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It's official, folks: After initial reports last week indicated that Mercedes-Benz was preparing to begin assembly at the Nissan plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, the two parent companies have announced just that. Only instead of using the existing Nissan plant at the site (in operation since 1992), Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance have announced a joint venture to build a new one alongside it.
The latest stage in the growing French-German-Japanese collaboration is part of a new collaboration that will see Infiniti and Mercedes jointly develop and build a line of compact premium vehicles, with the first Infiniti models set to roll off the assembly line in 2017 and the first Benzes to follow a year later. Neither party announced exactly which models that would encompass, but Mercedes already has a robust line of small vehicles (including the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA), and Infiniti has long been toying with the idea of slotting in something smaller below the Q50.
The billion-euro project, split evenly between the two industrial giants, is set to create 5,700 new jobs in Mexico. In addition to the Aguascalientes project, Infiniti and Mercedes are also undertaking joint production of four-cylinder engines (initially for the C-Class and Q50) in Decherd, Tennessee, from which they will be exported around the world. By the time the new factory in Mexico reaches full capacity in 2021, it will have the capability to produce 300,000 vehicles annually. That's on top of the 850,000 vehicles the existing facility is capable of handling.
When I first started in this whole automotive journalism biz, I held a sort of hodgepodge receptionist/gopher/production assistant role, and each morning as the staff filed in, I'd ask them how they liked whatever car they were assigned to drive the previous night. Most of my colleagues would regale me with anecdotes about how good or bad a vehicle was, but one co-worker, every single morning, would answer my query with the exact same phrase: "It was fine."
I always assumed this was just a brush-off, an "ask me again after I've had a cup of coffee" sort of response. But then I found myself in a similar moment of brevity following the launch of the 2014 Nissan Rogue earlier this week. After returning home, a friend asked me what I thought of the new Rogue, and I replied, word for word, "It was fine."
And, well, it was. Nothing worth wasting exclamation points over, good or bad. Aside from something like the interesting-to-drive Mazda CX-5 or funky-looking Jeep Cherokee, nothing in this class really tries to set the world on fire. And that, right there, is fine. Nissan doesn't need to do anything crazy with its second-generation Rogue. It just needs to offer a well-equipped crossover that's handsome, functional, efficient and priced right - sticking to the same formula that made the first-generation model so successful while offering the latest crop of creature comforts in a more modern package.
Road & Track recently staged its first annual Performance Car of the Year test, pitting 13 new and updated performance cars against each other on track, then graduating the top six to a road test before picking a winner. Additionally, the magazine staff picked the best automobiles of the year in eight categories.
But first, let's cover the PCotY segment. Here's the list of cars brought to the comparison test: Audi R8 V10 Plus; BMW 435i; BMW M6 Competition Package; Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51; Ferrari F12 Berlinetta; Ford Fiesta ST; Jaguar F-Type V8 S; Jaguar XFR-S; Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model Wagon; Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series; Mini John Cooper Works GP; Nissan GT-R Track Edition; and Porsche Cayman S.
To find out the results of the comparison, head over to Road & Track's website or check the press release below, where you'll also find the magazine's top-rated vehicles in eight categories. Want more? Head over to the 2013 PCotY hub. But before you do that, take a stab at guessing the winner of PCotY (we'll give you one hint: it isn't a Porsche).