A TALE OF TWO MERCEDES AND THE POST RANCH INN
IT IS A well-known fact that I am a socialist trying to get by in a capitalist society. Yes, I have more than my fair share of old cars. To each according to his need, as they say. Also, I am reminded that while money can’t buy happiness, neither can poverty.
On the heels of a thought-inducing recent birthday, such were the weighty concerns as I disembarked in San Diego to attend the launch of the new electric Smart. And to celebrate the big Six-Oh. Seems like only 30 years ago I was in these pages celebrating my 30th with a car company’s help, but there you are. After all those years, I’ve gotten older but still haven’t joined America’s 1 percent.
I came prepared to dismiss the new Smart. I’ve never found previous models from the Mercedes protectorate efficient enough to justify their utility-limiting dimensions and uninspired chassis, except where urban parking was a primary concern. For that I’ve given Smart my top award for New York City parking for 10 years running. Nothing parks easier.
However, Smart quit gasoline and became an all-electric brand last summer, a move that led a significant portion of its dealer body to bail. I assumed the exodus had something to do with the fact that sales were already in the soup. Also detrimental was the 2018 cabrio’s official 57-mile range (58 for the coupe), which, though likely to understate real-life range by as much as 20 miles, is even worse than the outgoing Smart electric, which officially served up a not quite as feeble 68 miles between charges.
Yet for all that, the new model is an unexpected joy, perhaps the most perfect realization yet of the Smart concept. Zippy because of all that electric-motor torque available from 0 rpm, it’s silent, taut, and delightfully airy, just the ticket for shopping or cruising around a large, sunny city. It will even make it to a nearby suburb and back. As always, parking is capo di tutti capi. With tax rebates, the Smart Cabrio is a low-$20,000 proposition, not unreasonable for a zesty, opentopped city car of quality even if it can’t go too far. It’s even more reasonable if you’re looking for a second car and more so still if you’re rich and after one as beach or city transport.
I felt rich when I parked the Smart to assume the helm of a new Mercedes-Benz S560 convertible. As part of a commemorative birthday drive planned to mark my ascent to old mandom, I arranged to wheel the Mercedes 500 miles up to Big Sur and the legendary Post Ranch Inn. Based on years of staying in hostelries above my station, a happy corollary to decades spent attending launches of cars I could never afford, I long since came to the conclusion that there can be no place better to rest one’s weary bones than this singular hotel at California’s westernmost edge. Like the Mercedes, it provides occupants with a sudden and penetrating insight into why the 1 percenters fight so hard to keep what they have.
An ultra-private assemblage of idiosyncratic luxury resort pods overlooking the Pacific, the inn was built on a beautiful spot of land that had been the Post family’s ranch for more than 100 years before opening to guests in 1992.
Think Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater without the engineering defects, cracking concrete, and someone telling you to not touch anything. Rooms are ultra-private, freestanding gems constructed of steel, wood, stone, old wine casks, and other natural materials. Views from all 40 rooms and suites are brilliant, and in spite of a top-shelf approach to everything a guest might need or desire—nothing is left to chance—it lacks the pretense and subliminal hostility so many upscale establishments ooze. At dinner, couples beam at each other with a serenity it’s hard to imagine them mustering back home. This makes it a perfect destination for most any special occasion.
The S560, meanwhile, is the distinguished long-legged distance tourer you might like to arrive in. I’d worried about Mercedes-Benz quality, and although I still wouldn’t want to be paying the repair bills on this $155,000 yacht five or 10 years out, the extravagant conveyance has me convinced. Imposing in its looks, if not as insistently beautiful as the large W126 SEC coupes of yore, it charms with solidity and attention to detail, plus an interior of unspeakable comfort, not to mention fresh style. Like the Post Ranch, it makes me grateful there is a capitalist world for us socialists who are lucky enough to visit on our birthdays. AM