Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Daily Driver’s Practical Car

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK 350

I have to admit, my first thoughts were that I was not going to like this car. The preconceived notions were that it was a SLS wannabe, small inside, basically a chick car. Those were quickly dissolved on the 1,000 mile, two-day drive to North Carolina for an MBCA event to tour the legendary Hendrick Mostorsports NASCAR facility.
My first thought was; "Is it practical? Well after driving it and getting very good fuel economy and engine performance, practical may need a better definition! The second, "Is it a chick car?"Although women are attracted to the SLK, and do drive them, men do not lose their masculinity by driving the SLK, as they may with the competitors, the Porsche Boxter and the Audi TT. Within a few miles, there was no question this is a driver’s car, the SLK is nimble, and powerful, it goes where you point it!

The look of the car is very iconic, even more so now, with the arrival of the new 2013 SL. This truly is a little brother in the line with the SLS and SL. Color and options play a big difference in the experience of any car, the deep black (no cost) exterior and black interior with aluminum trim (no cost option) made this car look quite stealth like. This SLK had the aluminum roll bar trim delete (takes $150 off the price) and is worth doing to keep the monochromatic look. Upgrading the wheels to one of the AMG options will make this car stand out even more.

Upon getting into the driver’s seat I was impressed at how roomy it was; the dash and controls are well laid out,the seats allow you to stretch out with infinitely adjustable backs. The air scarf in the top of the seat blew heated or cooled air on our necks and shoulders, and, as odd as that sounds, it was very comfortable.

Interior volume was more than I expected. Any sports car, coupe or cabriolet is not going to be as roomy as the ML that I drive on a daily basis. The seating and leg and head room were perfectly comfortable, though the seat bottom can become tiring on a six-hour ride. Driving a sports car this size, you do not need to bring along anything but your driver’s license and bail money!

As far as engine performance, driving both the Interstate as well as back roads, I found the 350 engine had power to spare, which demonstrated itself during a long hill climb on I77 in Northwestern North Carolina, passing a 7 series BMW. There was as much power as needed, and more when asked for! I did not expect much fuel economy with my lead foot, but the SLK averaged a respectable 27.5 average mpg for the trip.

The ride was sporty OK, I will even say rough- definitely more athletic than I am used to in my M or C Class! Not that I expected the soft ride of an S Class! It is, after all a small sports car!

Luggage space is surprisingly roomy, even with the top down; just don’t expect to be able to access much in a fully packed trunk with the top down. Once the top is in place in the trunk, you can only access a few items. Speaking of the top down, who owns a cabriolet without driving it topless? Like any convertible, your hair will be windswept and the noise level increases, but not so much that you cannot have a conversation or listen to the sound system without maxing out the volume.

Considering that this a convertible, the sound performance on the audio system was just fine of course upgrading to the multimedia package would improve it. No question the audio system is designed to support the Apple product line, through the pig tail connector, and an on-screen display of songs. The pig tail was easy to access in the center console, but if you wanted to connect an iPad, the issue would be where to stow it? Droid smart phones are an afterthought, the Bluetooth® connector worked just fine for the phone and playing standard music files.

It took some intense computer programming of both the phone and the system to program to continuously stream Pandora.

Pricing for this black-on-black SLK 350 with the Premium 1 package and basic options, sticker was just over $58K. Adding some nice-to-have add-ons will bring it just a little more than $63K. If you are in the market, speak with your favorite Mercedes-Benz dealer and see what incentives and promotions are available at the time of purchase.

Always remember your Mercedes-Benz Club Member Loyalty bonus of $1,000 off any new M-B for club members who have been members at least one full year! That bonus is on top of the best deal your dealer has for you, so do not forget it! It is available on any new M-B sold in the USA. Log onto the website for full details and to print your member savings certificate.

This is a fun car to drive! I was sad to hand the keys back to the dealership at the end of the trip. I was surprised at how my impression on the car changed in just two days. Practical really depends on your definition. A sporty fuel-efficient car for running around does not have to be a boring mini-car! Nor do you have to drive around every day in a car capable of carrying a month’s worth of groceries. The SLK can be practical, efficient, as well as, attractive and fun to drive!


William Hopper, MBCA Eastern Regional Director thanks Euro Motorcars of Bethesda Maryland for a chance to review the SLK 350.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance 2012

You do not have to be a college student to experience Spring Break! Amelia Island Concours is the first of the triple crown of USA Concours events, held in early March, this is the first sense that winter is over, and how the season begins for many MBCA members.

The week before the “Amelia Island Show” is filled with events that satisfy any automotive enthusiast. Car auctions, seminars, marque drives of new models and celebrity-studded social events make up the glamour and excitement of the Amelia Island experience, and has for the last 17 years.

Mercedes-Benz is right there in the center of everything - as a founding sponsor of the show, showing off classic, as well as brand new models, highlighting the brand in a number of ways. From displays and drives, to dinners and press introductions of new models!

This year AMG played a big role having the AMG Driving Academy staff on hand to demonstrate the AMG product line. From the C63 AMG Coupe to the E63 Wagon, and of course the full line of C, E, and S sedans, CLS, and SLS. Not just a display of Mercedes-Benzs alone, attendees are able to test drive many different high-line brands around this island paradise.

For those who like to shop, you can buy everything from auto themed art work and jewelry to the cars themselves. Two prestigious auction houses, RM Auctions and Gooding & Company hold high-line vehicle auctions in the days prior to the show, with vehicles going into the six and seven digits!

Arriving on Friday we attended the Gooding & Company Auction at the Omni Plantation. Although not directly affiliated with the Amelia Island Concours, RM benefits from the excitement and the crowds that come for the Amelia Island Concours weekend of events.

Friday is a great day to take in the seminars, vendor displays and new marque drives held at the Ritz Carlton where the Amelia Concours is hosted. Friday is a more intimate experience than Saturday, you are not overwhelmed by the crowds and you get to see the cars and talk with manufacturers representatives, visit with friends, that may not be as easy to do on Saturday or Sunday.

Saturday repeats what happens on Friday, just with more enthusiasm! Saturday night is when a number of dinner and social events happen, including the annual MBCA | Peachtree and Mercedes-Benz Dinners.
This year the MBCA | Peachtree Section dinner was host to members from 17 different sections around the country. A select number of MBCA members are invited to attend the black-tie dinner held at the Ritz Carlton hosted by Mercedes-Benz.

The culmination of events is the show on Sunday. This year it has expanded to include more cars and more people than ever before. Mercedes-Benz Club of America this year provided “The Mercedes-Benz Club of America Award” for the Most Historically Significant Mercedes-Benz. Presented by MBCA Past National President, Roger Van Ness. I was awarded to a 1952 Mercedes-Benz W194, owned by Bruce and Jolene McCaw of Bellevue, WA.

Each year this event becomes more popular and grows in strength, from the activities and the vendors, to the show itself! If you have not attended, you are missing a great opportunity to see and experience an amazing Concours event.  Next year’s event will be held March 8-10 2013, plan on attending, and participating as an MBCA member.

Book Review: Pagoda Style: Our Stories, Our Pictures, Our Cars.

Pagoda Style: Our Stories, Our Pictures, Our Cars.
by Michael Salemi
If you’ve ever wanted a W113 SL (230, 250,280) or if you own one already, you will want to pick up this hardcover book. It is a collection of stories from owners  all over the world!  How they came about the car, what drove them to own the car, and how they have cared for the car(s) they have owned.

The 144 page book also contains beautiful pictures that accompany each article. Photos of the cars, and the owners including orginal works of Paul Bracq, such as his Pagoda painting. Pagoda Style recently won the Silver Award from the Indpendant Publishers Book Awards!

It will be an excellent addition to your MB library, one you will want to display or give as a gift to a friend.  A limited edition print run with less than 100 copies remaining, order soon before they are all gone! 

Find out more about the book on the website, as well as Facebook. If you aspire to own one of these classics or if you own one, this book is a “must have”.
Michael Salemi, past president of MBCA’s International Stars Section and a contributing editor to MBCA’s Star magazine, conceived, designed and edited the book and is now offering it for sale to the public.

The cost is $75 (US) available on Amazon, as well as directly from the author Michael Salemi

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mercedes-Benz Concours d'Elegance Juding School - April 14 2012

The Tarheel Section of MBCA will be holding the 2012 MBCA Concours Judging Class for the Eastern Region At Mercedes-Benz of Greensboro, in Greensboro NC on Saturday, April 14. This one-day class will have you ready for the coming year of MBCA Concours events!

How can you become an MBCA Concours Judge, or just improve your skills? What does a judge look for when judging a Mercedes-Benz? This is your opportunity to find the answers!

This class is open to all MBCA members, and will teach you how to prepare and judge Mercedes-Benz cars for MBCA Concours d’Elegance events. You will learn what judges look for when Mercedes-Benz’s are being judged. Taught by Pete Lesler, MBCA Concours Chair and past MBCA President, the class will teach you what to look for when judging, as well as what to prepare on your M-B when it is to be judged.

The class will be taught at Mercedes-Benz of Greensboro in the conference room starting at 9:30 am. We will break for lunch and get a private tour of the dealership. After lunch the group breaks into judging teams reviewing participants cars based on what was learned in the class. Everyone will then return to the conference room where Pete will go over the judging and discuss the scores.

A light breakfast will be offered and lunch is included in the cost of the class. The cost of the class will be $10 you will need to reserve your spot early, as Pete’s classes fill up quickly! Please RSVP by April 7 for this great opportunity.

For More Information or to RSVP, contact:

Scott Coley 828.433.8486

The Concours Judging Class will be held:
Saturday April 14, 9:30 AM
Mercedes-Benz of Greensboro

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mercedes-Benz Club At the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

For many of us in the Mercedes-Benz Club, Spring starts its engine with the Amelia Island Concours!

Here, a well-vetted display of automotive design, engineering and history as well as rarely seen one-of-a-kind automobiles are presented. But that is just on Sunday. If you miss Friday and Saturday, you are missing a weekend full of events!

High-end lifestyle events run all weekend long! On Friday, the Gooding and Co. Auction is held at the nearby Omni Plantation Resort. Saturday, the RM Auction runs at the Ritz-Carlton, where you will also find seminars, an extensive vendor area, cigar and wine tasting and the Mercedes-Benz black tie dinner.

Saturday is a great chance to see the latest from AMG, Maybach and Mercedes-Benz, as well as Jaguar, Porsche, Bentley and others. A couple of years ago Hyundai chose to release the Genesis, showing that their upscale line could compete directly with the well-known luxury marques. Displays often include drive opportunities and talks with the manufacturers.

For MBCA members, the social highlight of the weekend is the MBCA|Peachtree Section Dinner on Saturday night at the Crab Shack in nearby Fernandina Beach. A casual meal with a chance to catch up with and enjoy the company of MBCA members from around the country.

Sunday morning the judging is well underway by the time the field opens to the public. By mid-afternoon, the show field is teeming with people inspecting the amazing variety of cars. Throughout the day, famous drivers and automotive luminaries can be found autographing posters and books. Mid-afternoon is when the award ceremony starts with the winning vehicles being driven to the podium to receive their honors.

Various auto manufacturers have tents and displays around the field, with Mercedes-Benz being one of the most prominent with a by-invitation only Star Lounge, complete with reviewing stand overlooking the award ceremony.

Travel Hints for attending the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.

This year’s weekend is March 9 - 11. Amelia Island FL is located just south of the Georgia/Florida border, about 20 miles north of Jacksonville. It’s an eleven-hour drive down I-95 from Washington DC.

If you are flying, Jacksonville (JAX) is the closet airport, about 30 minutes to the south. Fernandina Beach/Amelia Island has an airport for private planes and small corporate jets, if you choose to arrive that way.

Hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts on Amelia Island are expensive, if you can find one that has not been booked months in advance. Hotels in nearby Yulee FL, Kingsland or St. Mary’s GA or along I-95 into Jacksonville can be found at affordable prices. No matter where you stay, you will still have to drive and pay to park at the Concours events each day you attend.

There are numerous parking lots at the Concours, charging about $20 per day with regular shuttles running to and from the show grounds.

General admission to the Concours can be purchased before the event at a discount on the website for $50 per person. On the day of the event the gate event the price is $60. There is no charge for admission on Friday or Saturday, though if you want to attend the auction you do need to purchase a bidder’s pass. Otherwise you are free to walk around the staging area and vendor area at will.

The MBCA | Peachtree dinner is held early on Saturday evening at the Crab Shack in Fernandina Beach, and is open to all MBCA members. Space is limited, so register early. Contact the Peachtree Section to assure a reservation This year’s cost is $35 per person.

The Black Tie Mercedes-Benz dinner held at the Ritz-Carlton is often sold out, though if you have connections with sponsoring dealers you may be able to score an invite to the $250+ per seat dinner featuring famous personalities as keynote speakers and guests.

The Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge on the field the day of the show is by-invitation-only! It is not open to the general public or MBCA members who have not been invited. Top customers of Mercedes-Benz dealers tend to be able to get on the list without a problem.

The weather can be cool and wet, or sunny and warm, often on the same day! Dress in layers as the mornings are cold and the afternoons become sunny and hot. The crowd is well turned out in most fashionable attire. Dressing in Mercedes-Benz chic or MBCA attire is always a great way to be recognized by your fellow MBCA members!

Other 2012 Concours where MBCA members will this season are: The Concours of America at St. Johns in Michigan (previously known as Meadowbrook) on July 29, and Pebble Beach in Monterey CA August 19 All of these are events to be experienced and shared with fellow MBCA members.