Mercedes-Benz E-Class is named Car of the Year
Participating in the contest’s eighth edition were 48 models launched in Korea last year from 25 domestic and foreign automakers.
Mercedes-Benz’s refashioned midsize sedan, introduced to the local market last June, was recognized for its stable driving performance and cutting-edge smart car technology. The model played a pivotal role in catapulting Mercedes-Benz to the top of Korea’s import car market.
The 10th generation of the E-Class received the highest points from two rounds of screening that included a test drive.
“Mercedes-Benz’s new E-Class not only dominated the import car market but also threatened the domestic sedan market,” said Na Yoon-suk, an automotive columnist who was also one of the judges.
Kim Ki-beom, chief editor of the Korean auto magazine Road Test, called the new E-Class a culmination of “dignity” and “innovation.” Another judge, Kim Ki-tae, a producer at AutoView, a car-related media platform, lauded the model as the “future of luxury sedans.”
However, Yoo Ji-soo, former head of the Korean Academy of Motor Industry and president of Kookmin University, showed discontent toward the high price.
“The car is superb in every aspect, but the price, which can go as high as 98.7 million won ($86,190) depending on the trim, is a little burdensome,” Yoo said.
GM Korea’s Chevrolet Malibu was the biggest threat this year. “The Malibu is a car that goes beyond the midsize sedan segment,” said Jang Jin-taek, head of Car Media, a Korean car magazine.
The Malibu received the Domestic Car of the Year award. The judges were especially impressed by its driving performance. “It proved the true value of Korean-made cars,” the panel said.
Hyundai Motor’s Grandeur and the electric version of the Ioniq received an award in the challenger and innovation segments respectively. The electric Ioniq especially wowed judges for being able to stably drive at a speed of 180 kilometers per hour (112 miles an hour) despite having no gasoline engine.
The Niro by Hyundai Motor’s affiliate, Kia Motors, received the top prize in the eco-friendly segment. “The Niro is a good example of domestic brands tackling the eco-friendly car market,” said Kim Tae-wan, a former head at GM Korea’s design center who now leads the consulting firm WaNeD.
Sport utility vehicles also saw some tough competition, as SUVs were particularly popular among Koreans last year.
In this segment, Mercedes-Benz took home another prize with its GLC model receiving the top SUV award. It, too, was recognized for its driving performance that was on par with sedan models.
GM Korea’s Chevrolet Camaro SS was an unrivaled winner in the performance segment. The sports sedan equipped with a 6.2-liter gasoline engine boasts a maximum horsepower of 453. “The car stood out in a sense that such a high-performance car could be launched at a price range of 50 million won,” said Park Sang-won, a director at Heungkuk Securities.
BMW’s M2 Coupe, which competed with the Camaro SS in the performance segment, received an award in the issue segment instead. “The M2 Coupe is an apt car for those who want to get a glimpse of BMW’s high-performance M Series,” said Jang from Car Media.
Volvo’s S90 and XC90 were each recognized in the safety and smart segments.
The XC90 in particular received high points for having the latest smart car technology, including a partially autonomous driving function, while inheriting a brand identity of reputable safety. The judges concluded that Volvo could be a big challenger to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, the three biggest players in Korea’s import market.
Renault Samsung Motors’ midsize SM6 sedan and Jaguar’s F-Pace SUV shared the top spot in the design segment.
“The SM6 boasts the fanciest design among all other midsize sedan models,” said Kim from AutoView.
Kang Byung-hui, a Korean racing driver, said Jaguar’s F-Pace is the “best proportioned SUV,” adding that it has inherited Jaguar’s sports sedan DNA.
The Levante S, the first SUV model from premium carmaker Maserati, won in the luxury segment.
Kia Motors’ K7 sedan received above-average scores in most categories, ranking in either second or third place, but couldn’t squeeze itself into the final awardee list.
Domestic carmakers stood out at this year’s contest. Seven out of 14 awards went to domestic automakers, with better-than-expected test results from Renault Samsung Motors and GM Korea.
The award ceremony is scheduled to take place today at Hotel Shilla in Jangchung-dong, central Seoul. The screening process will be made into a 60-minute JTBC documentary.
BY KIM KI-HWAN, JIN EUN-SOO [email@example.com]