Making up for lost time

Making up for lost time

As a latecomer to driving, Richard O’Brien, head of PR at DBS Law, is certainly no petrol head - or at least he wasn’t until BQ intervened by giving him a new E-Class Hybrid Mercedes to test drive.

I am exactly the same age as Top Gear’s James May but, unlike Captain Slow, I’ve managed to get to my 50th birthday without driving a Mercedes.

So I was delighted when BQ asked me to review the new E-Class Hybrid for their first issue. I’m not a big petrol head. I didn’t learn to drive until I was 30. So I set off with strongly mixed feelings.

I was as excited as on my 10th birthday, when I fell down the stairs holding a Curly Wurly without getting carpet fluff on it. At the same time, I seriously doubted my ability to express an informed opinion on the car’s relative merits.

I feared exposure before my peers in the West Midlands business community as a learner. My emotions were calmed as soon as I was introduced to the 300 E.

Momentarily stunned by its beauty, like meeting a blind date way out of your league, I quickly pulled myself together and adopted a suitable air of sophistication and nonchalance.

I slipped into the crafted leather seats, switched on the magically silent engine and floated away in rapture to the photo shoot. Now I’d been told in advance about the soothing effect of this new engine and the precision engineered sculpture that envelopes it.

But I scoffed at this. I was having a white knuckle stressful week at work – there was no way I was going to unwind driving from Wolverhampton to Birmingham in the rain. But after sailing along for just a mile and a half, I was already beginning to purr. Even on the tedious stretch of the M6 that drools sadly between the two towns, the E-Class brought me comfort and joy.

There’s no idling engine rumble to ruin the warm timbre of the sound system that was reassuringly set to Radio 2. The sat nav is fantastically informative and rather more polite than the company I normally keep; and the instruments are quirky and blink with scientific wizardry.

I didn’t really get to drive the car until I headed for home much later. On the open road it is majestic, 0-60 mph in a heartbeat and scarily fast should you be so inclined. It wasn’t its power and responsiveness that affected me though.

It was the fusion of fossil fuel and instantly renewable energy under the bonnet. The flight display keeps you up to date with the energy stored in the battery and the tank. A graphic tells how far you may travel with your current stores of fuel. And I discovered that with steady driving, the dial stands still. I’m no climate change denier. I recycled long before I had to.

So I soon became obsessed with saving diesel, money and the planet all at the same time. I drove like a grown up. I was calm, focused and filled with righteousness. At journey’s end, 100 miles from my office, I had barely consumed more than a pipette of crushed prehistoric bug juice.

My carbon footprint was feather light and all the sorrows of the day had floated from me. I couldn’t wait to drive again. Back at work I got the personal buzz from the E. As I pulled into the DBS law car park I could feel the eyes of my colleagues fall upon me with new found admiration and respect.

I didn’t tell anyone it wasn’t mine. At home I told my wife how the E 300 made me want to be a better man. I asked whether I could have one. “Maybe if you’re good,” she said.

The car Richard drove was an E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid AMG Sport (diesel) with a total RRP including VAT price of £41,355. It was supplied by: Mercedes-Benz of Wolverhampton 46 Penn Road Inner Ring Road Wolverhampton WV2 4HD Tel 01902 427 897