Here’s a little secret: ever since the folks at No Longer DaimlerChrysler decided to pervert their previously sensible nomenclature in order to better suit the lowest common denominator of California housewives, the replacement for the 190E has been known within Mercedes-Benz dealerships as the “Cheap-Class”. It’s a particularly common phrase in Service and Parts, but from time to time a salesperson will let it slip as well, although certainly not in front of the customer.
There’s something ungracious about calling a vehicle that sells for a minimum (and as-tested!) price of $36,725 the “Cheap” anything, but from the perspective of its manufacturer the sobriquet is legitimate. Set the Wayback Machine for 1975, and you can find a W115 240D selling for $9500. That’s $38,000 in today’s money, and it got you a German taxi with roll-up windows, no air conditioning, sixty-four horsepower, and M-B Tex seats. The new car offers more — a lot more — for less. So, Cheap-Class it is.
My recent trip to Napa for the VW Intramural League test offered me a chance to kill a couple birds with a single stone. By renting my own transportation, I’d be free to avoid the $100 dinners with various Heffalumps Of The Industry. And by paying an eye-watering $354 for three days including airport tax, I’d be able to review a Mercedes for the B&B. Done and done. To paraphrase Jerry Orbach in Dirty Dancing, let’s see what my money bought.