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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mercedes Stationwagon; Ford's Secrets Revealed

The new Mercedes E-Class sedan caused a stir with its brave front end styling -- you can't have headlights looking much more like eyes -- and now the stationwagon has arrived to add a splash of excitement to the load-carrying scene.


The E-Class stationwagon made its world debut last month at the Geneva Motor Show, and continues a tradition of luxury stationwagons bearing the Benz star. Based on the sedan and using many of its components, it is Mercedes' answer to customers who want the upmarket appeal of an executive sedan but need the carrying capacity of a stationwagon.


Three models are available, following the pattern established first with the C-Class and then E-Class sedans -- Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde. The Classic is the basic car, Elegance provides a more luxurious option and Avantgarde is designed to appeal to drivers who want a sportier-looking machine. You can even specify a fold-away bench seat as an extra cost feature if you need the flexibility to carry seven in the car.


Safety-conscious buyers will be attracted by a "world first" in the new car -- side air bags are standard in both front doors. The side bag system supplements the now-expected facia-mounted air bags and improves side-impact protection. Another clever feature is that the air bag triggering system has been redesigned so that in the event of a serious accident, the passenger bag will only operate if there is someone in the seat. Both of these new safety features will also be incorporated into the E-Class sedan.


And like the sedan, the stationwagon is available with a choice of 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engines, and a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder diesel engine. A more powerful gasoline engine is expected next year.


The E-Class stationwagon is the first of four new Mercedes products due this year, and the only one which replaces an outgoing model. The company's first "small" stationwagon joins the C-Class range shortly to cater for drivers who don't need the huge load capacity of the E. And if it is people, not luggage, that you need to transport, Mercedes will point you toward the new V-Class, its new MPV (Multi-Purpose-Vehicle) which is on sale in the summer. At completely the other end of the motoring scale, look out later this year for the SLK sports car, Mercedes' dashing new roadster.





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So much then for what we officially know is going to happen in the Mercedes camp. But what about something a bit more juicy concerning another manufacturer? How about some news that isn't yet in the public domain?


Ford guards its secrets carefully, but even a car-making giant has to test its cars on public roads sometimes. And that's when future models get spotted -- and the cat is out of the bag.


That's how, for example, we know Ford is in the final stages of development of a new Fiesta-based coupe which it will launch next spring. No pictures, obviously, but the evocatively code-named Puma 2+2 has been spotted testing -- so far in heavy disguise -- in Europe and the United States.


When it arrives it will be a direct rival to the likes of the Opel Tigra, Honda Civic and Toyota Pasco, although Ford promises room for four adults in relative comfort.


The Puma -- the name is under consideration as the chosen tag, but nothing has yet been finalized -- will be built in Cologne, Germany, and become the first true Ford coupe in Europe since the famous Capri.


Although it looks very different from the Fiesta -- much sportier and sleeker -- the coupe uses the same platform and basic mechanicals as the hatchback. That gave Ford's engineers a great starting point for the Puma as the recently revised Fiesta is the most enjoyable supermini to drive, and even though there isn't a performance model at the moment, the potential for a sports car is clear. With suspension and steering tuned for sporting response, the Puma promises to be a cracking driver's car.


Power is likely to come from a new, 1.7-liter version of the Zetec-SE engine introduced in the Fiesta. With around 125 bhp -- the entry-level 1.25-liter unit already develops 75 bhp -- the new engine will give the Puma the performance to match its image. A less powerful -- and cheaper -- model, with a 1.4-liter Zetec-ZE engine is also on the cards, hopefully by the end of 1997.


There was an early pointer to some of the design cues that the coupe will have at last month's Geneva Show, where the Lynx concept car was on display. Taken from standard Fiesta to finished open top car in under six weeks, the convertible Lynx hinted at how brave Ford is prepared to be. And for motorists, especially those who really like their cars, that can only be good news.


The launch of the Puma will round off an exciting 12 months for Ford. The Mondeo family car gets an adventurous new look this autumn, with a striking new front end, comprising an even bigger oval grille, new headlights and hood, and huge rear light clusters. Mild interior revisions and even better refinement are also part of the mid-life refresher for Ford's family and fleet favorite.


And toward the end of the year we'll be saying hello to Ford's new Ka urban car. Based on the previous generation Fiesta but around 30 centimeters shorter, the Ka takes Ford into a new sector of the small car market. It will be cheap and, promises Ford, very cheerful. Powered by the 1.3-liter engine which is used in the Fiesta, just one version will be available. Is small really beautiful? We'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, that's enough secrets for one week.





Paul Chadderton is motoring editor for Auto Express in Britain. He contributed this article to The Moscow Times.