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.