Getting from A to B in style
Getting from A to B probably has never been easier... especially, says Declan O'Byrne, when the 'B' in question is the impressive new Mercedes-Benz B Class.
If I get one in the post, I am going straight to Mr Mercedes-Benz to complain!
Well, it wouldn't be fair now, would it, if I was to receive a nasty shock, in the form of a speeding fine, when MB hadn't the decency to put in cruise control as a standard feature in its otherwise highly impressive new B Class five-seater SUV?
There I was tootling along the M7, returning to the capital from the sad funeral of an old Dublin school friend who had moved to Co Clare, minding my own business and, notwithstanding the circumstances, thoroughly enjoying the drive itself, when, all of a sudden, one of those dreaded red vans appeared through the mist the hard shoulder.
Naturally, I immediately checked my speed with a view, if necessary, to hastily reining it back to legal proportions but, I fear I may have been a split-second too late!
So, now, for the next few weeks as if life wasn't stressful enough, I will be ogling the postman with a threatening stare every morning lest he attempt to deliver the bad news through my letter box.
However, despite the anxiety, we live in hope... hope that I managed to pound the foot brake sufficiently hard and with such alacrity, that I actually cut my speed before I became camera fodder. My reflexes, though, ain't what they used to be.
It's not that I was intentionally speeding or, indeed, that I would condone it in any way. It's just that the B Class swathes both driver and passengers in such comfort and its powertrain is such a smooth and brilliant performer, that, without cruise control, it is all too easy to be lulled into a false sense of security where the old enemies of speed and the prying eyes of the camera come into conflict.
So, here and now, for the sake of all who can afford one, I am making a plea to MB to include cruise control on the B class not just as an optional extra. After all, the facility is already standard on many other marques which carry far less prestige than a Mercedes-Benz.
And, be assured, it would greatly enhance the already immense pleasure of being behind the wheel of this revised and welcome newcomer on the MB block.
Prior to its arrival, Mercedes-Benz heralded the car as representing what it termed ‘a quantum leap’ in the class, billing it as the first model change in their history to have so many new features introduced at one time.
Not least among its many attractions, of course, and apart from clever design, is the entry level price which, the company points out, is 11 per cent lower than the model it replaces.
And apart from the omission of cruise control in the test car - the B Class CDI Blue EFFICIENCY 6-speed manual priced at €33,024 - the range, which of course also includes petrol variants, does boast hugely improved standard specification.
Incidentally, the entry-level, without the plethora of extras on the test car, costs a much more modest €29,330. However, if you do have your sights set set on a Mercedes-Benz, you probably won't baulk at forking out the extra few euro for all the bells and whistles. After all, you're worth it, aren't you?
For the record, the test car included as extras a Sports pack, Seat Comfort pack, metallic paint in a much-admired shade of chocolate brown, together with "man-made" leather seats. There was also an electronically operated parking brake, a terrific audio system with Bluetooth functionality (a pity about the controls which are clumsy), Eco start stop, low profile tyres to cut rolling resistance and maximise fuel consumption (4.4 - 4.6 l/100km, CO2 114-121 g/km, road tax €160) fine spacious boot, adjustable seating to create even more space when necessary, and Collision Prevention Assist system.
The car's reduced height and lower centre of gravity, together with redesigned electromechanical steering, new four-link rear axle and upgraded electronic stability system, lend it impressive agility and hugely satisfying ride comfort.
A high standard of interior fit-out, spaciousness, seating functionality and increased headroom all contribute to a generally satisfying and even sporty experience.
The B Class is not just good-looking but it's also immensely practical. Nd frankly huge fun to drive.
Important, too, is the fact that it's kind to the environment - even the paint comes with established, environment-friendly deep green credentials.
In case you're wondering about the meaning of Blue EFFICIENCY, it refers to a combination of efficient engines with latest generation aerodynamic and energy-management measures including, as one example, the stop-start function.
In recent years Mercedes Benz has developed a range of cleaner and more powerful diesel and petrol engines. The 1796cc version in the test car delivered outstanding performance which makes long- distance driving in particular a pleasant and non-trying experience.
One quibble, not exclusive to the B Class nor indeed Mercedes itself, is the placing of important controls like air conditioning etc far too low down on the centre console to make it either easy or safe for a driver travelling alone to operate.
Increasingly, I find it necessary to divest responsibility for managing such functions to the front seat passenger, if there is one on hand. Otherwise it is now almost invariabforce essay for the driver to take his or her eyes off the road to manage many in-car systems.
An improvement in this regard - and of course the inclusion of cruise control as standard equipment - would make the B Class close to a dream drive. Take one for a test drive.