Living / Insights

2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class Redefines Luxury SUVs

Luxury SUV line introduces the ultimate in family cars.

August 21, 2012

When we were invited to join Mercedes-Benz on a recent vehicle launch program, I was given the assignment and immediately let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of testing and reviewing a super-luxurious vehicle from the German lineup. I envisioned a sleek autobahn killer such as their SL550 Roadster. Then I discovered the invitation was for the international launch of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GL-Class SUV. Was I disappointed? Not in the least. Practically speaking, a luxury SUV with a third row was ideally suited for me. Who better to evaluate such a vehicle than the father of five kids involved in soccer, football, karate, gymnastics, and trumpet lessons?

The GL-Class comes in four levels including: the GL350 BlueTEC 4MATIC with its 3.0-liter single turbo diesel V6 producing a solid 240 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque; the GL450 with a 4.6-liter biturbo gasoline V8 capable of 362 horsepower and 406 pound-feet of torque; a GL550 with its direct-injection 4.6-liter biturbo V8 cranking out an impressive 429 horsepower along with 516 pound-feet of torque; and the GL63 AMG with its beastly direct-injection 5.5-liter biturbo V8 that pumps out 550 beastly horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque—all of which will undoubtedly take care of getting the kids to practice and rehearsals in record-setting time.

But most intriguing of all was the GL’s third row seating. Yes, the famed "third" row seating that other manufacturers tout but fall short on. Was the GL's third row actually usable and, dare I say, comfortable? To answer this, I subjected myself to the third row in a GL350 while our driver hurriedly shuttled me to the airport—a drive filled with sudden braking, responsive acceleration, evasive highway maneuvers, and above-average speeds. Throughout this adventure, I experienced an unexpected level of comfort in the third row. The ride was so smooth that I failed to realize the actual speeds at which we were traveling. This was a true testament to the GL350’s performance and the very comfortable and enjoyable GL-Class third row.

The GL-Class does, however, suffer from what I would refer to as “multiple personality disorder.” The chiseled, aggressive front facade is bold, sporty, and athletic, while the flowing lines of the side profile comes across as sophisticated and modern. Its design will appeal to those sporty moms and dads who still want to ride in style for a date-night out on the town.

Out of the three GL categories experienced, I was most impressed with the GL350. The GL450 and GL550 are also absolutely solid performers, but often with an entry-level vehicle, you feel as through you're sacrificing or settling. This is absolutely not true with the GL350, especially when you factor in standard features such as the ATTENTION ASSIST, created to alert the driver and prepare the brakes for maximum stopping power, and mbrace2, which provides an array of vehicle diagnostics and concierge services. And with the estimated 600-700 mile range from the 26-gallon fuel tank, you may start to walk with a certain swagger thanks to the fuel saving provided by the smooth and uncharacteristically quiet diesel.

Additionally, there are a host of attractive features, such as the panorama sunroof, massaging driver and passenger seats, power outlets for your road-trip devices, optional electronic folding rear seats, Active Parking Assist, and Active Blind Spot Assist.

The 2013 GL-Class goes on sale this September, with the GL350 hitting showrooms with a beginning MSRP of $62,400, while the GL450 starts at $63,900, and the GL550 comes in with a starting sticker of $86,900. The wicked GL63 AMG version will become available during the first quarter of 2013 with pricing not yet available.

—Leon Brittain,


Luxury Upon Luxury at W South Beach

The seaside hotel upgrades its penthouses for the ultimate VIP experience.

August 03, 2012

The Marvelous suite at W South Beach

The W South Beach Hotel & Residences is making life in its oceanfront suites even sweeter, revamping 26 units with new amenities and VIP concierge services. New conveniences, such as electric pressers, airport and private jet pickup, and a surprise farewell gift, will be offered to guests who book the E-WOW Penthouse, E-WOW, Marvelous, Cool Corner, or Sensational suites. All of this, plus the launch of the new W-branded DecoBikes, comes just in time for the hotel’s three-year anniversary. 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-938-3000



2013 McLaren MP4-12C Spider

Convertible version of the Spider offers top speed, retractable hard top.

July 11, 2012

They say things only get better with time, and McLaren proves the adage true with the announcement of a second all-new model to its line-up: the MP4-12C Spider, a convertible manipulation of the 12C. The lightweight Spider features a distinctive Retractable Hard Top (RHT) roof that folds and stows itself—theoretically making this vehicle a luxury coupe and performance convertible all in one.

Power emanates from a commissioned 616 horsepower 3.8-liter twin turbo V8 engine and is paired to a 7 Speed SSG dual-clutch transmission, which allows the British sports car to run 0-62 mph in 3.1 seconds and top out at 204 mph. Currently, orders can be placed for the $268,250 Spider from McLaren retailers across the globe with an expected delivery date in December or early January. During the Concept Car Lawn during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend, show-goers will be treated to an early viewing.



New Exhibit: Scapes at Frost Art Museum

Lynne Golob Gelfman explores the interplay of sand, wind, and sun.

July 02, 2012

No, that’s not a typo. Scapes, the title of Miami painter Lynne Golob Gelfman’s new exhibition at Florida International University’s Frost Art Museum, is purposely truncated. “They’re not landscapes,” Gelfman explains, “but they do give you a sensual sense of place.” The specific site in question? The Brazilian dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses, a largely deserted area on that country’s northeastern coast. There’s only the “undulating motion of the sea,” says Gelfman, and the shifting, sundappled hills of sand, seemingly dancing with each other as the wind picks up. It’s a hypnotizing effect Gelfman has inventively captured in her dune series (part of the show) by many reflective layers of metallic paint and acrylic. The end result is beguiling patterns that warp and woof depending on your line of sight, as well as the angle of the sunlight streaming in through the Frost gallery’s overhead skylight. None of this marks a dramatic stylistic departure for Gelfman: She’s been creatively mining a fusion of post-painterly abstraction via Helen Frankenthaler and trippy op art via Bridget Riley for several decades now. But in dune, Gelfman has fashioned some of her strongest, most viscerally seductive brushwork yet. Scapes is on exhibit through September 2, The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami, 305-348-2890. Related works are at Wynwood’s Alejandra Von Hartz Gallery through July 31.

—brett sokol


Celsius X VI II Releases Another Luxe Cell Phone

Company prepares for the debut of their second mobile device, designed to last a lifetime.

June 25, 2012

French company Celsius X VI II, which specializes in luxury mobile devices that combine 21st-century technology with centuries-old Swiss timekeeping, has recently released a limited-edition phone for $312,000.

Designed to last a lifetime, the company’s first model, LeDIX Origine, is already on the verge of selling out. Luckily, their latest creation, the LeDIX Furtif, will be available at the end of June for those looking to give their mobile device a luxury upgrade.

The first mobile phone with a carbon fiber structure, the highlight of the LeDIX Furtif is still the tourbillon timepiece. Using 330 of the phone’s 700 mechanical parts, the LeDIX Furtif features the world’s most off-centered flying tourbillon. Framed with six golden wings and protected by shock absorbers, the tourbillon engine is showcased through a sapphire crystal breastplate.

Celsius X VI II has eliminated any magnetic effects on the LeDIX Furtif for the highest possible accuracy. They have also developed the Remontage Papillon, a patented system engulfed in the hinge of the phone. The Remontage Papillon supplies the watch movement with an added three hours of power reserve each time the phone is opened.

Co-founder and co-CEO of Celsius X VI II, Edouard Maylan, cites the company’s goal as designing a technically superior phone with eternal value. Formed in 2006, the company started “with the dream of creating a completely micro-mechanical mobile phone, where every function of the mobile would operate mechanically through the sole human energy.” Maylan describes each device as “a piece of art taking six months [and] 35 craftsmen, watchmakers, and engineers to produce.”

The Furtif comes in three eight-piece limited editions, offered in a choice of pink gold, platinum, or black inserts. With the Furtif retailing for $315,000, Celsius is on their way to redefining the luxury phone market.

—Victoria Hinojosa


2013 BMW 7 Series Coming Soon to Showrooms

Newly spruced up 2013 BMW 7 Series adds more performance, luxury, efficiency, and safety.

June 15, 2012

The newly spruced up 2013 BMW 7 Series adds a touch more performance, luxury, efficiency, and safety to its already significant packaging.

Technically speaking, the V8 engine for the 2013 model has been given a boost—receiving a 45 horsepower jump and a torque increase of 30. Specifically, the 740i and 750i will feature BMW’s eight-speed Steptronic automatic transmission, xDrive all-wheel drive, Auto Start Stop, and a freshly enhanced powertrain. The ActiveHybrid has adopted the 6 cylinder to replace the previous V8.

The subtly revised exterior boasts new technologies, including LED headlights (LED fog lights are included on models without the M Sport Package) and a sleeker 9-slat kidney grille—opposed to the BMW classic 12-slat. But the internal changes are more of note, with the upgraded interface and redesigned iDrive (dubbed “iDrive 4.X”), which promises a crisper display, faster start-up, and a more functional navigation with the ability to learn your driving route. And for a little something extra, the Bang & Olufsen high-end Surround Sound system is also an available option.

Expect the new BMW 7 series: 740i, 740Li, 740Li xDrive, 750i, 750i xDrive, 750Li, 750Li xDrive, and the 760Li in showrooms late this summer with pricing starting at $74,195.



Bentley Reveals Luxe SUV: EXP 9 F

The luxury brand's first SUV boasts all the usual Bentley trappings, but raises some debate.

May 04, 2012

Bentley made a statement the night before the Geneva International Motor Show during VW’s Group Night, where each of the parent company’s brands showcased their latest and most spectacular vehicles. The British luxury maker wowed the crowd with its first SUV concept, EXP 9 F.

Massive 23-inch alloy wheels; the signature bold Bentley grille; a powerful 6-liter W12 engine that can make up to 600 horsepower; an 8-speed transmission; a fold-down champagne cooler; and luxury tailgating fit for the Kentucky Derby, seem to overly exceed expectations of consumers looking to purchase an ultra-elite SUV. Bentley’s sports utility vehicle is in competition with other luxe cars like the Range Rover and Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo. While the design and composition keep all the usual Bentley trappings, it is unknown if this foray into SUVs will be met with negative or positive feedback.

—Kimatni D. Rawlins,; @ARtvKimatni


Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II: Technology & Tradition

Rolls-Royce’s new Phantom model embodies the brand’s dedication to quality and customer connection.

April 23, 2012

From connecting with their clients via private tours of their plants to throwing exclusive events for owners, Rolls-Royce is a brand that treats its customers like a close-knit family. These individual discussions with owners on what R-R stands for, what customers expect from the company and the product, and what it needs to be in order to move forward are exactly what inspired the brand’s new Phantom Series II model.

“When considering changes to our iconic Phantom, we first carefully listened to customers,” said Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “Around the world they explicitly told us, ‘Do not change Phantom too much but introduce new technology where appropriate.’ And this is precisely what we have done.”

The end result is a blend of traditional and classic with modern technology that allows the Phantom to keep up with customer expectations. “It combined the spirit of its famous pedigree with superbly elegant design work, ground-breaking technology, and visionary engineering techniques,” said Müller-Ötvös.

Of note technologically are the full LED headlamps, and the completely revamped satellite navigation system with 3D landscape topography, guided view tours, and more, all on a much larger monitor. Best of all, its famous V12 direct injection engine has been updated with a new eight-speed automatic gearbox and rear differential, which results in 10-percent improved fuel consumption and reduced CO2 emissions.

The car’s appearance has also gotten a few updates. In addition to the aforementioned LED headlamps are a virtual constellation of stars in the interior, and a slightly tweaked bumper. Just as with its unparalleled customer service, the brand will go above and beyond to create a custom luxury vehicle to your specifications—from humidors to drink cabinets to constellations in the shape of your zodiac sign, virtually anything is possible.

“Since its first appearance in 2003, Phantom has reclaimed the pinnacle of automotive luxury and refinement,” said Müller-Ötvös. “It is a completely unique and unequaled achievement that goes beyond its primary role as a car and becomes to many a work of art, a fine piece of jewelry, or a rare and collectible object of desire.”

—Josh Garcia


Prada Plays Golf

Prada’s embellished bags stand out on Miami greens.

April 16, 2012

Tessuto Borchie golf bag, Prada ($2,950).
Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave.,

For her Spring 2012 men’s show, Miuccia Prada chose to immerse the audience in all things golf. From the Astroturf runway to the pastel cleat-like oxfords and caricature-printed cotton field jackets, the collection seemed to be simultaneously winking at and updating the classic golfer’s uniform. Knockout pieces include decorated and studs-embellished golf bags. These dazzling accoutrements, in shades of blue and red, as well as an illustrated surfer print, are sure to cause a stir on any Miami course—and perhaps, as an added bonus, distract your opponents.


Dancing in the Street, Miami Style

Dara Friedman's film, Dancer, at the Miami Art Museum, engages our town as a stage—and a dance partner.

April 09, 2012

Stills from Dara Friedman’s Dancer video, 2011

“Art doesn’t just belong within these walls,” filmmaker Dara Friedman explains at the Miami Art Museum’s opening for her latest work, Dancer. “Art is everywhere!” Indeed, the Miami-based Friedman has demonstrated that belief again and again, capturing otherworldly—and often quite intimate—moments that occur in public throughout her growing body of work, which favors 16mm film over video for a visually richer effect. Dancer continues that approach, featuring a host of local performers busting out their impressive moves on the streets of downtown Miami, reveling in the sense of their own motion on an impromptu, outdoor stage. “I was less interested in how you move than in what moves you,” Friedman says of her directions to her cast. The end result is as much an ode to the free-flowing body as to the Magic City itself. If it’s a Miami that seems equal parts urban playground and fairy-tale setting, that’s precisely the point. “When you catch things out of the corner of your eye, you think, Did I really just see that? That happens to me in Miami a lot!” Dancer is on view through May 6 at the Miami Art Museum, 101 W. Flagler St., Miami, 305-375-3000


—brett sokol

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