£500 Chal­lenge

Mercedes-Benz S280

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - MUR­RAY SCULLION Mur­ray Scullion

1996 MERCEDESBENZ S280 THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 680 To­tal mileage 80,020 What’s gone wrong? Plenty. Plus it’s still mas­sively thirsty

Last week, I com­plained that oth­ers were moan­ing about the Merc’s fuel con­sump­tion. As I’m this car’s kind-of-cus­to­dian, I take great of­fence at other peo­ple get­ting testy with it.

Pre­vi­ously, I’ve ripped into peo­ple for men­tion­ing the words ‘fuel’ and ‘con­sump­tion’ –‘ What do you ex­pect from an S-class?’ I asked snidely. ‘It wasn’t meant for peo­ple of your pay grade and so­cial stature.’

In or­der to as­sess the wal­let-break­ing an­tics re­ported by my col­leagues, I took P772 LSR away from the peas­ants and repro­bates that fre­quent Clas­sic Car Weekly’s of­fices in search of classier sur­round­ings and peo­ple more ac­cus­tomed to the finer things in life. Specif­i­cally, foot­ballers. None of those nou­veau riche Pre­mier­ship star­lets, mind you – I took the Merc to a Satur­day league game. These foot­ballers are so good that they shun the pro­fes­sional leagues so that they can pur­sue other, more re­ward­ing av­enues. Like estate agency. Or car­pen­try.

I loaded up the old barge with three friends and made the 60-mile round trip from Peter­bor­ough to Hol­beach Foot­ball Club to watch some other friends play in a cup fi­nal. En route it be­came ap­par­ent that Richard Kilpatrick’s work on the car has in­stantly im­proved it. The new tyres give im­proved grip, and gen­er­ate less road noise. It’s ob­vi­ously still wal­lowy, but that’s mainly due to the soft sus­pen­sion and the sheer size of the thing. You can still drive it briskly, but only if you can hold on to the ship’s wheel with all the force your bi­ceps and fore­arms can muster while sit­ting in the cap­tain’s chair.

The se­vere wheel wob­ble above 70mph (not that we’d ever go above 70mph, of course), mean­while, has been re­placed by a se­vere wheel wob­ble un­der hard brak­ing. Drop­ping an­chor at mo­tor­way cruis­ing speeds pro­vides a huge amount of feed­back, al­beit in all the wrong ways. Truth be told, it feels like the front left disc is warped.

Any­way, back to the trip. Ini­tially I’d asked said Satur­day league foot­ball stars to pose with the S-class and of­fer an opin­ion on it. Many of them drive pre­mium Ger­man cars, and it would’ve been in­ter­est­ing to see if any of them could have guessed that our Mercedes cost the same as a set of front park­ing sen­sors on a new Audi.

How­ever, as is the way with cup fi­nals and am­a­teur teams, the match dragged on a bit. In true Satur­day league style, peo­ple got their en­trance fee’s (£4) worth. There were two send­ing offs (three, if you in­clude one of the man­agers), and it went to penal­ties. This meant that it was too dark to get a pho­to­graph of the foot­ballers with the car.

How­ever, an as­sorted mass of Long Sut­ton Ath­letic Foot­ball Club’s play­ers did visit the car. Com­ments ranged from the pos­i­tive – ‘I can’t be­lieve you only paid £500 for this’ – to a less-than-con­struc­tive ‘It looks a bit ****, doesn’t it?’ Most did agree how­ever, that the shape was clas­sic luxo-barge styling, and that the looks would soon grow on peo­ple.

As far as fact-find­ing mis­sions go, this one was a bit hit and miss – un­til I got home and did some sums. On the trip from Peter­bor­ough to Hol­beach, us­ing a mix­ture of mo­tor­ways, B-roads, and a bit of town driv­ing, I av­er­aged 18.8mpg. Which is dread­ful. I wasn’t even gun­ning it.

In short, col­leagues, friends and am­a­teur foot­ballers alike are hes­i­tant about the big lov­able Merc. Watch this space, though – we’ll get to the bot­tom of why its econ­omy is so dread­ful even­tu­ally.

‘Com­ments ranged from the pos­i­tive, to “It looks a bit ****, doesn’t it?”’

There’s a bunch of foot­ballers in the boot. Hon­estly.

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