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Luxury Performance Sedans

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  • lexusguylexusguy Posts: 6,419
    I'm pushing 60, and BMW, Merc, Infiniti & Cadillac are still offering manuals. With luck, I'll die before the manual does. Said more positively, the manual will live much longer than I do.

    Don't be so negative. Even if the stick shift completely disappears from luxury autodom, which I dont think it will, there are plenty of great sports cars just over the horizon, and you can bet they will have MTs. There should be a new S2000, 350Z, and Supra by the end of the decade. BMW has the Z2 on the way, and there's always Porsche of course.
  • I think the disappearance of the stick shift is part of a larger phenomenon, which, if it runs counter to your auto-desires (as it does mine), you’ll find utterly objectionable. This larger phenomenon is that the automobile has been redefined, in America, into an homogenized one-dimensional entity the most-loved characteristic of which is to be transparent -- like comfortable shoes that you forget you’re wearing.

    The automobile is no longer a modern-day horse. The point of selecting one is no longer to end up being excited by it and enjoying the relationship with it (as extension of body-in-motion -- like the horse once was), but to not be bothered by it. The pseudo-scientific use of statistics by CR and JDP has contributed to this by convincing us that we should feel foolish if we have to spend even a couple of days a year taking care of a car.

    The Japanese are sometimes lambasted by the shrinking cadre of American auto enthusiasts for playing the “buy one of ours and you’ll forget you even own a car” card, but, if they’re in bed with CR/JDP, it’s we who have brought them together and given them a home here -- a home they cannot find in their own country. As Business Week pointed out: “ With net profits of $10 billion, double-digit growth in the U.S., and GM's (GM) spot as the world's biggest automaker in sight, Toyota Motor (TM) President Katsuaki Watanabe has had little to complain about since succeeding Fujio Cho as the head of the Japanese automaker last June. Yet for all the great strides being taken by Toyota, Watanabe must be at least a little disheartened by the performance of the upmarket Lexus brand in Japan. The reason? Since the Lexus marque first went on sale in Japan last August, sales have hardly set the world afire (see BW Online, 7/11/05, "Lexus to the Rescue"). Through Dec. 31, only 10,300 Lexus were sold in Japan -- considerably short of Toyota's target of 20,000. What's more, in 2006 the carmaker is only expecting to sell 40,000 Lexus -- still off the the 50,000-60,000 annual target Toyota had mentioned last year.” Nisssan doesn’t even market the Infiniti line in Japan. And it's not because the Japanese are not buying LPS vehicles: "One place where sales are up is the luxury sector, but that's where Japanese brands are weakest. Through July this year, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Porsche registered increases in sales of 10% or higher."

    I think the stick-shift has been a victim of this same American mind-set. I’d call it a car-as-appliance phenomenon, but people still lust after sub-zero refrigerators even though CR indicates they require repairs about three times as often as Kenmores. I got a used Porsche 356B in 1967 and drove it a few times a week for about ten years (still feel it was a disgrace to have ever sold it, but I needed the money). Got a used BMW 2002 a couple of years after that and kept it until 1988. I taught my oldest child to drive on that car. I keep a stick-shift car around and don’t feel suicidal when a clutch needs replacement. I don’t think manual transmissions will disappear anytime soon, maybe not completely at all, but I don’t feel anyone should buy one to support my habit. The bigger problem is not keeping the stick-shift alive in the U.S., but keeping alive (in a critical mass of buyers) the sense of the car as modern day horse (individual personality, enjoyable to care for, requiring skill to ride) rather than a buy-it-and-forget-it object.
  • Well said . . . and this reinforces: "we have met the enemy, and it is us." :cry:
  • deweydewey Posts: 5,243
    Great post!
  • cdnpinheadcdnpinhead Forest Lakes, AZPosts: 3,238
    Let me add to the chorus.

    Very nicely put.

    My '65 MGB, which required more maintenance than any vehicle I had before or since, gave me more pleasure than any of the rest of them either.
  • dan339gdan339g Posts: 56
    Excellent post!

    Although, I find it interesting that the European's appear to have a very different attitude. During my recent travels in the UK on business, I stayed at hotels that seemed to attract a large number of LPS drivers as guests. During my completely random "peek in the window" poll, nearly all of the Audi's, BMW's and Mercedes I looked at were manuals (as were most of all the other cars.) I'm not so sure this is an indicator of driver preference so much as fuel economy, given the price of fuel is double that in the states but I do get the sense that driving is viewed as a more interactive experience for them.

    Another thing that strikes me relating to the US market is the "next generation" of LPS buyers more than likely never learned how to drive a stick. I know my younger siblings were never exposed, and as a result don't even consider them. It's hard to miss what you never had.
  • I have now spent a weekend with a new set of Pirelli Pzero Nero M+S UHP A/S (Z rated) tires in size 245 x 40 x 18" on my 2005 standard suspension A6 3.2 quattro.

    I spent 25k mls. with the OEM tires -- ContiProContact H rated Grand Touring A/S tires in the same size.

    From the day I picked up my new car, I wrote it was under-tired.

    I did mitigate this, somewhat, by almost immediately adding pounds to the tires and attempting to address the Audi's nose heaviness by inflating the tires +3 pounds on the front. I have settled on 39 pounds, front, 36 pounds rear.

    The combination of a 40 series tire with an H rating produces a suboptimal effect. The design and selection by Audi of THIS Grand Touring H rated A/S tire seems to have been for the benefit of what Americans must be perceived to want: i.e., smooth ride and low noise characteristics, low profile appearance and all temperature performance (with a tiny bit of snow traction thrown in for folks who, like me, live in climates that have moderate snowfall and rarely have sub 25 degree temps.)

    The Grand Touring tires would be ideal for long relatively high speed cruises on US Interstate highways. They are NOT so good when it comes to carving up a twisty road, however. The GT tires made the car seem, somewhat, like a boat. On an approach to a curve or turn the car seemed to turn in just a hair after the steering wheel was turned when the car was shod with the H rated GT tires. Not so with the apparently stiffer and stickier Pirelli's. Turn the wheel and the nose instantly goes in the direction you just told it to go.

    The difference is really noticeable on an uphill "S" curve at speeds about 50% higher than the sign indicates is the suggested speed. After I had almost 100 miles on the new shoes they seemed to make the car track up the hillside as the saying goes, "like it was on rails."

    These tires are -- at this point -- quieter than the outgoing Conti's (which still had 4/32" tread left.) They are smooth -- after about one mile's travel if they have been sitting in the garage overnight and, yes, they are slightly "firmer" in road feel almost as if the Contis were like a pair of gloves, insulating some of the road feel from the driver. The Pirellis are like taking the gloves off, with respect to tactile feel.

    The Tirerack rep suggested that even though the wear expectation numbers of these two tires is identical at 400, that there is no uniform standard. He added, the Pirellis probably will go to 3/32's at around 25,000+ miles, whereas the Contis would have probably made it to 30,000 with 3/32's left (2/32's is when it is mandatory to change the tires, BTW.) I paid $156 each (they are now $160) for these tires -- the Contis at the Tirerack were $202.

    I remember the days when Audis came ONLY with UHP or MAX performance Summer only tires. These tires often lasted fewer than 20,000 miles, became noisy after 12,000 - 15,000 and were downright dangerous in Winter. It seems "odd" that Audi (and now Pirelli) is willing to make products specifically for the US market yet will not permit a customer to buy what he wants (or at least may want.)

    Here is what is available and routinely comes on new Audi products.

    Brands: Continental, Dunlop, GoodYear, Michelin and Pirelli.

    Types: Summer only (usually Z rated, sometimes V rated) All Season (almost always H rated, sometimes V rated)

    Aspect Ratios: 55, 50, 45, 40, 35 (in sizes 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20")

    Never say never, but it is ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to get a new Audi with UHP All Seasons, you take the car with UHP Summer tires or HP All Seasons (and the differences between these tire types is NOT AT ALL SUBTLE.)

    I know tires for the Summer and Winter are the "ideal" way to go. And, growing up NORTH of Dayton, Ohio, I was used to the annual ritual of the tire change. Moving south some 80 miles, to Cincinnati, after college, I have rarely seen a time (temp or precip) when a dedicated snow tire would provide any better "go in the snow" capability than a young set of all seasons "W" rated, perhaps on an AWD vehicle. Once, recently, Christmas 2004, we had ice on the Interstate highways. for two days -- thick ice. Perhaps studded snow tires on an SUV would have been good. For most of us, however, it just meant short trips for a day or two. The time before that, as I recall, was a one day level-1 snow day back in 1994. In other words, in this "neck of the woods" the UHP all season tire is a very small performance compromise and when compared with the H rated grand touring all season shoes Audi (and the other Germans and even Japanese) chooses, the handling differences are, to repeat, NOT AT ALL SUBTLE.

    In the same vein, I now have been behind the wheel of an S6 (I did NOT drive it.) It was right next to an SLine (with sport seats) A6. The sport seats in both seem virtually identical. The S6 looks a little "more purposeful" if you get my drift, but the A6 SLine (especially were it to have the 4.2 and if the owner were to spring for the S6 wheels) is also a very handsome piece of work (if you, like me, have grown tolerant of the Big-Mouth look.)

    Here is my plea: let me buy bits and pieces -- sell them to me at a profit -- of the SLine and S and even RS cars. Let me buy a new A6 SLine and NOT have to pay the dealer the after sale, accessory price for the S6's wheels. Let me pay for S6 brakes, assuming they really are a step up in stopping power, as they appear to be. Let me pay for the S6's steering wheel.

    Audi makes little splash with its subtle styling cues. Most folks would NOT know if your SLine was toting a V10 -- most wouldn't care. Audi has taken a philosophy of subtle cues (even on the RS cars) with respect to styling -- so what if I am willing to pay for the 19" S wheels, let me buy them, and let me specify them with UHP all season tires, if I wish. Let me order Misano Red, if I want without SLine, if I am so willing. Let me order the sport suspension without the SLine cosmetic treatment, etc.

    Let me order a white Audi with Premium Amaretto Colored Leather Sport seats -- don't only allow me to order these seats with optional paint colors. If I want a new Audi A4 convertible in white with a blue top, let me do so without some kind of "service" charge of $2,500.

    Most of all, let me pick from configurable features and options rather than forcing me to take packages -- but if I do opt for the package, incent me a couple bucks to spend more.

    Take my money please.

    Overall: tire report is a positive -- they do not transform the car into an S6. But, for those wanting the somewhat less firm ride of the standard suspension calibration but unwilling to give up the crisp turn in that the S treatment brings with it, well, let me specify (& add a buck) the characteristics of the tires that will come with my new $50,000+ daily driver.

    Even Burger King, lets you have it "your way" for pity's sake. :surprise:
  • lexusguylexusguy Posts: 6,419
    Yet for all the great strides being taken by Toyota, Watanabe must be at least a little disheartened by the performance of the upmarket Lexus brand in Japan. The reason? Since the Lexus marque first went on sale in Japan last August, sales have hardly set the world afire (see BW Online, 7/11/05, "Lexus to the Rescue"). Through Dec. 31, only 10,300 Lexus were sold in Japan -- considerably short of Toyota's target of 20,000. What's more, in 2006 the carmaker is only expecting to sell 40,000 Lexus -- still off the the 50,000-60,000 annual target Toyota had mentioned last year.” Nisssan doesn’t even market the Infiniti line in Japan. And it's not because the Japanese are not buying LPS vehicles: "One place where sales are up is the luxury sector, but that's where Japanese brands are weakest. Through July this year, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Porsche registered increases in sales of 10% or higher."

    The Japanese are like us, they want imports. No Lincoln or Cadillac is as impressive to (most) Americans than a Mercedes or BMW. The same is true in Japan, only its Lexus stuck being the "domestic choice".
  • sfcharliesfcharlie Posts: 402
    FRANKFURT, May 20, 2005; Christiaan Hetzner writinfg for Reuters reported that Frank Winter probably has one of the most thankless jobs in the German car industry.

    Faced with the fiercest of competition, the head of Lexus Germany is not kidding himself that Toyota Motor Corp.'s (7203.T: Quote, Profile, Research) premium brand is poised to enjoy the same phenomenal success here that it has had in the United States.

    Lexus came out of nowhere to become the U.S.'s best-selling luxury marque for the past five years straight.

    Just as Lexus is pushing to establish itself as a global powerhouse in the luxury segment, domestic goliaths BMW , Mercedes-Benz, Audi (VOWG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and Porsche continue to crowd it out of the largest car market in Europe and potentially the most demanding in the world.

    Last year Lexus eked out a marginal existence in Germany, selling just 2,600 vehicles. It expects over 3,000 this year -- hardly something that would leave home-grown rivals quaking in their boots.
  • lexusguylexusguy Posts: 6,419
    For Lexus to do well in Germany, they need more than just one diesel engine in one car. They need to take the GS back to the drawing board, and they need to build the LF-X, and make it fun to drive.
  • sfcharliesfcharlie Posts: 402
    The Japanese are like us, they want imports. No Lincoln or Cadillac is as impressive to (most) Americans than a Mercedes or BMW. The same is true in Japan, only its Lexus stuck being the "domestic choice"."

    The Germans, then, it would appear, are not like us, in wanting imports.
  • lexusguylexusguy Posts: 6,419
    The Germans, then, it would appear, are not like us, in wanting imports.

    Its not just Germany, but most of western Europe. I think some of it has to do with protectionist import tariffs, (a 350Z in the UK is the equivalent of $50K+) but I also think that Europeans generally like to drive European cars. Germany invented the car, its hard to compete with that.
  • I think, too, that it has something to do with the paucity of diesel offerings from elsewhere.

    In Europe, in Germany, 70% of the LPS cars are diesel. Audi sells 50% diesel there, in fact.

    Overall the numbers for diesel in Europe are ~ 1 in 3. Where are they gonna import from that can give them what they want, at this time?
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    Well who in theor right mind wouldn't want a Audi diesel ? :surprise: It only gets 35 mpg hwy and has enough torque to fimly implant your backside in your seat. ;)

    Rocky
  • sfcharliesfcharlie Posts: 402
    Rocky, you, I believe, just wrote in the German car-enthusiast dialect :)

    Charlie
  • rockyleerockylee Posts: 14,011
    Well I'm a big fan of the 4,2 V-8 diesel. I've read alot of good reviews and as Angus McKenzie said from Motor Trend it might be the best diesel engine in the world. So yeah I like that kind of German engineering, even though I'd never be able to afford such a luxury. ;)

    Rocky
  • I got behind the wheel (and did not drive it) of a S6. It was, as I recall, $77K. It had the technology package and some other single options, but it was well equipped.

    While talking with my long time sales rep he got a call that says his first sold S8 will be in Oct 16. MSRP $122K.

    The S8 is the SWB version of the A8 chassis, yes?

    The engine is the same as is in the S6 (a few HP different.)

    The S8 had the $7000 B&O sound system and that counts for something, I guess.

    My "were I to be granted one wish" for a free Audi car WAS an S8. Perhaps if it were free, that wish would stand.

    But, from the behind the wheel perch of an S6, I just wonder what extras would be gained in the S8 -- performance? Do Dads?

    The S6 may be, at this moment, the ultimate LPS car.

    The M5, I can only assume, will be above that and remain at the top of the heap until or unless an RS6 comes out and then, who knows.

    Mercedes AMG must have something that would be competitive, what, pray tell is it?

    Do any of the Japanese brands offer the jump to ludicrous speed (Dark Helmet?) :confuse:
  • laurasdadalaurasdada Posts: 2,591
    Funny, Mark. You don't look Druish... Underrated flick, imo. Nice referenece. :shades:

    '13 Jaguar XF, '11 BMW 535xi, '02 Lexus RX300

  • You are correct, I am not Druish, but I am half-man, half-dog, I'm a MOG, I'm my own best friend! :surprise:
  • breldbreld Posts: 1,252
    Well, I'm just catching up on all the recent posts, including the ramblings on the woes of the stick shift.

    My 2007 530xi 6 speed manual is due to arrive in about two weeks. Sounds like I better hold onto it for my 3 year old to drive when he turns 16, if there are any hopes of him learning what will be an "ancient art."

    It does seem that most of the traditional "arguments" for a stick, such as increased control, are losing ground. But, I think one poster summed it up best, when he/she essentially stated that it's simply "more fun." I simply enjoy driving my TSX around town, including in heavy traffic. It's certainly not a particularly fast car, regardless of transmission, but the actual exercise of manually shifting the gears makes the experience so much more engaging.

    2011 BMW 535xi - 2008 Audi TT - 2008 A3 - 2009 Ody

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