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What happens when a Tesla fanboy meets the Mercedes-Benz electric car

On the left, the heavyweight champ of electric cars, the Tesla Model S. On the right, the Mercedes B-class electric. (Vivek Wadwha for The Washington Post)

When Mercedes-Benz contacted me last month to ask whether I would be interested in driving its new B-class electric, I thought they were either too sure of themselves or foolish. Why else would they ask a self-proclaimed Tesla fanboy to reconsider his “breakup” with them? In February 2013, I wrote that after driving my Model S, I couldn’t drive my Mercedes–Benz any more — it was like listening to an old cassette tape. I compared my Tesla to a supermodel working a Paris catwalk and the Porsches and Ferraris owned by my friends to supercharged lawn mowers.

But this e-mail was from a stodgy old German car company, not from a brash kid in Silicon Valley. So I decided to take them up on their offer.

My first reaction upon driving the car was that these people surely were smoking something if they thought I would trade in my Tesla for this four-door hatchback. It just didn’t have the acceleration or torque. It felt slow and small. But then I realized that wasn’t a fair comparison. They’re cars of different categories and prices. It wasn’t an either, or: this car was for a different market. The Mercedes public relations team had just been very creative in getting my attention.

(Vivek Wadwha for The Washington Post)
Diedra Wylie from Mercedes-Benz drops the car off in my driveway. (Vivek Wadwha for The Washington Post)

The B-class electric is indeed a great small car. It is as quiet as a Tesla Model S; it drives with comfort and elegance. And it is relatively economical. The base price of the Mercedes is $41,450; the Tesla costs $69,900. (But all electric cars qualify for $10,000 tax rebates on those prices in the state of California.) Of course, you get a lot more in a Tesla, including a battery with twice the range, an Internet-connected dashboard, and an 8-year “infinite miles” warranty. But a Mercedes has its own old-world elegance.

The Mercedes is certainly better than the three other electric cars I have driven: the Nissan Leaf, the Toyota Prius, and the Chevrolet Volt. It’s also about $10,000 more expensive. But it’s much better than any Mercedes I have driven. It accelerates without hesitation, doesn’t have the deafening engine noise, and gives you excellent control of the car with its regenerative braking system. It surely helps that Tesla makes the Mercedes B-class motor, as well as its battery technology.

What most surprised me was that Mercedes underestimates the range of its battery. Its rated range is 85 miles. In the Tesla, I usually allow for 20 percent more consumption than the rated range, because I drive the car… like a Tesla (you can’t resist rapidly accelerating the car to the speed limit—it’s like getting a spaceship up to warp speed). In the Mercedes, I made a trip of 67 miles with 80 miles on the power gauge, and had 30 miles to spare. I drove in electron-conserving “E” mode because I was worried about running out of power, but I never get this type of efficiency when I drive in the similar “range mode” in the Tesla.

The real competitor to the B-class is likely to be the BMW i3—and a slew of other luxury cars to be released over the next couple of years. Every car maker is surely preparing for the inevitable future when electric engines replace the primitive internal-combustion engines that have too long driven our automobiles.  Bart Herring, Mercedes–Benz U.S.A. general manager of product management believes there will be a transition period over a decade and there will be many choices of engines. But as he explained, you can expect that more and more “normal” cars in 2025-2030 will be battery-driven or hydrogen-fueled.

My bet is on electric batteries. Earlier this year, Tesla announced that it was building a “Gigafactory”—a gigantic $5 billion plant to produce 35GWh of battery storage a year (more than in all the lithium-ion batteries produced worldwide in 2013). Tesla set expectations that prices will drop by 30 percent when it starts ramping up production in 2017.  The capability and range of batteries will undoubtedly increase significantly, and I expect that they will double their driving range and halve their cost by about 2020.

Even if fuel cell–based technologies win the race, electric motors will still rule the day. These technologies generate electricity as needed and allow for much faster charging than the Tesla type of vehicle does. Either way, we are going to see dramatic changes in the economics of the automobile industry. Electric cars will be cheaper, faster, and better in almost every way than internal-combustion alternatives. We will all be upgrading to clean technologies and enjoying driving our “spaceships that travel on land.”

Let me correct myself. I expect that our cars will be driving themselves…but that is a different story.

Related: Tesla’s success is a victory for anyone who loves the environment (March 2014)

Confessions of a Tesla fanboy, Part I (Feb. 2013)

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Cadillac Flagship Confirmed for 2015 New York Auto Show; Don’t Call It LTS …

Cadillac Elmiraj concept

Cadillac Elmiraj concept

Cadillac’s all-new, full-size sedan will bow at the 2015 New York auto show, but its name remains a mystery. Although we previously reported that the rear-wheel-drive four-door will go by the name LTS, a spokesman told Car and Driver this week, “that may not be what it’s called.”

GM trademarked LTS back in 2012, and we took that as a sign that the moniker was earmarked for Cadillac’s next car, as the company rarely reserves names without using them. Yet the spokesman indicated that executives are currently involved in some corporate soul-searching regarding the brand’s naming strategy as they add new models to compete with the expansive lineups of Mercedes-Benz and BMW. Johan de Nysschen, the man who renamed the entire Infiniti lineup for 2014, started his job as Cadillac president on August 18. Don’t expect this new car to be named Fleetwood or de Ville, though. And let’s hope it doesn’t get the QTS moniker. Whatever the outcome, it’s likely that Cadillac will continue to contribute its share to the alphabet soup that has garbled the entire luxury auto industry.

2016 Cadillac LTS (spy photo)

2016 Cadillac LTS (spy photo)

Spy shots of the large Caddy (shown above) reveal that it won’t be as dramatic or as striking as the 2013 Cadillac Elmiraj concept (shown at the top). Instead, expect a traditional large sedan similar in style to the CTS. The full-size Cadillac will be the first car built on GM’s new Omega architecture and will offer the option of either rear- or all-wheel drive. We expect an eight-speed automatic will swap gears for a twin-turbocharged 3.6-liter V-6, which makes 420 horsepower in the CTS Vsport. A small-block V-8 and a less powerful six-cylinder variant are also possibilities.

Although sales volumes of cars this large are typically inconsequential (outside of China and the Middle East), Cadillac execs hope that building a competitor to the BMW 7-series, the Mercedes-Benz S-class, and the Audi A8 will elevate the brand’s image in the eyes of luxury-car buyers.

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Motorcyclist Pulls Off Miraculous Recovery After Collision With Car

Usually a collision on the highway would means injuries are sure to follow, but what happens in this video ends in a completely unexpected manner. The incredible nature of the chain of events will most likely cause you to watch the footage a couple of times.

At first, it just looks like a normal drive on a bridge, when suddenly, a motorcycle comes into view and goes full speed into another vehicle in front of it. What’s astonishing is that the rider doesn’t go down. Instead, the motorcyclist goes full-on Spider-Man and appears to land on the roof of the car he or she collided with.

Differing accounts place it in either Russia or Belarus. Like many other incredible videos, the 30-second clip is recorded on a dashboard camera, which has become more popular in former Soviet states as a way to film potentially corrupt police.

Now some are claiming that the video is too incredible to be real, but what do you think? Is it legit? 

Let us know in the comments below.

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Field of Dreams, 2014: Vintage Metal Gathers at the Quail Lodge

1956 Ferrari 250GT Boano Cabriolet - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 20141956 Ferrari 250GT Boano Cabriolet - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2014

One of the must-see events during Car Week on the Monterey peninsula is The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering. Held at its namesake, the Quail Lodge, the show attracts the best vintage metal and even a few new-car debuts like the Lamborghini Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo. More than 150 vintage cars were on display this year. Here are four that got our attention.

1956 Ferrari 250GT Boano Cabriolet - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 20141956 Ferrari 250GT Boano Cabriolet - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2014

Purchased off the show floor at the 1956 New York auto show, this Ferrari is still with its original owner. The most striking part of this Boano-bodied Ferrari are its tailfins. The only convertible in a run of about 75 cars, the car cost $9500 in 1956. That’s roughly $83,000 in today’s cash, a serious bargain.

1977 Lancia Scorpion - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 20141977 Lancia Scorpion - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2014

Not every car at the Quail is a multi-million-dollar rarity. Case in point: the 1977 Lancia Scorpion shown here. The absolute best one in the world, one like this unrestored example, can be had for less than $20,000. A mid-engine two-seater powered by a 1.8-liter four with Fiat roots, the Scorpion is known as the Montecarlo in Europe. But, Chevrolet’s Monte Carlo forced the name change to Scorpion for the U.S. market.

1968 Lotus Type 56 - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 20141968 Lotus Type 56 - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2014

A turbine-powered four-wheel-drive race car that competed and nearly won the 1968 Indy 500, this 56 was raced by Graham Hill and qualified on the front row. Hill crashed during the race, but his teammate in an identical car was leading the field on lap 191 of 200 when the fuel pump failed. Subsequently, turbine engines were banned from the Indy 500.

1935 Bugatti Type 57SC Competition Electron Torpedo - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 20141935 Bugatti Type 57SC Competition Electron Torpedo - The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering 2014

The first of the Type 57S Bugattis built, this magnesium-bodied car was at the 1935 Paris auto show. The body is entirely riveted together without any welds and nickel-plated to protect against oxidation. It’s stunning, even for a Type 57. Jean Bugatti himself used it to set a nonsupercharged-car speed record of 129 mph in 1936. But that was 1936; the car now has a supercharged engine.

Be sure to check out our photo gallery and see more pictures of awesome machines from the Quail Lodge Motorsports Gathering.

Field of Dreams, 2014: Vintage Metal Gathers at the Quail LodgeField of Dreams, 2014: Vintage Metal Gathers at the Quail Lodge

2014 Pebble Beach Weekend full coverage2014 Pebble Beach Weekend full coverage

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Heavy Hitter: 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Curb Weight Leaked

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe
Despite its abundant use of lightweight materials throughout its structure and its aero-honed body, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 will be the heaviest Corvette in history—and not by a little. Thanks to “a friend” of (who we’re not sure is a true “friend” of GM), the 2015 Corvette ordering guide is now public domain, including previously unknown product information about the Z06.

From that document we’ve learned that the Corvette Z06 coupe will weigh 3524 pounds, 226 pounds more than the 2015 Corvette Stingray coupe, while the Z06 convertible will tip the scales at 3582 pounds, some 220 more than the Stingray ragtop. Incidentally, this is 171 pounds heavier, according to Chevrolet, than the 2013 Corvette ZR1 and 325 more than the 2013 Corvette Z06. Such is the price of more sophisticated suspension hardware, structural enhancements, plus a fat Eaton supercharger and all of its attendant plumbing on the 6.2-liter LT4 V-8.

Not that the extra weight should bog down the car too much: the Z06 will produce a rip-snortin’ 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, yielding an output-to-weight ratio very close to that of the ZR1, which pumped out 638 horses and 604 lb-ft. So you don’t have to do the math, that’s 5.42 lb/hp for the 2015 Z06 versus 5.26 for the ZR1, and 5.42 lb/lb-ft of torque for the new Z06 coupe versus 5.55 lb/lb-ft for the ZR1.

Given what a screamer the ZR1 turned out to be, we foresee great things coming from this car both on road and track. Watch this space for a full test of the Z06 in the next few months.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 coupe

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Video shows fleeing car crash into Sausalito cafe

Surveillance video has emerged of a crash that injured four people at a popular cafe following a police pursuit in Sausalito Tuesday morning.

The chase stemmed from a domestic violence incident Monday night in Marin City, Sausalito police officials told KTVU, in which a suspect assaulted the mother of his child.

A Marin County sheriff’s deputy spotted the suspect, identified as 20-year-old Derrick McCann, of Marin City, around 9 a.m. Tuesday near Gate 6 Road in Sausalito driving a Buick sedan with a woman and child, the Marin Independent Journal reported.

The deputy reportedly pursued McCann, who eluded officers for a little more than a mile before rear-ending another vehicle stopped an an intersection and crashing into Fred’s Place at 1917 Bridgeway, where customers where eating at roadside tables.

As the video shows, two of the three customers jumped out of the way, but one was pinned by debris until onlookers helped free him. He suffered minor injuries.

“We are very fortunate we didn’t have more injuries and fatalities,” Police Chief Jennifer Tejada told KTVU. “The coffee shop is a very popular destination for locals to get their morning coffee.”

McCann allegedly fled on foot after the crash, but was chased down and arrested on the roof of a nearby restaurant.

Four people were taken to the hospital, including the suspect, the mother and child in the fleeing vehicle, and the driver of a minivan that was also struck in the wreck. The extent of their injuries was not immediately available.

McCann was arrested on suspicion of grand theft and domestic violence from the Monday night incident, as well as driving without a license, evading a peace officer, cruelty to a child, reckless driving, resisting arrest and committing a felony while out on bail for another felony, a sheriff’s office spokesman said.

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One-seat Wonder: Lamborghini Shows 2015 Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo …

Lamborghini Huracán Super TrofeoLamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo

The Lamborghini Huracán is taking the exotic-car world by storm—pun totally intended—and now is poised to blaze a path into the automaker’s one-make Blancpain racing series in the form of the wild 2015 Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo. The raffishly styled race car makes its official debut at the 2014 Quail Motorsports Gathering in Carmel, California, just one week before the U.S. Blancpain series calendar kicks off at Virginia International Raceway.

As with Lamborghini’s Gallardo Super Trofeo models, this Huracán uses a mostly stock version of the donor car’s direct-injected V-10 engine, which in this case gets a 10-hp bump over the road car’s already substantial 602 horsepower. The standard car’s all-wheel-drive setup is ditched in favor of good ol’ fashioned rear-wheel drive. A hybrid carbon-fiber and aluminum chassis and a hollowed-out, one-seat interior helps bring the purpose-built Huracán racer’s weight down to a feathery 2800 pounds, according to Lamborghini. And of course, the Lambo has an almost freakish amount of aero addenda, including a 10-position rear wing, front and rear air diffusers, adjustable front air intakes, and canards all around.

Lamborghini Huracán Super TrofeoLamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo

Now that we’ve seen the race car, here’s hoping that a roadgoing Super Trofeo “Stradale” version will make an appearance soon so we can see it unleash its torrential downpour of horsepower (and downforce) on the street.

One-seat Wonder: Lamborghini Shows 2015 Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo Race Car at Quail LodgeOne-seat Wonder: Lamborghini Shows 2015 Huracán LP620-2 Super Trofeo Race Car at Quail Lodge2014 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance2014 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

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Name That Shifter, No. 192

Name That ShifterName That Shifter

Shifter No 192

Shifter No 192


It’s Monday, and that means it’s time to present this week’s shifter. You’ll have until mid-day Wednesday to identify the make and model of the vehicle whence this shifter came. The first person to respond correctly in the Backfires section below will win a Save the Manuals button, magnet, and sticker.* Good luck!

(* Offer open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.)

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How to Spot a Flood Damaged Car

Credit challenged consumers should be on the lookout for used cars with water damage that might soon be flooding the market

Watching the Waters

How to Spot a Flood Damaged Car

Here at Auto Credit Express we know it’s been shown that car buyers with bad credit are more likely to buy car with that has suffered some type of water damage. In fact, one Experian Automotive study revealed that “more than 2 percent of the late-model used vehicles (model year 2005 and newer) had a negative vehicle history event (frame damage, salvage, odometer rollback, etc.), which can significantly impact the vehicle’s value.”

The report also noted that buyers with damaged credit are even more at risk of buying a flood damaged vehicle noting that “more than 3 percent of financing outside of prime had negative vehicle history.”

Record Flooding

We were reminded of this fact earlier this week when the Detroit metro area was hit with record-breaking rainfall that caused flash-flooding that trapped thousands of motorists on local freeways.

Images from the days that followed showed all manner of abandoned cars and trucks literally underwater – including at least one car hauler loaded with brand-new vehicles.

The storm was also said to be on its way to the northeastern U.S. where it was expected to cause further damage.

AutoTrader tips

Certainly no coincidentally, earlier today AutoTrader issued a number of tips to help car buyers spot flood-damaged vehicles.

“Damaged vehicles can often end up hundreds of miles away from the flooding event to cities where consumers might not be as suspicious of them,” said Brian Moody, site editor. “It’s important for car shoppers to always be aware that flood damage could be a possibility and be mindful of the signs.”

In the report, AutoTrader noted that flooding can damage vehicle electrical systems and affect the operation of power locks and windows as well as vehicle safety devices. Meanwhile, corrosion and rust, which can often take years to appear, can literally destroy a vehicle”from the inside out.”

To help avoid these issues, Moody and the AutoTrader editorial team came up with these tips for buyers:

  • Look out for hidden rust. Key places to check include the trunk, on exposed screws under the hood, around doors and on exposed metal areas under seats. “Rust in these areas indicates exposure to excessive moisture at some point in the car’s life, and can be difficult for an unscrupulous seller to get to and fix,” Moody says.
  • Give the car a thorough sniff test. The smell of mildew is never a good sign, according to Moody. Areas like underneath carpets and in between gaps in the seats can harbor telltale odors. Also be wary of cars with extra potent or an excessive quantity of air fresheners.
  • Beware of “too good to be true” deals. “If a car seems to be priced well below what similar makes and models are selling for in your area, that’s a big red flag,” Moody says. Sites like can help car shoppers get a sense of a new or used vehicle’s Fair Purchase Price (what cars are selling for locally) through the Price Advisor tool, and shoppers can also look at listings of comparable vehicles on
  • Watch for suspicious mud and debris. Many sellers will thoroughly detail flood-damaged cars before resale, but consumers can sometimes catch hidden areas of mud and debris where it wouldn’t end up normally, such as crevices and corners underneath the hood, in the trunk and on the underside of panels and brackets.
  • Get a vehicle history report. While they may not catch flood damage every time, Moody says history reports are a great initial indicator if a car has had a watery past.
  • Get the car inspected by a reputable mechanic. AutoTrader’s experts recommend getting every used car inspected, regardless of if you suspect something as serious as flood damage. “While it does require some additional time and money, an inspection could save you thousands in the long run,” Moody says.

The Bottom Line

Water damage not only lowers a vehicle’s value, it can cause irreparable damage to a car’s body and electrical systems. Car buyers, especially those with problem credit, would do well to follow the tips from AutoTrader to help them avoid spending their hard earned back credit car loan on a damaged vehicle.

Another helpful tip: Auto Credit Express matches consumers with credit issues to those new car dealers that can offer them their best chances for car loan approvals.

So if you’re ready to reestablish your credit, you can begin now by filling out rel=”nofollow”our online auto loan application.

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Jeff Gordon wins at Michigan

Aug 17, 2014; Brooklyn, MI, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon celebrates in victory lane after winning the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 17, 2014; Brooklyn, MI, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon celebrates in victory lane after winning the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Gordon was able to get out in Joey Logano on a restart in the final 20 laps of the 200-lap Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., on Sunday to claim his third win of the 2014 season and his first win at MIS since 2001. Kevin Harvick also got by Logano in the final laps to continue his streak of consecutive second-place finishes at MIS, adding a fourth-straight to the tally.

“It wasn’t easy,” Gordon said. “It’s never easy to win at any of these tracks, especially when aerodynamics and track position mean so much. I thought we learned a lot the last time we were here on track position. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) just called a perfect race. I kept gettingn on that inside lane and just not getting very good restarts.”

After losing the lead to Gordon, Logano pulled back up beside the eventual race leader, but Gordon got an assist from Harvick to maintain the spot and then Harvick got by Logano for second. Logano also lost third, for a time, to Paul Menard, but was able to get back by in the closing laps. Menard wound up fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five.

“I had a bunch of good ones,” Logano said about his restarts. “The last one wasn’t the greatest. I got through the gear box good and had the 24 cleared, and I should have pulled down in front of him and got that draft, but he got up next to me and pulled me back so hard that I couldn’t get away fromhim. He was able to get position on me into one and once he got that clearn air. I knew I had one more shot. I knew I was really good into one and that was his week point. I drove it off there and got him wiggled a little bit getting undernearth him and cleared him again, but he was able to pull me back again off the corner and then I got loose under him trying to maintain what I had and came in third.”

The yellow flag waved eight times throughout the race, mostly in the first 50 laps and the final 50 laps of the 200-lap race. The first four cautions all came out by lap 36 and the final three all came within the final 32 laps of the event. There was one caution at the midway point of the race.

Logano and Gordon were mainstays up front throughout the race, with Gordon starting on the pole and Logano alongside in second. Logano led a race high 86 laps , while Gordon led 68.

“Whoever got out in front had such a huge advantage,” Gordon said.

Varying pit strategies did put a handful of other drivers up front for a few laps here and there, most notably Ryan Newman. Newman pitted on lap 122, and his team then planned only one more stop through the remaining distance, while everyone else would need two additional stops.

Gordon and Logano, along with most of the race field pitted around lap 139. Then, when Newman made his final stop on lap 162, Gordon, Logano and company then followed a few laps later with their final stops.

After those stops, the sixth caution of the race came on lap 168 and somewhat pushed the reset button on the race with Gordon and Logano up front with everyone on the same pit sequence.

Kurt Busch gpt bu Gordon to take second behind Logano on the restart that followed the lap 168 caution and restarted second to Logano on another restart just a few laps later, but he was the reason for the final caution of the race on lap 178.

Clint Bowyer finished sixth, Denny Hamlin was seventh, and Brad Keselowski eighth. Jimmie Johnson battled a broken shifter lever early but recovered to finish ninth. Greg Biffle rounded out the top-10.

Follow Stock Car Spin on Twitter @SCSblog or like Stock Car Spin on Facebook. Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook: NASCAR Examiner

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