Mercedes-Benz shows off another side to their range of passenger cars at this year’s MBDE
Photos courtesy of Daimler South East Asia
From 4th to 12th of November, Mercedes-Benz held the 2016 edition of their Mercedes-Benz Driving Event, an event that gave participants – consisting of both current and potential customers, members of the press and friends of the German marque – the opportunity to acquire the skill of driving competently and safely in a wide range of Mercedes-Benz models. At the same time, Mercedes-Benz also held the First Gear Program, exclusively for both young and newly licensed drivers on the last day of the event – this was also the first time a car brand had done so in a long time here.
All of them are experienced race car drivers - don't let their innocent smiles fool you
Led by a largely Australian Mercedes-certified professional safety driving instructors with race veteran Peter Hackett playing Chief Instructor, the comprehensive programs assisted participants in gaining an acute understanding of the Mercedes-Benz safety philosophy and the relevant skills to improve safety on the road.
Better still, participants experienced some of the latest models such as the C-Class Coupé, E-Class, CLA Coupé, CLA Shooting Brake and the SLC for the different exercises.
Yours truly, who was kindly invited by Daimler South East Asia, started the day at the high-speed course which consisted of the combination of a tight slalom, fast U-turn and another combination of fast slalom; it ended with the driver having to stop within a box. Given the chance to sample the C 180 Sedan, CLA180, CLA250 Shooting Brake, C200 Coupe, C200 Sedan and A45 AMG, you do get to notice how each car behaves very differently in terms of steering behaviour, body movements and engine/transmission responses. That said though, my personal favourites would be the A45 AMG (brilliant steering and suspension response, lovely exhaust note and satisfying brakes) and CLA250 Shooting Brake (surprisingly chuckable in tight turns, alert transmission, great brakes).
The second station is the Brake-and-Evade or affectionately known as the Moose Test. For this exercise, what was required from us were to (a) get up to speeds of between 60 to 70 km/h, and then (b) taking cue from a gantry (nope, not the ERP type), get ready to head to the left or right, and lastly (c) avoid and stop without hitting any cones. It sounds easy in theory, but most participants I spoke to had not done such an exercise before – hence, most did not reach up to speed, braked to late or did not turned into the direction set by the gantry. That said, at the end of our time in this station, everyone grasped what needed to be done, driving with vigour.
So what were my favourite cars for this exercise? You might be surprised – I enjoyed the GLC250 and E200! The GLC250 was simply because the additional height over its sedan brethren made it a challenge to go fast, particularly the body movements and steering character - and once in a while, I do enjoy challenges… plus drama.
The E200? To be honest, it does come across as a tad silly next to the more compact C-Class and B-Class all thanks to its size; but due to the fact that I somewhat ‘threw’ it into an oversteer, kept it under control and receive an ego-boosting praise from the instructor, it all worked out in my favour…
Then came the last exercise of the day: Showcase of the Mercedes-Benz’s smart Electronic Stability Program (ESP). A C200 was deployed for this, with the rear tyres wrapped in nylon ‘Easy Drift’ tyre cover. If you’re wondering what’s the purpose of this, well according to the instructor it is solely to simulate driving on ice. True enough, trying to keep the car poised on track while taking turns was a huge challenge – with ESP switched off, I was slipping and sliding around.
Once ESP was switched back on however, the said C200 changes directions with ease, even when you go full throttle - the system simply cut power from the engine and delivers only what all four wheels need in a slippery situation.
The day ended with – what else – a satisfying meal for all, a certificate as momento and best of all, new skills and knowledge which could be applied for everyday driving. The program surely equipped participants to handle their vehicle safely and to respond appropriately in critical driving situations.
(At least the next time I see a Mercedes-Benz being driven like ‘it is his grandfather’s road’, I can safely conclude they haven’t gone for a MBDE, and steer away...)
First lesson of the day: How to seat properly while driving
The instructors also took most of the participants on a wild taxi ride using the A45 AMG - those things sound damn lovely!
Satisfied? You betcha'...