This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
*To read one of our road tests, just select from the menu on the left.*Please remember too, that prices quoted were those ruling on the days I wrote the stories.
In my next life, if I can’t be a motoring journalist, I might consider returning as a wealthy gentleman’s PA (“butler “ for the benefit of those who haven’t learned pc yet). Naturally, “Sir” would be expected to provide us with a Bentley, an Aston Martin and, for daily business purposes, a Mercedes Benz E500 like the one I drove recently.
The car in question was finished in metallic Obsidian Black (the colour of a type of volcanic glass), with optional Avantgarde trim package, full length glass sunroof, lane keeping package, light package, “keyless go,” climatised front seats, COMAND satnav and entertainment package uprated with the Harman Kardon sound option and media interface, and automatic child seat recognition.
I have reservations about the latter; child seats and, by implication meddlesome wives, do not fit with my mental picture of being PA to a wealthy gentleman. Be that as it may, the options listed add but R112 400 to the car’s basic list price of R788 000 – a mere pittance for what you get, Fauntleroy.
Apart from the extensive menu of standard features, all E class cars are fitted with the Elegance trim package (upgradeable to Avantgarde), all models E300 and up have 7G-tronic transmission with steering wheel shift paddles and electronic drive position selector (a wee stalk on the steering column), and E500s are fitted with Airmatic suspension, a R17 700 option on E300s and E350s. Finally, E500s have their suspensions lowered by 15 mm in the interests of improved handling.
A few words on some of the above: it took me five days to stop reaching out for a shift lever on the centre console where these things are usually kept, but one adjusts. Airmatic suspension is not only squishilly comfortable, but it is self-levelling regardless of load, can be raised 25 mm when tackling less-than-pristine road surfaces and adjusts automatically for firmness when pressing on with vigour. It also automatically settles the car down an extra 10 mm at speeds above 140 km/h (not that any of our illustrious and law-abiding readers would ever travel at such speed, of course).
The E500’s engine is a 5461 cc, 32-valve V8 producing 285 kW at 6 000 rpm and 530 Nm of torque between 2 800 and 4 800 rpm. What this means in real life is that the conservative looking business machine leaps forward like a teenager offered a new electronic gadget, when the hammer is floored. Most satisfying.
Apart from that, internal ambience is pure Mercedes – conservative, functional, comfortable and above all, familiar. The company makes quite a lot of the “welcome home” feeling in its literature and if you expect a Mercedes to be a Mercedes, you won’t be disappointed.
Safety, as expected, plays a huge role in the brand’s ongoing development. What is not generally known is that MB employs full-time forensic accident investigators who work alongside German federal authorities in analysing causes and effects of some 500 serious traffic accidents every year. Findings are translated into new safety features and improvements to existing ones.
Examples include the standard Attention Assist module that detects drowsiness on the part of the driver and gives a warning, and the optional lane-keeping package that detects not only unintentional lane wandering but warns of vehicles entering the blind spots on your external mirrors.
An optional Distronic Plus package is radar-based, maintaining a safe distance from the vehicle ahead and giving visual and audible warnings if you approach too quickly. In extreme circumstances, it will even apply emergency braking to minimise damage.
While I confess that this motoring writer could never conjure up R788 000, plus something for extras, the fact remains that these things are so well put together and so well equipped that their pricing, in today’s context, is actually quite competitive.
Price: R788 000 (basic) R900 400 as tested
Engine: 5 461 cc V8
Power: 285 kW at 6 000 rpm
Torque: 530 Nm between 2 800 and 4 800 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 5.2 seconds (claimed)
Maximum speed: 250 km/h (governed)
Average fuel consumption: 10.9 l/100 km (claimed) About 14.1 l/100 km in real world testing.
Maintenance Plan: Mobilodrive 120 (6 years/120 000 km) optionally extendable in increments to 160 000 km-plus
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
Want to ask a question, comment or just tell me you thoroughly disagree with what I say? That's your privilege, because if everybody agreed on everything, the world would be a boring place. All I ask is that you remain calm, so please blow off a little steam before venting too vigorously. Contact me here
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