Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ
Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ

The ever-expanding mid-size Mercedes-Benz range is about to grow with the German premium giant taking the wraps off its E-Class coupe. The two-door, four-seat hardtop will join the E-Class sedan and is expected to be joined by a convertible in 2018-19.

It will adopt the powertrain choices from the E-Class sedan, with its three-chamber air suspension system, part-autonomous driving technology, widescreen cockpit layout and smartphone integration.

It is a longer, wider car, with more interior space than its predecessor.

Benz claims most of the gains in wheelbase and height have been given over to the rear-seat occupants. It insists full-size adults can sit comfortably in the rear for long periods thanks to a 74mm increase in legroom and a 15mm jump in headroom.

It will launch internationally with three petrol engines and a single diesel, giving it a power range from 135kW to 245kW, though a thicker soup of engines will follow, as will all-wheel drive versions. Local models are yet to be confirmed and we expect an AMG version to be on its way too.

No mini for Mini

British car maker Mini has built its last mini, with senior officials saying the brand will never have a smaller car. Owned by the German BMW Group, Mini’s line-up will continue to get bigger, as highlighted by the second-generation Countryman due early in 2017.

With its smallest car nearly twice the weight of the original 617kg Mini and 767mm longer, the Mini name has become a brand, rather than an ethos.

The current Mini hatch will be the smallest car the BMW owned company will make going forward.  NEWSPRESS  UK
The current Mini hatch will be the smallest car the BMW owned company will make going forward. NEWSPRESS UK

BMW Group director of sales and marketing Ian Robertson says Mini will never build a car smaller than the current three-door Cooper hatch, even if it promised to deliver greater volumes.

"The Mini is not a small car," Robertson said. "To go smaller, demand and profitability is the issue. Below that segment (the Cooper three-door), that’s huge, huge volume and what do you get out of it?"

Acknowledging Mini’s volumes could leap if a cheaper, smaller car anchored the range, Robertson said that was not an upside for the premium small brand.

"A lot of the growth around the world is UKL (the BMW Group’s small, front-drive architecture that hosts every car in the Mini family, along with the BMW X1 and the 2-Series Active Tourer) and small models.

"Do you go after profitability further up the range or small volume? That’s the trade."

An electric BMW M5?   Picture: PROOF MEDIA
An electric BMW M5? Picture: PROOF MEDIA

Ironically, environmental concerns and the forthcoming European 95g limit for a car company’s fleet CO2 emissions are other reasons why BMW is shying away from a smaller Mini.

"In the past smaller models gave you higher compensation for CO2, but it’s not like that anymore now that we have plug-in hybrid systems in the big cars. But if you put a plug-in hybrid feature down there (in a mini Mini) you have a price imbalance you can’t recover."

Accent on refinement

Hyundai is testing the fifth-generation Accent, due in 2017. Do not expect radical styling changes though, with the company choosing an evolutionary design. Instead it will focus on refinement and improving fuel efficiency.

It will feature a 1.6l four-cylinder petrol motor that will be paired with a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Bavarian diamond

Until now, the development model for the Rolls-Royce Cullinan has been shown wearing a suit made from the body of the Phantom. Now the model, due in 2018, has been spotted looking more SUV-like. Our sources spied the model in Munich, near the testing and development facility of BMW, which owns Rolls. The Cullinan SUV will sit on a similar platform to the upcoming BMW X7.

The Rolls-Royce Cullinan has been spotted testing near BMW in Munich.   Picture: NEWSPRESS  UK
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan has been spotted testing near BMW in Munich. Picture: NEWSPRESS UK

The company is pulling no punches when it comes to insisting it will be the best SUV in the world. Rolls CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos recently said: "The Bentley (Bentayga) SUV is clearly the number two; Rolls-Royce is the best in the world and will be when our model arrives. We will bring a great new car, and an authentic Rolls-Royce into the market."

Those be fighting words, although of course in a more classy, Rolls-Royce kind of way.

Auction madness

At an RM Sotheby’s classic car auction in Milan recently, more than €51m was raised through the sale of more than 800 cars and boats. Big-ticket items included a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Alloy that went under the hammer at €3.416m. A 2004 Maserati MC12 was the most expensive of its breed by fetching €3.024m.

This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Alloy went under the hammer at €3,416,000 in Milan recently.   Picture: RM
This 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/6C Alloy went under the hammer at €3,416,000 in Milan recently. Picture: RM

The extraordinary prices for lower-end vehicles and items caught our attention. Mundane cars such as a 1990 Fiat Panda 4x4 brought €13,400, while a 2008 Mini Cooper S Clubman brought €19,040 and a 2007 Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet €16,800. A 1957 Beetle Cabriolet sold for €44,800.

It didn’t stop at exotic cars, though, with a child’s toy D-Type Jaguar bringing €30,420 while a lit Coca-Cola sign went for €32,760. Clearly someone who spent millions on an exotic classic felt they had to take something else home for the family to distract them from the main purchase.

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