GTspirit is all about action and adventure, myself and my colleagues are here to share with you the experiences we embark upon across the globe. When it comes to roadtrips and continental crossings with cars large and small, there are few manufacturers that can match Mercedes-Benz for thrills and excitement so when the latest invitation flashed up in my inbox I did not hesitate to accept and began packing my suitcase – destination, Milano.
Milan is a city that I am very familiar with – it is crammed with history, sensational food and is known as one of the fashion capitals of the world. It only takes a few minutes walking through the stunning Piazza Duomo to notice why, it is a catwalk lined with names such as Prada and the likes. There are young Italians coated in luxury brands and designer labels sauntering effortlessly through crowds of foreign tourists without a drop of precious gelato tarnishing their Louboutin stilettos or Tod trainer. As great as it was to walk to architectural marvels and the narrow Milanese streets with global Instagram gurus and fellow automotive journalists, we were in the city to start a journey that promised to be one to remember.
The morning sun struggled to reflect off the fleet of matt silver Mercedes-Benz CLAs that I had the choice of piloting for the first part of the journey. In all honesty I could have spent hours in the car park, the views off the roof top looked over the infamous Cathedral and into the aforementioned Duomo. I was handed the keys and a cooler box crammed with the staples of any roadtrip diet – fizzy drink, biscuits and other food stuffs that would have your personal trainer wince.
Rimowa and box full of unhealthy treats locked and loaded, the navigation system barked at me, leading me into the streets below and onto the journey into the unknown to discover new environments alien to me. Zooming out on the map out it became apparent that this would be a day that would cross borders and take me through the glorious Alps on the way.
Having had little sleep the previous evening a quick espresso was needed and with it I left Italy in my wake, the tarmac was now Swiss and I quickly peeled off the smooth surface of the Autostrada that the pretty CLA had eaten effortlessly and onto the rougher mountain roads. I poked the gearbox into manual and it was time to see how the coupe with an extra set of doors would handle a very different challenge. The car started to prove just how it could handle hairpins and harsh gradients as well as it could pot holes and parallel parking in an urban environment. The prescribed route was nothing short of astonishing, the views were scarcely believable and were complimented by waterfalls and dramatic jagged cliff faces. Stopping for lunch under the immense heat of the sun still taken aback by the views and the competency of the CLA 250. However much I would have liked to dwell on the contrast of the day’s scenery and sip Swiss apple juice, I had another country to reach before the day was done – France.
Just a couple of hundred kilometers away was the French border which was a breeze to reach in the remarkably refined CLA 250. Another great feature of the CLA, which comes courtesy of its elegant design, is the absence of almost any wind noise. The sleek lines of the car result in a segment leading drag coefficient that allows the car to cut through the air when cruising. Paired with the quality of the cabin and technology such as DISTRONIC PLUS cruise control and the CLA, once again, proves itself as a brilliant car for such a journey.
Milan seemed a distant memory as we entered the third country of the day. Gelato and Cappuccino had been swapped for cheese and baguettes as I neared my destination for the evening, Beaune. Having arrived in the capital of the Burgundy region ahead of schedule, I had the opportunity to explore the walled town famous for its wineries and 15th century architecture. Being in France it seemed rude not to indulge in a local delicacy – Escargot, more commonly known as snails. The plate of six snails, although appetising, was merely the start to an evening that was filled with fine dining and equally fantastic company. We were joined by a special guest, a futurist and specialist in luxury that discussed with us how the concept of luxury had changed in the past and how Mercedes-Benz is reading into the perception of luxury in the future. A five course meal set me in good stead for a very much needed night’s sleep.
All good things must come to an end and #UrbanDiscovery was a very good thing. I was somewhat looking forward to the final evening of the roadtrip as the destination was, like the city we had started our journey in, a fashion capital and icon of the world – Paris. Travelling from the south to almost northern France would be the longest leg of the trip. As a result, I opted to swap the matte silver CLA for a smart looking CLA Shooting Brake. If ever a car could be said to be wearing a tuxedo it would be this. The added space of the Shooting Brake was a very welcome addition, the CLA has a reasonable amount of rear space, but the Shooting Brake had that little bit more…that I immediately filled with chocolate bars and fizzy drinks – road trip fuel.
Paris is a city that is constantly buzzing. They say New York is the city that never sleeps, Paris is not very far off. In such a busy city it was great to see that the sharp lines and unique design of the CLA and CLA Shooting Brake still managed to turn heads. Past Louis Vuitton and Goyard stores the CLA felt at home in such esteemed company. It was here at the final destination for the cars that #UrbanDiscovery began to mean something to me as a participant. From one urban environment to another, across three countries and dozens of coffees in between, the CLA never felt out of its depth.
We discovered corners of Milan that I had never previously seen, then climbed up and back down then Alps onto endless highways and into yet another urban environment with such ease and enjoyment. Many reels of memories will continue to play in my mind for years to come, behind every one I will remember that the Mercedes-Benz CLA was there to make it all possible.