The 2019 model year marks the first year that the United States market will receive the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz W177 A-Class. It was a long time coming because there is nothing more American consumers want than luxury products on a low monthly payment. I checked out a new A220 last week at the auto show and I have to admit it was better than the C117 CLA-Class that was introduced to the American market in 2014. That CLA is a sad exercise of how cheap you can make a car and holds the record for the largest ratio of bezel to screen on a dash screen. Thankfully, a new CLA is in the works and should be miles better than the original. Nevertheless, those old cars will hang around on the buy-here, pay-lots until the end of time much like the original cheap Mercedes that started it all, the W168 A-Class.
Launched in 1997, it was Mercedes first dive into the subcompact market that was most infamously noted for failing the Swedish traditional “elk test” and looking like a giant wedge of cheese. The design wasn’t by random chance, Mercedes engineers designed the car this way so encase of a crash, the engine and transmission would slide underneath the floor below the pedals rather straight into the occupants in the front seats. The front wheel drive layout allowed this as well as there was no need to deal with a driveshaft preventing anything from sliding. Still, this car needed to compete in the subcompact market so it couldn’t be twice the price of competitors. That meant making the interior resemble a children’s play-place and passing it off as funky and modern. Those late ’90s were a crazy time after all. These sold reasonably well with 1.1 million units leaving dealer lots between 1997 and 2004 thanks to their small stature ideal for the city streets and tight parking of traditional European cities. Now, over 20 years later, a well-used A-Class can be had for the price of a modest vacation to Ocean City, Maryland and even the nicest examples, like this example for sale up for sale outside of London, don’t command a high asking price. Thing is, are they even worth it?
While it was certainly impressive to see the unique Aquamarine S4 Avant over the weekend, for nearly everyone it was a letdown. Many of the faults would be excusable were it not for the outrageous asking price – getting on for four times the market value of a decent “normal” S4 Avant. Of course, one of the great things traditionally about Audis is that the chassis flexibility means parts from a myriad of other models work across platforms. So, unhappy with the available options out there, why not build your own super Avant?
That’s exactly what folks at Black Canyon Performance did, taking an already desirable B6 A4 Avant Ultrasport 6-speed and turning the wick up substantially. The modifications range from installation of a B5-generation 2.7T V6 to a factory RS4 interior and a special Porsche color – 7A1 Gray Black borrowed from the 997 GT3 RS, but don’t end there. Welcome to the Unicorn Killer….or was it Killer Unicorn?
Just when I thought I’ve seen everything. Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens have had a long history of use by police and military units, but this one might take the cake as one of the most unusual special builds I’ve seen on one of these. This is a 1984 280GE that was outfitted for the police tactical unit EKO Cobra of the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior. Built by the Austrian company Achleitner, this G is not only fully armored and bulletproof, it also has a full 360-degree gunner seat, a roof turret and port holes out of all the pieces of two-inch thick glass. All of this while looking like a somewhat civilian G-Wagen. Whatever EKO Cobra did or planned to do with this thing, they weren’t playing around. Now somehow and someway, this literal tank of a W460 made its way to Massachusetts and is up for sale to the general public. The thing is, this 280GE has to be close useless in most situations and at this asking price, will have even the biggest G fans scratching their heads.
On to another special edition of the Porsche 911, but this is one of the few not marketed directly at U.S. customers. We recently saw the 50th Anniversary Edition 911, but it’s far from the first time Porsche has produced a model to commemorate production birthdays. In 1993, Europeans were treated the 30th Anniversary model. Dubbed the ’30 Jahre 911′ by the factory but popularly known as the ‘Jubilee’ or ‘Jubi’ model, a basic 964 Carrera 4 was fit with Turbo flares and wheels, special colors and special interiors. Sound familiar?
Code M096 was selected for a planned 911 examples, but only 896 have been accounted for – the vast majority of which were originally sold in Germany. The Jubilee was available in several different exterior colors; Polar Silver Metallic wasn’t surprising to see as an option, but most Jubilees were Viola Metallic as seen here. Titanium details such as the shift knob topper and parcel shelf numbered badges helped to further distinguish the cars. Inside over 80% received Rubicon Gray interiors, the rest had Black. Of course, if you’re looking at the same picture I am above, you’ll note this ’93 has a red interior. So what gives?
As fun and quirky as my two daily drivers, a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 300SD and 1983 Mercedes-Benz 240D, are to have, they are borderline miserable to drive in the northeast during the winter months. Since I don’t own a four car garage, they sit in the driveway 99% of the time while my W210 E55 AMG sits under a cover in my garage with empty boxes piled on top of it. As a result, it is always a surprise to see if the locks or door handles are frozen when I walk outside in the morning. From there, the 240D is pretty good about starting in any temperature but the 300SD isn’t having it unless the coolant heater has been plugged in for a while despite me just replacing the glow plugs a few months ago. Once I do get one of them fired up, really hot heat is a pipe dream in the 240D while it’s a crap shoot in the W116 because of the god forsaken Chrysler servo system. Compare all this to a normal car that you simply press a button on a key fob, put it in gear and drive away in total comfort. This all has me dreaming about a more modern daily driver and when you comes to dreams, you know what they say, dream big.
This 2010 S550 4Matic up for sale in Brooklyn might be one of the nicest W221s outside of any S600 or AMG variety. Painted in Designo Magno Platinum Matte Finish on the outside, the inside is even better with Designo Sand Leather seats with Oak Grain Designo Natural Matte wood sprinkled about. Add in some other neat options like the rear seat entertainment package and you have a really loaded up S-Class. But even with the depreciation at around 25% of its original cost, is it worth it?
Update 2/25/19: It appears this car’s exact connection to Paul Newman is quite a bit more loose than indicated by the seller. Thanks, Jason!
Lately I’ve had my eye on Audi B6 Avants as a potential replacement for my Passat down the road. The B6 carried on with Audi’s tradition of building a high-quality, all-weather capable and highly versatile package. While arguably not the prettiest products to come from Ingolstadt, the subdued styling of the B6 has grown on me over time – especially as they’ve become less prevalent with age and used B7s and B8s have flooded the market.
While I’ve been looking primarily at the 1.8T that’s both economical and familiar to me, there’s no denying the appeal of the S4. For short money you can grab a car which was effectively without peer; an all-wheel drive wagon with a 340 horsepower V8 coupled to a 6-speed manual wagon. They’re certainly not without their faults, but the cost of doing business in nearly 15 year old high-tech fast German cars is infrequently small.
Appreciation for these potent and unique packages has once again been growing. Recently, a custom supercharged Jet Blue Metallic ’08 sold on Bring a Trailer for $28,250 – indicating there’s a strong market for special examples. And today’s ’05 is quite special for two reasons – first, the special order Aquamarine Blue Metallic exterior, and second involves who ordered it – none other than Hollywood legend and motorsport enthusiast Paul Newman:
Remember what I just said about being at the mercy of what’s available? So here comes another Volkswagen, but I promise this one won’t disappoint. That’s because unlike the other examples which were fringe favorites, here’s the bad boy everyone wants – the GTI 16V.
For 1987, Volkswagen brought its development of the EA827 inline-4 â€“ the PL â€“ to the Golf. Already in the Scirocco, it boasted 16 valves, 10:1 compression, KE-Jetronic injection and 123 horsepower. That was over a 20% jump in power, and mated to a close-ratio 5-speed manual it more than made up for the additional heft of the A2 compared to the A1.
To help differentiate its new engine, and because it was initially run alongside the 8V model, several styling cues were added to the 16V. Shared with the Scirocco, the easiest to spot were the â€œSilverstoneâ€ (Teardrop) alloys that would be the signature of the 16Vs for the next few years. Less noticeable were minor changes; painted lower valances and a deeper front lip spoiler, a relocated Fuba antenna now residing on the roof, and â€“ of course â€“ 16V badges and red stripes throughout. The 16V also got a special leatherette interior and beefy 205-55-VR14 Pirelli P600 tires.
Over the subsequent two years there weren’t many changes to the GTI 16V outside of the “big door” single pane glass change and revised grill of all A2s in ’88, as it’d undergo a major overhaul and bump in displacement for the ’90 model year. This particular GTI is also unique as one of the very last Westmoreland built GTIs, as production closed in ’88 and shifted to Puebla. And this ’89 must certainly be one of the best left out there:
We sometimes get accused of bias in our coverage towards one marque or one model on these pages. Fair enough, I’d fully admit that I’d rather look at another Audi Coupe GT than a BMW 325e. But in the interest of being introspective, I occasionally check up on our coverage to see if we’re doing a balanced job and I’d like to share the results with you. To date this year, we’ve written up 10 Audi related posts, 10 BMW related posts, 9 Volkswagen related posts, and 12 Porsche posts. If we’ve been out-of-balance, it’s been our coverage of Mercedes-Benz models, which account for 26 posts this year so far.
Since our inception, we’ve written 907 Audi posts, 1,963 BMW posts, 1,598 Mercedes-Benz posts, 2,322 Porsche posts and 982 dedicated to Volkswagens. We’re sometimes at the mercy of what’s available at any given time. All things considered, it’s not a bad balance overall.
But one thing did strike me as I put this information together – February has, so far, passed without a BMW gracing our coverage. That simply won’t do, and so I thought I’d check out this M6. The classic E24 lines coupled with the stellar S38 engine and BBS wheels have always been a favorite of mine. Now, this particular M6 is probably not the best one out there I’ll admit up front. But the combination of colors, stance, presentation and asking price all grabbed my attention and made it worth sitting up and taking a further look:
Update 3/3/19: Sold for an impressive $20,300!
Last month I did a quick history lesson on the W163 Mercedes-Benz ML-Class and how it came to be made in America. One of the most interesting pieces of the ML story also involved another aspect Americans love: wildly fictional movies. If you are looking at this car, you probably know what I’m talking about. Somehow, Mercedes got in contact withÂ Universal Pictures during the filming ofÂ The Lost World: Jurassic ParkÂ about using the then pre-production ML in the film. Somewhat ironically, while Ford Explorers had replaced Toyota Land Cruisers used in the Jurassic Park novel, in Lost World it would be the Explorer now being replaced. Somehow, a deal came together and suddenly you were watching a couple of ML320s with a bunch of added on armor roam around a fictional world full of dinosaurs. One of the stars of the film, Jeff Goldblum, was given a free ML320 as part of the deal and the craziest part is that he actually used the ML as his daily driver for over 15 years.Â He must not be into cars that much.
Unlike other vehicles from the Jurassic Park franchise, the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Explorer, you would never see someone hack up a ML320 to replicate the version from the movie. Probably that’s because it wasn’t very smart to totally destroy a luxury SUV just to pay tribute to a film that was considered a letdown compared to the original. Fortunately, prices of first-generation MLs have hit play money type levels and someone in California took the plunge into full movie mode. Now it is up for sale and ready to be passed on to the next person who constantly wants to be stopped to answer questions about it in the grocery store parking lot.
While the last few VWs have been a bit strange in some way or other, each held a specific subset of people absolutely obsessed with them. The same does not seem to be true of today’s Mk.III Jetta GLX VR6, which is strange to me since it has the hallmarks of a potential collector.
Purists decried the arrival of the â€œgrown upâ€ A3 chassis Golf and Vento, sold as the Jetta in North America. It was expensive, it was heavy (relative to the A1 and A2 chassis, anyway) and the performance was dulled â€“ that was, until the introduction of the GLX model that replaced the earlier GLi models. Now sporting the VR6 that had debuted in the Corrado a few years earlier, the GLX was all around a screamer. It might have been heavier than the GLi had been, but it was quicker to 60, quieter on the highway, more comfortable and better in crashes (if things went south), and returned close to the same fuel economy as the thirsty, buzzy and boxy 16V had. The Volkswagen Jetta III, as it was known in the US, was introduced at a time when US sales were at their lowest and it appeared as if VW was considering pulling out of the US market. This generation Jetta became the best selling Volkswagen by the time the production run ceased in 1999. It was insanely popular and seemed to be the defacto college car of choice for both men and women. Because of that, many of these Jettas fell into disrepair or were totaled, so itâ€™s rare to find a lower mile and clean GLX these days: