THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 59 Total mileage 81,147 What’s gone wrong Those warning lights are on again CCW’s resident bargain Benz has been subjected to all manner of demanding challenges over the past 12 months, but no one’s ever put it to what is arguably the most gruelling task of them all – the family weekend. And that seems odd, given its huge interior and massive boot.
Determined to address this oversight, I swiped LSR’s keys one Friday afternoon while no one was looking, strapped my son’s child seat in the back and headed off home, looking forward to having my usual weekend commitments transformed by the Merc’s waft-o-matic splendour.
I didn’t get off to the best of starts on the drive home – a sudden rainstorm on what was already a sticky, humid afternoon soon highlighted the non-functioning air conditioning when the windscreen fogged over. Switching the blower to screen-only subsequently revealed that only half of the screen vents appeared to be working; although, rather strangely, full demisting was restored the following day.
Then the clouds parted and the sun broke through. I opened the sunroof and windows, settled back in the huge driver’s leather armchair and relaxed, luxuriating in the straightsix engine’s distant purr, the fourspeed automatic gearbox’s lazy slurs and the gloriously smooth ride.
Job number one the following morning was a family shopping spree. My wife’s a dab hand at this sort of thing in her own right, but with my visiting sister coming along too, I feared that even the Merc’s colossal boot wouldn’t be able to cope with the inevitable glut of bags that we’d be bringing home.
However, I spotted a more pressing issue before we’d even left home – the Merc’s vast rear settee might be big enough to accommodate three people with room to spare, but there are only two seatbelts. My thoroughly disappointed sister, therefore, had to follow us in her Ford Fiesta, rather than joining the rest of us in the Merc. I believe the word she used was ‘gutted’. I contented myself with a muttered ‘unbelievable’.
The S280 later redeemed itself by swallowing the fruits of several hours’ worth of semi-professional shopping, with – amazingly – enough room left over to accommodate the dreaded Weekend Big Supermarket Shop and even a couple of bits from the local garden centre. Mrs Le C – who hitherto hadn’t exactly been over-effusive about our temporary new wheels – was beginning to look at the Merc in a whole new light, no doubt visualising it in soft focus, parked up outside posh country hotels on long weekends away.
I, meanwhile, had settled nicely into the Merc’s languid gait and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels ‘diamond geezer’ attitude. It might be a wallowy old thing compared to my scalpel-sharp daily driver, but it’s way cooler. Then reality came crashing back on my drive in to work on the Monday morning. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the sunroof was open and I was cruising contentedly along with my elbow propped on the window ledge. At which point, the ABS and ETS warning lights suddenly blinked on, accompanied by a noticeable increase in heft from the previously featherlight power-assisted steering. Old cars, eh?
Even Mrs Le C’s legendary credit-cardwielding skills couldn’t fill the Merc’s boot. Amber warning – electrical gremlins strike the Merc again. Weekend food shop? Not a problem for the Merc’s massive boot.