Tuesday, August 13, 2019


The C-Class has served as a introductory model for Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts since its debut as a “baby Benz” sedan in the early 1990s.

It has grown up considerably since then, however, and there is nothing “baby” about the AMG C43 Cabriolet I recently had the pleasure of driving for a week, from the performance, to the luxury, and yes, to the price tag.

Can you envision a C-Class that starts in the $60,000 range and nearly reaches $80,000 when fully equipped?

That’s quite a jump from the base C-Class Cab that starts at just a couple of notches over the $50,000 mark but it is what often happens when the folks who labor in the company’s AMG workshops get done with their tinkering.

AMG versions of Mercedes models are not really for those who only care about getting from Point A to Point B. They are for those who look forward to the ride itself!

It starts under the hood, where AMG has pumped up the 3.0-liter bi-turbo V6 to 385 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, big steps up from the 255 hp and 234 lb.-ft. the turbo-4 in the C300 Cabriolet delivers.

Mated with a 9-speed automatic transmission, the V6 scoots the C43 from zero-to-60 mph in under 5.0 seconds with fuel numbers of 18 miles-per-gallon city, 25 highway, 21 combined.

Driving modes include Comfort, Sport, Sport-Plus, and Individual, and if you want more sound from the dual exhaust, you can push a button on the console to get that, too. Sport-Plus mode disengages the stop/start system as well as stiffening the suspension and increasing throttle response.

In fact, the increased throttle response almost can be a bit too aggressive at times, especially considering that even in Comfort the C43 gets off the line quickly.

The interior is impeccable with lots of leather, natural grain wood, and brushed aluminum throughout. The triple-layer, acoustic soft top gives the C43 a quiet ride, more like of hardtop quality than a typical soft top. When riding with the top down in chillier temperatures, the Airscarf system and heated seats keeps things comfortable.

With South Florida’s summer temperatures, the optional ventilated seats and an A/C set on high are more appreciated than the Airscarf!

That roof, incidentally, raises and lowers in about 20 seconds, and you can do it at speeds up to 30 mph, a handy feature if a sudden shower appears and you can’t pull over.

Among standard features for the base MSRP of $64,645 (including destination and delivery) are a Burmester surround-sound audio system, push-button start, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a 10.25-inch display screen for infotainment features that operate with a central controller or touchpad (both on the center console) and Bluetooth connectivity.

The AMG, flat-bottom performance steering wheel is included in the base price, but other AMG-inspired touches like performance exhaust, carbon fiber rear spoiler, and illuminated door sills plus packages that include navigation and safety features like lane-keeping assist, active blind spot detection,, etc. are options.

Thus the total for my test drive model came to $78,105.

What I liked about the 2019 AMG C43 Cabriolet: In a word, everything. The AMG version of Mercedes-Benz’ so-called “entry level” convertible offers the highest level in performance and comfort features for a superb motoring experiences for both driver and passenger. The interior oozes luxury touches. You don’t have to be at a standstill to lower or raise the soft top.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 AMG C43 Cabriolet: The trunk is small, though I was able to slide in two beach chairs and an umbrella and still ride with the top down. The COMAND system to operate infotainment features can be very distracting. Much of the really good stuff is only available as options that can add nearly $15,000 to the starting MSRP. The backseat is practically useless.

Would I buy the 2019 AMG C43 Cabriolet? If cost was not an issue, sure. But if it was, I would find nearly just as much happiness in the basic C300 Cabriolet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Still a relative newcomer in the subcompact SUV segment, Hyundai’s Kona crossover quickly has established itself as one of the best in its class.

Last January the Hyundai Kona and its electric version Kona EV a panel of 54 judges at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit selected the Kona over the Jaguar I-Pace and Acura RDX as the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year, arguably the most prestigious award in the industry.

Other awards from media organizations and publications have followed with the most recent recognition from the New England Motor Press Association as “Best-in-Class Subcompact SUV.” Edmunds also named the Kona EV its “Editors’ Choice” among all electric vehicles because of its long range, affordable price, and pleasing driving experience.

And Kona — an Hawaiian name for a strong southwesterly wind that often brings rain — has moved into the No. 5 spot among the South Korean automaker’s best sellers with 43,466 Konas sold in the first seven months this year.

Introduced as a 2018 model at the Los Angeles Auto Show in the fall of 2017, the Kona now comes with safety upgrades like forward collision-avoidance assist, lane-keeping assist, and driver attention warning as standard for 2019. Collision-avoidance wasn’t available on 2018 models, and lane-keeping and driver attention were not available on the base model.

Hyundai recently that adaptable cruise control, labeled “Smart” Cruise Control, will be available on top-of-the-line Ultimate trim 2020 Kona models. 

Ultimate is one of four Kona trims along with SE, SEL, and Limited. Base pricing runs from $21,085 (including destination and delivery) to $33,045 for the special “Iron Man edition” depending on the engine (a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder or a 1.6-liter, turbo-4) and transmission (6-speed automatic or 7-speed dual-clutch).

This review is based on the Ultimate trim equipped with the 1.6-turbo engine and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. It delivers horsepower and torque numbers of  175 hp and 195 pound-feet, respectively, for a brisk ride while still demonstrating fuel economy with numbers of 28 miles-per-gallon city, 32 highway, and 30 combined.

The Kona Electric is rated at 201 hp with mileage ratings of 132 MPGe city and 108 MPGe highway with an impressive range of 258 miles, more than double that of the electric version of its Ioniq cousin (124 miles).

My test vehicle Kona Ultimate came with front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is available, which impinges slightly on on fuel economy numbers.

The Ultimate version of the Kona lives up to its name with a long list of standard features that make adding options unnecessary.

In addition to the safety features already mentioned (pay attention!) are blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning, rear parking distance warning, and front, front side and side-curtain airbags and rollover sensors.

Also included in the Ultimate’s $27,500 MSRP are an 8-inch color touchscreen with navigation and rear-view monitor, leather seating surfaces, power sunroof, proximity key with push-button start, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, heads-up display,wireless device charging, rain-sensing wipers, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, Infinity premium sound system, and Hyundai’s Blue Link services (think OnStar). It rides on standard 18-inch wheels.

Along with the destination charge, the only extra in pricing was $125 in floor mats that ran the total to $28,605.

For that you get a very capable crossover SUV that is fun to drive, comfortable to ride in, and practical as well. Plus one it doesn’t have the funky styling of some past Hyundai SUVs yet remains distinctive as well.

What I liked about the 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: The “pulse red” color is spectacular. There are lots of standard features for a vehicle that checks in at under $29,000. Technological features are very user friendly. The lively performance was an unexpected bonus, yet its fuel efficiency rates among the leaders among its non-hybrid, non-electric competitors in the subcompact SUV segment.

What I didn’t like about the 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate: The rear storage space isn’t the most generous, even for its class. At 19.2 cubic feet, it should be adequate for most tasks, however. It expands to 45.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Legroom in the back is only 34.9 inches, but you have to remember this is a subcompact that is only 164 inches long with a wheelbase of 102.4 inches.

Would I buy the 2019 Hyundai Kona Ultimate? Yes. It’s a nice fit between a sedan and a larger SUV.