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Can We Still Go for a Joy Ride?

Can We Still Go for a Joy Ride?

  Though life seems semi-normal who can forget the dark days of Covid when we were instructed not to go anywhere non-essential.   

   We could drive to the grocery store, the drug store and the doctor. The idea of a country drive seemed criminal.

  Now in the new normal a country drive is ok. Or is it?

  Climate change now casts a shadow over much of what we do.

  A drive with no purpose seems selfish, a plane trip outrageous. I know a young person who won’t let a book into his house. It’s a waste of paper and resources.

  These things nag at us as we contemplate driving in the country looking for open space, scenic views and less traffic.

Mercedes GLB in front of The Bridgeworks in Hamilton.
Kathy Renwald photo

  Testing driving a Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 recently put many misgivings into focus.

  You can usually be sure that the more letters and numbers in a car title usually means it has more horsepower and costs more money.

A compact SUV with oversized performance

  The GLB 35 is $65,900 dollars worth of fast fun.  The turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0 litre engine squeezes out 302 horsepower. That’s plenty powerful for a compact SUV. 

  Its boxy shape accepts a lot of versatile sized cargo, optional third row seats add space for tag-alongs in need of some Benz blitz.  Even with the back seats in the upright position, loading a set of golf clubs and two carts was accomplished without a struggle.

  The appetite for SUV’s is insatiable. Car companies pump them out like ready to wear frocks at Winners.  I like the boxy shape of the GLB, and the let’s get in a brawl front end, the sawed off back end however looks like it belongs on a delivery truck.

  You know when you buy a Benz with AMG tattooed everywhere you are getting a bucketful of brute force. Of course this GLB is a sprinter, and a superb handler, but performance tuning does send it clomping over bad roads no matter what drive mode is chosen. Comfort is a bit of a myth.

  Steering too takes no prisoners. It will be too stiff and heavy for some tastes. I disclose I have arthritis and don’t relish griping a wheel like I’m in a tug of war with a fire hose.

On rough roads prepare for some rock and roll

  Despite adjustments a plenty to the driving mechanics I found the GLB got testy with tedious city driving. The stop and starts, the swift measures needed to avoid potholes, contributed to abrupt and disgruntled downshifts.

  The GLB is well equipped with safety interventions to save the driver from peril, but I found as in so many other cars, the overeager bells and chimes could be annoying and the source-bewildering.  A curious habit of the GLB was for the doors not to close completely. I had to do a lot of slamming.

Layers of tech in the Mercedes GLB may be too much for some drivers.
Kathy Renwald photo

   Surely someone has to be on the payroll at Mercedes in the job of making technology difficult. I’ve never seen so much redundancy built into a system. Each operation seems to have multiple places for execution-on the steering wheel, on the centre screen, in a toggle switch, in a swipe of the touchpad. We got off to a bad start right away. After I paired by phone and loaded a destination in the car’s navigation system, I got on the highway and very soon the navogation screen would disappear while my phone attempted to call itself. It didn’t stop the infuriating action until I shut my phone down.

  Colour me grumpy.  I suppose if I had this AMG on a silky road in Utah, I might fall in love, but in a city with cratered roads and wacky drivers its charms were tested. And in the country where vehicles may be reacquainted with smooth roads, I asked myself, should I really be going for a joy ride?

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