We were sitting in the customer’s lounge at Leith, Inc. Authorized Mercedes-Benz Sales and Service in Raleigh, admiring the modern, open showroom and its fine occupants: E-, C-, GL-, and S-Classes, just to name a few, and AMG®’s aplenty. Mercedes-Benz vehicles are resplendent in their tempered black and white tones. On the wall, there are paintings of classic models, including a 300SL with its doors opened up. The room seemed bright, even on a rainy day like this one, and we felt very at ease just waiting. Of course, we had some driving to do.
Our ride today was actually one of the dealership’s many certified pre-owned vehicles, a 2012 E 350. Before we saw the car, we were greeted by “C” Morton who invited us to his desk to discuss the incredible CPO specials that Mercedes-Benz is offering. Right now, Mercedes will make your first two payments on certified pre-owned C-Class, E-Class, and S-Class models from the 2010 to 2012 model years. The same special includes a 1.99 APR for up to 66 months and two service appointments for free – which means you’ll be able to go almost two years without paying a service fee. Not only that, but there are no mileage limits on the warranties for these vehicles.*
If the magnanimity surprises you, then you should know that Mercedes-Benz prides itself on rewarding the loyalty of their customers with equal loyalty in return, just like we do at Leith.
Nice as they are to hear sometimes, ultimately we weren’t there to talk numbers, so C walked us out to the car. For his part, C is cool and collected. Picture the most in-your-face caricature of a car salesman, and then imagine the opposite and you’ll have C. He’s calm and reserved, much like the vehicles surrounding him day in, day out. C has been with Leith, Inc Authorized Mercedes-Benz Sales and Service. for thirteen years, and he reckons he’s currently driving his fifth or sixth Mercedes, so you know he believes in these cars. The easy-going assurance with which he speaks makes it easy to see why he’s one of Leith, Inc. Authorized Mercedes-Benz Sales and Service’s established representatives.
C let us admire the E-Class for a moment, just taking in the elegant design. Just looking at it, you would never know it’s almost two years old. There have been some minor updates to the front fascia since the 2012 model year, but overall there is a timelessness to a Mercedes-Benz’s aesthetic that prevents you from ever calling it dated.
He opened the trunk, and we were surprised by just how spacious it is for a mid-size sedan. There is a hidden compartment above the spare tire for extra room, too, as well as fold out hooks to hang grocery bags on so that you don’t run the risk of things rolling around. The hinges are also fully enclosed, so nothing can get crushed when you close the lift-gate. As C said, the detail-oriented eye of Mercedes-Benz designers and engineers account for even the little things.
Under the hood, the E-Class has a 3.5-liter V-6 DOHC engine with variable valve timing. It’s paired with a seven-speed automatic transmission that senses how you drive and adjusts the way it shifts in accordance with your style. All told, the powertrain is good for 300 horsepower.
While we were looking at the engine, C showed us several other design innovations standard to Mercedes-Benz. The hood itself lifts automatically and features a service position, fully opening so that our licensed and qualified service technicians can reach everything they need without hitting their heads. Looking down into the engine block, you can’t see the ground because the underpinnings are covered up, both to augment airflow and ventilation and to keep the engine free of debris that might otherwise enter from underneath. There’s also a heat-damping firewall that separates “hot” engine components from “cool” components, and the battery is positioned in an area that is the least likely to be hit so that power and hazard lights will continue to work in the event of a traffic accident.
Lastly, C showed us the high-strength steel bar that runs side-to-side across the front of the vehicle. In the event of a frontal collision, this bar is part of the framework that distributes the energy of impact to the sides of the vehicle and away from the passenger compartment. This safety mechanism is one that was invented by Mercedes-Benz, and is part of the reason their vehicles are considered so safe. In all his time working with these cars, C has heard of a handful that ended up totaled, but their drivers and passengers all walked away without spending even one night in the hospital.
C took the first turn at the wheel, just to get us away from the dealership. While he drove, we were able to appreciate the luxurious interior that all Mercedes are known for, replete with leather upholstery and Burl Walnut wood inlays. The wood accents on the dashboard and doors are actually interspersed with aluminum so that they won’t splinter in a crash.
Again, we wouldn’t have known it was a 2012 vehicle just by sitting in it. This E-Class had all the standard technology features that we would expect from a new model, including Bluetooth, phone pairing, a full navigation package with weather overlay – useful for keeping an eye on the showers we had to contend with – and even iPod, MP3, and USB interface. If you still listen to CDs, you can download them onto the car’s memory and listen to them disc-free. Phone calling is hands-free, too, with near flawless voice recognition.
Unlike most cars, the passenger is also treated to many perks that are usually drive-exclusive. Both front seats are powered and heated with three-point lumbar support and three memory settings, and both have powered headrests. There’s also multi-zone climate control, so you don’t have to worry about if your passenger has different temperature preferences.
C also wanted us to know about the Mercedes-Benz roadside assistance service. Simply pull down the driver-side visor and call the number if you ever need a jump, a spare tire, or an extra tank of gas. Wherever you are, Mercedes-Benz is by your side.
After we switched and got behind the wheel, C showed us only a few more of the little things that set Mercedes apart, such as the powered steering wheel adjuster, the heated side mirrors, and the rain-sensitive automatic windshield wipers. Then it was our turn to drive.
The E-Class is a substantial car. That was what we noticed first. It feels heavy, but not in a bad way. It’s a comfortable feeling, one that gives you stability and poise as you’re driving down the road. The handling is great, and it has a beautiful turning radius. Yet for all its weight, when you put your foot down the car responds almost immediately. It can definitely get up and go when you need to. The E350 is a great vehicle no matter what road you’re on.
These were all thoughts we were having out loud while driving. C was letting us do the talking now, but his quiet enthusiasm is part of the reason we were so at ease. Our eyes were on the road with the asteriated hood ornament leading us through the neighborhood, but we’re pretty sure he was smiling the whole time.
Much as it felt like a new car, we knew it wasn’t, so we asked C to tell us more about the CPO program. Mercedes-Benz is more than willing to take your current car off your hands once it’s time to upgrade – even going so far as to buy out the end of a customer’s lease when a tantalizing new model becomes available – because they’re confident in the abilities of their technicians to restore a vehicle to its original form and luster. CPO vehicles undergo a 154-point inspection with the goal of bringing them back to new or like-new conditions. This process of course entails a full detailing, servicing, and anything else to ensure all the little things are just as they would be fresh off the line. Ninety-five percent of CPO cars have had their tires replaced, too. Once the restoration is finished, you’ll be looking at what appears to be a brand-new Mercedes-Benz with a huge bargain on the sticker.
We returned to the dealership thoroughly impressed by the 2012 E350. As C said, there’s a common misconception that Mercedes-Benz automobiles are strictly luxury vehicles. The reality is they’re the safest cars on the road with the best performance. They have unreal longevity thanks to precise craftsmanship and diligent customer service, so it’s no surprise that your relationship with Mercedes-Benz is usually one that will last a lifetime.
As impressive as the car was, our guide, C Morton, left even more of an impression on us. He’s a true professional who will let the fundamentals of the car speak for itself while he makes sure you don’t miss any of those little things that tie it all together. Leith, Inc. Authorized Mercedes-Benz Sales and Service is proud to have played host to his passion for all these years.