When the holidays are there, it is time to slide behind the wheel of our cars, travelling south on the Autoroutes and Routes Nationales. This time, it was a rather special occasion, as our faithful Mercedes A Class, with a good 245.000 km on the clock, will stay for the rest of its life at our holiday house in France, and so we drove it south for a good 1000 kilometres... to its new home. Just read on!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Over the years, we were very pleased with our Mercedes A Class, which will be soon replaced by a brand new B Class. So it was time to move our faithful soldier a bit out of the way. We drove our A Class down the Autoroutes du Sud in the midst of a heat wave, which proved thanks to the airco pretty bearable.
Our A Class has the 75 kW 1,6 litre petrol engine, which proved to be totally unimpressed by the massive heat. It is coupled to a smooth and excellent five speed automatic, which we left during the trip in "D", albeit choosing the "sports" mode when we hit the Massif Central for instance.
This A Class dates back to 1998, but the engine and transmission can still chalk up pretty impressive consumption figures. Of course we did not push the throttle very deep, just enjoying the ride and going with the flow. Mind you, the top speed of our A Class is a healthy 180 km/h. Well, you will be very pleased to hear that we filled her up "en route" with 22,5 litres, and then at the very end of our trip, some good 6 kilometres before arrival, with another good 37,4 litres. So 59,9 litres of 95 ROZ lead free petrol in total for 975 kilometres, or 6,14 litres/100 km. Just proving the point that even more than a decade ago, manufacturers already had their sums pretty good together...
On our drive towards the south, we stopped near Beaune, to enjoy a well earned rest and of course a good burgundy meal and a bottle of Bourgogne Côte de Nuits, liquid red velvet on your palette...more on this hotel and what it has to offer in our new column "the art of travel" which we will start soon...
What we still like very much about the "original" A Class is its compactness and truly excellent sideways visibility thanks to a very low waistline. It makes the car so delightfully easy and pleasant to drive over the narrow and winding départementales in the French Midi, and manoeuvre it around narrow streets in medieval villages. Of course, the boxy shape makes it pretty practical for shopping and carrying the irresistible antique piece of furniture found at the brocante(s). These are one of the many reasons why we did not want to part from our A Class, even after so many years.
By the way, the seats are still delightfully firm and feel "as new" and prove very comfortable on long drives. We will in the coming weeks register the car in France, and we will report on how well all this works pretty soon.
Volkswagen New Beetle: open air pleasure...a bit short lived
In our holiday home, we met up again with two faithful cars of our "écurie", the Volkswagen New Beetle and the Suzuki Samurai. Both cars were brought to life again without any problems, thanks to the help of our friendly French neighbour who keeps the batteries in good condition by charging them regularly.
We soon visited with our cleaned New Beetle the excellent VW Dealer in Aubenas...
On our very first drive with the Beetle, after a careful wash and cleaning of the car, we immediately took the top down, as the weather is so invitingly warm and sunny. But soon we were alarmed by a screeching sound from the lifting mechanism of the rear left side window, which apparently had loosened itself from the window. We drove the Beetle immediately to our VW dealer at Aubenas, with this left rear window stuck half open.
The friendly receptionist immediately got to work and managed to lift the partially opened window totally up and then carefully fixed it into position with tape. "Do not open the roof now", he warned, "and of course not the left rear window" and he masked also all the command switches to lower the rear windows and the roof, so they could not be opened inadvertently.
So the open air pleasure proved to be rather short lived, but at the moment of writing we can drive the car around with roof up and rear windows closed. We have a rendez-vous for further repairs on the 4th of August, and in the meantime, we will take the car on July 27th for its technical control or "contrôle technique", which is due every two years. We will report about his too, so stay tuned on these columns!
Thanks to the quick and efficient help from the Aubenas VW dealer, we could soon hit the road again, but with the roof closed!
On the home front, the Audi A5 Cabrio awaits our return, but also more about our further drive impressions with this Audi soon...
Furthermore, we plan a short dash from France back to home, using the French TGV, coming back for a further two weeks of holidays behind the wheel of the new Fiat Doblo. So more to come!
Hans Knol ten Bensel