In my 20s I had a 1972 Mercedes 280sl coupe in dark blue, with a white leather interior. It was a joyful thing, to be clad in a Merc, cruising along the highway. Until I lost the keys and the mechanic at Te Kaha had to smash the ignition to disengage the lock so I could drive back home to Wellington. I cried, watching. I also often cried filling up at the gas station. It wasn't economical to take for a spin. But what a peach. This weekend, I got to see what advances in design the Merc has. Parked in our driveway, it's making everyone in the house swoon. Inside the car, there are no hard edges. Seductive curves equals comfort, but also safety. In independent crash tests, this scored a maximum five-star rating. My hand runs over the smooth ash-dash and console. It's hardcore luxury.
The boot is immense. We load up and prepare for a spin. If we wanted all the boot, we would simply push a button and the split seats flip to flat.
A 2L petrol engine, panoramic glass roof, rain-sensing wipers, reverse camera and gentle understated proximity-panic beeping that doesn't make your ears bleed.
I really don't want to put the technology to the test, but this smart car has a collision prevention system that will brake the car automatically if it senses it is about to hit the vehicle in front, an alert to tell you if another car is in your blind spot, plus cameras that help you stay in lane on the motorway. We try all modes - comfort, eco, sports. It's super-peppy and if there are any bumps on the road, we don't feel them. It's like flying, in first class.
The screen - about the size of a tablet - is controlled by a rotary control, a mouse and a series of buttons. I sync my phone, find music.
Its conservative appearance belies its agility and grunt. Now, to find that abandoned highway.