As interesting as a lettuce and as hair-raising as Enid Blyton

Or, an upmarket taxi.
Still, Jeremy Clarkson could not actually fault it in a serious way.,,12529-1550636_1,00.html
Mercedes E-Class By Jeremy Clarkson of The Sunday Times Soon, Blair will make us all buy this car
As the government and our increasingly insane local councils continue to wage their fanatical class war with the internal combustion engine, we get some interesting news. For the first time there are more families in Britain with two cars than families with no car at all. Of course, Gordon Brown would tell us that this is an unfortunate side effect of his masterful control of the economy and that the longest period of stability in the nation's history has brought untold riches to all and sundry. It's a theory for sure, but there are other reasons why people run two cars. Like, for instance, human beings are lunatics.
You may have read recently that the beaten up old Fiat Panda belonging to Michael Howard's wife Sandra was beaten up still further after it had been left in a station car park. This looked good in the election campaign. The wife of the leader of the opposition tooling around in a 17-year-old peasant-mobile. But I'm willing to bet this was actually the family "station car".
You may be unfamiliar with this strange new phenomenon so let me explain. The idea is that you buy a banger that can be scraped and vandalised while left in a station car park. Lots of people round these parts have such a thing, including one chap whose idea of a banger is a brand new Mini Cooper S. Think about that. He's bought a 15,000 car like it's a disposable razor, or a cardboard camera. Something to be used and abused, bashed, crashed and then thrown away. And he's not alone.
I met a middle-aged woman the other day who couldn't be bothered to work out how the rear seats on her Toyota Yaris fold down. So she bought a Seat Arosa as well, in which she keeps the back bench permanently tucked away. "I use the Toyota for transporting people and the Seat for moving stuff," she said.
Then you have the Sheridan family from Leicestershire who run a fleet of five cars. "This way," according to Mr Sheridan, "the drive is permanently full so passers-by believe we have visitors and will be less inclined to drop in."
My wife is similarly potty. She recently bought a Land Rover from the Swiss army. It has four 20ft aerials, whistlers for scaring away wildlife, a gun, camouflage netting and tyres so wide that turning the steering wheel is only possible in theory. The sole crumb of comfort I can take from this insane purchase is that having been a Swiss army vehicle it won't have seen any action at all.
Obviously I wondered out loud what in God's name had caused her to buy such a thing. "Well, it'll be useful for picking up the Christmas tree," she replied, hopefully.
This is undoubtedly true. But buying a car specifically to make an annual five-mile round trip does seem awfully extravagant. It'd be like buying a dinner service "for best" or a leaf blower for those troublesome autumns. And this is what worries me. Because it's now increasingly becoming the norm. And that means legislation cannot be far behind.
Soon, and I'm going to keep this column in a special place so I can revisit it at a later date and write a told-you-so follow-up, I can pretty much guarantee that a pinched-faced class warrior in Whitehall will raise the issue at a quango. And the next thing you know we will be limited by law from owning more than one car.
The argument will sound good. We'll be told that the world doesn't have enough resources to let people own cars simply to frighten away unwanted guests, or because they can't be bothered to find how the rear seats fold down. We'll also learn that such a ban would be good for congestion, good for reducing the stranglehold of the global car industry, and good for the kiddies, who once again would be able to play footie in the streets.
Then they'll ban rugby, dinner parties and leaf blowers as well. And then you'll be forced to talk with a regional accent. And then they'll shoot your dog, unless it's a pit bull or a whippet. And then they'll get rid of the royal family. And then all the animals will be equal.
So if you're only allowed to have one car, what should it be? Obviously by then we shall also be banned from owning a four-wheel-drive vehicle of any kind and possibly BMW will be outlawed, too, for being elitist. Rover will be gone, Audi will still be tuning its suspension to deal only with the velvet smoothness of the designer's mahogany desk, Jaguar will still be making concept cars to show which direction it's headed and you still won't want a hybrid because you still won't be able see the point of a car with two engines.
So what about the Mercedes-Benz E-class? By rights this large and expensive saloon car should be viewed in the same way as private education or business class travel. It should be a target for people called Dave, and yet somehow, because it's an understudy to the S-class and the extraordinary CLS I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, few see it that way.
I see it, mostly, as the car from which G-list celebrities spill at rope 'n' red carpet functions in London's glittering West End. I see it as a slightly upmarket taxi. Oh sure, the version I tested came with a creamy 3.5 litre V6 engine, space in the boot for Christmas tree, lots of dead cow and many electrical functions, but each time I climbed aboard I felt like I should really be wearing a cheap suit, and that Rebecca Loos should be in the back. It felt, in other words, like a tool, rather than a car.
I must say I also found it monumentally boring. The figures suggest it will go from 0-62mph in 6.9sec, which is pretty sprightly for a car of this size, but I never once felt inclined to push the accelerator all the way to the floor. And nor did I ever feel the need to explore its claimed top speed of 155mph, because this is one of those cars that no matter what you do settles on a motorway to 80. Corners? Well, since I didn't crash I can only assume that the steering wheel does have some say in the direction of travel, but not in a way that encourages anyone to explore the outside of the handling envelope. It's built to be driven in such a way that Jodie Marsh doesn't drop her alcopop.
And that's why this would be the perfect one car in Tony Blair's one-party state.
You would certainly never take this car out for fun, and you would never drive it in an enthusiastic fashion either. You'd cruise into town, park and then cruise home again, wondering if perhaps you might have been better off on the bus. If it were a colour it'd be beige. If it were food it would be lettuce. It is as hair-raising as Enid Blyton.
A car like this is large without being ginormous, and apparently well made, in a factory where all the water is recycled and all the wood comes from company-run reusable organic forests. And when you've finished with it your hand will be bitten off up to the elbow by a London "chauffeur" who needs something to take Ant and Lard to the Baftas. This means residuals are excellent.
This, then, is a car you buy with your head. But human beings have hearts, too. That's what gives us passion and makes us lunatics. That's why I've ordered a Ford GT, and why my friend has a Mini Cooper station car. It's why another chap I know has an old Mercedes 600 Pullman that his wife doesn't know about.
And it's why we scan the second-hand columns of this newspaper dreaming about Astons and Ferraris.
If all the animals were equal, we'd all have E-class Mercs. But as we know, some are more equal than others.
Vital statistics
Model Mercedes E350 Avantgarde Engine V6, 3498cc Power 272bhp @ 6000rpm Torque 258 lb ft @ 5000rpm Transmission Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive Fuel 29.1mpg (combined cycle) CO2 231g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 6.9sec Top speed 155mph Price 36,270 Rating 3/5 Verdict As interesting as a lettuce and as hair-raising as Enid Blyton
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