When Mrs Driven asked me if I'd pop out on Tuesday and pick up a Welsh Dresser, briefly I imagined I’d be spending the longest day of the working week sweeping through Snowdonia’s twisty B roads with a small, pale woman in a red outfit and an unfeasibly large black hat in the passenger seat - Then the effects of my half of Sunday lunch's bottle of red wore off.
As it turns out Welsh Dressers are quite a bit larger and heavier than they appear when lifting them up isn't on the day’s to-do list. They also require a very large van indeed to transport them. The kind you see all over the place from that firm whose principal business appears to be attempting new land speed records….What are they called again? Oh yes. That’s it - “ParcelForce".
And so it was that I spent the longest day of the week on a round trip of the East Midlands in a rented Mercedes Sprinter of such length, that no matter how quickly I drove it, it always took at least 5 minutes to fully pass anything else on the road.
Oddly, despite being broader than a banker’s grin on bonus day, it was easier to drive than many small cars - That said, I should perhaps add the disclaimer that the last small car I drove before climbing the stairs into the Sprinter was a Hyundai i20, compared to which a bicycle with a flat tyre is a more appealing method of transport.
It does seem rather perverse though that I found more attention to more of the average driver’s needs in a panel van than in most family hatchbacks - The steering lock is designed for city streets and can be turned so that the whole truck almost pivots round on the smallest point of its rear tyres.
The diesel engine’s low down torque delivers brisk acceleration to legal speed limits, but as the Sprinter’s proportions suggest it was designed with a spirit level by an architect rather than in a wind tunnel, a full on battle’s required to get it much further beyond - And this is a good thing, as it also impresses on motorways too…..Whilst its house-like scale means it’s unlikely you'll be going fast enough to be receiving any special letters from Her Majesty’s Constabulary, it’ll cruise quietly all day in 6th gear occasionally taking a sip from the enormous fuel tank - Seriously, I put £20 of diesel in the thing before returning it and the needle barely moved - If Mr Putin ever decides to send his army to Riga for a spot of lunch, loot your local Mercedes dealer for a Sprinter with a full tank and move your family in. You’ll get to Cornwall before it all kicks off and It’ll probably keep going until the power goes back on 6 months later.
There is one rather inconvenient drawback to the Sprinter - If you drive one for more than few hours you’ll need to find a Chiropractor with large enough premises for you to park it in. For some reason something I failed to identify stooped me into a unique and as it turned out, quite painful driving position whilst at cruising speeds - Right elbow on the window ledge with my clenched fist under my jaw holding my head up, left hand draped over the top of the steering wheel and my middle bits skewed around towards the door....and every single Merc' van driver I've seen since has been in the same position - I've called it "Sprinter-Stoop".
As a cheaper alternative to being manipulated by a professional sadist, you could of course try lifting a sideboard of loose Celtic extraction off the van’s rear ledge. It won’t relieve the pain or sort out your posture, but a night on your back on the now empty plywood lined floor might just do the trick.
Anyway, this long and painful story (painful for me as well as you) is but a pre-amble to lead us to news of Mercedes latest commercial vehicle - Well it will be when it's launched. For now, the all new X-Class is still in concept stage, but the word it is that it's heading for production shortly - This is the first time Mercedes Benz have built a pickup truck for the mass market and they hope it'll give the VW Amarok a run for it's money - It's based on the current Nissan Navara. Yes, you did read that correctly. It uses the same chassis and some of the suspension. Unsurprisingly, Mercedes have made a few adjustments and additions of their own and added one of their diesel engines.
It should end up being a thing of luxury rather than a farmer's skip on wheels, which makes me wonder whether time's finally caught up with the now prehistoric G-Wagen and it's shortly destined to the same tragic end as the Land Rover Defender.