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Singer Alicia Keys was performs at the premiere of the new S-Class. (Mercedes-Benz)
Singer Alicia Keys was performs at the premiere of the new S-Class. (Mercedes-Benz)

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Star-studded debut for Benz S-Class Add to ...

Mercedes-Benz brought together singer-songwriter superstar Alicia Keys, mystery Top Gear driver the Stig, five German star-rated chefs, and the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra recently for a glitzy world debut of the next-generation full-size S-Class sedan.

The Mercedes flagship – which will arrive in Canadian showrooms in November – will once again offer 4MATIC all-wheel drive, diesel, AMG and hybrid versions, but the company also revealed that it is working on a plug-in hybrid that would pull down fuel consumption to Prius-like levels, said Mercedes-Benz Canada president Tim Reuss at the event.

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The swanky introduction took place in a converted Airbus hangar in Hamburg, Germany, where plane “keys” are normally handed over to new customers. The presentation itself was a unique indoor and outdoor combination, the hangar transformed into an upscale theatre with a stage that opened up to reveal the white-suited Stig outdoors, in the pouring rain, with Airbus’ A380 double-decker flagship in the background. That rain didn’t stop the fireworks or fireballs from blazing, as the entire Mercedes-Benz lineup parted to allow the new and now wet S-Class to triumphantly drive onto the covered stage – with R&B star Keys as its passenger.

She stepped out to perform two songs with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, before the crowd dispersed to examine the new S-Class, as well as sample the signature works of five highly rated German chefs, with Mercedes-Benz hailing the event as a unique one-night, 10-star evening.

The S-Class will debut a number of advanced technologies that will likely filter down to other Benz models later, and perhaps other vehicles. Perhaps the most spacey is the “Distronic Plus with Steering Assist and Stop&Go Pilot,” which is meant to lessen the monotony of clogged traffic by slowing down, stopping and commencing acceleration all automatically, while also being able to manoeuvre the car side-to-side in gentle bends enough to stay within its lane at up to 60 km/h. The system can temporarily work without a driver’s hands on the wheel, but after 30 seconds, a warning sounds to remind drivers to take control of the wheel again.

The S-Class also offers autonomous braking with its Pre-Safe Brake system at up to 50 km/h, if the two stereo cameras detect incoming pedestrians or another vehicle. The S-Class claims to be the first vehicle with only LED lights, inside as well as outside the vehicle. The two cameras and the radar sensors also scan the road surface ahead, with the available Magic Body Control instantly adjusting the suspension to smooth out the imperfections.

The S63 AMG model that will arrive in February 2014 will be all-wheel drive only in Canada, said Reuss, with a performance-oriented set-up that sends the majority of power to the rear wheels.

Aston Martin shows new CC100 roadster concept

Aston Martin shows new CC100 roadster concept

To celebrate its centenary, Aston Martin unveiled the CC100, a radical concept car, at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring race in Germany this past weekend. Using a variant of its 6.0-litre V-12 (likely really 5.9-litre, as on its current production cars), the concept car was driven on the track by Aston CEO and enthusiast Ulrich Bez, featuring a shape that foreshadows a possible design direction.

Produced in association with Canadian race and engineering firm Multimatic, based just north of Toronto (which also helped develop and build Aston Martin’s hyper-exotic One-77 supercars), the two-seat CC100 was nicknamed by Bez the DBR100. That’s a reference both to the firm’s 100-year anniversary, as well as its 1959 DBR1 race car, which won the Le Mans 24 Hours race in what Aston Martin calls its greatest sporting achievement on the track.

The column-mounted sequential-manual paddle shifters and Vanquish-based AM11 engine help the CC100 reach 96 km/h in four seconds, while the lack of any real windshield likely limits its 180 mph (290 km/h) top speed.

Detroit brands dominate quality awards

For the first time in more than 10 years, Detroit-based auto makers led the way in the Total Quality Index (TQI) automotive survey by research firm Strategic Vision, with more Michigan-based winners than from firms based overseas.

That is, of course, counting Chrysler as a Detroit-based auto maker and not an Italy-based one, which may be more accurate, but that’s not how the California-based consulting group saw it when releasing its surprising survey. Unlike other “problem aggregator” surveys, SV’s survey measures problems as well as aspects “loved” by owners of 2013 vehicles, looking at more than 442 variables, says the company.

The overall corporation that scored highest in TQI was Volkswagen, for the eighth time in a row, with its luxury brand Audi tied with Lexus for highest overall brand score. Of 21 categories, Detroit-based auto makers scored highest in 12.

The list of winners can be found at strategicvision.com, and include the Chevrolet Volt, Dodge Dart, Kia Soul, Ford Fusion, and Chrysler Town & Country.

McLaren to renew engines by Honda in Formula 1

Honda confirmed that it was headed back into Formula One racing in 2015, hooking up again with the McLaren team with which it enjoyed much success in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but which has fallen on difficult times.

McLaren-Hondas were then driven by such notable drivers as Alain Prost and Aryton Senna, who dominated Formula One in 1988 so much that second place in the constructor’s title race went to Ferrari with 65 points, compared to 199 for McLaren-Honda. However, the two talented drivers feuded publicly in both ’88 and ‘89, with Honda leaving the sport in 1992 and then returning in a spectacularly unsuccessful way as both engine and chassis supplier with Jacques Villeneuve and the BAR team in 2000.

Honda eventually bought out that team for 2006, and despite a few podium finishes, never came close again to its highs in the McLaren-Honda days.

Send your automotive questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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