Z has become a princess without even noticing

I drove my new (to me, it’s ten years old) car to Norwich today, a long way round as I went to fetch two friends who live 9 miles away first. It made a triangle of the journey. And I realise how much the Rover has spoiled me.

I mean, it’s a Mercedes. How much can you complain? But. Hm. I can’t help comparing and it keeps falling short.

Start with the positive, it’s a pleasure to drive, very comfortable smooth ride and the clutch and brake are nice to use. The accelerator needs a heavier foot to start with than I’m used to, but I won’t notice that after a few days. The engine is quiet and smooth, you wouldn’t know it’s done nearly 100,000 miles. It’s slightly smaller than the Rover, which is noticeable in the smaller boot space and a little less legroom in the back, but that’s fine.

And two points over the Rover – I’ve never known a car whose passenger seat goes so far back. This will be a help if ever I need to give a lift to anyone with a leg in plaster or who has limited mobility; not as unlikely as it sounds. And it has a nice little compartment for loose change. I couldn’t understand why my old car didn’t, when the previous Rover did. It’s so useful.

Almost everything I miss is, essentially trivial. But they are things I actively enjoyed and which made driving a pleasure. I should add, at this point, that I am supremely uninterested in cars. Apart from the uneconomonousness (I lost track of the syllables there) of buying a brand new car, I’d be bored with too much choice to make one at all. So if at any point you think “but my last three cars had that as standard” I’m hardly to know that.

What I miss. Sensors so that the windscreen is wiped when it needs to be without you touching anything. Sensors that beep when you’re reversing and getting near something. Being told your average speed, mpg and how far you can go on the petrol in your tank. Climate control. A really good CD player. A steering wheel with alterable height (no point in being able to raise and lower the driver’s seat unless you can get the height of the wheel right too).

What I’d have settled for. A CD player. Air con. The one and only thing I actually specified was air conditioning. And Mike rang me shamefacedly on Saturday to admit that it doesn’t seem to have it after all. And there’s no sodding CD player at all, and the radio is only okay.

Okay, let’s call me a spoilt princess and let it go, at least it’s November and not June But there is one thing I actively dislike and think could cause accidents and that’s that there is no sodding handbrake. A friend bought a car last year and didn’t realise it until too late – he still dislikes it. Instead of a nice reachable lever that you can pull on and let out gradually as you make a hill start, there’s a fourth foot-pedal to brake and a hand-operated catch that you pull to let the brake off. Apart from the awkwardness of trying to juggle accelerator and brake with the right foot at the same time as the clutch and brake with the left and the gear lever with the left hand, when you’re stopped in traffic on a hill, there’s the business of gauging exactly the moment to let the brake off completely as you set off again. I suspect this gizmo was invented with an automatic gearbox in mind, and it would work fine then (although if you were used to a clutch, I can see you accidentally applying it while driving along) but it’s awkward at the least with a clutch. And I’ve known two people who had a heart attack at the wheel of their cars. One was, unfortunately, stopped by running into a flock of sheep, but the other was saved from causing an accident by the passenger grabbing the wheel and steering, while gradually applying the handbrake. And if you forget to put the brake on and start to get out of the car, no quick grab to save it as it starts to roll forward. It’s an awkward leg manouevre at the best.

I know I’m being grumpy. Weeza, yesterday, flicked the Mercedes sticky-up bonnet thingy (must have a name, can’t think of it) in an approving manner “you can look at it as you’re driving along.” “Pretentious nonsense” I grumbled, “who do they think they are, Rolls Bloody Royce?” “Mercedes Bloody Benz,” she said acidly and that’s fair enough.

Oh, and you will never in the world catch me calling it a Merc. Any more than you’ll find me referring to a seat of learning as a ‘uni’.

I’ll get used to it (except the lack of air con) and there’s much to like. But I so resent bloody Rover for building beautiful to drive cars that are so badly designed that they keep going expensively wrong. They deserved to go out of business.

16 comments on “Z has become a princess without even noticing

  1. Z

    That reminds me of the Mapp and Lucia books by EF Benson, where the woman with the Rolls Royce called it a ‘Royce’ as she thought ‘Rolls’ was vulgar!

    It’s the climate control that I like. Yesterday, the heating was always wrong and I had to keep adjusting it. I am used to setting a temperature and the car stays at it. If you’re going around town, it’s more economical to open a window when it’s hot. If travelling faster, opening windows makes the car less aerodynamic and more fuel-inefficient, so you’re better off using air con. I don’t use the car for short, slow trips, I go on my bike.

    Anonymous, yup. That’s me. Though I don’t think it’s too much to expect, for a Mercedes to have a CD player or air conditioning, I acknowledge the princess tag for the sensors. But I refute it for the stupid handbrake replacement.

  2. Blue Witch

    “I should add, at this point, that I am supremely uninterested in cars.”

    I think you’ve just more than adequately refuted that…

    The reason I’ve not changed my car is becuase I like the toys and power, combined with the fuel economy, that my current one has, and I know I won’t get them again. At least not with the same quality.

    You can now get add-on parking sensors btw – they had them on The Gadget Show last week. But you’re probably not *that* bothered…

  3. Z

    Oh. Yes, I see your point. I find the research part incredibly boring. I want to tell someone what I like and let them get on with it. And looking up specifications never tells me what I want to know, they keep banging on about how fast you get up to 60, which I couldn’t care less about.

    We only paid £1300 for the car, plus £50 to Mike for all his trouble (he’s also taken on the selling of the Rover) so it’s not worth spending money on it. Similarly, I’ll get a connector to plug my iPod into the cassette deck rather than buy a CD player. If I like driving it, I can always look for a *better* Mercedes next year, if not I’ll know what to avoid.

    I’d have kept the Rover for years as it was lovely and comfortable and not *that* thirsty for its size (36-38 average mpg for a 2 litre petrol estate) but sadly it was not on. But I actively enjoyed driving that car more than I have any other.

  4. Dave

    I’ve got a connector for i-pod (well, MP3) to cassette deck – used it on my sports car. I don’t need it for my current car, so you’re welcome to it.

  5. Dave

    Yes, really.

    Except, having gone to get it, it’s not where I thought it might be. Post-move, some things haven’t quite turned up where they should. Will rack brain.

  6. Three Legged Cat

    Ooh no air con. I’d miss that. Does that make me a spoiled princess? Oh well, we spoiled princesses don’t care!

    The air con does reduce the mpg of my car slightly ( but nothing like as dramatically as everyone warned me it would), but so does driving with the windows down, which is the only real alternative.

    No hand brake sounds a bit scary. It would never occur to me to ask if a car had a handbrake, I think I’d just assumed that they were standard.

  7. Z

    You’re all right – i mean, as a cat, you’re certainly a princess, but not a spoiled one. It’s being too precious to turn on the windscreen wiper that makes me one!

  8. Z

    I’m sure I could, but it’s not worth spending much money on a 10 year old car. If I end up liking it so much that I want to keep it for several years, it might be worth it, but it may be simpler to sell it and get a newer model. If I added all the things I miss, I could spend more than we bought the car for!

    I don’t really care about a car- reliably getting me from A to B in reasonable comfort is quite enough. It’s just that my last car was so lovely that it’s spoiled me for anything less.

  9. luckyzmom

    Wow, windshield sensors, backing up beepers and your Rover talked to you! I can’t believe your Mercedes has no AC or CD player. I do believe though that the hood ornament is for more than la-dee-ducking-dah, it helps to keep you in the center of the road. Loved Weeza’s aside.

    I can’t recall the last time I saw a car with a handbrake here.

    I think you will be more involved in the selection of your next vehicle. No?

  10. Z

    The parking (rather than hand) brake is fine for a car with automatic transmission, as I understand that most Americans drive, but it’s a loss less suitable for the manual gearbox cars that we prefer generally over here. For one thing, there’s the starting on a hill thing from neutral, which is much easier to get right with a handbrake, and for another, automatics have a parking gear so there’s not the risk of the parking brake not holding (or not having been put on, which is quite likely with something stuck awkwardly up on the side.


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