One of the more difficult things as a writer is assessing the dynamic characteristics of your father’s car. Or, to be precise: at a time when he’s sitting in the passenger seat. My formative years as a driver, brought up on car magazines with evocative tales of road trips were spent driving the family trucksters under somewhat constant monitoring, and whenever given free rein, discovering some of the attributes never quite to be reached with someone else in the car.
I’ve now passed my 30th birthday a good while ago, but whenever I’m piloting a vehicle with my father, double my age, there’s an eerie sense of being transported to an age a decade younger. That ends up ruling out the time-honed lairy gravel road Scandinavian flicks in the MX-5 and the immediate throttle response satisfaction given by the TU-series engine in the 205. The watchful eye with decades of road experience may be silent, but the direction is in the air – keep it steady, sudden movements to the minimum. Don’t launch the phone from the dashboard slot under the stereo head unit.
The car in question is one of the more puzzling of recent years, and by itself worthy of closer inspection. It’s a 203-body Mercedes-Benz C-class wagon built a decade ago. Is it a good used buy? Is it a decent Mercedes? What to really make of it, especially since it’s now been in the family for six months?