I haven’t always been very fond of Mercedes, or even very kind about them. I’ve found their dealerships unhelpful, uninformed and uninspiring. The products themselves have always left me wanting. Choosing a Mercedes has always screamed to me that a person has more money than sense and is buying a car for what it is and not what it does. Badge hunters, desperately clinging on to the fact that their car may make up for a lack luster personality. Mercedes had their golden years along time ago, when everyone aspired to own one and they made beautiful quality cars. They have tweaked and poked with the look of the cars so much in the last decade and to not really much avail.
HOWEVER, and believe you me I saw this coming about as much as you did, I find myself handing back a C63 AMG blown away by the technology and excited about the future for Mercedes with a new ML, B class and the car that gets my heart pumping the most, a totally cool, on trend and mean looking A class. Remember the weird little car that felt like you could blow it over? Well that has been completely redesigned and engineered and reborn as something that I find myself considering as a car. Mercedes are keeping me waiting, potentially we won’t see it until Jan 2013 but its something that will really compete with the Audi A1 and BMW 1 series and its about time. Just a shame its four-wheel drive and not true to its roots like BMW sticking with rear-wheel drive
The C63 that Mercedes let me have was an estate. I use either a Porsche or a Range Rover Vogue for my daily cars and so the idea of having something that could house my kids, dog and the odd collection of car parts but not compromise my need for the occasional drift and a rip roaring noise when you drop a gear, really tickled my fancy.
I was reserved a bit on fuel. A petrol 6.3 (well 6208cc to be exact) V8 had me thinking I would spend most of my time getting to know the attendants at my local garages BUT to my surprise the car was doing an average of 23.1 mpg when it arrived.
My first impressions were good, the car looked mean. It looked like it wanted to do business and I swear to god it looked at me and said, “come on then little lady – do your worst” unfortunately the voice of Nigel from Mercedes also appeared in my head saying “slow and steady Nancy, slow and steady”
As usual I like to destroy things, pick them apart at the seams and within 10 minutes of driving I had already found three parts of the car I hated. An annoying picture of a coffee cup, a vibrating steering wheel and flashing red lights that BEEPED LIKE MAD if you had any thing remotely near the blind spot of the car. I was pleased to have found these things, it meant I could get on now with enjoying the car, writing a review has to be balanced and I knew I would adore driving it so I was jolly pleased to have covered the negatives so quickly.
I’ll never understand why companies chose odd colour combinations on demo cars. Surely for your demo you would chose the best options to show the car off in its best light. A few days before getting into the C63 I had been in a Merc CLS with really light ivory interior and piano black trim. It was beautiful. This AMG was black, with an ugly dark ash wood trim and what can only be described as – a supermarkets own brand instant coffee with milk – coloured interior. Oh dear. Black and brown? does that go? I looked at my leopard print brown shirt and black jeans. Maybe, I decided.
By the time I had arrived at my destination, no thanks at all to the Sat Nav which repeatedly told me I was 35 miles out to sea, I had decided that this car had more positives than negatives. I loved its presence on the road, its raw power which you could hear every time you gave it a bit of beans. Did it excite me more than my Porsche, oh god the shame of saying this, yes. Yes it did a bit. It was huge, heavy and a brute. It had me wanting to throw it into corners, power out of them and when it rained for a bit leaving the roads with that glorious greasy sheen BAM I fell in love with it. Cheeky drifting at every roundabout in something that looked like it had no grace or poise at all. The C63 estate is like watching an elephant doing ballet. Expecting it to be an impossibility and then scooping your jaw off the ground as it pulls off perfect Rond de Jambe and Deboule. My Porsche however is comparable to Rudolf Nureyev, we expect it to be light and nimble and so it has to work harder to impress and just the slightest fault is noticeable. Like a faithful husband sitting at home, I know I will never be parted from my perfect Porsche but a dirty weekend with the AMG was on the cards and I was taking it.
The next day some more weird stuff started happening. Remember the coffee cup and the stupid beeping lights on the wing mirrors and the wobbly steering wheel thing? Well, I was actually starting to like these bits of technology. Okay so not so much the coffee cup, I still think thats pointless, and the annoying vibrating steering wheel also got switched off very quickly and never switched back on again. I see the appeal of the vibration though, designed to alert you if you are moving out of your lane, perhaps because you are falling asleep? But I always found those MASSIVE rumble strips down the side of the motorways do the trick and the thing only seemed to vibrate when I was moving between motorway lanes and it just got annoying. What I did enjoy though was the blind spot alert. On your wing mirror are two triangles which flash red when something is in your blind spot and beep at you if it thinks you are pulling out. Extremely useful for making you aware of bikes and I am sure we have all had those moments where we have missed something. Most cars in the rear now have the privacy glass or massive B pillars and so it is really easy to miss cars when checking your blind spot. I like this technology and it must have been good because I am now annoyed that my Porsche hasn’t got it – Porsche…..take note.
The other piece of tech to impress me on this Mercedes was the Distronic Plus system. In fact I used this more than anything else, mainly because by this point the average MPG had dropped to 18 and I was getting bored of putting fuel in. But I am glad I used it. Before switching it on it was another piece of technology that I thought was a waste of money. Cruise control is not something a girl like me uses in a car but actually, and I say this with wincing eyes, If I were ever to buy a Mercedes, and this is looking more and more likely, I would definitely tick the Distronic Plus box on my spec list. Why? because it is so damn clever. Mind you you’ll need the stupid vibrating steering wheel too because there is a very high chance that you will nod off once you realise how little work you actually have to do to drive this car.
Space is good. I shoved two children in the back seats with all the junk they seem to need now a days, a man in the passenger seat and my rather large German Pointer in the boot and we went for a Sunday drive. There were no complaints about lack of room, no arguments and no major issues except for the Sat Nav which still didn’t work and in fact it was on this day I found a big annoyance with the car. Because the Sat Nav was playing silly buggers I decided to bring my TomTom. Sadly, like in the Bentley GT, there appears to be something stopping the TomTom from working which rendered me absolutely stuck. Thank god for my iPhone and 3G, which also didn’t work in the car but worked perfectly well outside the car. Still I don’t think we should judge the car based on an issue with the Sat Nav and besides the bloody thing sorted itself out on the day I was delivering it back to Merc. Typical.
So, lets round this whole thing up. Mercedes have here a fantastic, great fun car. Something that excites and thrills but combines that with a good dose of practicality. Apparently you can achieve 24MPG average in the C63 but, sorry Mercedes, I think you are being a little optimistic but frankly WHO CARES. Maybe if you stick to the speed limits and don’t accelerate hard or enjoy this car for what it is you can achieve the magical 24 figure, but if you want to drive this car like that then shame on you. Its like having a race horse and only ever going for a trot. Once you have put your foot down in this AMG and heard that incredible roar you’ll soon forget how much petrol is being gobbled up in fact you won’t even care. Also, and I know this may upset a few of you, I strongly believe if you are that worried about MPG then you can’t afford a car like this. Don’t even entertain it.
If you are looking into buying a Mercedes, be it a C AMG or something tamer, please research the technology before you start ticking things on the spec sheet. I would highly recommend the beeping blind spot thing, the adaptive cruise control and maybe MAYBE the vibrating steering wheel. Don’t bother with the coffee cup, you’ll spend your whole time wondering what the hell it does and trying to figure out how to switch it off.
I mentioned the useless dealerships earlier on. Now I am not going to sing their praises yet, most of them have been as much use to me as a chocolate teapot, BUT I will say this. Of all the dealerships I use Mercedes are making the biggest effort to improve customer service and product knowledge and they have good grounding to start with. Dealing with the guys (boys and girls obviously) at Head Office has always been an enjoyable experience. Head of VIP and Specialist Products is a pleasure to deal with and the team up there are efficient and knowledgable. When problems arise, which they inevitably do with any business, HO sort them with no stress to me. This is a great sign and slowly I think this efficiency and knowledge will trickle down through the brand all the way to the dealerships. Here’s hoping anyway.
So Mercedes thank you for my dirty weekend away from my Porsche. Have you converted me? Not quite yet. But you have my interest and I am sitting up listening. Lets just hope the young, hip and cool start noticing you too and then you’ll have us all singing that well known Janis Joplin song once again.