Motoring for Women
The Mighty Mercedes M-Class
For any family wishing to defy downsizing then the mighty Mercedes M- Class is right up their street. Big bold with lashings of attitude the M class has to the ultimate in luxury 4X4 off roaders.
My test car for the week came in the guise of the ML 280 CDI Sport and it was quite apparent how my driving style changed when driving this ‘beast’ of a car. I became King or rather Queen of the road as other drivers scuttled out of my way. Yet I felt so safe driving such a large car and being high up in the electrically adjustable heated drivers seat. I can see why families chose to stay with these large cumbersome vehicles for these very reasons.
However the manufacturers are working extremely hard to make these larger cars more economical and envoirmentally friendly, a tall order considering they need a big powerful engine to pull away for starters.
Well Mercedes are on the case and the 3.0 litre diesel engine in my test car achieved a respectable 29.4 mpg on a combined cycle with CO2 emissions 254g/km that is not too horrendous considering the car took only 9.2 seconds to reach 62mph and claims a top speed of 127 mph. So I felt I was having my cake and eating it driving a not too damaging the planet powerful car equipped with 4X4 capability to conquer any terrain along with great stylish looks for the all important street cred.
However, it costs and this car stood in at £41,347 with a few grand’s worth of extras like the electric glass sunroof – yes, Cockpit Management and Navigation Display with COMAND, effectively an all singing and dancing sat nav with voice recognition at £2,300 - no as a nightmare to try and fathom out.
The Mercedes ML looks great with huge 20-inch alloy wheels colour coded bumpers door handles and door mirrors that are electrically operated heated and fold when parked. Add on the privacy glass, aluminium roof rails, a large bold silver radiator grille and twin chrome tailpipes, the ML leaves passers by with lockjaw.
Hoisting oneself up into the car using the rather aggressive looking aluminium scuff plates and the eyes were drawn to the feast of luxury goodies. Ambient lighting on the underside of the exterior doors, leather upholstery, and more switches than a jumbo jet. These were for toys such as automatic climate control, cruise control, radio CD player 15-inch colour display and telephone keypad plus electric windows. Then came the useful stuff like the automatically dimming rear view mirror, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth and Parktronic that is a visual as well as an audible parking aid for both front and rear.
The ride and handling of this ML was surprisingly good despite the large dimensions and extremely comfortable. Speed bumps were not even noticed with the ML simply gliding over them or steering around them thanks to the precise speed sensitive power steering. The 7G-tronic 7-speed automatic transmission had the gear selector on the steering columns – like the US cars and steering wheel gearshift paddles that are such fun to use.
Being permanent four wheel drive means that if a sudden flurry of snow descended from out skies in June, would not deter the ML. Nor would flash floods with four-wheel electronic traction systems and for those venturing off to hillier picturesque destinations, the ML has a downhill speed regulation to control its descent as well as a hill start assist for normal slight inclines. For those wanting to try a bit of off roading, the ML has a separate off road switch that primes the car for such activities.
Should this go all horribly wrong all occupants will be fully protected thanks to driver and front passenger airbags, front side airbags, and windowbag plus Neck –Pro active head restraints for the front seats and of course Mercedes Pre-Safe system for anticipatory occupant protection. Yet I very much doubt it could come to this as the ML comes with ABS with Brake Assist, ESP with Acceleration Skid Control and ESP Trailer Stability Assist for those who tow. Securing the ML is remote central locking, an alarm system with immobiliser and interior protection yet the ML falls into insurance group 17A.
The ML is also a very practical car with loads of storage solutions including secret compartments in both the front and rear centre armrests, an aux-in socket in the large glovebox plus split folding rear seats for bulkier loads.
I will admit to being a little embarrassed driving such a large 4X4 in today’s dooming planet as I was conscious other people may accuse me of single handily destroying the earth. Yet the ML mated to this 280 CDI diesel engine was actually quite economical and green for a large vehicle. What I loved most about this car was the powered tailgate that made it so easy to open and more importantly by pressing a button closes the boot for you and locks it as well.
You see it s the little things in life that give so much pleasure.
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Jackie Violet, motoring journalist, mother of two and qualified driving instructor reviews cars and outlines issues relevant to working mums and motoring such as safety, entertainment and most of all, comfort!
TO SCRAP OR NOT TO SCRAP?
One of the good things that came of the budget was news that the government will be giving UK motorists £2,000 for their 10 year old or older car in exchange for buying a new one.
As I looked at my aging Scenic I thought maybe this was good time to bid a fond farewell and move up a gear or too in the street cred stakes. It also got me thinking as to what car, given a choice, I would buy. It has to sporty stylish fast and furious rather like me but also a bit practical as the children are still quite young.
Well this car may be destined for the male market according to the press blurb, but when I saw this car then drove it, I finally understood why we women really do not need a man!
The Audi R8 now with an even bigger ten cylinder 5.2 litre V10 FSI petrol engine. This car is pure unadulterated pleasure taking just 3.9 seconds to reach 62mph. For any speed freak this is madness personified but oh so utterly awesome and beats any ride at Thorpe Park. Top speed is 196mph but I unashamedly bottled it at 162mph legally – well nearly – in Granada Spain. Why have Audi made such a powerful car beggars belief but they have because they can and the result will render drivers speechless.
Looks-wise this second generation Audi R8 is not much different from the first R8 yet the most important difference is the new R8 has the worlds first all-LED headlamps as standard, which looks the business as well as a huge safety benefit. Other additions include the Audi magnetic ride adaptive damping that keeps this car firmly on track and an amazing Bang and Olufsen audio system to blast out Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell.
Two versions are available a six speed manual or an R tronic sequential shift transmission gearbox with steering wheel paddles that I personally preferred being more responsive and of course more fun to drive.
Putting my practical hat on for a second, being a two seater means sadly the children will have to stay at home and with the miniscule boot in the front, just enough for a small weekend getaway with possibly the hubby that is if he does not feel too inadequate after his wife has driven the car!
Both engines are utterly uneconomical at around the 20 mpg combined and CO2 emissions could damage the planet in their own right.
But who cares when you are spending £99,575 on the manual or £104,665 on the R tronic, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of cost cutting and encouraging car owners to relinquish their old model in favour of a new therefore ‘greener’ one.
Maybe I should scrap that idea.