The Continental: More G-Wagens, the AMG GT, and BMW M3 / M4 Tidbits

The Continental

Each week, our 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.

Mercedes-Benz G-class cabriolet

The last short-wheelbase G-wagens are being sold in Europe.

Mercedes-Benz has sent strong hints about a fabric-top convertible based on the S-class coupe; in fact, we reported the very same thing last year. Now, R&D chief Thomas Weber has officially confirmed to me the droptop S-class is happening. I expect it to launch in mid-2015, one year after the series-production version of the S-class coupe arrives.

The Mercedes-Benz G-wagen, now in its 34th year of production, continues to do well; sales this year have already exceeded last year’s 12-month total; 2013 will likely be the G-wagen’s most successful year ever. It is built for Daimler by Austrian supplier and coachbuilder Magna Steyr, who is announcing an expansion of capacity to keep up with the growing demand for this automotive veteran. Magna Steyr informs us: “Currently, the plant is producing more units than ever before due to model variations and the popularity of the vehicle in expanding global markets such as China and the Middle East.”

For 2013, the G-wagen—oops, that was supposed to be “G-class”—received its latest face lift, an enhancement concocted using a box full of parts from Benz’s different model lineups. Outwardly, its biggest change was the addition of LED daytime running lights with a distinctly aftermarket look. Since then, it is somewhat obnoxiously identified as the “best G of all times” in Daimler’s press materials.

Meanwhile, the G-wagen cabriolet, the last short-wheelbase variation of the G, is going out of production. The last examples of the final edition G500 cabriolet are currently being sold off. But every other model has a bright future ahead—at least until 2019. That’s when the manufacturing contract with Magna Steyr runs out. And I believe it will be extended.

Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG coupe

Get one while you can: The awesome AMG 6.2 engine will soon be history.

Goodbye SLS, Hello GT

There is another final edition Benz coming up, but in this case it’s the SLS AMG. This awesome supercar will be taken off the market some time in 2014 and won’t get a direct successor. Instead, the SLS platform will be evolved into a two-door sports car internally called C190. There will be several power levels, and an open-top version will follow the coupe. It will be called the AMG GT, and expect it to be a Porsche 911 fighter both in price and in character.

The departure of the SLS AMG will also spell the end of the road for that model’s awesome 6.2-liter V-8, an entirely standalone AMG engine. You can get a variation of it in the current C63 AMG, but its days are numbered, too. The future is turbocharged.

The Pay Up

Volkswagen has started selling the fully electric e-Up in Germany. It delivers 82 horsepower, goes from zero to 62 mph in 12.1 seconds and reaches 80 mph. The electrified minicar weighs 2676 pounds; VW says the car’s driving range is “75 to 102 miles in summer” and “50 to 75 miles in winter.” It will set buyers back the equivalent of $30,555 before taxes.

By comparison, a regular Up, powered by a 60-hp three-cylinder engine, needs 14.4 seconds to get to 62 mph, but it can reach 100 mph. It tips the scales at a mere 2048 pounds, the tank holds 9.2 gallons of fuel, and at 52.3 mpg (an extra $450 will get you an eco package that increases mileage to 57.4 mpg) range is a non-issue. The Up comes in at the equivalent of $11,330.

Volkswagen is launching the e-Up on the swanky island of Sylt this week, where property is more expensive than anywhere else in Germany. It’s pictured here in front of one of those wind turbines—fondly referred to as “bird shredders”—popping up all over the country right now.

Albert Biermann, Vice President Engineering BMW M Division

Yours truly listening to M GmbH’s chief engineer Albert Biermann.

More M3 and M4 Details

Last week, BMW let down its guard a bit to give us a sneak peak of the upcoming F80 M3 sedan and F82 M4 coupe. BMW ended production of the current E90/E92 M3 in September; there is a significant gap between the outgoing model and the next one, which we hear won’t appear before late spring 2014. The S55 engine is force-fed by two Mitsubishi turbochargers; you’ve heard that it will come with a ZF six-speed manual or a Getrag seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, but you may not have heard that the manual will feature a torque-matching function during downshifts.

First Drive: 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C Coupe
Comparison Test: 2014 Audi RS7 vs. BMW M6 Gran Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG
First Ride: 2015 BMW M3 and M4 Prototypes

One of the remarkable features of the S55 is the “pre-tensioning” of the turbochargers in Sport and Sport Plus mode; they keep spinning viciously even if you take your foot off the gas and thus provide instant and vicious power when you put your right foot down again. The system works under racetrack conditions and when you are driving hard. Tuners might find it interesting that the carbon-fiber propshaft is tested for velocities up to 205 mph. From the factory, the M3 and M4 will be limited to 155 or 174 mph, though theoretical top speed is around 185 mph. BMW will offer 18- and 19-inch wheels; in both cases, the cars are fitted with is ZR-rated 255/35 tires in the front and 275/35 rubber in the rear.

We will drive the M3 and M4 some time next year. I will say that the ride on the passenger seat of the M4, which topped off the workshop this week, was one of my personal highlights of the year.

About Jens Meiners