Regular readers of this blog know I enjoy driving and riding. Though this habit has been financially heavy on pocket, I hardly miss a chance to rent/drive a high end car. My self drive expeditions started off with a Skoda Octavia in June 2008 and I’ve been driving around in various rented cars once a while since then. It is a way of de-stressing: get behind the wheels and go for a long drive. Recently I saw an ad where Mercedes Benz was offered on rent at a relatively expensive but affordable rate (500 Rs per hour, 9 Rs per km). Without a second thought called them and made a booking for 2 hours, with an idea of exploring the vehicle and a ride in it. My mother and sister were visiting Chennai, so it was a perfect opportunity to go for a luxury ride.
I wanted to give a surprise to my mother and sister by arranging a Mercedes ride for them. When they asked “what is the plan for the evening?” I said “surprise” and asked them to get ready and come out. They came out, I opened the door of the shiny black Mercedes C class C220 CDI and they got in. After getting in I was asked: “so what is the surprise?”. That was like pinning the balloon… Next 10 minute I spent advocating for Mercedes Benz, explaining its comfort, cost, status symbol…My mother wasn’t much impressed and was more concerned about the rent I was paying for it.
C220 CDi is one of the entry level series by Mercedes. The AT version costs about Rs 30 lakhs (Comparatively the S-Class costs about INR 1.1 Crores). Of course the car was great compared to other regular cars, but as such I didn’t find any WOW factor in it. Unfortunately the agency was not keen letting me drive it-even for a small distance-they insisted that risk factor is too high and the car is taxi registration, not meant for self drive. So I had to settle for sitting in driver’s seat and posing for photograph, not actually getting to drive it. (That can wait… Some other day for sure)
Where do we go after getting into a Merc? No point getting stuck in city traffic where a cycle rider makes his way among traffic and reaches faster leaving Mercs and BMWs stuck behind a crowd of share autos. So I zeroed in on Fisherman’s Cove on ECR. I’d not been there earlier and wanted to check out the place. It also made ideal destination to go in a Mercedes with only few hours to spare.
Drive was smooth-luckily not much traffic on ECR and we reached Fisherman’s Cove and were let in after a thorough security check. The first thing that caught attention was the pool, which is nice. We went inside to lobby area-I was a bit disappointed-the grandeur that was expected in a 5 star place was somehow missing. I would rate Radisson's Temple Bay (formerly GRT Temple Bay) in Mahabs or Club Mahindra’s Coorg resort a step higher. The place was almost deserted (it was 4pm). I asked for directions to go to Sea Gull (name of their coffee shop, which I’d researched a bit so as not to appear clueless once reaching there)
We were greeted by mineral water bottles kept on each table with a tag: “Rs 175+ taxes, not complementary”. We took a pool side table. Sea was partially visible and pool had a few guests swimming and relaxing. A crow on a nearby tree was making some unusual noise-as if it is trained to behave properly in a 5 star hotel. We had a look at the menu, as expected they were all in 3 digits. (Sample: Coffee/tea: Rs 135 +12.5% tax). We ordered few beverages and snacks and they took their own time to deliver them, unmindful of our concern that we’re paying several rupees every minute to the Mercedes Benz parked outside.
To the extent I notice, their most expensive suite (sea facing villas) was costing around 22k per day 2 years ago. Now it has come down to 17k. Most of the areas were for residents only and certainly we couldn’t have asked for a guided tour. In about an hour or so we spent there, I found it a little below expectation overall- in terms of ambience and service. We had our refreshments, summoned our car and left. We went to a seashore, took some pics and then returned to city as clock was ticking.
Overall nice 3 hours spent trying to explore luxury, expensive one though. OK as an experimental exercise, not really worth repeating. I was expecting the driver to be uniformed-but he wasn’t. Also yellow number plate gave away the secret that it is rented vehicle. The hourly rental was a convenient scheme. Bangalore’s Car Club had a BMW and they were charging Rs 6000 for a 4 hour/40 km rental, which was not viable for me. Just hoping other cars- Audi and Volkswagen models will soon be available on rent (self drive preferably and at an affordable hourly rent)- Anyone listening?
Also see: Tata Jaguar & LR * Toyota Quality Revolution * Toyota Land cruiser Prado & 200 * 11 things you don't get in BMW 320d * BMW 320 photoshoot *