Monday, May 24, 2021




First, a few words about the interior of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Cabriolet:












Oops! I repeat myself.

In nearly 20 years of reviewing cars and trucks, several of which were carrying six-figure price tags, I have never really encountered an interior like that in the E450 Cabriolet.

It took my breath away right at first glance.

Done in white and with trim in a shade Mercedes calls “yacht” blue, it has a nautical feel about it. Iit’s like stepping into a multimillion dollar catamaran for a sail around the bay.

The plush, high quality materials pamper passengers, and with the triple-layer top from Haartz in place, the ride, even at highway speeds, is coupe- and sedan-like quiet.

And it is surprisingly roomy for a convertible, seating four comfortably and giving those in the back up to 34.1 inches of legroom, which isn’t much but better than some other backseats in drop tops.

But a caveat must be acknowledged here.

Though the E-Class is certainly not shy on standard features, many of the “gotta have” items came at an extra expense.Even the diamond while metallic exterior finish came at a cost of $1,515, and that was only one of several four-figure options.

In addition to standard features for the E450 Cabriolet like dual-zone automatic climate control, 12.3-inch screens for infotainment features like navigation and the instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated power seats with lumbar support, LED headlights and taillights, and numerous safety features like blind-spot assist and surround view camera, extras that include ventilated front seats with a massage function, a driver’s assistance package that included many safety systems like lane-change assist and lane-keeping assist, 20-inch AMG spoke wheels, air suspension, an exterior lighting package, Nappa leather for the interior, and some specific styling touches ran the final tab from the $74,450 base MSRP to a grand total of $91,475, including the $1,050 destination and delivery fee.

I’d say the interior is not the only thing that will take your breath away.

Thankfully, one thing missing on the pricing is a gas guzzler tax that some performance-oriented luxury models earn.

That isn’t the say the E450 Cabriolet is a laggard when it comes to driving fun.

Unlike E-350 sedans, which are equipped with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, the E-Class Cabriolet is available only as an E450 with a 3.0-liter inline 6-cylinder engine. It produces 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of peak torque while burning premium fuel at the rate of 23 miles-per-gallon city, 31 highway and 26 combined.

A mild-hybrid system Mercedes calls EQ Boost adds 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet to the torque number, making acceleration smooth and effortless, If you want a little more in the way of throttle response you an always drive it in Sport or Sport-plus mode.

Want to conserve a little more fuel? Just select Eco mode. Or you personalize your settings to suit your style.

A 9-speed automatic transmission is standard, and Mercedes’ all-wheel drive 4MATIC system is available in place of the standard rear-wheel drive configuration.

All in all, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Cabriolet pretty much has it all. And did I mention the classy interior is unbelievably beautiful, gorgeous, magnificent …

What I liked about the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Cabriolet: Obviously, I like the overall interior, especially small details like the feel of the heft and touch of the leather-wrapped steering wheel and the way vents can be adjusted and aimed. The ride not only is solid and comfortable, but with the top up, it is extremely quiet. It feels like you’re riding in an E-Class sedan. Raising and lowering the top is a simple operation with no requirement to clear the rear trunk before lowering. It folds neatly into its own space.

What I didn’t like about the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Cabriolet
: Some of the infotainment functions are fussy to work with. Some buttons on the steering wheel cross bar are so small you almost need fingers the size of a 3-year-old’s to change the tachometer and speedometer gauges to display such functions as a clock, radio station setting, navigation map, etc. The steering wheel touch functions can easily be accidentally swiped.

Would I buy the 3021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Cabriolet? In a heartbeat. It combines the luxury of a typical Mercedes sedan with the fun and free-spirit of a convertible.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

2021 BMW M5


Though the term “sport sedan” used to describe passenger cars with more lively driving characteristics would seem to be a recent thing, it actually dates back to the 1930s. That’s when British automaker Rover produced performance versions of its “saloon” cars, the Rover 14 and Rover 16.

It wasn’t until about 50 years later, however, that we really learned what a sports sedan can be about. In 1984 BMW debuted what has become the iconic vehicle of the segment by showing the 1985 M5 at the Amsterdam Auto Show.

It was handbuilt and the fastest production sedan in the world at the time, though by today’s standards the numbers are quite modest. According to an account at the website, horsepower in models exported to the United States was 256 (10 less than those in Europe) with a top speed of 148 mph (153 in Europe) and zero-to-60 time of 6.5 seconds (6.2 in Europe).

Compare those to the numbers for the 2021 BMW M5: 600 hp at 6000 rpm, 553 pound-feet of torque from 1800 to 5690 rpm, an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph (190 mph when equipped with the M Driver’s package), and zero-to-60 mph in 3.2 seconds.

Or, if you want to kick it up a notch, the M5 Competition sedan is tuned to produce 617 hp at 6000 rpm and has a slightly wider torque band (1800-5860 rpm) and a tick quicker zero-to-60 clocking of 3.1 seconds. The average human blink is 0.1 second.

A 4.4-liter twin-turbocharged V8 rests under the hood. It is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission (yes, it has upgraded performance settings and paddle shifters for manual gear selection) that sends power to all four wheels, though you can select 2WD mode if you prefer. (BTW, the manual transmission that once was offered for the U.S market was discontinued starting with 2018 models.)

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Fuel economy numbers will send shock waves through Sierra Club members. Figures of 15 miles-per-gallon city, 21 highway, and 17 combined earn the M5 a Gas Guzzler’s tax of $1,000, but with a starting price of $103,500, I’m not sure a buyer would notice.

Though all that power and performance are impressive, lest we forget this is, after all, a BMW. A BMW, particularly the M models, is about power as the “ultimate driving machine,” but it is not all about power. The interior is elegant with lots of cushy leather all about the spacious cabin.

Standard equipment includes heated, 20-way power adjustable front seats with 4-way lumbar support, keyless entry with push-button start, four-zone climate control (I must admit it took me a while to realize there are separate buttons for fan control to adjust for the driver or passenger, which was why no matter how low I cranked the button closest to me the fan still seemed to be too high), a 12.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment controls like navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a power trunk lid (a small feature but nice nonetheless), a wi-fi hotspot and charging pad, and a heated steering wheel.

Safety systems include adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beam, rear-view camera, park distance control, and blind spot assist.
Options that add mucho thousands of dollars further enhance the luxury.

My test vehicle for the week added a Competition Package (M Sport Exhaust, 20-inch wheels replacing the standard 19s, M seat belts, and couple of special interior design accents) for $7,600; an Executive Package (self-closing doors, surround-view camera), front massaging seats, rear sunshade, and more) for $3,350; M carbon ceramic brakes (you’ve got to harness all that power) for $8,500, and a Driver’s Assistance Package for $1,700.

Silverstone premium leather also added $3,500, the special Bluestone exterior color added $3,600, and the Bowers & Wilkins sound system tacked on $3,400, an option I would pass on because a Harman Kardon Surround Sound System is standard.

All that plus the gas guzzler’s tax and $995 destination and delivery fee brought the total to $139,645.

The original BMW M5 back in 1985 was available for about 80,000 German marks, which, assuming I have read the tables correctly, translated to about $27,200 in American dollars at the time or about $67,508 in today’s dollars. Power numbers haven’t been the only thing that have gone up on the M5.

What I liked about the 2021 BMW M5: The interior is richly appointed and the seats, especially that for the driver, are comfortable and supportive. The 360-degree view of your car is much appreciated as well. The exhaust notes are sweet and ear-pleasing and not overwhelming.

What I didn't like about the 2021 BMW M5: I miss the manual transmission and the gear shifter pattern on the console is kind of annoying. The infotainment system has been simplified, though working your way through the multitude of functions can still be a distraction. You can also make many selections via the touchscreen, though that can be distracting as well, or voice or gesture.

Would I buy the 2021 BMW M5? Want top-edge performance in a luxury sedan? Then this car is definitely for you — assuming your budget can afford the six-figure price tag. If you can, you probably will not be bothered by the gas guzzler tax.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

2021 FORD F-150 HYBRID


For the last 44 years one constant has remained in the pickup market and that has been the status of Ford's F-Series as America's best-selling truck.

Even with sales off 12.5 percent for the fourth quarter and the popular F-150 down 32.7 percent on short inventory in anticipation of the redesign for 2021, a total of 787,422 F-Series trucks were sold in COVID-corrupted 2020.

In the first quarter of this year, however, F-Series sales jumped 9.2 percent over the first quarter of 2020 as the 2021 version of the popular F-150 hit showrooms in December after getting not only a design upgrade but also a hybrid drivetrain, a first in the light duty pickup segment.

The Powerboost (as Ford calls it) hybrid setup features a 3.6-liter V6 gas engine and a 47 horsepower electric motor mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The combination boosts horsepower to 430 and torque to 570 pound-feet, a jump of 30 hp and 70 lb.-ft. over the turbocharged 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, the F-150's next most powerful engine with 400 hp and 500 lb.-ft.

The hybrid is a big jump in horsepower over the  diesel's 250 hp and even bigger increase over the diesel's torque number (440 lb.-ft.).

Fuel economy in 4X4 models with the Powerboost setup, such as the vehicle this review is based on, comes in at 24 miles-per-gallon city, highway, and combined, which doesn't seem like much for a hybrid but represents a 20 percent jump over that for the 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6 (20 mpg combined).

With a 30.6 gallon fuel tank, fuel range for the Powerboost hybrid F-150 is just over 730 miles while towing capacity is up to 12,700 pounds depending on the wheelbase.

The battery pack for the Powerboost hybrid is conveniently placed under the body, which means it doesn't intrude on space for either passengers or cargo. If it weren't for the "Powerboost" markings on the front doors, you probably would never suspect it was a hybrid. Even then, you'd have to know what "Powerboost" means.

My vehicle for the week was the Ford F-150 Platinum edition, which put it at the high end of the pricing portfolio.

Standard equipment included the Supercrew cab configuration, LED projector headlamps, LED lighting for the box and taillights, power sliding rear window, leather-wrapped steering wheel, power adjustable tilt and telescoping steering column, genuine wood accents, adjustable pedals with memory, heated and ventilated front seats, adaptive cruise control, and a slew of infotainment features, including voice activated navigation.

Safety features like evasive steering assist, lane-keeping assist, post-collision braking, and reverse sensing and rear-vew camera also are covered by the base MSRP of $62,535.

The hybrid drivetrain adds $2,500, a package that includes a power rear liftgate and 360-degree camera package adds $2,685, and other extras like an interior work surface and spray-on Toughbed bedliner spray ran the total to $72,285.

That's getting into real high cotton when it comes to a pickup, but the hybrid drivetrain is offered on some other F-150 models that are much less expensive.

Ford also has announced it will reveal its all-electric F-150 Lightning model at 9:30 a.m ET on May 19 on more than 30 platforms, including Ford Facebook and YouTube channels.

An earlier YouTube clip (July 2019) shows the prototype Lightning towing 10 freight cars weighing 1 million pounds, though a later clip has a guy kind of debunking the whole thing by saying essentially it was not really that big a deal.

If you want entertained, watch the original video. If you want your head overpacked with mind-numbing numbers and physics theories, check out the second.

What I liked about the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid 4X4: It's a comfortable ride, and the infotainment features are very user friendly. The power deployed running boards are a big help getting in and out of the cabin.

What I didn't like about the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid 4X4: The full Powerboost hybrid drivetrain adds a $2,500 cost over other Supercrew models so you'll have to do the math to see if the fuel benefits are going to pay off for you in a reasonable time.

Would  I buy the 2021 Ford F-150 Hybrid 4X$? I'm not really into full-size pickups because of the difficulties that arise when in many cramped parking lots and other spaces, but if a pickup floats your boat, this one is very much worth a look. You will hardly notice the difference in driving experience with the hybrid, and you still get all the niceties that models with the standard powertrain get while enjoying the extra fuel mileage as a bonus.