…still in it.
I’ve been posting about this on my Facebook page but not so much here. Last December I traded the C class (Traveler, henceforth known as Traveler I) for a new E class diesel, which I’ve named Traveler II (or simply Traveler. The Garrett side of my family tree has a habit of simply passing down names and since this is another Mercedes sedan I’m just continuing a tradition.) The trading in of cars before they’re completely unusable with age is not typical of me, but I’d wanted to own a Mercedes diesel since I was a teenage boy and an uncle came for a visit in his brand new 220D. The lady who sold me Traveler I called, left voice mail because I didn’t pick up, and said she could put me into a new C class for less then I’d paid for the first one. I called her back, left voice mail because she didn’t pick up, and said I was very disappointed Daimler still wasn’t importing the C class diesels (they sell one in Europe that gets an honest 40mpg around town so they say), but if she could put me into a new E class diesel for not too much more I might be interested. Well of course I got an immediate call back: Oh there’s one on the dock that’s just for you!
A diesel suits me better then any other sort of car for the long distance road trips I like to take, and because I like having solid things in my life and a diesel is solidness and robustness embodied. When I started this car up for the first time on the dealer’s lot the engine made a sound like I could have driven it clean around the world and it would have only just been broken in. It was love at first revs.
The Mercedes-Benz diesel-powered mid-size sedan is as durable a notion as you’ll find in autodom. Mercedes created the world’s first production diesel-powered passenger car in 1935 and began putting oil burners in its mid-sizers (a.k.a. Pontons) in 1955. The very words “Mercedes diesel” conjure all kinds of associations, from college professors who have forsaken their Peugeots, to wiry German mechanics, to cab drivers in Kabul. It’s an archetype; a 911 Turbo for meerschaum-smoking squares, a Shelby Mustang for people who got beat up in high school. -Car and Driver, “2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec Diesel – The evolution of der classic”
I’m 58 years old, and if this car lives up to its heritage it will be the last car I ever own. Every now and then since driving it home I’ve pulled up to the diesel pump and someone in a Mercedes has pulled up to the other side of the pump and we chat. Often they’re cars that are 10, 20 even 30+ years old and their owners are still in love. These are expensive cars but my sense from talking to other owners is most Mercedes owners, at least the diesel owners, are enthusiasts who weren’t interested in owning an empty status symbol. I took the car to Key West a couple weeks ago and on the way back talked to a man who pulled up to the pump in a 1979 300D. The car looked nearly new, except for wear on the seats, so he’d been taking very good care of it. It had just over 400k miles on it and its owner was still delighted with it.
My new Mercedes diesel is in a metallic color called “Lunar Blue”, which looks almost black in the shadows and a nice deep sky blue in the bright sunlight. I couldn’t get every option and still be able to afford an E class…unlike the ‘C’ I had to settle for less then I wanted…but I got a couple good safety options, including the lane keeping option which uses a camera to detect the lane markings and if you start drifting out of your lane it bumps the steering wheel to get your attention. The best part is it has more passenger and trunk space, feels lots more comfortable then the C (which was itself amazingly comfortable on long distance trips), is solider, quieter, more sumptuous (in the no bullshit understated Mercedes way) then the C and yet it gets way better fuel mileage then the C did and is cleaner emissions wise due to its high tech urea emissions control system. The urea tank occupies the space the spare tire would have, so I have run flats instead.
When I first brought the C class home several years ago it raised some eyebrows in the neighborhood. When I brought this E class home I think some of my neighbors thought I’d gone overboard in the self gratification department. Well…yes and no. The self gratification element is I bought my Mercedes because ever since I was a teenage boy I’ve been simply awed by the quality of their engineering and build. Well…except for that little stretch between 1998 and 2006. But they’re building them again now like they used to and after driving this one for six months now and driving it to Florida twice I am convinced that this model E will take its place with some of the other legendary sedans like the W123. As I said, I like solid things in my life and these cars are magnificently engineered and built. I wish I could shake the hand and thank personally everyone on the assembly line in Sindelfingen who built mine. It isn’t a status symbol, and not even really a statement although you can read it as being one. I simply like over engineered solidly made things that are built to last. It’s the waste-not, want-not plus do the job right or don’t do it at all mindset I grew up on. It’s served me well throughout my life and the older I get, the more I believe in it.
Which also means you don’t buy something like this and run it into the ground. Traveler has had its first 10k service ‘A’ and two oil changes already. I change the oil in my cars at least twice as often as the factory recommends. I changed the oil every two-thousand miles in my first car, a 1973 Ford Pinto, and got almost 136k out of it and even then the engine was in near new condition. I only had to get rid of the car because everything around the engine was falling apart. American cars in those days, an especially small American economy cars, were simply not built to last; consider they only had five digits on the odometer back then. Now I own a car with a heritage of extreme longevity. You take care of a car built like that and you don’t feel like you’re fighting a loosing battle. Every month I get my cleaning tools, shop vac and buckets out and spend several hours giving the Mercedes a good going over inside and out. I had about a half dozen bottles of various car care lotions arrayed around the car last Sunday…something for the vinyl seats, something for the dashboard, something for the wood trim, something for the leather wrap around the steering wheel, tar remover, carpet cleaner…and so on…(I’m a geek…I researched all of this stuff to get exactly what was right for the car) and I have all these different kinds of towels and cleaning tools and brushes and the shop vac’s attachments for various tasks and I’m a busy little bee going here and there around the car. They built me a good car, and now I’m going to take care of it. But it’s a labor of love too.
And something I’ve noticed is people see me doing that and the attitude changes. You can park an expensive German luxury car in a working class neighborhood and if your neighbors see you sweating over it, fussing over it, taking care of it, then its just your own personal eccentricity rather then an empty ostentatious display of money. People don’t mind you spend that much as long as they see some respect for the value of money on your part.
Now the car and I get smiles from the neighbors we didn’t at first. Now it’s I’m just another American male in love with his car. They know better then to start a conversation with me about Mercedes-Benz automobiles though because I’ll talk their ears off about it.
Happy new E Class diesel owner aging longhair hippy nerd on day of delivery,
complete with psychedelic license plates…
[Edited a tad...]