When you think about Mercedes, two things can come to mind. First and foremost are luxury and opulence. The Daimler-Benz company invented the automobile and 120 years later they are a name that’s synonymous with comfortable highway cruisers which are fun and very nice to drive. From the other side, the Mercedes AMG line has made some of the most spectacular performance cars. The Black Series, AMG-GT, AMG-GT 4 door and a lot more. However, somewhere in between, at the turn of the decade, a lot that went on inside Mercedes was very very bad and wrong. The company made some horrible cars during that period and we’re here to let you know all about them.
Let’s be frank. The Vaneo was a pathetic attempt to make a compact MPV based on the already very poorly-received A-Class. It is one of those Mercedes that aimed at a less well-off audience and thus had the premium badge but a lot less to offer than even the mid-range C-Class. Even as a seven-seater it was abysmal on the straight line (needless to say anything about driving pleasure) and despite the decent fuel economy, was hindered by low sales figures and quality issues.
It had to compete with the likes of Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Fiat Doblo and Ford Connect Tourneo. And even though these cars were wearing badges that can’t even reach the doorstep of Merc, they were more affordable and more dependable, thus the Vaneo failed to catch on. Nevertheless, Mercedes failed to learn their lesson of not meddling with lower-class cars and are now making the Citan (a Renault Kangoo with a MB badge). We can be glad that it’s only available as a commercial car.
If someone in the motor journalism field labels your creation as ‘The worst car in the world’, you know that you’ve did something wrong. Modern day A-class, and especially the AMG A-45 are fun and snappy hatchbacks. However, they are top of the range and very exciting and the late 90s, mid 00s’ A-class was a very ugly, unusual compact cars that are distinguishable (albeit for the wrong reasons) even today. The launch of the A-Class in 97’ was followed by a fiasco of falling over during the ‘Moose test’ and the repair costs for the negative publicity cost a lot more than they could’ve expected.
Over the years, the A-Class evolved and designers tried to make it as likeable as possible, but it was impossible. After a few years, the first generation A-Class failed and for the very same reasons as the Vaneo. The badge was too good for the car and being the most unreliable vehicle sold, the A-Class faded away into oblivion. Only to be revived as a great hatchback though.
C SportCoupe (CL203)
The C-Class SportCoupe or the CL203 was and still is a very strange car. From the front it looks identical to the very same C-Class but it was much shorter than the full-sized sedan. MB can’t deny that they weren’t trying to rival BMW’s 3-series compact cars which are terrible (except for winter-beater projects, of course) on their own.
Well what do you get when you try to rival a poor automobile? A half-decent car, actually. It wasn’t super-pretty or very exciting but the more torque-y engines proved to be quite fun to drive in the straight line. In the corners it was a disaster but it allowed a young auditorium to get familiar with the MB philosophy through buying a cheaper, more affordable car. It wasn’t all that bad because 40% of the C SportCoupe owners reportedly upgraded to a newer Merc afterwards.
So, what’s the problem with this car? It’s actually what it gave birth to. The CLC. It was and still is amongst the most horrendous cars in the world which forced Daimler to discontinue making C-Class coupes.
Imagine owning a minivan. You want comfort, lots of leg and head room and good fuel economy, right? A panoramic roof is also a plus of course. Well, what about a 6.2 litre V8 with 510 horsepower? Sounds like you’ve hit the spot…
It’s hard to imagine why the Mercedes-Benz execs decided that what the MPV market needed was a beefy motor and five hundred horsepower model. Of course, there were tons of other powertrains to choose from, but the car sold in poor quantities (racking up no more than 35 thousand sales worldwide per year) and once the economic recession hit, they had to pull it from all markets except China where it’s still sold new today.
The SLK is a very strange roadster car with a very niche audience of lovers and a very broad audience of haters. Most of its critics tend to agree that it’s an extremely feminine car made for douchebags or Golddiggers. And yes, you’d be right, not a lot of people who aren’t California-based stock brokers or shop-a-hollic ladies decided to buy one of these when it was newly introduced in 96’. Nevertheless, the world is diverse and unique, and the SLK was a moderate success. The SLK 32AMG was the king of the throne with 350HP V6 3.2 litre engine. It’s very strange to think why did Mercedes invent such a car when they had arguably the best roadster in the world at the time – the SL.
A SLK can be a decent investment if you restore it. The steering wheels and dashboards tend to scuff and damage so if you restore them or buy new ones, a large part of the interior cosmetic overhauls can be taken care of. You can find out more here.