Motoring Review - Mercedes M

Andrew Eyley shoulders his camera and gets behind the wheel of the<br/><br/>marvellous Mercedes M

In the world of academia, it’s the ‘A’sthat count. But in the world of Mercedes, the discerning driver is almost spoilt for choice…

There’s the trendy and economical little ‘A’ class. The practical and spacious ‘B’ class, and the ever popular ‘C’ class. There’s the executive ‘E’ class, and my favourite ‘SLK’ sportsters. Plus ‘R’s, ‘GL’s, ‘CL’s, ‘SL’s, the list goes on. But having seen more ‘C’s on my school reports than Mercs in my garage, I felt I’d arrived – even before starting my journey behind the wheel of the ML 350 Sport CDI.

After handing me the key, sales executive John Wiles ran through a few of the features of this particular model. He explained about the finger-touch auto gearbox change mounted on the steering column, the foot operated handbrake, and demonstrated how the satellite navigation screen became a camera when reverse gear was engaged. I obviously paid attention; but couldn’t help thinking that things seemed unnecessarily complicated.

Heading towards the Peak District, with Lady Gaga blasting out from the onboard sound system, I aim the prestigious three pointed star towards Castleton and a favourite piece of road. There can be few areas of the UK to rival the stunning scenery around Winnats Pass and Rushup Edge. Few Sport Utility Vehicles boast a better list of standard safety equipment, or match the solid Germanic build quality.

Up hill and down dale, I turn right to the Derwent Dams and a quick photoshoot at the side of the road. I have no wish for these alloy wheels to leave the safety of tarmac, and suspect that the majority of its owners will feel the same. It’s all a bit too special to risk scratching that sumptuous paintwork.

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in my opinion she’s not exactly a stunner. They also say that beauty is only skin deep; and from behind the stylish leather steering wheel looking over the array of contemporary dashboard goodies this M takes on a whole new appearance. It’s a real technophile’s dream, with buttons and switches capable of doing things I’d never even thought of.

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Half way up Winnats Pass and I’m on top of the world as lenses are changed and exposure adjusted, recording to memory card a selection of digital images which will later grace the pages of the county’s top magazine. They say that photographers are never happy; too much light can cause harsh shadows, or too little when the tripod has been inadvertently left in the studio causes camera shake problems. But today I was satisfied my photos would meet with the editor’s approval.

The interior really is a touch of class, with heated front seats and more than enough space for five adults to travel in style. My camera gear, tripod and coat look lost in the cavernous boot. The exterior design, with its darkened ‘privacy’ glass, is best described as ‘muscular’.

Throughout my journey, which took in north Derbyshire’s potholed country lanes and dual carriageways, I’m constantly impressed with the level of refinement and smoothness of the ride. I can’t resist trying to catch out the silky smooth auto box by playing with the steering wheel mounted paddles – which change power characteristics with a slight tap of the finger. It just doesn’t happen. The 2,987cc diesel engine is a perfect match for the 7-speed gearbox, with more than enough power on tap to force this driver back in his seat when the accelerator is used ‘enthusiastically’. I didn’t look at the digital readout informing me of the current mpg.

Being the world’s oldest car manufacturer, and an iconic brand synonymous with quality, Mercedes- Benz has never been one to rest on its laurels. Scribbling in my notebook, the three ‘R’s immediately spring to mind. But in this case they stand for Rugged, Refined and Responsive. The phrase ‘could do better’ never leaves my pencil. This vehicle excels at pretty much everything.

Effortless on fast open roads, delighting on tight sweeping bends and proving its mettle in the comfort stakes, this vehicle passes each task with honours. The only negative for me is that like many of the other finer things in life, it comes at premium price. Ranging between �40,910 and �78,430, the mighty ‘M’ could never be classed as cheap. Makes me wish I’d valued my education a little higher.

Conscious of time, I can’t resist a quick spin around Hardwick’s back lanes. I look for trees with more than a hint of autumnal colour, but fail. It’s just a bit too early. I settle for a treelined back road with just a hint of sunshine filtering through the branches. I think back to poetry lessons and reciting Keats.

At the end of the day this particular Mercedes had ticked all the boxes and I’d decided that ‘M’ obviously stands for marvellous. Full marks for the white Mercedes; straight to the top of the class…

Many thanks to Mercedes-Benz of Chesterfield, for the loan of the MClass. Tel: 01246 222600

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