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Letter From Europe; A Look Back At 2022, Mercedes Benz C300, Ferrari 296, Akio Toyoda Simpatico, Volvo EV, Jaguar F 80@90 and Other Pleasant Thoughts


Letter from Europe
by Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel

Andrew Frankl Content Archive 1995-Present Reviews, Articles and Images

As the Mercedes C300 was the very last test of 2022 it seems like a good time to look back on the highs and the lows of the various cars and SUVs that came my way.

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The very fine C300 had a base sticker price of 44 thousand moving up to 60 with the various extras.

I have been driving Mercedes products for a very long time-two seaters, four seaters, SUVs-much loved by the ladies at the Belvedere tennis club-even had a go in a big rig when I ran something called the Truck of the Year. I am talking 18 wheelers and trust me it is a lot more difficult than cars and SUVs.

While TRUCK magazine no longer exists the award still does and is very highly valued among the manufacturers. Of course my ultimate Mercedes has to be the SL which my son Nicholas and I drove to the very first Hungarian GP in 1986.

Picked it up in Stuttgart and to the circuit and round the circuit the day before practice. Unforgettable.

But now back to the 300 which comes in three trim levels-Premium, Exclusive and Pinnacle.

What is missing and I mean this in the nicest possible way as it applies to all manufacturers...please please may we have a basic version. I appreciate you would not want to call it basic but one that costs 44 thousand which presumably means without any gizmos. There are a lot of folks out there who love the brand but have to rely on salesmen to explain all the latest buttons which of course they then duly forget. When the press release says fresh design-yes, bring it on-but when it says new reaction is oh dear.

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The C300 looks terrific. My two best friends own the current model and they were both very impressed by range of new colors and the overall appearance. It is the 11.9 touchscreen that older people dread. Don’t want to go on about it but you get the picture.

The turbo charged 2.0 liter engine is fine and the 9 speed automatic transmission is faultless. Bits I could really do without are things like fingerprint scanners-shades of big brother .

The many extras include a heated steering wheel-not really necessary in LA and additional driver assistance programs. Which brings me back to basics-please give me a Mercedes for 44 thousand dollars and leave the rest to me.

As we are nearing the end of 2022 let me look back to some cars and SUVs which I would have been happy to keep.

If I could afford the Lamborghini Urus for trips to the mountain then this baby is for you. We’ve tested it extensively more by Nicholas and Annabelle than me but trust me-amazing.

The car I did extensively was Ferrari’s new 6 cylinder 296.

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Whilst Ferrari themselves are perfectly fine some of their dealers less so. You can argue it both ways but you can only have certain Ferraris if you have purchased other before. So they will try and start you off with a 360..second hand of course with a much shorter warranty from the present one-we are talking fortunes here-and they will take it back for a fraction of what you have paid for it. Then they talk you into a 458-a very nice car actually-and so it goes on the merry go round until you you can actually have the car you wanted all along. And the dealer takes you to the cleaners every single time.

I am told that similar things happen with ladies handbags but I am not an expert on that subject.

Looking back on ‘22 let me say right away that every car and truck worked perfectly well including Toyota’s Tundra which caused a great deal of mirth in leafy Belvedere. I thought it was great even if the postman declared that it wasn’t me!

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He did however love the Jaguar F type and I must say that it was immensely popular and ended up on my neighbor’s Christmas card. The term 80 at 90 (his age) is now part of the language. More to the point as far as Jaguar are concerned is that two friends purchased two white white ones-just like the test car-and are as happy as clams.

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Jaguar were very good to me this year as my other great drives was to the mountains in the V8 F type. Effortless and seriously quick. Do try it if you want to get to Alpine Meadows in a hurry.

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The bad news of the year was the Volvo EV. Not often I dislike a product this badly but oh boy- this was a bad experience from beginning to the end. A rare instance when I actually suggested that it should be avoided as there are better products on the market.

Cars and SUVs which unfortunately did not come my way are the new VW EVs and something from my good friends at Infiniti.

On the bigger picture I agree with Toyota President Akio Toyoda Believes As The Auto Channel does that the head-long rush into EVs is shortsighted. The manufacturers are like lemmings and once they have converted all the production lines to Evs it will be costly to come back. I think PHEV hybrids will be with us for a very long time.

Finally a few thank you.

First of all to the readers who put up with me for 25 years, to my inimitable boss Bob Gordon, to the manufacturers who trusted me with their products and the good folks at Page One and Drive Shop.

Happy holidays, happy motoring and all the best for 2023!