Test Drive | California T

CaliforniaT FrontWith the California T not only has Ferrari facelifted its most selling Ferrari of all times with more than 10,000 units sold but also has introduced the new generation of turbo engines, a first since the F40 back in 1987. That freshly engineered engine is a 3.9 liters twin turbocharged V8 releasing 553 hp and 557 lb-ft of torque. A whooping 70hp and 50% increase in torque compared to the previous model. (Keep in mind that the 458 Italia has 570hp and 398 lb-ft of torque). Turbo engines are always associated with turbo lag. Well, not this time. Ferrari has worked really hard on this new engine so it behaves as much like a normally aspirated unit as possible, both in its power and torque delivery and the way it sounds. In fact, turbos have been programmed so that a first turbo starts spooling at low revs and another kicks in at higher rpm. Power is delivered to the rear wheels via the Ferrari Dual Clutch 7 speed transmission. Look wise, the car looks much sportier compared to the previous model with that aggressive front end, aerodynamic air vents flowing from behind the front wheel and that rear diffuser. The exhaust finally went from stacked to sideways.

CaliforniaT-2So what was it like to drive? To start with, sitting in it you do feel in a proper Ferrari with its massive paddleshifters, its refined leather, its steering wheel and its manettino switch. I really liked their new infotainment system, very interactive. Note that it will be updated very soon to “Car Play” by Apple that will allow you to completely synchronize you’re iPhone with the car. Driving wise, the car is very dynamic. There is practically no body roll. Suspension was firm in turns and comfortable on bumpy roads. Brakes have been massively improved, and beautifully calibrated so that the car doesn’t go sideways nor has the front that moves down even though it contains a massive V8 engine. Despite it being a turbo engine, you do not feel any turbo lag at all. Over all it was a wonderful experience specially based on the fact that I had a professional Ferrari test driver next to me advising me on how to extract the maximum fun and feel out of that test drive! Scuderia Lebanon thank you very much for this one of a kind opportunity you have given me. Looking forward to trying out other Italian beauties!CaliforniaT rear

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Test Drive | Mercedes CLA 200

CLA200 side I want to start by highlighting how sexy that thing is. Even though it is the cheapest Mercedes Sedan you can buy, for me it looks much better than its bigger cousins. That front hood, that smashed rear with those beautiful rear stop lights, those two exhaust tips and all of that put together with a zest of aggressiveness, Mercedes created a category of their own, the “compact sedan”.

CLA200 rearBeing heavily based on the A200, it features the same interior, the same front-wheel-drive system, same seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and same 1.6 liters turbocharged 4 cylinder engine developing 156hp and 250nm of torque. Performance was pretty similar to the A class. You really have to push it in order to squeeze power out of it. But when you do, performance isn’t bad at all. Handling was fine, specially on those 18 inches wheels. Cruising around town, the CLA was very comfortable and its size wasn’t a hassle even on our small narrow streets. The active dynamic steering, front and back sensors and rear view camera made that thing a joy to park. You would be surprised but its boot is really big with a capacity of 470 liters (versus 341L for A-Class). In standard form, the CLA 200 comes with bi-xenon headlamps, a panoramic roof, leather seats, front and rear sensors, a rear view camera, cruise control and Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity. All of that for a total price of $58,500 in Lebanon.

CLA200 interiorAll in all, loved the package, aesthetically speaking the car looks fine from the inside (except for that floating screen) and so damn hot from the outside. I think it is fairly priced for what it is worth and compared to prices of other sedans in Lebanon. In case you’re more of a performance junky you might want to consider the CLA250 with its 208hp. Other than that, the CLA200 would be just fine. Special thanks obviously goes to Mercedes Lebanon for putting that beautiful German creature in my hands for a weekend.

CLA200 front

Test Drive | Mercedes A200

Mercedes A200 FrontI must say that A200 was quite a surprise. The engine, a 1,6 liters Turbocharged engine was a joy to drive. Even though it has an output of 156hp and 250nm of torque, it manages a very respectable 0-100km/h time of 8.3 seconds. The car feels light, has a very precise steering and really grips through the corners. Suspension was comfortable yet there wasn’t too much body roll. Yes I have to admit it, in order to enjoy it you have to floor it constantly but, with the 3 instagram winners of the “A200 cruise” as passengers, the car was able to climb from Beirut to Baabdat through Metn el Sari3 highway with not too much struggle. The seven speed dual-clutch gearbox was smooth but felt less responsive than the DSG. The fact that there is no gear shift was very weird at first but I got used to it pretty fast specially thanks to the paddle shifts.

Mercedes A200 InteriorAesthetically, the car looks really good from the inside but that small screen with huge borders looks a bit odd, reminds me of that digital photo frame I offered my grand mother last Christmas. Seats looked really good and were comfortable. You do feel that you are in a Mercedes. As driven, that blue hatch costs $46,500. (Keep in mind a 116 one series BMW with its 136hp costs around $40k)

Mercedes A200 SeatsSo would I advise you to buy one? If you are a girl looking for a first car, and daddy would never accept to buy you other than a Mercedes because it would ruin the reputation of the family, that is the car for you! A BMW 1 series could be suitable as well as an economical, not very fast and safe first car in the same budget. (If your dad is one of those anti-front-wheel-drive kind of guys). Personally, as a car to get a first driving experience on, I would rather get a 1,6 Golf 7 (even-though it has only 105hp) which looks as good if not better from the inside and the outside and satisfies the same purpose as the A. Last but not least, I would like to thank Mercedes Lebanon for this wonderful opportunity they gave me to test one of their newest models. Had a blast! Mercedes A200 Back