People now come up to me on a regular basis and ask about the M-class. There even seems to be a club where owners flash their lights, or wave, or both.
Interest about its handling and driving capabilities has been high. Take the raffle ticket seller, for example, admittedly not on the open road, but in the car park at Belton House where the family and I were spending a warm Bank Holiday Monday. He was a very nice man who had recently retired, typical of most National Trust types, I believe. He was also a Volvo estate driver but was looking for something a bit higher, with better vision and a bigger presence on the road. Did the M-class fit the bill, he asked? Well, I had to admit, yes it did - and it gave you extra versatility in the way the seats could be configured - including complete removal if you wanted to carry those extra special loads like wardrobes or beds.
We seemed to have an M-class convert on our hands, as he got very enthusiastic at this point. But he was less than impressed to hear about the fuel consumption; on a good day on a long run you can get over 20mpg, but only just, and the list price was the final nail in the coffin. Clearly, that three-pointed star on the bonnet didn't carry too much of a price premium in his mind. Think I'll stick with the Volvo, was his final verdict.
And other people I have discussed the car with have had a similar reaction. After an initial burst of enthusiasm, including a test drive, the fuel consumption and price sticker act as big negatives.
Friends who stayed with us for the weekend recently confirmed the stereotyping. They loved the all-round vision and height off the road but baulked at the price and running costs - and these are people for whom the list price would not really have been a problem. That, I guess, is one of the major challenges Mercedes-Benz faces with moving the M-class in a very price competitive market.
How do you justify paying the sort of money that would buy you a flat or small house in certain parts of the country, for something, in an increasingly energy-conscious environment, which gobbles fuel like its going out of fashion when going from A-to-B. Should be something to occupy the minds of the marketing boys at Milton Keynes over the months ahead, if nothing else.