Jamie Rae, the founder of Redeem plc, took the new hybrid S-Class Mercedes for a work-out and found it a luxurious way to enjoy the open road
I started my entrepreneurial business life driving an ice cream van in the housing schemes of Falkirk. I learned the importance of cash flow in these early days selling ice cream. My van had all the bells and jingles that you would expect but it was a struggle to push it over 30mph.
All through my working life, I’ve enjoyed the pleasure and thrill of driving. As I set up a print and design company, which became Redeem plc, we had a second-hand Citroen Berlingo, than a Toyota Hiace van to move the recycled ink cartridges. Then, as we expanded, we needed lorries to do the heavy lifting of pallets of mobile phones, computer and tablets that were flown out from Glasgow to be recycled in Hong Kong.
As Redeem became more a major business – sharing our success with charities across the UK by donating in excess of £10 million - I was able to drive some nicer and faster vehicles. However, it wasn’t until I sold Redeem in 2011 that I had money to spare on buying a luxury car. I had a great deal of fun with a Bentley Continental GT, then I found that a 4X4 Range Rover was more practical for my needs as I set up the Throat Cancer Foundation. However, I’ve always had a sneaking admiration for the S-Class Mercedes. It always looks sleek and stylish.
So when BQ had the opportunity to test drive the latest S400 Hybrid Long Wheel Based AMG version with the all-new electric engine, I reckoned it was not to be missed. With a price tag of £73,000, including some extras, it's no surprise that I describe the S Class as luxurious. The car is eerily quiet and smooth especially in electric power mode. Having driven hundreds of thousands of miles on business over the years, I appreciate that being comfortable in the car is critical. It helps you arrive fresh for a vital meeting. The Merc has excellent seating position with plethora of fine adjustments that makes finding the perfect driving position easy. There as effortless response and poise from seven-speed gear box with the changes imperceptible. I’m a geek for measurement: what I liked was the impressive information screens making all adjustments on the road easy – and keeping your speed on track - while you can select your favourite radio channel, in this case BBC Radio Scotland, without hassle. The navigation systems just seem to get better and better and this one was impressive. The 360 degree camera system is the best I've experienced and makes parking simple for such a large car, which is good as rear visibility is poor. Behind the wheel and on the road, I felt cosseted and extremely comfortable. Varying between ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’ mode there is a discernible difference in handling. The Sport mode is remarkably smooth and responsive while the Comfort mode is like floating on a cushion. This was a joy to drive.
Visibility is good for such a large car. The styling isn't that different from the previous S Class, however it is sleek and has considerable presence. I'm not sure how effective the Eco hybrid model is – that’s one for the petrol-head boffins. If you're in a city and making lots of short journeys, I reckon it could be useful. Official figures show it returning 35 mpg, which is fairly good for such a large beast. The model I had was the extended lengthy version providing masses of leg-room for rear passengers.
It is a car to be chauffeured in, with that in mind the rear cabin area is excellent and beautifully upholstered. The rear seats recline to allow a more relaxed seating position and the ability to stretch your legs out.
There is no doubt the S-Class will get you to your meeting in great shape. However, that might be a problem for anyone wanting a bit more ‘action’. The Merc is comfortable for sure, but I have to admit I didn't find it an exciting drive. It dind’t have my pulse-rate racing. Perhaps, that is not the point. So my suggestion is, if you want something a little racier and pacier, than you need to go back to the showroom and ask for something with a bit more noise and dash.
Overall, the S-Class is a great car. It is a leader in it class, but I would only opt for the hybrid if I was doing a lot of city driving, and the extended length if I had a chauffeur. But that would need me to set up and grow another successful business – and that’s something to talk about another day!
Jamie Rae was the managing director of Reedem plc, which he sold in 2011. Since then he set up the Throat Cancer Foundation, which has been campaigning for the HPV vaccination in Scotland to be extended to include boys.
Thanks to Graham Affleck and his team at Mercedes-Benz of Edinburgh, 12 Edinburgh Road, Newbridge, Edinburgh, EH28 8QW.