, we predict the GLE53 should scoot to 60 mph in five seconds flat. That's impressive, but it ultimately comes up short of filling the swear jar the way the truly fast SUVs do.

    Mercedes-AMG

    LOWS: Ungainly looking, not that practical, feels as heavy as it is.

    The engine has plenty of low-rpm grunt. Thanks to a 48-volt electric supercharger that works to supplement the turbocharger, there's no discernible lag, even at low speeds. It revs enthusiastically to a 6500-rpm redline but without the accelerating fireworks that AMG's 63 variants produce. The 53 can't quite match the Wagnerian crescendo of its V-8 siblings, but its soundtrack is still muscular when worked hard, and an active exhaust system adds a garnish of pops and bangs.

    Impressive Composure

    We drove the GLE53 on Pirelli P Zero Scorpion winter tires in Austria, on a route that featured twisting Alpine passes and freezing temperatures. While the AMG handled the slippery conditions well, its size and weight were evident on tight corners where the winter rubber made a graceful surrender to understeer with moderate provocation. The standard 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system does have a natural rearward torque bias. That was evident on ice and packed snow, where the GLE showed a playful side that wasn't as prevalent on dry roads.

    Mercedes-AMG

    Although lesser GLEs ride on steel coils, the 53 is fitted with standard air springs, and Mercedes's 48-volt active anti-roll system helps keep the body flat under heavy cornering loads. Even at its most aggressive, in the Sport Plus driving mode, the GLE never felt as wieldy or as easy to place as a Porsche Cayenne, but we'd want to experience this Merc on summer tires and warmer weather to really make that call. The GLE was pliant over the few bumps in Austria's immaculately maintained asphalt. Even the firmer damper settings of Sport and Sport Plus don't upset the chassis. The nation's similarly pristine autobahn highway network also proved that the combination of a tall ninth gear and excellent noise insulation make for refined cruising.

    The GLE coupe's styling will be as divisive as its predecessor's, or indeed that of any SUV with a small glasshouse that tries to look like a sports car on stilts. The best thing we can say about the lowered roofline and the angle of the rear tailgate glass is that they're incongruous compared to the height of the bodywork beneath them. But incongruous is just a nice way of saying ridiculous.

    Mercedes-AMG

    Familiar Trappings

    By contrast, the cabin is largely excellent, and almost all of it is shared with the regular full-height GLE (and a fair amount with the larger GLS-class). From the driver's seat, only the rakish angle of the windscreen, and the fact that your head is closer to the roof, distinguishes the GLE coupe from the regular GLE. The dashboard layout, controls, and center console are identical, good looking, and, thanks to carbon-fiber and leather trim, suitably upmarket.

    This AMG 53 also gets a sports steering wheel that incorporates two rotary controllers with miniature display screens to cycle through its various dynamic modes. That's in addition to the redundant scroll wheel on the center console. It's a shame AMG stopped using the robust gear selectors it used to fit, as the GLE53 gets the same insubstantial column wand as every other modern Benz. But the metal shift paddles behind the steering wheel operate with a satisfyingly weighty action.

    Mercedes-AMG

    Rear-seat passengers are less likely to appreciate some of the design decisions. The GLE coupe sits on a wheelbase that's 2.4 inches shorter than the regular model, with almost all of that coming at the expense of second-row legroom. Average male passengers will have knees pressed against the back of the front seat unless someone shorter and generous is sitting up front. Headroom is also limited, and taller rear-seat occupants will have to duck on the way in.

    While Mercedes hasn't released pricing or final specifications yet, the GLE coupe will arrive in the United States in the spring. The success of cars in this strange segment proves that some people really do want a running shoe with a hiking sole attached. The GLE53 coupe is a significant upgrade over the last-generation GLE43 coupe, and we can't criticize Mercedes for wanting a slice of this pie. As one of the great philosophers of our age once said, don't hate the player, hate the game.

    Specifications

    Specifications

    2021 Mercedes-AMG GLE53 Coupe

    VEHICLE TYPE
    front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

    BASE PRICE (C/D EST)
    $73,000

    POWERTRAIN
    supercharged, turbocharged, and intercooled DOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter inline-6, 429 hp, 384 lb-ft + AC motor, 21 hp, 184 lb-ft; combined system, 429 hp, 384 lb-ft; 0.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

    TRANSMISSION
    9-speed automatic

    DIMENSIONS
    Wheelbase: 115.6 in
    Length: 195.3 in
    Width: 78.7 in
    Height: 67.7 in
    Cargo volume: 23 cu ft
    Curb weight: 5250 lb

    PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
    60 mph: 5.2 sec
    100 mph: 13.7 sec
    ¼-mile: 13.7 sec
    Top speed: 155 mph

    EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
    Combined/city/highway: 20/18/23 mpg

    Audi will use the Super Bowl to debut a new global ad campaign. The Volkswagen Group-owned luxury brand confirmed the ad buy on Tuesday, but did not share creative details or the length of the spot. The automaker only noted to Ad Age, an affiliate of Automotive News, that it will be “occupying one of the world’s most coveted ad breaks.”

    The confirmation comes about a month after Audi announced the selection of ad agency 72andSunny Amsterdam to handle a global campaign that would be aimed at redefining Audi’s “Vorsprung durch Technik​” marketing slogan, which translates to “progress through technology.”  

    The buy marks Audi’s second straight Super Bowl ad and the eleventh time it will appear in the game. In recent years, the brand’s in-game ads have been handled by its U.S. agency, Venables Bell & Partners. 72andSunny was hired for the global campaign on a project basis. It was previously unknown how much 72andSunny’s work would appear in the U.S., but the Super Bowl buy makes clear that it will get significant media support here.

    Audi used last season’s game to tout its electric vehicle ambitions with a 60-second spot that had a comedic tone.

    Audi is the fourth auto brand to publicly confirm a Super Bowl ad buy, following Hyudai, Kia and Porsche, which is also owned by VW Group. See all the brands confirmed to air ads in Super Bowl LIV here.

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