THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 56 Total mileage 80,195 What’s gone wrong The brakes are worse than ever
DAVID SIMISTER It took an AA breakdown recovery man to spur our S-class into action – but not in the way we’d been expecting.
The familiar flicker of orange lights graced the CCW car park after colleague David Brown’s Golf developed a battery issue, and it didn’t take long before we all started chatting classics and how the odd hiccup is only to be expected. With all the old cars in varying states of disrepair outside our offices, our hivis-jacketed miracle worker must be a fairly frequent vistor, right?
‘Actually, it’s been a while,’ he replied. ‘The last car I ended up coming out to was a big old Mercedes. The chaps couldn’t get it going. Something to do with the immobiliser, I think.’
I gestured to P772 LSR, a couple of rows further down. ‘It wasn’t that old Mercedes, was it?’ ‘That’s the one.’ I took pity on our poor old S280. Over the past few weeks it’s seen barely any use: anyone who goes near it emerges looking pale and sharing stories of scary-sounding fuel bills and imminent expensive repairs. It’s also stranded several of the team with iffy electrics –including Yours Truly on a cross-Channel ferry last summer – but I also remember it being a wonderful mobile living room that can shrink swathes of the motorway network.
What it needed was someone well versed in the W140’s foibles to save it, and it didn’t take long to find one. Classics Central’s Justin Lazic is definitely a devotee of Stuttgart’s finest – he owns a CL600 coupé – and he happens to know a friendly specialist not far from his place in Nottingham.
Two days and one phone call later, I was powering up the A1 in our S-class, re-acquainting myself with its charms. It’s still one of the comfiest cars I’ve ever driven, and with the old tired rubber recently swapped for new Bridgestones it felt smoother, sharper and quieter than ever.
Better still, the fuel bill was far less frightening than I’d been expecting. Having set our S-class economy record with 29mpg last year, I was curious to find out if the old girl really was as bad as my colleagues have been making out. This time there’d be no clever-clogs hypermiling or keeping the speed down – I was just driving a big Mercedes normally, primarily on dual carriageways and a bit of city stop-start traffic on the predictably sluggish crawl into Nottingham.
Final score was 24.8mpg – not as amazing as it’s been previously, but certainly not the low-teens horror story that I’ve heard being told.
So the S-class isn’t as thirsty as its reputation makes out, but it’s still a car in need of some attention. The brake judder, mentioned by my colleagues after previous outings, is worse than ever, and the four-speed auto could do with some love. Not that it bothered Justin in the slightest. Having fired up his CL600 to treat wife Natalie and me to the wonderful noise a 6.0-litre V12 makes on start- up, he had a closer look around P772 LSR and declared it a fundamentally good car, particularly for something that cost under a grand.
Justin chucked me the keys to his Rover 800 for the drive back to Peterborough – keep an eye out for it in CCW in a few weeks’ time – and parked our S-class up behind his CL600, ready for its trip to Sheffieldbased Leigh Holbrook.
Will he and his crack team of Mercedes specialists be able to solve our S280’s woes? I hope so, just in case the AA has a ‘fair use’ policy…
David fills the S-class up after the drive from Peterborough – and is surprised at the results.
Justin’s own W140 is this V12-engined CL600. Fancy a swap?
Justin Lazic will be treating our S-class to some specialist TLC.