2015 Chrysler 200
Of all the cars for sale, we can honestly say the 200 was near the bottom of the barrel. For 2015, it moves close to the top of the midsize sedan mountain. The new 200 is a complete turnaround from the previous model, and we could not be happier about it. Even though we haven’t had a chance to take it for a spin (later this year, we hope), we can tell it’s going to be a big hit. How do we know? It starts with an Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform, which gives it credentials right there. Plus the new body styling is sleek, contemporary, and extremely attractive. It does remind us of the rear quarter of the Ford Fusion, but that’s a good spin, since both cars are striking in their design.
The 200 is all new, including where it’s built: a completely revamped production facility in Sterling Heights, Michigan, with a fully robotic body shop, leading-edge paint shop, and a chance to do good for Michigan by revitalizing a plant and providing jobs where the alternative was a total shut down of the facility.
The new 200 features the new face of Chrysler, with an integrated grille and headlamps, the first viewing of the updated Chrysler wing badge, and signature light pipes or full LED DRLs. The 200 is available in S and C models. The S is for Sport, with a monochromatic look: gloss-black trim and accent pieces, black surround on the areas around the side windows, and integrated dual exhausts. Toss in 19-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels, and this is one bad mamajama. The 200C is more the classy trim, with bright instead of dark trim, but no less appealing.
Inside the 200 is more of the same: high quality materials, well-thought-out design, and a long list of cool features, such as a rotary transmission shifter, sliding cupholders, and interior colors and trim inspired by great American cities, like Sausalito, Detroit, and New York City.
Now that Fiat owns Chrysler all out, besides platforms, Chrysler vehicles will be using a lot of Fiat-based engines, such as the 2.4-liter MultiAir Tigershark inline four that’s currently powering some Dodge products. This engine in the new 200 produces 184 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. For those requiring more power, there’s the available — and well-respected — Pentastar V6, good for a best-in-class horsepower number of 295 and 262 lb-ft of torque. Although fuel-economy numbers have yet to be released, Chrysler is claiming improvements of up to 13 percent.
On top of all these improvements, Chrysler has also loaded the 200 with a host of state-of-the-art technology features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, and more. Standouts: Uconnect touchscreen is fast and easy to interact with, a segment-first nine-speed transmission, a rubber mat with an embossed skyline of Detroit, and Safe Hold, which keeps the vehicle static if the driver opens the door and unlatches the seatbelt with the vehicle still in forward or reverse gears.
2014 Dodge Dart Blacktop
Over 83,000 sales of the Dodge Dart has helped Chrysler step up sales. For 2014, Dodge had added the Blacktop version to the lineup. What makes it a Blacktop includes 18-inch gloss-black aluminum wheels, blackout grille, integrated dual exhausts, dark surround on the headlamps, foglamps and mirror caps, and a choice of two unique interiors. It looks Mopar-ish, without going full Mopar. It will be available in a variety of exterior colors, and costs only $295 as part of the Dart SXT trim with the Rallye Appearance Group. Dodge says the vehicle will go on sale at the end of February across the country. Standouts: Sinister look that adds a toughness to the Dart that it really needed to make it feel more like a performance vehicle.
2015 GMC Canyon
Not to be outdone by sister division Chevrolet, which introduced its Colorado midsize truck at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November last year, GMC introduced the Canyon midsize pickup as a replacement to its previous Canyon. GM midsize pickup truck sales are dismal compared to their full-size brothers, selling less than 5,000 units last year. The Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier combined were roughly a little over 200,000 total sales in 2013, which is what the new Colorado and Canyon hope to take a chunk of with these new models. The Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota midsize trucks have left the building.
The GMC Canyon is an attractive truck, with more upscale style and trim than the Colorado. Up front are class-exclusive standard projector beam headlamps and the familiar GMC identifiable C-shaped LED DRLs. The Canyon comes in three body configurations: crew cab with a five- or six-foot bed, and an extended cab with a six-foot bed. There are three trim levels: base, SLE, and SLT, and also a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. Other appreciated exterior features include the segment first CornerStep rear bumper adopted from the Sierra full-size truck, a tailgate that’s easy to lift, lower, and lock, a factory-installed spray-in bedliner, and a range of 16-, 17- or 18-inch aluminum wheels.
Inside the Canyon is nicely appointed, and looks better than a pickup interior should. There’s plenty of storage room, a quality sound system, halo lighting, and uplevel items like heated leather seats on the SLT. You can even opt for the All-Terrain package that includes embossed seatbacks and unique contrasting stitching. Opt for a level of connectivity that includes navigation, OnStar 4G LTE with built-in WiFi hotspot, IntelliLink, and GMC’s new AppShop, that allows customers to download apps directly to their system and organize, update, or delete them at will.
Powering the new Canyon will be either a 2.5-liter 193-horsepower I4 or a 3.6-liter 302-horsepower V6, both mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul mode. Later in the model’s lifecycle (2016) will be a Duramax 2.8-liter turbodiesel. Look for max towing numbers of 6,700 pounds, and a max payload of 1,450 pounds. Both expected to be best in class. Standouts: GMC upscale yet tough truck look, car-like technologies such as forward collision alert and lane departure warning, and GM AppShop.
2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Second only to the BMW 3-Series in sales in the small luxury-car segment, Mercedes-Benz is turning up the heat by introducing the new C-Class. The C-Class is the best-selling vehicle for the Teutonic brand, so an all-new model better be as great or greatly improved over the previous iteration. Luckily for Mercedes-Benz, it is. The new C-Class looks modern, with a freshened exterior that doesn’t lose any of the elegance we’ve come to love about Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Large wheels, short overhangs, and balanced proportions make the new C-Class an attractive ride. The first two models for sale in the U.S. will be the C300 4MATIC and the C400 4MATIC, which come with a choice of two fascias. First is a sporty look, with a bit more restraint, while the second face has a more aggressive nose and lower intake.
Inside is a quality interior, with the focal point being a free-standing center display screen of seven or eight inches diagonally, looking very much like an iPad. There’s also a head-up display that provides information on vehicle speed, speed limits, navigation, and adaptive cruise control.
Powering the new C-Class is a 2.0-liter turbocharged direct-injection four cylinder that produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque in the C300. The C400 features a 3.0-liter version of the same turbo engine, but with 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are matched to a seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission. The suspension is all new, and features a four-link front axle along with a multilink rear setup. There’s an optional air suspension that provides the driver with a choice of settings: Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Sport Plus.
A host of safety features and technology are expected in a Benz, and the new C-Class doesn’t disappoint: Active Park Assist, 360-degree camera, Active Lane Keeping Assist and more provide the driver with every possible protection in the event of a collision. Standouts: Pelvis airbags for driver and front passenger, tunnel detection that closes the air recirculation flap when in a tunnel and reopens it when exiting the tunnel, and a touchpad on the center tunnel that can read handwriting in any language.
2015 Mercedes-Benz S-Class
When it comes to the best of the best, the Mercedes-Benz S600 ranks right up there with the likes of Bentley and Rolls-Royce. The crown jewel is the S600 with V12 biturbo engine, featuring 523 horsepower and 612 lb-ft of torque. On sale this spring, the new S-Class is available in a long-wheelbase version with a fully loaded equipment package. The flagship model (Maybach is dead) carries the technology torch for the brand, and features a laundry list of mega-gizmo items that would make the Space Shuttle blush. Magic Body Control suspension with road surface scan and driver assistance is standard. Driver assistance includes lane keeping, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, steering assist, pre-charged brakes, collision prevention assist plus, and more. The new S also features a touchpad that recognizes handwriting. Standouts: 50 years of S-Class heritage, V12 engine, standard ECO start/stop, Pedestrian Recognition system.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG
With a lot of new products this year, Mercedes-Benz had plenty of fun at the auto show in Detroit. The third vehicle it showed off was an AMG-ized version of the compact GLA SUV. The GLA45 AMG, when it goes on sale, will be the most powerful series-production four-cylinder engine in the world, with an output of 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. That means it will scoot from zero-to-60 mph in less than five seconds.
The GLA45 AMG will differ from the regular GLA in design via the painted matte titanium gray AMG twin-blade radiator grille and front splitter. For those with a spotter’s guide, the new AMG GLA can be identified because of the new AMG letters at the side between the slats of the grille. There’s a choice of three designs for the alloy wheels, and aluminum roof rails grace the top of the SUV. Chromeplated twin tailpipes finish the back.
Inside gets the same performance treatment, with sport seats, red safety belts, a three-spoke sport steering wheel, and an AMG Racetimer. For those who desire even more, there’s a long list of options that includes carbon-fiber trim and real leather upholstery.
When it comes to performance, this is AMG’s shining moment. The powerful SUV features a seven-speed sports transmission with three modes, including a Race Start function. There’s also manual shift mode and an ECO mode with start/stop, although we have no idea who would ever turn it on in this vehicle. Other features include standard four-wheel drive, hi-perf brakes, and a sport suspension. Standouts: “Edition 1” special option, carbon fiber inside and out, and speed shift features similar to those in the SLS AMG Coupe Black Series.
Volvo Concept XC Coupe
Volvo has big plans for the next few years. The automotive industry is cyclical, everyone gets a turn at the top, and everyone gets a turn at the bottom. Volvo has been on the down cycle for the past few years, but is slowly moving on the uptick side of the circle. A new president for the U.S. market who understands what it’s going to take to make Volvo truly relevant is a first step. Next is to produce great products, and we’ve already seen two that are built off Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture, or SPA. First we saw the Volvo Concept Coupe, and introduced in Detroit was the Concept XC Coupe, which is a hint at what the upcoming XC90 SUV will look like. If this concept is even close to the new model, Volvo will be enjoying a tremendous level of popularity soon.
The Concept XC Coupe is more aerodynamic than ever before, with clean surfacing and really cool headlights split by a body-colored bar. The Concept XC SUV features large, 21-inch wheels, two doors, and four seats, although when the production model rolls around, we’re fairly certain it will have two more doors and seat five in comfort. Since this is a concept, there are no performance details, but we are confident the XC will offer at least the new Drive-E fuel-efficient four-cylinder engines, which we will be posting more about at CarBuzzard soon.
Volvo’s designer Thomas Ingenlath is doing a great job for Volvo, with these two concepts showing the world what the Swedish manufacturer is capable of creating. There’s one more concept to show us, but that will be unveiled either at the Chicago Auto Show or NYC. Standouts: Floating grille, T-shaped DRL guides, and wide rear haunches.