So here it is: middle age. The onset on senility or, perhaps, the desire for a quiet life. Either way, and against my better judgment, it has to be said, there’s now a Mercedes-Benz 230TE sitting on my drive with my name on the V5C. Reasons for buying it are legion – as head purchases go. I need a roomy car to replace the most excellent Subaru Outback I’ve been running as a long-term test car for What Diesel magazine since last June and I can’t afford much money, given that I’m imminently off to Poland to pick up my SD1 restoration.
This thing appeared on a local forecourt priced, as you can see, for just shy of £800. I got thinking – I’d been looking for a smoker for a while and, after ruling out the Project 216GTI for being potentially too flaky (jobs still need doing to it), I started thinking in terms of something dull and saloonish. As you know, the current market favours those looking for something big and unfashionable, and I figured a Mondeo/Primera type car – from this decade – could be mine for under a grand.
However, after seeing the 230TE, that plan went off the rails.
Backing up for a second, there was another reason for my reluctance for running the 216GTI in daily traffic. In the badlands of Northamptonshire, where AROnline Towers has the misrfortune of being based, Rovers are treated like dirt on the roads. And I do mean dirt. Driving a beige 216GTI on an H-plate is an open invitation to be tailgated, cut-up, raced and overtaken at every opportunity, and I was beginning to find the whole experience a tad wearing. Having plenty of experience of bigger, newer, Rovers, I know it’s just the same. In short, it’s a lesson from others in badge snobbery… and being on the receiving end of it constantly is getting boring.
That whole – I know my place – kind of treatment on the roads also takes me back to the MG Maestro Turbo I owned. Great car, but wearing to drive thanks to the reactions from all the mouth-breathers out there.
So, have I copped out and given in to the inevitable buying this Mercedes-Benz 230TE? Given that I paid just over £500 for it, and see it as a means to an end, I am not so sure. Perhaps if I’d found myself saying how great it was, while twirling the three-pointed star keyring, then it would be an easy accusation to make but, in truth, it’s no great shakes to drive, lacks a lot in the way of performance and equipment and has the weirdest, bounciest, seats I have ever encountered.
I do, though, like the way the W124 looks and how it’s built. Compared to a Rover 800 of a similar age and mileage, there’s no contest – this thing still feels like a brick outhouse and everything still works as it should. Alongside even my Saab 900 T16S, it comes off well in the solidity department. Most satisfyingly, I don’t seem to be getting pushed around on the road, and that improves my demeanour by the time I get into the office in the morning. That, in turn, helps creativity. Well, I have to justify buying this thing somehow…
Given my approach to car ownership, the 230TE probably won’t be around for long, although, I have to say that the relaxed approach to driving it has some appeal. We’ll see how it goes.