“There is no other car like a Benz” – that is why Billy Le Roux has always had a Benz parked in his garage.
He has looked at other vehicles and has owned other cars, but in his opinion, nothing comes close! His latest W204 C200 is at least the 5th Benz that he has owned. Billy has been a Mercedes man for as long as he can remember. The reason for this – ‘it’s a vehicle that you can trust… it is always reliable… And the electronic features make it a pleasure to drive.’
Billy Le Roux was shot in 1983 when he was working in the police force, leaving him with a T2/3 spinal cord injury, but also leaving him a very determined man who learned to use a wheelchair and got back to his life as quickly as possible. He continued working in various detective units for many years until he was medically boarded.
Nothing has stopped Billy’s 3 big passions: camping, hunting and angling. Although his disability has made these more challenging, he just had to use some ingenuity so he could still enjoy these pleasures. He hunts on a regular basis with friends, does frequent visits to the Kruger National Park and he has been a competitive angler for many years. But even though Billy enjoys a rugged outdoor lifestyle, when he drives around town, he loves the luxury that only a Benz can give.
Billy finds the seat height a bit low when transferring out of the vehicle, thus he prefers to use a transfer board and sometimes needs some assistance. He also has difficulty loading his own wheelchair so he makes sure that he has some helping hands around him to put it in the boot. The 480l boot easily accommodates his wheelchair and leaves plenty of space for other small items around it. He has developed a neat protective flap, which prevents the vehicle from getting scratched when loading the wheelchair.
When purchasing this vehicle last year, if he had a few extra Rand in his pocket he would have chosen the 2-door Coupe as the extra width of the door openings makes life so much easier when getting in and out from a wheelchair, but the C 200 still provides ample space. It looks and feels like a real gentleman’s car providing high levels of comfort, but don’t be fooled, the automatic – 7G-Tronic Plus - gearbox allows him to drive it as a racing car if he wants to.
The transmission systems multiple downshift capability allows several gears to be skipped if required, offering a powerful acceleration potential in fractions of a second. The gears flow through each change and unless you listen carefully you won’t even notice that there was a gear change.
The centre console is cleverly designed providing a perfect height armrest to support his left elbow. This takes a lot of strain off the shoulders when driving with hand controls. The seat design is not only comfortable but also gives electronic flexibility in positioning and excellent trunk support, which stabilises drivers with poor balance. The option of heated seats is a great feature on cold winter mornings for any driver but particularly for people with spinal injuries who have difficulty regulating their body temperature. The effective thermatic automatic climate control is equally helpful on those hot summer days, with 2 climate zones providing individual climate control.
Billy has fitted the EZ Drive push pull hand controls. These are perfect for him as he shares the vehicle with his fiancé, Sonia and she drives it regularly. The EZ Drive controls have no attachments to the pedals so there are no rods or bars that get in the way of her feet when she drives, or his legs when he transfers. The hand control is perfectly positioned enabling him to hold the steering with his thumb while controlling the brake and accelerator with his finger tips.
Mercedes Benz have ingenious solutions for cutting the fuel consumption across all their vehicles. The integrated ECO start/stop function switches the engine off and on automatically when waiting at traffic lights or in traffic jams, the cruise control with a speed limiter also helps to cut consumption, as well as revised gear ratios for optimal consumption.
The W204 C Class has ten driving assistance systems that were new to this model when it was launched in 2011. These include adaptive highbeam assist, active lane keeping assist, active blind spot assist, attention assist with drowsiness detection, distronic plus proximity control, speed limit assist, parking guidance including parktronic, pre-safe brake, lane keeping assist, and blind spot assist. Many of these make driving with hand controls a breeze, not to mention creating a safer drive all-round. The new W205 C Class, which was launched in 2014, make this list of features look old.
Mercedes continue to make safety one of their priorities and the new Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive has fused safety and comfort using a network of peripheral sensors and assistance systems, which analyse complex situations, enabling it to identify dangers in road traffic more effectively. This is integrated into the new W205 and it is the first car to use the all-new Modular Rear-wheel drive Architecture (MRA) platform. The new structure is significantly lighter using aluminium extensively throughout the body, resulting in a 220-pound weight decrease.
Although the W204 C Class has been discontinued there are still a few available at discounted prices. The new W205 C Class starts from R458 500 incl. Vat but excluding the rebate for people with disabilities. The rebate amount is calculated per vehicle specifications. This is one aspect that many Mercedes sales staff is not familiar with and at an approximate saving of 12 - 15% it is well worth the effort of applying for this.
Just as innovative as the vehicles so is Mercedes finance with their unique Agility Finance package, which offers a guaranteed future value along with a tailor-made repayment plan. They know that just like Billy, once you have owned a Mercedes you will want another one!
And if you are the passenger – then you can’t wait for your next ride!