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Exhaust Notes: AMG goes AWD; Malibu refresh; Suzuki dealers reach settlement

Our semiregular roundup of the latest automotive news and musings from around the Web.

By Clifford Atiyeh Dec 10, 2012 10:24AM
Welcome to Exhaust Notes, our self-titled, semiregular roundup of automotive bits and pieces from around the Web.

Unlike other posts on this blog, these are truly notes -- stories too short to deserve a full post but worth a few moments of your precious time.

This week, we see Mercedes adding all-wheel drive to the E63 AMG, Chevrolet giving the Malibu an early refresh and Suzuki dealers reaching a corporate settlement with their failed brand.

First Mercedes AMG sedan with all-wheel drive

2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG (c) Car and DriverThe 2014 E63 AMG undergoes testing (Car and Driver).

In the old days, AMG was a small, independent tuner that went wild on only the most select Mercedes-Benz models. These days, AMG is an official branch, and its nameplate adorns everything from C-Class sedans to hulking, 7-passenger mommy-mobiles.

Currently, only the ML63, GL63 and insane G63 and G65 AMG trucks come with all-wheel drive -- varying bits of Mercedes 4Matic and the ultra off-road 4-wheel drive on the G-Wagens. Now, Car and Driver reports that the next E63 AMG will come with 4Matic in an apparent effort to please both Audi fans and people who really want to push a 550-horsepower sedan in the snow.

Short an SLS, this is my favorite AMG model. When I drove a 2011 model, I had never accelerated so hard from 70 to 140 mph, in complete comfort and luxury, with the sound of a roaring big-block engine. There are many great AMGs -- but none do it like the E63. It's just the right size, too.

The move is natural, says the magazine, "since many AMG buyers — unlike BMW M buyers — seem to regard the AMG models as the top of the line rather than as pure performance versions." Even so, AMG took two-and-a-half years to tweak 4Matic to the max, fitting an aggressive 33-67 front-rear torque split that makes the E63 even faster than its rear-wheel-drive counterpart. Come late 2013, all-wheel drive will be the only way Americans can burn $100,000 on their E63s.

That could mean Audi may need to import its 450-horsepower RS6 -- and bump up the power tremendously.

Chevrolet pushing refreshed Malibu ahead of schedule

Chevrolet Malibu (c) GM
Well, that didn't take much, did it? After Honda received blow after scathing blow from the media on its 2012 Civic, the automaker shocked everyone by pushing out a midcycle refresh one year after the car's introduction. While no one has driven the new Civic yet, Honda seems to have soothed the furor with better quality materials, style and retuned steering -- all while the Civic was outselling every single compact sedan in the segment without these speedy changes.

Chevrolet has problems with its new Malibu -- among them, it's too cramped inside versus its roomy competitors -- but can't top Honda's almighty Accord in sales. Malibu sales have been "soft," according to Automotive News, and General Motors will be giving it a styling refresh by late next year. There is no word on whether the interior or powertrains will be touched,  but from Honda's aggressive push we think the new GM is finally learning that it can't push out mediocre product and expect it to last in today's tough market.

Suzuki placates dealers, still going out of business

Suzuki Kizashi (c) Suzuki
Just one month after declaring bankruptcy, American Suzuki says it has reached a settlement with 97 percent of its U.S. car dealers to cease sales and transition into a parts and service operation.

Of its 219 dealerships, six objected to the terms, which were not made public or leaked. "We are pleased to have reached agreements with all of our top 50 automotive dealers and that the total number of acceptances represents more than 98% of the total volume of automobile sales for [Suzuki] in the continental U.S.,” the company said in a statement.

Suzuki is trying its best to get rid of what little inventory it has left. The company has barely sold 2,000 cars per month all year, and it's betting that zero percent APR financing for 72 months and $1,500 rebates will lure enough people to put it out of its misery. As with Saab's slow, painful death, Suzuki will linger for quite some time, although no one is offering to buy the American division and sell its scrap to the Chinese.

In general, Suzukis are reliable and cheap, so if you want a good deal on a brand-new car, take a Kizashi and negotiate -- ruthlessly, without any concern for the dealer's well-being, which should have known this day was coming -- down to the very last cent.  
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