ho are you driving with?” is one of the most common questions motoring journos ask one another on car launches. It matters.
We share test vehicles and if you’re out of spoke with your driving partner, spending a full day navigating highways and treacherous mountain passes can be a tedious affair.
American writer and wit Truman Capote described a good conversation as “a dialogue, not a monologue. That’s why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.”
I’ve had my fair share of monotonous, one-way streets where I’m cooped up with a fellow who can only torque about carbon emissions, RPM and kilowatts while I’m dying to engage about the latest refugee crisis, the loss of Bowie and Prince, or whether wedges or stilettos are more dangerous to drive in.
So, on the recent launch of the justreleased, supersexy Mercedes C-Class Coupé, I nabbed Mr “Golden Oldie” Roger McCleery, one of motoring’s most loved commentators. I wanted him to travel the scenic 300km route that Mercedes had mapped out for us in George and the rest of the Western Cape.
With more than 50 years of experience in the industry, starting out by racing motorbikes on Cape Town’s Killarney racetrack, I knew Roger would have plenty of insight, and not only about what’s under the bonnet. While we nattered about Donald Trump’s dastardly plans for the US, and the Kumamoto earthquake that had hit Japan, we shared our enthusiasm for our wheels, Merc’s baby C-Class Coupé with its low-slung silhouette and curvy rear. Some of its mechanical bits are shared with the mighty S-Class (the same superior suspension system and Airmatic air suspension as an option) and we enthused about the clutch of standard equipment that the sultry coupé offers. We soon tested the Collision Prevention Assist PLUS, cruise control and ECO Start/Stop, while I gave Mr Mac a lesson in Bluetooth: I seamlessly linked my latest Samsung into the Audio 20 infotainment system and introduced him to the beats of Kanye West and Dre through banging Burmeister speakers. Swapping our impressive, fuel-savvy, 6-speed manual C 220d, which packs 125kW of power and 400Nm of torque, we sidled into the top-of-the-range C 300 (watch out for the AMG!) and soon revelled in its impressive 2-litre turbopetrol engine that emits 180kW and 370Nm.
While Rog pointed out the details of the dynamically configured chassis, its agile handling and impressive suspension with almost zero road roar and tyre vibration, I gave him a quick lesson in Instagram and posted a bunch of selfies to capture some memories of the day.
When we took a pit stop in the small town of Oudtshoorn, we turned a couple of local heads. Petrol attendants nodded in approval as I snapped my automatic seatbelt feeder and we emerged from our coupé’s leather sport seats.
I bet some people thought Rog was my 80-something blesser!
At the airport, I borrowed my farewell lines from Jane Austen’s Persuasion: “My idea of good company, Mr McCleery, is the company of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company.”
Legendary wheels, like good wine, always make torque smoother.
TOP OF THE RANGE The new Merc is superior on every level POWER PLAY