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Follow the Rhine to see wonders like Gutenfels Castle and the Pfalzgrafenstein toll castle on Falkenau island. Image: German National Tourist Office.

The romantic Rhine’s gorge of castles

History, charm and amazing legends exist in a heritage-listed river gorge in Germany that is a fabulous day drive.

For 1230km, the Rhine is western Europe’s most important river for freight and cruising.

But for 65km of that run, between Koblenz and Rudesheim/Bingen in western Germany, it’s a World Heritage wonderland constricted into a winding gorge, boasting 40 castles, charming villages and a drive well removed from the free-for-all autobahn experience.

Roads hug each shore, and I head out in my E-Class south from Koblenz so I’m always on the river side. I make mental note of many attractions, because often they’re first sighted from the opposite shore.

So it is with the first castle near Koblenz. Schloss Stolzenfels was built in the 1800s by Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV. It’s an impressive white building, with a dominant tower.

But I’ve missed one right above me, because Lahneck Castle can’t be seen from this side. Built in 1232, its grandeur inspired Goethe to pen the poem ‘Geistesgruss’ (Ghost Greeting).

And it goes on, with castles in dominant positions all along the gorge. Some are ruins, but many of the intact ones have tours.

The most famous location, however, isn’t a castle. From an outcrop near Sankt Goarshausen, the legendary siren Lorelei unwittingly lured sailors with her haunting song, only for their boats to be wrecked on the rocks below what’s now a lookout.

Sankt Goar (across the river from Sankt Goarshausen) is popular for its nearness to Lorelei rock. Image: German National Tourist Office.

More outlandish is the story of the Mouse Tower on an island near Bingen. Legend has it that a Middle Ages bishop fled here to escape a plague of mice invading his home in retribution for his murderous cruelty. They followed him to the tower and ate him alive. In reality, the tower was a customs post. 

The gorge ends at Rudesheim, so after a hearty lunch at Rüdesheimer Schloss, (not a castle but an excellent hotel and wine-centric restaurant in the village), I take the car ferry to Bingen for the return leg. 

This presents several opportunities for panoramic views over the gorge. From Oberwesel, navigate to Gunderodehaus, a restaurant above a vine-covered slope, and then Loreleyblick (Lorelei view) where you stand across from the mighty outcrop. 

Later, from Boppard, ascend to Vierseenblick, where a topographic trick sees the Rhine presented as four seemingly disparate bodies of water.

Then it’s a gentle drive back into Koblenz, a noble city at the junction of the Rhine and the Mosel.

At 130km in total, it’s a lovely day drive. But if you’re eager to spend more time in the area, several castles in the gorge are hotels. The pick is the spectacular Schloss Rheinfels above Sankt Goar on the west bank. 

Words Jeremy Bourke. He visited Germany as a guest of Dusseldorf Airport, Singapore Airlines and with the assistance of the German National Tourist Office.

The crowd at Mercedes me Store Melbourne admiring the new Mercedes-Benz EQC. Images: Liz Sunshine.

With EQC, the future has arrived

The future is electric, and it’s finally here. The very first all-electric Mercedes-Benz to go into mass production has been revealed to soon-to-be-owners, after breaking cover at a special Mercedes me Store Melbourne event.

The Mercedes-Benz EQC is a family-sized SUV that has been designed to provide an ownership experience without the compromises historically associated with electric vehicles. It’s spacious, comfortable and luxuriously appointed; it has a range of up to 450 kilometres, and offers cost-efficient and environmentally friendly charging options; and it has the power, torque and driving dynamics that make it a true Mercedes-Benz, in every sense of the word.

The covers were removed before an audience who heard from the team behind the EQC – not only about the experience that could be expected in owning such a vehicle, but also the exhaustive testing and safety regimen that has ensured the EQC meets the stringent standards expected of every Mercedes-Benz vehicle.

A special guest directly from the Mercedes-Benz factory in Stuttgart was Karl Scheible, the head of testing for the groundbreaking EQC program.

“We have driven a lot of test kilometres in the past few years, we have done a lot of 60-80 hour working weeks, and everything has been double checked, and it has been a very exciting time,” he said.

Karl has spent more time driving the EQC than almost anyone else – from testing in temperatures of -35°C in Sweden two weeks ago, to heat testing in California’s Death Valley, and tests for speed, reliability and comfort in South Africa, Spain and Germany – and is well placed to understand how the EQC differs from a conventional SUV.

“The main differences are that we have no transmission in an electric car, and maximum torque at zero kilometres per hour, so it was a big challenge to find the perfect combination between driveability and acceleration, and a compromise between sportiness and comfort, and driveability,” he said.  

Guests also learned more about EQ, the wider program that guides Mercedes-Benz through a phased introduction to electrification via low-voltage hybrids, plug-in hybrids and finally, full EV applications such as the EQC. Mercedes-Benz has pledged to have an EV model in every car and SUV range by 2022.

Andre Dutkowski, the Senior Manager for Mercedes-Benz for Product Marketing, Strategy and CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electric) said while the EQC would be the centrepiece of the EQ program in Australia, the team was also working on many more initiatives to make customers’ lives easier. “We envisage the EQC 400, plus all other EQ vehicles that come here, to be part of a seamless ecosystem of mobility services,” he said.

Claire Painter, the EQ Infrastructure Readiness Manager for Mercedes-Benz, said EQC ownership would bring a welcome change to regular routines. “I’m the type of person who hates filling up at a petrol station, it’s one of those things I always put off,” she said.

“So the aim of EVs and one of the benefits is that you can utilise the time your car is idle, which for the average car is 22 hours a day. You can plug the vehicle in while you’re not using it and it refuels, so you don’t need to go out of your way to find a petrol station.”

The EQC is powered by an 80kWh lithium-ion battery with an expected range of up to 450km. “If you think of how far the average Australian drives, it’s around 38 kilometres per day so this gives you more than enough range for average daily driving needs,” she said.

“So when you come home from work, you may have a Mercedes-Benz wallbox and you can plug in and select when you want the charger to turn on, which may be at off-peak rates, and when you get up in the morning you’re ready to go.”

The Managing Director and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific, Horst von Sanden, told the exclusive gathering he was confident that customers would be impressed with their purchase.

“I was fortunate enough to drive around in an EQC today and I was absolutely blown away,” he said. “I currently drive a high-performance Mercedes-AMG car and I enjoy it, but having been in the EQC, the torque, the acceleration and the smoothness of the ride was just mind-blowing.

“Mercedes-Benz has committed to launching an electric car in every model until 2022, so you can imagine this is just the beginning of a massive onslaught of electric vehicles by Mercedes-Benz.”

Words Steve Colquhoun

Driving Scotland’s North Coast 500

At the top of Scotland, you soon become used to the sight of sheep, distilleries and bus shelters painted purple to match the heather.

But you’ll never tire of the landscape. The wind and rain that can make this region challenging are also what have sculpted its raw beauty, and as a touring destination it’s a stunner.

A loop that hugs the east and north coasts then zig-zags down the western side is the North Coast 500. In line with its nominal distance of 830km (516 miles), it’s a road of many moods. For some while you’re on highways, but there are also long stretches of single-lane road where the only way to deal with oncoming traffic is to pull into frequently occurring passing places. Treasure these pauses, because they’re in the most spectacular sectors, so you get to soak up the sharp mountains, countless lochs and pretty coastal inlets.

The gentlest way into the experience is anti-clockwise from Inverness, Scotland’s northern-most city. The well-populated east coast is home to the impressive Dunrobin Castle at Golspie, but a more intimate favourite is Castle of Mey in the north-east, the private home of the late Queen Mother.

It's well worth stopping for a hike at Glen Affric to admire the Highlands' wild beauty.

Once past Thurso, visit tiny villages with evocative names such as Scrabster, Tongue and Brawl, and skirt along sea cliffs. A quirk in the north-west corner is Smoo Cave, a dark recess on an inlet with a thunderous internal waterfall.

The western section of the NC500 is the most spectacular, because in places it leaves the highway to take minor roads along the coast, bringing you to beautiful remote beaches such as Achmelvich and then along the shore of Loch Assynt to the noble ruin of Ardvreck Castle.

Further south, the route through a swathe of quaint villages such as Poolewe, Gairloch, Torridon and Sheildag brings you to the option of a side trip to Applecross – which, be warned, has several white-knuckled crests and bends.

Eventually the NC500 heads back towards Inverness through low, rolling hills. If you have the time, park for the day and take a walk through the wild Glen Affric, regarded as Scotland’s most beautiful glen. And follow your nose to Glen Ord Distillery.

The NC500 is extremely popular, so accommodation is best pre-booked well in advance, with the towns of Beauly, Wick, Thurso and Ullapool offering the greatest options. And keep your fuel topped up, as it’s not available in all villages. 

Words Jeremy Bourke

* Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol.

The all-new A-Class launch at Mercedes me Melbourne. Images: Simon Shiff.

Ground-breaking new A-Class leading the charge into an exciting future

Just as the smartphone revolutionised the way we communicate, the smallest model in the Mercedes-Benz range, the new A-Class, is set to change the way we interact with our vehicles.

That’s the key message from an immersive event held at the flagship Mercedes me store in Melbourne’s CBD during August, detailing an exciting future in which cars will anticipate our needs as well as connecting us to the greater world in surprising new ways.

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class might have been the focal point of the function, but attendees also were given a tantalising glimpse into an exciting future through the eyes of Mercedes-Benz.

They heard that fully electric and emission-free cars as well as fully autonomous vehicles are at an advanced stage of development and will be hitting the road in the next handful of years. There was even a hint that one day soon we may all be able to step into a flying, driverless taxi – one that will never take the wrong turn or get caught up in a traffic jam.

Leading an entertaining discussion about this fascinating future was comedian and TV panellist Dave Thornton, who gently probed the technological experience of renowned coder Ally Watson, and the analytical mind of Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning swimmer Cameron McEvoy, who is also a Friend of the Brand to Mercedes-Benz and a physics and science student.

Filling in the details of rapidly evolving technology and mobility innovations was Jerry Stamoulis, product communications manager for Mercedes-Benz Australia-Pacific.

Ally Watson, who co-founded the ‘Code Like a Girl’ organisation to introduce more females to technology, has been among the first to drive the brand-new A-Class – she was handed the key just four weeks after obtaining her driver’s licence. The self-confessed nervous driver said the myriad intelligent functions in the A-Class transformed her opinion of driving.

“Parking, you have 360-degree cameras, you can see everywhere. Driving, the car is helping me steer in the lane. You just feel so safe. It’s got your back,” she told the audience.

“You do reach a point where you don’t know how you lived without technology. I think technology can really change people’s lives for the better, if it’s done well.

“I can’t go back to my normal car now. This is just another way of living.”

Cam McEvoy, dubbed ‘The Professor’ by his swimming friends for his fascination with deeply scientific studies such as cosmology and particle physics, offered his own unique take as he presented a hands-on tour of the fully-redesigned premium compact offering from Mercedes-Benz.
“Technology is always evolving, but you know you’ve reached a new epoch when something that was integrated in your life day-in and day-out becomes obsolete and replaced by something that’s much easier to use,” said McEvoy, who plans to become a physicist and hopes to become involved in space exploration after completing his studies.

“With the AI (artificial intelligence), it creates a much more personal connection to the car, and it’s got the technology that over time it will learn your habits. It’s incredible, but so accessible as well.”

Jerry Stamoulis, PR manager at Mercedes-Benz Australia / Pacific, said an exciting future isn’t as far away as many people believe, with Mercedes-Benz already investing in start-ups such as Volocopter, which is developing automated flying taxis, and also preparing in the near future to roll out self-driving and emission-free vehicles.

“We’re investing in a number of start-ups. Obviously our main focus is automotive at this stage in terms of autonomous technologies, which the A-Class has, and the rest of range will also receive. But we are moving towards a driverless future,” he said.

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

Words by Steve Colquhoun

Is this Switzerland’s most spectacular drive?

A trio of mountains in central Switzerland are famed for their majesty: the mighty Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau.

But another titanic trio nearby also deserve acclaim, as a world-class drive: the mountain passes of Grimsel, Furka and Susten.

They’re linked on a 120km road loop with tortuous hairpin descents, sweeping ascents up narrow valleys and spectacular scenery. It’s a road made for fine machines and engaged drivers.

The online map says two-and-a-half hours. I take six, because I stop often at one of the many hotels, cafés or lookouts to catch my breath and absorb the wonder.

Coming east from Interlaken, the loop starts at Innertkirchen, rising easily to Grimselpass (2165m).

I pull in just past Berghotel Grimselblick, and look over the edge. This is what I’ve come for, the road folding down through six 180-degree bends stacked on top of each other.

It looks imposing but I’m down almost before I realise it and then climb again in a long sweep up to Furkapass (2431m). It’s mid-summer but still cold – the snowmelt produces dozens of mini-cascades off the mountains – although sunny, so the top is down on my Mercedes-Benz C-Class 200 Cabriolet.

I stop at a café opposite the now-closed Belvedere Hotel to look back, and almost every one of the dozen or so hairpins I’ve just negotiated is visible.

Lunch is taken at the Hotel Tiefenbach, down from Furkapass. The request for “just a sandwich, bitte” produces a surprisingly delicious curried chicken and pineapple panini, taken on the terrace with a view up the valley.

From here, it really gets interesting. The centre line disappears from the road, which at best is a car-and-a-half wide, and when you meet a truck or motorhome you’re inching past.

Once down, it’s an easy drive to Wassen before turning onto the best road of the day, a 20km gently curving climb to Sustenpass (2264m). Car and driver can now exhale, relaxing into the rhythm of an inspiring ascent.

Completing the loop back to Innertkirchen requires another winding descent, with the only hold-up, apart from photo opportunities, being caught behind a tractor.

The most common vehicles today are motorbikes, plus plenty of bicycles, and there are no advisory speed signs - so assume any bend you can’t see around is second gear. Shift paddles on the C 200 help.

With sunset not scheduled until 9.45pm, there’s the temptation to do it again, in the other direction. But that’s for next time. And there will be a next time.

Words by Jeremy Bourke

Jeremy Bourke travelled as a guest of Switzerland Tourism.

Experience the family-friendly GLC Coupé

You don’t have to try too hard to talk yourself into a Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV. Big boot? Check. Commanding driving position? Yep. Lifestyle-friendly, with room for a young family? Tick. And yet, part of you still yearns for the bold style of a coupé.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupé nimbly sidesteps your dilemma, marrying the practical appeal of a four-door mid-size SUV to an irresistibly dramatic coupé silhouette.

Seen from either the front or behind, the GLC Coupé will feel unmistakably familiar to any Mercedes-Benz aficionado. Front-on, it’s hard to miss the resemblance to its SUV sibling, via the prominent frontal air intakes, straked bonnet and purposeful stance. From behind, the muscular rear haunches reference the design idiom that has proven wildly popular in the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, E-Class and S-Class coupé models.

It’s when you look at the dramatically swooping side profile that you realise that far from being overtly derivative of either of its key influences, the GLC Coupé is very much its own beast – and a sleek, athletic-looking one, at that. It draws attention like few other SUVs can.

The Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupé covers all preferences and driving styles – from the entry-level petrol-powered GLC 250 and diesel GLC 250 d models, through to the powerful yet thrifty GLC 350 d, and onwards to the performance-focused Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 Coupé and the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupé 4MATIC+. The latter packs a four-litre, bi-turbo V8 that transforms this stylish coupé into one of the quickest and most powerful mid-size off-roaders ever built.

Even at the starting point for the GLC Coupé range, the GLC 250 and 250 d models, buyers can expect a level of refinement more in keeping with a luxury sports car. There’s leather upholstery, DYNAMIC SELECT with five transmission programs, DYNAMIC BODY CONTROL adjustable damping, KEYLESS-GO start function, Driver Assistance Package PLUS including DISTRONIC automated cruise control with Steering Pilot plus a range of assistances, Parking Pilot with 360° camera, electronically adjustable front sports seats with horizontal quilting, a three-spoke sports multifunction steering wheel, silver chrome steering wheel shift paddles, the Audio 20 entertainment system including a seven-inch digital display screen, touchpad controller and Garmin MAP PILOT navigation, a 5.5-inch multi-function digital instrument cluster, an electrically-operated tailgate, AMG body styling and 20-inch AMG multi-spoke light alloy wheels.

All models in the range benefit from permanent 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, and all – with the exception of the range-topping Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupé – are mated to the 9G-TRONIC nine-speed automatic transmission. Befitting its performance focus, the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S sends its 375 kilowatts and 700Nm through an AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT nine-speed automatic. That results in a 0-100km/h sprint timed at a phenomenal 3.8 seconds – in other words, quicker than many dedicated sports cars.

The Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S amps up both performance and sports styling with AMG 21-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels, AMG Performance seats and steering wheel, nappa leather upholstery, an AMG Performance exhaust, AMG high-performance composite brakes, AMG-styled instrument cluster, and exterior styling elements including a ‘jet wing’ front apron and splitter, spoiler lip, rear diffuser, side sill panels, and the distinctive Panamericana grille made famous by the Mercedes-AMG GT sports car range.

From the stylish but understated elegance of the Mercedes-Benz GLC 250 and 250 d coupés, through the GLC 350 d and Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 models and on to the overt sportiness of the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S Coupé 4MATIC+, your itch for the practicality of a family-friendly SUV with a more sporty and eye-catching presence can now be well and truly scratched.

Words Steve Colquhoun

The E-Class Coupe wins WhichCar’s Style Award for 2018

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe trumped an eye-catching field to win the WhichCar website’s Style Award for 2018.

The annual contest to recognise Australia’s most stylish car is open to all cars retailing for less than $150,000. A shortlist of 12 of the past year’s most stunning cars was drawn up based on votes from readers of the WhichCar website, then whittled to four finalists by a panel of judges who awarded the 2018 title to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe.

“This car nails it, it has x-factor from the moment you look at it,” summed up WhichCar’s Online Editor Ryan Lewis, one of the six judges. “It needs to have this effect on you, it needs to have a presence to it. And the E-Class Coupe really has that.”

Whilst superior styling was the crucial factor in distinguishing the E-Class from a stellar field of finalists, the judges were also directed to take factors including value, features, ergonomics and design innovation into account.

The proportions typical of Mercedes-Benz are characterised by a distinctive front end with a low-positioned sport grille and central star, a long hood with power domes, a rearward-shifted, elongated greenhouse and a muscular rear end.

The dynamic looks are underlined by four frameless side windows and the absence of a B-pillar. With these clear forms, the design of the Coupé conveys an air of luxury and style alike.

The latter factor in particular struck a chord with judge Paul Beranger, an automotive design consultant: “The stretching of the upper part of this coupe is sublime in terms of proportion. The pillar-less glass and the lack of sculpting on the body side, it really reflects a maturity and a self-confidence. It’s a beautifully executed car,” he enthused.

Added Amy Starr from Elle magazine: “It belies the technology that’s underneath. There’s a lot going on inside the vehicle and you would never know that from how simple and sophisticated the exterior is.”

Concluded Tanya Buchanan, editor of Belle magazine: “It feels like you’re inside an amazing, luxurious cocoon, and you just want to drive off in it.”

Gorden Wagener, the Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG, explains the ethos behind his design.

"Our E-Class Coupé shows the next stage in the further development of our design idiom,” he says.

“Boasting perfect proportions, it embodies a puristic design with an emphasis on surfaces, reduced lines and sensual forms. This reduced design idiom is "hot" and "cool" at one and the same time."

The WhichCar website is designed to help Australians find the right car, providing expert information and sophisticated search tools to connect users with videos, reviews, specifications and lifestyle content.

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupé range opens with the E 220 d model, priced from $96,000 (MRLP).

Words Steve Colquhoun
The SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished in second place.

Podium finish for Mercedes-AMG at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12-Hour Race

A race-ending crash may have gifted Mercedes-AMG a podium finish in the 2018 Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour Race, but it also ultimately robbed the Mercedes-AMG Customer Sports teams of a chance to contest for victory.

The SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 was running in 2nd placing and a key player in an intriguing battle of fuel strategies in the race’s final stanza when a massive three-car accident at the top of the Mount Panorama circuit brought out the red flag.

With the resulting debris – including a badly-damaged Mercedes-AMG GT3 – unable to be cleared before the race’s time-certain finish, the remaining cars sat stationary on the grid as the race was back-dated by one lap and declared.

The No.75 SunEnergy1 entry – driven by Jamie Whincup, Raffaele Marciello, Tristan Vautier and Kenny Habul – finished second.

The No.75 SunEnergy1 team, after finishing second.

After coming so close to winning the race, Vautier admitted to mixed emotions over the result. “We were so close to the win and you know, we really wanted it, but if someone told us before the weekend we were going to get 2nd, we would signed (for that) straight away,” he said.

The No.55 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished 7th.

The No.55 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson, David Fumanelli and Cameron Waters was running in 7th placing at the cessation, but on a different fuel plan that could have seen it leapfrog most of the cars ahead had the race continued.

The car also finished second in the Pro-Am class, for cars containing one non-professional driver. Both the #75 and #55 cars led the race during the afternoon as numerous interventions of the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Official Safety Car had teams continually revising their fuel strategy.

The Mercedes-AMG E 63 S Official Safety Car leading the field. 

Finishing 12th outright was the No.8 Scott Taylor Motorsport Mercedes AMG GT3 in the hands of Max Twigg, Craig Baird and Tony D’Alberto. The No.19 Nineteen Corp Mercedes-AMG GT3 was in 15th placing when it was caught up in the race-ending accident. Australian driver John Martin arrived at the scene of an earlier accident at speed and was unable to avoid a significant impact. Martin was cleared of serious injury.

The No.56 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, piloted by AMG factory drivers Maximilian Buhk, Maximilian Gotz and Alvaro Parente, was damaged in a collision early in the race, but continued to finish 28th.

The AMG Activation Area.

In addition, Mercedes-AMG was anointed “featured marque” status at the 2018 edition of the prestigious race, earning pole position off the track with a stunning display of AMG GT vehicles featured an AMG GT3 racer, plus the road-going AMG GT R coupe and stunning AMG GT C Roadster.

Following the event, dozens of Mercedes-AMG customers enjoyed a day of driving tuition and fun courtesy of the Mercedes-AMG Driving Academy, in one of the few opportunities that non-race drivers can have to drive the famous and challenging Mount Panorama layout.

Words Steve Colquhoun
Project ONE super show car hero

Inside the Project ONE supersports show car

For as long as cars have raced on tracks, engineers have dreamed of bringing the same levels of performance to the road. The unveiling at the Frankfurt motor show of the Mercedes-AMG Project ONE supersports show car not only brings those engineers’ dream one step closerto reality, but demonstrates it is capable of being achieved with startling efficiency.

The design draws on technology, materials and inspiration from the Formula 1® arena – especially the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport team, which has dominated the grid for the past three seasons.

When the production version of the Project ONE concept begins to arrive in 2019, it is expected to be able to generate a stunning 1000 horsepower, or about 740kW, as the engine spins to a stratospheric 11,000rpm, which is currently unique for a roadgoing vehicle.

Expect the sprint to 200km/h to be dispatched in under six seconds, a similar timeframe to that which many other road cars need to reach just 100km/h.

Remarkably, these incredible numbers will be achieved by the combination of a turbocharged 1.6-litre V6 engine and four electric motors in a hybrid powerplant combination adapted from the Formula 1® car driven by Lewis Hamilton.

 The unique structure of the combustion engine in combination with the electric motors is said to eliminate turbo lag, creating a response time even shorter than a naturally aspirated V8 engine. The mid-mounted V6 engine combines with an electrically powered single turbocharger and an electric motor connected to the crankshaft to push a maximum output of more than 500kW to the rear wheels, while two more electric motors connected to the front axle can produce 120kW each, lending Project ONE all-wheel-drive traction and stability under acceleration. 

Further strengthening the link between Project ONE and Formula 1® is the battery cells. Their arrangement and the cell cooling system used in Project ONE are the same as those used in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1® racing car. Unlike the racing car, though, Project ONE can cruise up to 25 kilometres on electric power alone, making it city-friendly during the week but also a fearsome companion for weekend track days.

For more on Project ONE, read the latest Mercedes-Benz Magazine

Words Steve Colquhoun

Mad King Ludwig’s magical castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein

The Romantic Road, Germany

Navigating the Romantische Strasse or Romantic Road through Bavaria in southern Germany is a drive on many bucket lists.

Created in 1950 as a marketing tool to kick-start Germany’s post-war tourism industry, the Romantische Strasse stretches 400 kilometres from the Franconian vineyards of Würzburg – east of Frankfurt, before meandering south to the Bavarian alpine town of Füssen and the nearby fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. It links together 28 towns including the country’s best-preserved medieval villages with picturesque half-timbered fachwerk houses, arched city gateways with guard towers, Gothic cathedrals and palaces, and attracts some two million visitors annually.

We hadn’t planned on visiting Würzburg as it was a Friday and felt there could be myriad international semi-trailers on the autobahn wheeling home for the weekend. But a detour, due to a breakdown, takes us right through the centre of this exceptionally beautiful city with its imposing castle of Marienberg, once the residence of the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg, overlooking vineyards and the River Main. We make a mental note to revisit on another occasion.

Our first destination is Rothenburg ob der Tauber – a 700-year-old village some 186 kilometres off the A3, and surely one of the prettiest villages anywhere. During World War II, around 40 per cent of the town was accidently destroyed by the Allies who had to deploy their remaining bombs somewhere; they did not realize they were blitzing this historic town. Today, it has been sympathetically restored to its original charm and attracts hordes of visitors throughout the year. Visit in winter, and you feel like you’ve stumbled upon the very heart of Christmas itself. Käthe Wohlfahrt established her first year-round Christmas specialty store here 40 years ago and now has two magnificent shops dedicated to the decorative joys and toys of the Yuletide season.

Our next stop is the walled village of Dinkelsbühl. It’s a Saturday morning and market stalls on the historic Weinmarkt, adjacent to the magnificent 1448-built Gothic St George’s church, are laden with summer fruits and frische spargel – fresh white asparagus. Outdoor restaurants are doing a roaring trade with patrons eager to absorb the first of the summer sun’s rays as we ponder how life might have been in the Middle Ages.

Brown road signs indicate the Romantische Strasse as it presses further south through copper birch and pine forests, expanses of green wheat fields, newly sprouting corn, haystacks – even the odd solar and wind farm and tiny villages with odd sounding names such as Itzlingen, Zipplingen, Wössingen and Schopfloch.

Some 80 kilometres on, we stop in 14th century Nördlingen, the only village in Germany with complete walls and battlements that can be walked all the way around. We walk some of the way and contemplate climbing the 350 steps up the 90-metre-high bell tower of the landmark late-Gothic St Georgskirche, but decide to venture on.

Travelling via Harburg with its cloistered monastery and Donauwörth on the Danube with its rainbow-coloured houses, we stop overnight in Augsburg, 34 kilometres away. Founded by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 15 BC on what was then the most important continental trade route, today it is a large city combining erstwhile prosperity with contemporary life. It has much history to discover including Romanesque and Gothic frescoes in the impressive cathedral dating back to AD 823.

As we drive further south through impossibly green farmlands, we get glimpses of the Bavarian Alps with snatches of snow-covered peaks until we reach Hohenschwangau and our final destination – mad King Ludwig’s magical castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein, the modern-day inspiration for the castle in Cinderella’s World at Disney World and for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.

The Romantic Road can be experienced from either direction – north or south. Just allow enough time to discover the extraordinary number of beautiful villages en route, because this could easily take up to a week.

Words Tricia Welsh
Many travellers meander from Cape Town, through Hermanus (pictured) to the spectacular Garden Route

Nurturing nature: driving South Africa’s Garden Route

The Garden Route in the Western Cape is rightfully recognised as one of the most spectacular drives in the world.

Where is it?

Africa typically provokes romantic images of endless plains teeming with wildlife. Not here – South Africa is home to diverse landscapes and in this part of the Western Cape it’s all about crashing beaches, dramatic mountains, lush forests – hence, the name. The Garden Route follows the N2 highway for 220 kilometres, from Mossel Bay to Storms River, linking a series of charming coastal towns interspersed with rich natural beauty.

What’s it like to drive on?

Comparable – better, even – than any major highway in Australia. Don’t expect limitless views of the beaches and rocky headlands though. Rather than mimicking the splintered contours of the Indian Ocean coast, it’s a surprisingly straight road for most of the way and often located inland, parallel to the splintered shoreline, with branching roads accessing hidden bays, beaches and river mouths.

Are there any highlights?

• Best base towns – Wilderness (unobtrusively nestled among the thick coastal vegetation), Knysna (idyllically located on an oyster-rich tidal lagoon) or Plettenberg Bay (a holiday resort town that is a favourite with South Africa’s rich and beautiful over the summer months). However, bushfires caused widespread damage in June 2017 and rehabilitation works in the area are ongoing.
• Look for rare Knysna lorie birds or go in search of the near-mythical elephants that are said to roam the Knysna forests.
• Cage dive among great white sharks at Mossel Bay.
• Free-fall from Bloukrans Bridge on the end of a bungee cord.
• Walk through the Garden of Eden and to the Big Tree – a 600-year-old Outeniqua yellowwood.
• Zip line 60 metres above the ground on the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour in Storms River.

How about detours?

• Wealthy merchants built ‘feather mansions’ in Oudtshoorn on the back of a thriving ostrich feather trade at the turn of the 20th century. Combine a visit to an ostrich farm with entry to the Cango Caves just outside town.
• South Africa’s most popular multi-day hike, the Otter Trail, starts at the Storms River Mouth campground and continues for 43km to the Groot River estuary at Nature’s Valley.
• Walk to the Cape Seal Lighthouse on the Robberg Peninsula, south of Plettenberg Bay, passing fur seal colonies and crossing steep coastal sand dunes perfect for hurtling down.
• You’ve no doubt heard about the Big Five. Well, how about the Big Seven? Not only can you find elephants, lions, leopards, rhino and buffalo in Addo Elephant National Park, but also southern right whales and great white sharks.
• Serious surfers will make a beeline for Jeffreys Bay and its legendary Supertubes right-hander where Aussie world champ Mick Fanning infamously faced off against a white pointer.

Words Mark Daffey. He visited South Africa courtesy of South African Airways and Oudtshoorn & De Rust Tourism.

Mercedes-Benz Magazine features the best on luxury travel around the world.
Find your perfect driving experience at Mercedes-Benz Driving Events

Take your driving to the next level

Nothing really prepares you for the sensory thrill of a Mercedes-Benz Driving Event.

On arrival, a full range of gleaming Mercedes-Benz vehicles greets participants before they take in a detailed briefing by Peter Hackett, chief driving instructor of Mercedes-Benz Driving Events. Then it’s onto the racetrack where participants’ driving skills and understanding of high-tech vehicles are put the test. Be prepared to be dazzled by these cars’ advanced safety technologies and, of course, by the sheer performance.

This is just a taster of Mercedes-Benz Driving Events – a nationwide program that is designed to improve driving knowledge and showcase the advanced technology in Mercedes-Benz and Mercedes-AMG vehicles.

The program is accessible to a wide range of drivers – from young drivers who have just received their licence, to those with many years on the road who are keen to go further with performance driving.

As you would expect, a Mercedes-Benz Driving Event is unlike any other drive day, says Peter Hackett.

“Our events are different, firstly, because you get to drive Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Then there is the level of personalisation that we provide – the sheer resources, with the cars and the instructors, is impressive. There is an individual touch and great attention to detail – we really set the benchmark,” he says.

While no two Mercedes-Benz Driving Events are exactly the same, Hackett says he does consistently receive similar feedback from participants: “The thing we most frequently hear from customers at the events is: ‘I didn't know my car could do that’. They are always amazed by the assistance technology that is in Mercedes-Benz cars. The events are an opportunity for them to realise just how safe and reliable the vehicles are. They experience an overwhelming sense of reassurance – they realise the technology is always there for you, if you need it.”

When pressing Hackett for his favourite event, he is quick to answer: “AMG Snow”. This high-performance event in New Zealand’s Queenstown is all about high-speed, high-tech driving in slick, icy conditions. “For many Australians, driving on snow is such a unique experience – we have customers who haven’t seen snow before, never mind driven on it. The AMG cars are also so impressive – it's a really sensory experience,” Hackett adds.

Mercedes-Benz Driving Events include First Gear, for new drivers; Accelerate, which has a focus on driving excellence; and the by-invitation-only Festival of AMG, among others.

Words Lucy Siebert

Find your perfect driving experience at Mercedes-Benz Driving Events.

Tasmania’s Great Eastern Drive

Tasmania is easily Australia’s prettiest state, with its east coast providing one highlight after another.

Where is it?

The stretch of highway tracing Tasmania’s east coast from Orford to St Helens is marketed as the Great Eastern Drive. All up, it’s a distance of just 176km. Ordinarily a drive of that distance could be completed in less than two hours. But in Tassie, where narrow single-lane roads constantly twist and turn, that’s not even worth contemplating.

Coastal villages

Tasmania’s greatest asset is that it is an island. The surrounding water forms a natural barrier preventing hordes of city dwellers from coming here – which helps to explain how many of the seaside hamlets along Tasmania’s east coast have sidestepped the bustle of coastal towns on the mainland. Bicheno and St Helen’s have a timeless appeal, Orford is as pretty as a postcard, and Scamander and Swansea are likely to prompt childhood memories of carefree summers by the beach.

Natural attractions

While the littoral towns certainly have abundant charms, this is a shoreline that’s tailor-made for car camping. The beaches all along here are world class and you could spend entire summers free camping at designated campgrounds adjoining some of the best beaches in the country. The highway hugs the coast between Bicheno and Scamander, where surf waves consistently roll in off the Tasman Sea. Inland you’ll find waterfalls and towering eucalyptus forests. And let’s not forget the wildlife – nightly penguin and Tasmanian devil spotting tours run out of Bicheno, Triabunna boasts its own Pelican Walk, and resident Bennett’s wallabies are likely to nuzzle up against you the moment you step outside your vehicle in the Freycinet National Park car park.

Historical reminders

Did you know that there are more Georgian buildings here than in any other state? That’s because Tasmania was the second area to be settled in Australia, behind Botany Bay. Cross any river or creek along this route and there’s a good chance you’ll find a stately mansion or colonial cottage snuggled up against the banks. The convict-built Spiky Bridge is just south of Swansea and there’s an old convict road along the Prosser River near Orford.

Culinary delights

Tasmania has become a real foodie’s paradise in recent years and you can’t go past the fresh seafood along its eastern seaboard. As the name suggests, Great Oyster Bay harvests some of the best shellfish known to man, while St Helen’s or Triabunna are deep sea fishing ports with restaurants purposely mining that catch. The stretch of road between Swansea and Bicheno is known as the East Coast Wine Route, and Orford and St Helens are home to a number of vineyards with cellar doors.

Off track

There are plenty of worthy side trips away from the Great Eastern Drive route. Triabunna is the departure point for ferries to the former penal colony of Maria Island. Further north, you can’t possibly bypass the sublimely beautiful Freycinet Peninsula, where the hike to Wineglass Bay is not to be missed. St Marys is home to quirky antique stores and galleries. And the beaches caressed by the turquoise-coloured waters inside the Bay of Fires, north of St Helens, are as good as you’ll find anywhere.

Words and photography by Mark Daffey, who visited Tasmania courtesy of Spirit of Tasmania.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Six decades of the Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster

There are many ways in which a car becomes an icon. It’s not just the inspiring and timeless design, its exclusivity, its performance capability, or all of these elements combined. It’s also desire: the emotional response that both enthusiasts and naïve passers-by feel upon spotting its silhouette. It’s desire that raises status to that of legend, and the desire for a roofless SL - particularly in the lucrative US marketplace - that saw the birth of Mercedes-Benz’s SL Roadster in 1957. 

Two year earlier, Mercedes-Benz had hit the heartstrings with the infamous SL Gullwing, a vehicle originally produced for racing, and kept exclusive with a short production run and an even shorter list of people who could afford it.  

A moment in history

When production of the Gullwing ended, calls for a more user-friendly and luxurious model - and from America, an open-air automotive alternative – saw Mercedes-Benz answer with the SL Roadster.  

It debuted at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1957; its gaping gills, shark-fin bumpers and slippery soft-top silhouette cementing its status as an instant classic, and one of the most exclusive cars of its era. 

“The SL Gullwing is still the pinnacle of collectable Mercs and commands a higher price, but the Roadster is one of the prettiest sports cars ever produced,” affirms 300SL Roadster owner and Mercedes-Benz collector Ray Eastwood. 

“These cars were so expensive at the time, it was almost the exclusive territory of film stars and the who’s-who around the world who can afford them. Presidents and kings, names like Hugh Hefner, Sophia Loren, Paul Newman, Yul Brynner, Tony Curtis, Clarke Gable … the list goes on. And they are still one of the most sought-after collectables in the world today.” 

SL Roadsters in Australia

Eastwood, a retired Mercedes-Benz dealer principal from Adelaide, South Australia, has owned two examples in his lifetime; his current vehicle is fully restored to its original condition, and “a pleasure to drive”.  

“A lot of people will tell you it’s a nicer car to drive than the Gullwing, which was produced from 1955–57 (and preceded) the production of the Roadster,” he explains. 

“Mercedes-Benz made some big improvements to the car: the Gullwing was based on a race car, but the Roadster was a production car, so it was more comfortable, had a different rear axle, getting in and out was easier, and although all Roadsters had racing cams fitted (for) a little more horsepower, the engine was less fussy.” 

It formed the blueprint for future generations of Mercedes-Benz Roadsters; a car with sporting prowess that was also comfortable and luxurious, finding that tricky balance between performance and practicality. And it is a tradition carried forward 60 years to this day. 

Words Samantha Stevens 

Explore the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, bite by bite

Most visitors to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast go for the sun, surf and sand. And admittedly the three are in abundance along this 55km stretch from Caloundra, about an hour by car north of Brisbane, to Noosa – about another hour’s drive further north along the coastal Sunshine Motorway.

But those who venture inland are in for a scenic and gourmet treat, plus a refreshing change of pace. The route via Landsborough to Maleny, on a spur of the Great Dividing Range, then along the Blackall Range towns of Montville, Flaxton to Mapleton and back to the coast via Bli Bli makes the perfect day trip from most places along the coast.

Something for everyone 

At Landsborough, buy top rye and wholegrain bread at Buck’s Bakery before wending your way up the range. Stop for uninterrupted views of the majestic Glass House Mountains at Mary Caircross Park or from McCarthy’s Lookout. Consider Devonshire Tea in the gazebo at the spectacular Maleny Botanic Gardens with a similar Glasshouse Mountains view. Once a private garden, these now spread over four hectares with six kilometres of walking paths that meander through roses, azaleas and more, adjacent to a virgin rainforest.

The verdant rolling hills surrounding Maleny are dotted with grazing milking cows, producing some of the best cheese in the state. You can take a tour of the Maleny Cheese factory, then savour the great triple brie and le blochon cheese, and perhaps share a fondue in the café. A short distance away, you can also take a Maleny Dairies Farm Tour with the opportunity to sample fresh milk and natural yoghurts in a way that explains, particularly to children, that the origin of these nutritious products is not a supermarket.

You’ll want to stop a while to discover this vibrant rural township with its gentle country lifestyle and idyllic climate. Ready for a caffeine hit? Then head for Shotgun with its chic black and white awning, where local barista Kelly makes arguably the best coffee on the range. Nearby, is the charming atmospheric Rosetta Books, one of three great bookshops in town.

Sweet-tooths will love the divine award-winning hazelnut roche or decadent passionfruit cheesecake ice cream among the selection of ice creams, gelati and sorbets at Colin James Fine Foods. Cheese-lovers will be right at home in the walk-in Fromagerie with excellent imported and local cheese including Kenilworth flavoured cheese – sweet chilli and coriander, roast garlic and cracked pepper or pickled onions and chives.

Organic delights 

Locals love the range of organic produce from honey to avocadoes at the Maple Street Co-op, as well as the artisan bread from Woombye and Conondale. Conondale is also where Richard Mohan grows the small traditional Spanish padrón peppers – absolutely delicious when lightly pan-fried and sprinkled with rock salt. He ships all over Australia, but look locally for them in the Noosa market on Sundays and the West End market in Brisbane on Saturdays.

Commune with nature in a falls pavilion at Spicers Tamarind Retreat, sip a Spicers Sunset cocktail and dine in the intimate on-site restaurant, The Tamarind, on exemplary modern Asian cuisine. Or checkout The Long Apron, arguably the region’s top restaurant at sister property, Spicers Clovelly Estate, which offers boutique accommodation in a beautiful provincial-style building.

Continuing along the ridgetop road, enjoy grandstand views across fertile farmlands to the white sandy coastline beyond. Picturesque Montville has become very touristy but is worth a wander for the first-time visitor with its giftshops, cafes, artisan workshops and nurseries.

In Flaxton, sample indulgent artisan chocolate made by Sebastian Clerc, who believes he is the youngest chocolatier in Australia. He uses local produce for fillings such as pineapple, ginger, lavender, honey and shiraz from the winery next door. His chocolate shop, Cocorico, is housed within his chef parents’ Le Relais Bressan Café and Deli complex, alongside their fully-fledged French restaurant.

You will need to pre-book a table for lunch on the verandah at the Mapleton Tavern – a classic old country pub serving hearty meals with one of the best views over undulating farmlands through to the coast. But it’s the perfect way to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings in bucolic bliss.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific Pty Ltd at all times promotes the responsible service and consumption of alcohol. 

Words Tricia Welsh