I didn’t have to think twice when I was asked if I’d like to take a tour of the Gold Coast with Australia’s world champion surfer Mick Fanning in his X-Class Mercedes-Benz ute.
Mick it turned out is modest, low key and easy going – he has nothing to prove after taking the world champion’s title three times and becoming internationally famous for punching away a great white shark while surfing during a live TV broadcast in South Africa three years ago.
Now he has the enviable task of cruising down some of life’s best highways in a super smooth car while talking amiably and energetically how easy it is to drive as the designated ambassador for the Benz brand.
His main concern is keeping the sand out of his gleaming ute – only his dog is allowed to bring any in he told me. Of course, it’s a great way to transport his big boards around – but chucking them in the back of a super slick Merc is not what you’d imagine doing easily – any slight scratch or dent drives most Benz owners in the city round the bend.
Enter three powerful women who are seeking to change the way we look at this particular model – the utilitarian nature of which is just as important as its deserved reputation for elegance and sophistication.
Diane Tarr (pictured below) has been the Managing Director of Mercedes-Benz Vans in Australia for five years now and she’s used to taking on great challenges and changing people’s thinking – particularly when it comes to men. In this very male dominated industry, she is not out to throw a spanner in the works but to provide a fresh take on things – you can have all the speed and thrills you’d associate with a V6 turbo engine in the new X-Class but that doesn’t mean you have to shout about it.
When Mick floors it you don’t get the full-throated roar beloved of petrol heads – instead it just effortlessly accelerates fast without growling and waking up the neighbours.
Assisting Diane in her drive to make the X-Class a familiar sight on the Goldie’s roads are Sabine Wagner and Jozenne Wicks who spearhead the marketing for the big beast of a ute with its featherlight steering and plenty of clever safety features such as the judder you’ll get on the your steering wheel if you veer off lane.
Jozenne believes a couple both earning with young children who can easily fit in the back seats would find this both affordable and attractive – it will set you back $79,415 AUD for the X350d Power.
Tweed Heads in the south of the Gold Coast is Mick’s backyard – he moved here at 12 years old and still lives in the area, now heavily invested with several properties and a brewery to ensure a comfortable retirement. He’s just 37 now so plenty of time to go – but he plans to still be on the surf well into old age. Proving just how lacking he is in ego he agreed to help teach a group of us newbies to surf in the gentle waves of Kingscliff beach as part of an impressively organised “Benz by the Beach” experience.
Mick Fanning says he still gets a kick out of seeing how excited people get learning to surf for the first time and there were several in our group who were encouraged to give it a further shot even without Mick giving them the push in the waves.
The event was greatly enhanced by our stay at the uber chic Halcyon House which is the epitome of luxury boutique with its interior design by Anna Spiro perfectly blending with the Benz feel – smart but definitely not blingy flash.
You can find out more about the Mercedes X Class Utes here.
Pictures credit: Neal Harrison