by Eddie Rivera
It’s old news, but I drive a brand new car nearly every week. Small nondescript cars, SUVs, more than a few sports cars. They become almost invisible (almost); just modes of transportation more than anything memorable sometimes.
Enter the 2012 Mercedes C350. This is far and away the car I would keep, the one I would buy given the resources, the one I hated most to see go.
It’s powerful, sleek, stylish, and in a Toyota world, this is the new prince. It makes a bold statement, and envelops you in a world where you can only guess at what’s going on outside your windows.
At the Avenue 52 onramp, it purred in anticipation, and as the traffic cleared, I accelerated. We were at freeway passing speed RIGHT NOW.
The acceleration is quick and assured. You can snap your head back, if you really want to, but the 350′s fuel-injected 3.5-liter V6 already pushes out 273 lb-ft, of torque, which, unless you’re driving for a checkered flag somewhere, is a lot of city and highway power. There is a certain reassurance, actually, in having a fast, powerful car, and the 350 delivered that in droves.
The mileage is decent at 20/29. I was pleasantly surprised at that one.
Inside, the interior is posh and smart. Great audio, first class seating, and though the Nav system was far more complicated than it needed to be, the car is ergonomic and surprisingly roomy. Yes, an adult could probably sit in the back.
Naturally, the love doesn’t come cheap. The $40,575 C350 Sport was equipped with a multimedia package that included a seven-inch high-res LCD screen, navigation, rear-view camera, voice control, and a 10GB hard drive, and the optional 18-inch wheels, which added almost $1K to the price. Our fully loaded model priced out at $46,000, including $875 for destination.
This is a serious car for serious success. At the same price range (or just over), the Mercedes factor pushes it over the Infinitis and Audis of the world. You choose, but nothing says Mercedes like Mercedes.
Equator: Suzuki’s Little Explorer
We needed a truck. A tough one. A big one. We were thinking Chevy, Ford F-150, maybe a Tundra. Enter the Suzuki Equator. We drove the Crew Cab Sport model.
Okay, tough enough. Big enough. Roomy enough. The Equator is roughly equal to the Nissan Frontier pickup. Just about the same footprint and engine size but with a distinctive look and style. There’s a strong-enough V6 engine, lots of versatility and room in the cab for almost the whole band. (The drummer can go in the back.)
While it has an off-road capability, our version of offroad was the freeway on and off-ramps. There was a convenient Shift-On-The-Fly 4-wheel drive and two-speed transfer case, which we used only because we could. How much could you use on your way to the beach? Essentially, the Equator’s Active Limited-Slip Traction Control apply torque and traction to wherever the situation demands.
This is a pickup for the small contractor; the remodeler or the landscaper, not the guy who’s hauling I-beams or towing larger payloads. It’s the right size, the right power, the right footing and a generous warranty courtesy of Suzuki.
The Suzuki Equator midsize pickup truck is available in a basic extended cab and a crew cab. Extended cabs are available in base, Premium and Sport trims, and all come with a 6-foot bed. Crew cabs are available in Sport and RMZ-4 trims — the former can be had with either a 5- or 6-foot bed, while the RMZ-4 is 5-foot-only.
Indoors, as we mentioned, there’s a spacious interior with plenty enough leg room, and enough storage space to consider renting it out by the month. (“First Month Free!”)
The interior is otherwise just functional, with a cleated “C-track” tie-down system, along with various storage compartments and the ubiquitious spray-on bedliner for the Sport version.
There is a removable Garmin navigation system (for RMZ models only), Bluetooth, a satellite-radio-ready audio system and a sunroof. Did we mention safety? You’ll feel quite protected with side curtain airbags and antilock brakes on all models, plus stability control for Sport and V6 models.
The Equator is a roomy, comfortable and useful mid-size truck, priced right and well-warrantied. For the money, you won’t be disappointed.