Mercedes-Benz is ruling the world one car at a time.
Of course, that car can be a 90 horse power diesel A Class or a 1000+ horse power hypercar.
I don’t know exactly how Mercedes got to where it is, but it must have done something right.
You see, last week I drove a Mercedes E Class Cabrio, a new car, with barely 1000km on the odometer. It was heaven. But that was just the beginning of the ‘story’ I want to tell here. When I went to pick it up at Mercedes headquarters, it was parked next to an AMG E Class 63 S on the one side – that’s a 612 horse power, four-door, ballistic saloon – and a GLA 45 AMG on the other. The GLA 45 is no E 63, but it still packs 381 horse power in a relatively small package, meaning it’s no slouch.
So far, so great. Mercedes is really building cool cars nowadays, I thought. But then I got home and read the news of the craziest thing that will ever come out of a German car factory: it’s called the AMG Project ONE, it is supposed to celebrate 50 years of AMG and the idea is you can now drive – assuming you have €2.75 million plus taxes burning your bank account – a Formula One car to the supermarket.
The AMG Project ONE uses the same power unit Lewis Hamilton carries around every other Sunday. Not something like it – the same. Detuned to 11,000 RPM instead of the F1 car’s 14,000, but still, a Ferrari LaFerrari revs to ‘only’ 9,000 RPM.
In theory, this is the fastest, most technologically-advanced car ever made. In practice, well, I am not sure how someone will be able to cope with 1000+ horse power in a car weighing less than 1000kg, but I will be on the lookout for some YouTube videos later next year, when the first very, very wealthy customers get their hands on their newest toy.
Getting back to the E Cabrio the next day, I looked at the car in a slightly different way. I mean, come on, these are the guys who have just built a Formula One car for the road and here I am driving another car the same people make. And I realised Mercedes currently has the best marketing men in the business.
I mean, even I who live and breathe cars and know everything about them, felt mesmerised by the Project ONE and saw a connection to an everyday thing like the E Cabrio. That is the whole point of creating something so outrageous: to make noise, to get noticed, to say ‘if we can do this, imagine how good your normal Mercedes must be’ and to sell them by the bucket load.
Mercedes is the world’s leading premium brand and the distance to second place BMW is growing with each passing year. They know what the customer wants and how to make people feel like they own something special, be it an entry-level A Class, a seriously classy E Cabrio, a crazy-fast AMG E63 or that spaceship called the Project ONE.
Every month, Mercedes sells over 180,000 cars worldwide. Let’s say showrooms are closed on Sundays and that on the other six days of the week they are open from 10am to 8pm – that works out at 692 cars sold for every hour the dealers are open. It’s incredible, isn’t it?
So what about the E Cabrio I drove? Does it live up to the current Mercedes hype? Well, let me tell you this: every week I drive my children to school in a different car and the other parents look at me like I’m a drug dealer or something, especially those who never got the courage to ask what I do.
They hardly comment on any car we show up in, but the Mercedes, well, it stirred the waters. People wanted to see the car, touch it, feel that beautiful sun-proof leather and … ‘Is that real wood’? Yes, yes it is, especially made for this model, sir.
Some even built up the nerve to ask if they could sit in it. But of course you can! And then, they would congratulate me on my choice of wheels. It’s that kind of car.
The E Class Coupé and Cabrio are, to me, the two most beautiful Mercedes on sale today. But having driven the Cabrio for four days, I am pleased to say it is not just a pretty thing. It is definitely an old-school Mercedes for today’s demanding clients. Rock-solid, beautifully built, supremely comfortable, with a perfect blend of craftsmanship and technology and, above all, the X factor that makes every journey feel special.
I don’t care if it is fast (it is, at least the 190 hp diesel), efficient (yes), dynamic (very much so for this kind of car), or if it will outrun the equivalent BMW or Audi (do they even have a rival for this car?). I really don’t. The only thing I care about is how good it felt to drive it for those four days and how much I want people to buy these cars, so I have the privilege of watching them go by on the street.
Yes, Mercedes is on a high. Selling two million-plus cars every year, producing 1000 horse power street legal racers, leading the F1 world championship. And there is much more to come, especially on the electric and autonomous segment. The world is at their feet.
By Guilherme Marques