One truth to life is that in a gnarly enough B-road even the best cars find themselves struggling for grip, over steering, and under steering, to the apparent surprise of regular motorist that seldom find themselves outside a motorway or a regular city street.
While this massive W212, and the relentless V6 Diesel motor inside it, don’t deny the truths of life, the ECU and programmers in Stuttgart do their best to disagree. Which is why I can’t seem to find the traction control button, nor will this car let me upset the handling. At the slightest suggestion of tire slippage it goes into limp mode; cutting power and strategically pressing brakes to keep you from misbehaving.
But, it is a 2010 model and things were a bit slower back then. The traction control system seems overwhelmed and slow to act, at one point I felt that it made the car feel unsafer in some situations. But, by being slow and incompetent, it also let me learn a few things about the chassis.
It is a lot more eager to oversteer than most cars I’ve driven down this road. Normally I find cars under steering. But not the Benz. It will also proudly light up the rear tires; courtesy of rear-wheel-drive, and this 620NM engine.
Now, the engine is fabulous; it is very powerful, it has great fuel economy, and it doesn’t make a huge racket... that’s pretty much all you wanted from a Diesel engine in 2010, before NOX was a big thing. While the transmission seems to have a mind of it’s own, at least it’s smooth, and does help put the power down.
The steering is light, but loads up appropriately as you chuck the car into corners. Brake feel is great, with a strong pedal that lets you modulate braking in an effective manner. But it doesn’t matter, because the monster motor is a great brake; you could almost drive it with one pedal and the steering-wheel mounted paddles. What I dislike a lot is the handling, because it rides like shit.
You see, my uncle specked this car for my grandfather, the only thing the old man chose was the motor and the color. My uncle went crazy with suede seat inserts, and the Harman Kardon Audio. But the biggest mistake the young man made was checking the box for the 18in AMG, staggered wheels. These tires and rims feel absolutely inadequate.
This strange spec seems to keep the car confused, the big rims make tire roar unbearable, it also makes the car vibrate uncontrollably, and it just handles like a badly specked car, which it is.
Maybe it has sports suspension, because it does handle corners quite flat, but for me that takes away from the experience rather than add to it.
The fit and finish of the interior is also lacking; sure, it’s 9 years old, but it barely gets driven. Still, I could hear pretty much all of the pieces of the interior rattle at different moments, as if different frequencies of tire roar caused different parts to fail.
What I can’t find a problem with is the stereo, which might be the only thing my uncle did right for this car. It’s killer, and it revives some memories from when the car was new, and I was but a young teen that couldn’t drive. It reminds me of a summer when I fell down the stairs with a glass bottle, and cut my hand.
As I held my blood drenched hand with a towel, my grandfather was whistling to an classical song. Maybe it was Vivaldi. He was hammering down this same B road to the hospital. His son-in-law: my father, holding tight in the passenger seat, as he showed-off his ability to drive without touching the brakes.
Yes, it’s a shitty spec, but just like my grandfather didn’t worry about bloodstains on the seats, maybe I should stop worrying about comfort and let go of the idea that the E class should be a slow, comfortable car, while the BMW 5 series should be the sporty, fast one. It handles great, even with the stupid traction control, and it honestly. If he wanted a comfortable car, he could’ve gotten a new set of rims that made more sense.
But, it seems, that he just wanted to hammer down the B roads listening to Vivaldi.