Day 1 of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz road trip, otherwise referred to as #MBRT14 saw the flag drop yesterday! We left the metropole of Houston for a lunch stop in New Orleans to finish the day in Meridian, Mississippi. We started the trip in style behind the wheel and in the passenger seat of a Mercedes-Benz S550 with rear wheel drive and Magic Body Control, the perfect spec for a long American road trip.
In total the trip starts with 7 cars and an international group of bloggers and journalists on a mission to pickup and guard the new Mercedes C-Class from the factory in Alabama to the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Besides ‘our’ S-Class the pack is made up of some other desirable AMG cars including the CLA 45 AMG, GL 63 AMG and E63 S AMG Estate.
Leaving Downtown Houston at 6am its still dark but plenty Texans are already on the way to work as our group navigates towards the Interstate 10, the Southernmost transcontinental highway of North America that stretches from California to Florida. We had the pleasure of driving it pretty much all the way on the 2007 Cannonball Run so part of today’s journey from Houston to New Orleans is a trip down memory lane.
Traveling in a group of 7 cars means frequent bathroom, coffee, fuel and sightseeing stops and not far outside Houston we stop at a petrol station for a coffee. This is a good opportunity to get to know some of the other guys and girls on the #mbrt14. Besides a handful of people from Mercedes-Benz it is an international group of bloggers and journalists with various backgrounds; from German travel, car (hallo Jan!) and lifestyle bloggers to Fast Lane Daily and Autoblog.it. The atmosphere is great and the jokes start early!
With me in the S-Class is Markus from Mercedes-Benz Passion, expert on everything Mercedes related and the ideal partner to find out all there is to know about the new C-Class that we are picking up at the Mercedes-Benz factory in Alabama on day 2 of our trip. Markus did not only bring his passion for Mercedes-Benz but also a Canon 6D that he let me play with while he was behind the wheel. I seized this opportunity to give auto photography a try. As our frequent readers know GTspirit works with a large group of photographers but the last time I touched a camera is a few years ago.
Driving in the United States with speed limits between 50 and 70 MPH on long straight Interstates can be boring at times so my new found passion for car photography offers a welcome distraction. One by one the cars pass by our lense and mile after mile of Texan Interstate passes us by. Near the State line with Louisiana we also overtake a Campervan with German license plate that waves at seeing so many of his favorite German cars.
We stop for a bit of sightseeing at the State line where we are not only greeted by warning signs for snakes and alligators but also our new German friend in the campervan. He is on a two year journey from his home in Bremen, Germany to Argentina via Alaska, Canada, Atlanta and Middle America. An adventurous journey that suddenly makes our journey look like childplay, but not to worry we will have plenty of stories to tell for sure.
The first 50 miles into Louisiana we are greeted by one cop and state trooper after the other. But since there two lane highway towards New Orleans is packed with trucks and other traffic we are never really at risk of getting pulled over, this is strong contrast with the constant adrenaline of getting stopped for speeding on the exact same road on the Cannonball Run years ago.
The S-Class is without a doubt the most comfortable car on this journey and with adaptive cruise control and a relaxing massage on there is very little left to desire to make this journey more pleasant. We pull in for petrol and from all sides people flock to the arriving pack of Benzes. Among them two ambulance drivers who take special interest in the three German girls in the GL 63 AMG. Another stranger who we meet at this Louisiana petrol station is a university professor who asks for our assistance in his emergency. Some people fall for his charms and help him out with a few dollars to fill up his tank to get home to pick up the wallet he forgot. Jens also gives him his business card with website and email address, something that will certainly have raised some eye brows when we saw him on the side of the road with the Marshall Service a few minutes later. Who knows who this stranger was or what he did to get picked up by the Marshall Service. Although maybe Jens gets a phone call from the local County Jail!
The last part into New Orleans I leave the camera for what it is and pick up the wheel, or actually take over command of the vehicle as driving is not really necessary with adaptive cruise control and lane assist on. The S550 steers, brakes and accelerates automatically following the road and cars in front. All I do for miles is flick the Distronic Plus switch on the side of the steering and keep an eye on the road if everything goes to my satisfaction. Is this the future of driving?
Before we know it the city of New Orleans pops up in the distance and we approach the city that got hit badly by hurricane Kathrina. In New Orleans we head straight to the famous French Quarter. We have a quick lunch of alligator and other local specialties and a little sightseeing before we continue to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the stadium that housed 40,000 people during and in the aftermath of hurricane Kathrina. After the hurricane it was completely rebuild and since 2010 Mercedes-Benz is the proud signature sponsor of the stadium. Inside we explored the hurricane Kathrina exhibition, the locker rooms, the VIP lounges and of course the pitch.
Afterwards we took three of the most desirable cars for the American market out to the front of the stadium for a small photo shoot. Since the A-Class is not sold in America the CLA is the most attractive and most affordable small Benz in the US. Its so successful that Mercedes is increasing production to fulfill all orders for the CLA and CLA 45 AMG. North America is also probably the only place in the world where the S550 looks like a small car and not just next to the GL 63 AMG but pretty much everywhere you go.
After the shooting we head back to the French Quarter once again for a few photos with the S550 and GL 63 AMG before continuing to our final stop of the day in Meridian, Mississippi. Before we hit the highway we explore some of the less touristy areas of New Orleans, quite the contrast with the tourist center of the city and not entirely the ideal surrounding for a Mercedes S550 and GL 63 AMG.
Finally on the highway we head North towards Mississippi in rush hour, but its doesn’t take long until we are pretty much alone on the highway. Having spend the afternoon at the New Orleans Saint’s Superdome we got to know their WHO DAT yell so we decide to stop at the Sonic Drive-In for a typical American Who Dat Cheeseburger. The Sonic Drive-Ins gained fame for the girls that bring out the food to your car on roller skates. After this short intermezzo we steer the S550 back on the Interstate and make good progress towards Meridian. Although its only 7pm the Mississippi Interstate is pretty much empty apart from a few deer and a lonely cop.
We already stressed this in our Mercedes S500 review but for those who haven’t read it I will say it again: The S500 / S550 has one feature that makes this car so desirable: Magic Ride Control. Stereo cameras above the windscreen ‘scan’ the road and setup the suspension to absorb bumps and potholes like no other car. Also if you ever consider buying one make sure to check the box for Distronic Plus as it will make driving the S-Class so much more comfortable and safer.
Having arrived in Meridian, its just a quick dinner in Meridian and then off to bed to recharge the batteries for Day 2 of the #MBRT14! Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for live updates from the road! Also make sure to check out the Mercedes-Benz #mbrt14 Timeline for updates from all people on the trip!