By on October 1, 2012

There are two cars parked in my garage that are just begging for a comparison test. A new Mercedes-Benz GLK350 has taken up temporary residence here. My wife Sally Jo is the proud owner of a pristine 1968 Mustang 302 Coupe which was purchased new by her grandfather. How could we resist not doing a comparo to find out which of these vehicles offers the better…owner’s manual?

It is to be expected  that a modern owner’s manual will be larger than one from an older car due to the myriad of new conveniences on today’s vehicles, but hold on to your hat: the GLK350’s guidebook is actually 5 separate manuals totaling a whopping 854 pages vs. the Mustang’s manual total of 53 pages.

At least 200 of those pages are devoted to “Warning Notes,” some repeated several times. Mercedes-Benz is prepared for every Lawyered-Up Nimrod who they fear will drink the wiper fluid, unlatch the hood while driving, let their kids ride unbelted, close the sunroof on their head and so on.

Thanks to Benz’s manuals being available on-line, you can download them to your phone or tablet and find a topic very quickly. The Mustang handbook is also easy to use because of its light weight and straight forward “pull this knob and push that lever and if something breaks go see your Ford Dealer” type of instructions.

Let’s go straight to the highlights:

Lost in Translation Award
: Regarding the exhaust system: “Take particular care not to park on dry grassland or harvested grain fields.”

Dire Warning Duel
GLK: “If you switch off the ignition while driving, safety-relevant functions are only available with limitations, or not at all…do not switch off the ignition while driving.”

Mustang: Regarding use of the emergency flasher switch: “It is important to push switch ALL THE WAY IN or ALL THE WAY OUT. Positions part way may cause inadvertent operation of other accessories.”

Stuck In The Mud?

GLK: “If the drive wheels get trapped on loose or muddy ground, recover the vehicle with the utmost care…pull out the vehicle backwards, if possible, using the tracks it made when it became stuck.”

Mustang: “”Rocking” the car works like a pendulum, to swing the car off a particular slippery spot. Shift rhythmically between reverse and low (“R” and “1” {low} with Cruise-O-Matic) while keeping a gentle pressure on the accelerator.”

Happens To Our Engineers All The Time

GLK: “The vehicle is locked automatically when the ignition is switched on and the vehicle’s wheels are turning at a speed in excess of 9 mph (15 km/h). You could therefore be locked out if:

  • the vehicle is being pushed.
  • the vehicle is being towed.
  • the vehicle is on a roller dynamometer.”

Tire Talk

Mustang: “If the car is to be driven at sustained (one hour or more) speeds over 90 MPH, special high speed capability tires MUST be installed.”

GLK: From the 34-page tire tutorial: “The size description for all tires with maximum speeds of over 186 mph (300 km/h) must include “ZR” and the service specifications must be given in parentheses. Example:….”

The Good Old Days (Get Off My Lawn!)

Mustang: “If your engine cannot be started normally, a push from another car will usually get you going, provided the battery is not “dead.”

Secret Features Revealed

Mustang: The booklet features a list of available dealer-installed accessories including “Television” and “Throttle Holder” with no details provided. I assume the former would be produced by Philco and the latter would be a crude cruise control device?

GLK: You can program a “Speed Alert” with MB Customer Assistance which will notify you by voicemail or text when your car exceeds a certain MPH and the time and exact location of same. Designed to monitor teen drivers, I see it as my personal drag strip timing slip. I am setting my “Speed Alert” at 120 mph and heading for the desert this weekend!

Even After 45 Years, Some Things Do Not Change

GLK: “The more you look after the engine when it is new, the more satisfied you will be with its performance in the future. You should therefore drive at varying vehicle and engine speeds for the first 1,000 miles.”

Mustang: “…as a matter of prudence most owners avoid extended high speed operations for the first 1,000 miles. Constant speed operation should also be avoided…”

So which owner’s manual prevails? Each one answers any and all possible questions. I was stumped as to which book was better. As the FNG for this Big Time Auto Blog, I cannot leave the Best and the Brightest hanging. What would other auto writers do, I thought? I decided to go with what Motor Trend’s Angus McKenzie Phillips might say:

“Ford spends more advertising bucks with Motor Trend than does Mercedes, thus the Mustang’s manual wins!”

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23 Comments on “Tales From The Cooler: Owner’s Manual Shootout: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Vs. 1968 Ford Mustang...”

  • avatar

    That tidbit about the warning flashers is spot on. We discovered as kids that when pushing the brake and holding the flasher halfway in the radio would come alive. Mom has the keys, no problem! We dont need no stinkin keys. Very useful when listening to the Super Bowl in the church parking lot before the evening service. This was a 67 Galaxie 500, BTW.

    • 0 avatar

      My parents must have skipped that section, so we found out the hard way. Our new ’84 Club Wagon would pay the radio when the turn signal was used, start the wipers when the radio was turned on, etc. Sure enough, the hazard switch was half-way out.

  • avatar

    That’s one sexy ass Mustang.

    Seeing those two vehicles (and manuals) side-by-side automatically cues one word in my mind, reflexively, regarding modern vehicles:


    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis


      For the bloat, be sure and thank your local Congress-critter.

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure how congress is to blame for a SUV being bigger than a sports coupe.

      • 0 avatar

        In a way they are responsible the for proliferation (and perhaps existence) of the SUV due to CAFE…

      • 0 avatar

        He means that the current Mustang is bloated compared to the ’68 ‘Stang because of all those irritating safety features that voters demanded.

        (Buy a motorcycle if you don’t like such “bloat”.)

      • 0 avatar

        Oh come on. Everyone knows that a gas tax is better than CAFE – but the voters will go nuts if the gas tax is raised.

        And buyers have demanded safer, quieter, bigger cars. They like them.

        I’m not a fan of large vehicles at all – and congresscritters do a lot wrong – but but try taking a look at what’s selling before following your knee.

    • 0 avatar
      Speed Spaniel

      Tell that to my new MX-5, but at least I’m well on my way to losing 30 lbs. When it comes to bloat (whether people or machine) something’s gotta give! :-)

    • 0 avatar

      Well, obviously things have improved dramatically since the 60s in terms of safety, efficiency and reliability, but they also peaked at some point in the last decade, and now we’ve probably already entered the territory of not just diminishing return, but negative yields on all the additional crap being added to modern vehicles, for whatever reasons.

      I am not opposed in any way to incorporation of new technology, but it should definitively improve the vehicle in meaningful, significant ways, and not be installed for arbitrary reasons or as part of marketing 101.

      Electronic Stability Control is probably one of the biggest and most meaningful advancements in motor vehicle safety in history, yet it hasn’t garnered anywhere near the attention that airbags or anti-lock brakes have. I wouldn’t be surprised if tens of thousands of fatalities and hundreds of thousands of injuries have been prevented by ESC, but the people spared their lives or serious injuries probably aren’t even aware ESC saved them.

  • avatar

    Bloat On, brothers.

  • avatar

    Ford must have been like VW back then. Almost all the circuits in the dash routed through the hazard flasher switch.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh God! The nightmares. I helped a friend re-wire an old bug one time. Eventually convinced him to go get a wiring diagram since neither of us could truly fathom have every single fricking wire under the dash ran through the hazard switch. I’d pretty much forgotten about it until now. The horror!

  • avatar

    It’s amazing the size difference!

    Virgil, you notice that there’s something dangling from the Merc or you’re on garbage. Remember, don’t park on dry grass.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a cycle that has been repeated a number of times over the decades. Go have a look at an original Model A…although tall by today’s standards, it was very reasonably sized. All through the 50’s the trend was longer, wider, lower, heavier. Eventually there was a backlash, and cars become reasonable in size again….original Beatle, Falcon, Corvair etc. Then the process of uncontrolled growth began again…go have a look at a 78 Lincoln Continental.

      This time, because of volatile fuel prices, which will probably not be stable long enough to support the growth of slob-mobiles, I’m thinking small is going to be permanent.

  • avatar

    I’ve never had the radio come on while my flashers were operating in my ’68 fastback. Interesting. (I have replaced the flasher unit with one designed to work with LED sequentials though.)

    Your wife has a beautiful car.

  • avatar

    GLK: “The vehicle is locked automatically when the ignition is switched on and the vehicle’s wheels are turning at a speed in excess of 9 mph (15 km/h).

    You would think –German engineers being German engineers– that there’s a switch or (these days) touch-sensor command to turn that ‘feature’ off.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    The manual for the latest Lexus LX is like War and Peace.

  • avatar

    How bout Mustang wins for having better names for options… like “Cruise-o-matic”.

    Take that German engineers!

  • avatar

    Funny that the Mustang manual teaches you proper off-roading, where the GLK manual, being a manual for an “SUV”, tells you to simply retreat.

    That’s progress, folks.

  • avatar

    You can get the Mustang manual on digits as well. I had the entire service manual for my 68 Cougar in digital format. I currently have the service manual for the wife’s 07 Tucson, my 93 Land Cruiser, the 90 Miata, and the Clymer manual for my KLR650 on my iPad. Much easier to clean the grease off the screen than deal with paper.

    As to the hazzard switch, I never had the radio come on in my Cougar, but I did pull it out once and was treated to a camp fire under the dash.

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