Each week, CarandDrivers German correspondent slices and dices the latest rumblings, news, and quick-hit driving impressions from the other side of the pond. His byline may say Jens Meiners, but we simply call him . . . the Continental.
BMW’s F30 3-series architecture is one of the industry’s most fertile, with the latest body variation, the 4-series Gran Coupe, coming to market in just two years. (The F30 platform sits beneath the 3-series sedan, Gran Turismo, and wagon, and a version also underpins the 4-series coupe and convertible.) The four-door Gran Coupe is quite a bit more expensive than a 3-series sedan and not as practical as the 3-series Gran Turismo, but it is probably the most beautiful variation of the platform next to the 4-series coupe. The hatchback shape with its short, stubby deck reminds me of the premium hatches of the 1980s, such as the Merkur Scorpio and the Saab 9000.
While it might seem like BMW is chasing every conceivable niche, and even inventing new ones (X6, anyone?), it unfortunately won’t be chasing the small, high-performance four-door-coupe genre. An M4 Gran Coupe isn’t in the cards, BMW sources tell me, because that particular niche is just too small. There will be the M3 sedan, the M4 coupe, and the M4 cabriolet—and that’s it.
In other BMW news, the automaker might drop the “Modern Line” equipment level from its portfolio soon. Sold in Europe as an alternative to the base model, as well as the somewhat conservative “Luxury Line” and sporty “Sport Line,” the “Modern” trim aims to create a wellness-type environment with soft, monochromatic colors schemes and unusual (modern!) materials. (A 4-series cockpit thus equipped is pictured above.) I am told that most customers dislike the look, especially the light-colored steering wheel and the three-dimensional “Fineline Pure” wood trim. Personally, I disagree with them, and I applaud BMW’s courage to try out new color and trim designs. If I were in the market for a new 3-series, mine would be a manual-transmission 335i with the “Modern Line” package.
The V-class. Its sister model, the Vito, will come to the U.S.
Vito for America, No Qoros for Europe—Yet
It is not clear yet whether Mercedes-Benz will bring its new V-class family van to the U.S. market. The passenger van would fill a niche long ago inhabited by the Volkswagen Eurovan. But I got confirmation from the company that the V-class’s commercial-van sister model, the Vito, will be sent stateside. It’ll be powered by Benz’s ubiquitous 2.1-liter, OM651 turbodiesel, and even though the Vito hasn’t been unveiled yet, it likely won’t look much different from the V-class.
We had thought that the Qoros 3 hatchback was designed mainly for Europe.
The Chinese auto revolution in Europe will be delayed. Qoros, the offspring of a joint venture by Chery and an Israeli corporation, was supposed to be launched in key European markets by 2015. Now the brand’s vice chairman Volker Steinwascher, a former VW executive, says that it is “not clear when we will come to Europe,” adding, “Europe is not attractive right now.” Steinwascher was speaking at the CAR Symposium in Bochum, which is organized by Professor Ferdinand Dudenhöffer and is regarded as one of the big events on the automotive calendar in Germany.
This will be the fastest street-legal Astra ever.
Some Geneva Auto Show News
News about the upcoming Geneva auto show’s big debuts is beginning to trickle in. Here’s a photo of the upcoming Opel Astra OPC Extreme (written in all caps by Opel). According to Opel, this OPC will be the fastest street-legal Astra ever, and a low-volume production run is promised, as well. There are few details, but this racy picture is more than enough to whet our appetite. So . . . how about that Buick version?
Meanwhile, Liechtenstein-based nanoFLOWCELL AG has announced a concept car called the Quant for Geneva. It is running and driving prototype of a fully electric, S-class–sized four-door sedan, and will be used to help evaluate energy flow and charging and regeneration strategies in electric cars. I, for one, am mostly curious about the styling—just look at that teaser shot above. Also, this is the first car to come out of Liechtenstein in a very long time; anyone remember the Jehle Saphier? We’ll wait while you Google that one.
At this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, Audi unveiled a prototype laser headlight system on the hot Sport Quattro concept car. So is laser light the next big thing after halogen, HID, and full LED headlights? In a word, no. Engineers tell me that laser light won’t be able to emit the wide carpet of light needed for low-beam applications. But it will be an excellent addition to today’s LEDs and HIDs, as it provides an extremely powerful high-beam functionality. And it sounds cool to say your car has “laser light,” doesn’t it?
AMG has just celebrated its most successful year ever, having sold 32,200 AMG-badged cars globally. The compact and relatively affordable A45 AMG and CLA45 AMG models undoubtedly will further boost this figure, and the brutish G63 AMG SUV continues to sell in record numbers. Congratulations are in order to AMG chief Tobias Moers, and to his predecessors Volker Mornhinweg and Ola Källenius, who helped to put the current program on track to success.
Meanwhile, corporate Daimler drama is unfolding around the sudden departure of Mercedes-Benz commercial vehicle chief Andreas Renschler. The executive is rumored to be headed to the Volkswagen Group, where he could take charge of that outfit’s commercial vehicle group once former Scania chief Leif Östling retires. However, Daimler chief Dieter Zetsche reportedly has said that Renschler won’t be working for a competitor “in the foreseeable future.” Let’s see how this one will unfold . . .
One final remark on this year’s Super Bowl commercials, which my colleagues have covered ad nauseam: Is it just me, or did Audi model its mildly terrifying Doberhuahua creature after the Mercedes-Benz CLA-class?