Monday, June 11, 2012

Class Distinctions

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I travel quite a bit for my job. That gives me the opportunity to sample a number of different rental cars. Normally, I get cars like the Chevy Cruze, or the Toyota Corolla. Last week, I was shocked and surprised to find a Mercedes C-class sedan waiting for me at Hertz Rental Center at Boston's Logan International Airport. I didn't know what mistake someone made to place this vehicle at my disposal, but, since I have never driven a Mercedes before, I was not going to complain. Although the C-class is a four door sedan, it was quite sporty, almost sexy. The interior was covered in buttons to automate just about everything on the car. The sun roof was a nice touch, although it rained all week so I did not get to take advantage of it. All in all, it was a pleasure to drive this marvelous machine for four days.

This week, I was surprised to find that I was once again being graced with a Mercedes from Hertz. This time it was a E-class four door sedan. Imagine my excitement at being lucky two weeks in a row. I must admit that my hopes for an even more enjoyable experience were high. After all, the E-class is the next step up from the C-class. At first glance, the E-class appears to be luxury at its finest. Leather interior, individual climate control, sun roof, satellite radio, and much more, giving the feeling of ultimate driving pleasure.

I have now driven the E-class for one day. Where the C-class made one desire to drive it to the ends of the earth, the E-class makes one desire to drive it off the end of the earth. Preferably into the fiery pit of hell. The C-class Mercedes had pep, spunkiness, energy, excitement. On the other hand, the E-class is like imagining your parents having sex. You know that it must have happened, but every fiber of your being finds it wrong in every possible way.

Let's start with the fake wood trim that is present all over the interior. I have never understood why car manufacturers feel it is necessary to create pieces of plastic that look like wood and put them in a car. Am I supposed to be fooled by this, thinking that maybe they went to great lengths to carve the interior of the car out of a single hundred year old Oak tree? It's cheap plastic ... No one is fooled. Then there is the gear shift. In the C-class, the gear shift was between the two front seats and looked, surprisingly, like a gear shift. You knew when you have put the car into park because of the position of the gear shift. The E-class has a gear shift that comes off of the steering wheel console and looks like a turn signal. To put the car in park, you press a button on the end of the so-called gear shift. The only indication that you have put the car in park is a small sign on the dashboard. I guess you could wait to see if the car jolts forward, smashing into anything in front of you when you lift your foot off the brake, to find out that it isn't in park. But, why?

Now, I want to talk about acceleration. When driving the C-class, one felt like the power of the gods was at one's fingertips. The E-class, on the other hand, is slower than a turtle stuck in Super Glue. Where the C-class' zero to sixty acceleration is measured in seconds, the E-class should be measured in minutes. It's like watching the launch of the space shuttle. You reach zero, the engines ignite, but the shuttle still just sits on the launch pad for a minute before taking off. Because of the acceleration, I feel like I need to keep at least three miles between me and any other car in front of which I might be pulling.

Finally, there is the size. The E-class doesn't look big from the outside, but when you are driving, it feels like the front grill is fifteen minutes ahead of the rest of the car. It feels like I am driving the Titanic, without adequate warning, I'll hit every iceberg around. It feels like this car was made specifically for people that won't drive over ten miles an hour ... Ever.

This all raises the question of what went wrong at Mercedes? They made such an awesome car with the C-class, then came the E-class and someone said "Let's not do anything that worked with the C-class, and instead take a chapter out of Yugo's business plan". It is just all wrong. I want to love this car because it is a Mercedes, but I just can't. I can't shake the thought that this should be a really awesome car, but it just isn't. There is definitely a distinction between the classes. After my four days are up, I will be glad to hand this Mercedes back over to Hertz, looking forward to the Toyota Sentra that I will most likely end up with next week.

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