What do you think of when you hear of Brooklands – a pre-war motor racing track? – a motor and aircraft museum? – the Weybridge site of Vickers and BAC aircraft works? – or just a large Tesco’s? It now means something new – Mercedes-Benz World has opened, a showcase for their cars and also a visitor attraction. A very large area has been taken over including much of the remaining motor racing track and the old runway from which so many aircraft from the second world war flew into service. Now open is a magnificent new building overlooking a new test track and parkland beyond.
Clearly it would be a good place to go if you are interested in buying a Mercedes car. But it is far more where all are welcomed as a place to visit. The smart new entrance is well signposted and leads to both the new Mercedes-Benz World and Brooklands Museum. The car park is at the end of a long straight drive past the test track. The inside of the building is quite spectacular with a tall escalator reaching up to the second floor and surrounded on all sides with polished cars and smartly dressed attendants. The first reaction may be ‘Should I really be here – am I expected to buy a car?’ This feeling should be overcome – you are welcome – it is all set up for you to enjoy.
Apart from many special exhibits there is every possible model of Mercedes car. You are welcome to open the cars, to sit inside, to look and play with the dashboard and its instruments and to imagine yourself driving. There are plenty of attendants on each floor and they are there to help you – boldly talk to them, ask them to open a bonnet or to explain the car in detail – ‘What is special about this gearbox? What safety features has it got? Which engine has it got? Why is this car better than…?’ They are there to explain the range of models and the differences and facilities of the ‘classes’. On show is the whole range, the AMG ‘hand built’ cars down to the super compact town Smart car for those with no intention of ever having a family and definitely never giving anybody a lift in the back.
The cinema situated on the top floor introduces Mercedes with a short film of its history from the first cars in the 1890s through the early racing days, right up to the present day. There is also an exhibit of the history of Mercedes racing at Brooklands. Children are welcome on visits and can join in getting the feeling of the cars. A special room, the Kid’s Zone, is reserved for particular use which includes a scalextric racing circuit and other amusements. Also on this floor is ‘the bucking bronco’ which you must try. It is not quite in the Mercedes style and is supplied by Mobil oil. Sit in the seat, fasten your seat belt and be ready to be lurched from front to back and side to side while an unconnected screen preaches the quality of Mobil oil.
Down on the first floor is a remarkable ‘Build’ exhibit. Sit in one of the car-like seats and put on the special 3-D glasses. You are then taken along the assembly line in wonderful 3-D as a car is made and assembled. The body is created, dipped and sprayed, the engine and the mechanics added, seats inserted and all the other processes until it is complete and ready for the road. To add to the 3-D effect the seats judder and move as the manufacturing cycle continues. The effect is stunning and no visit should be completed without seeing it. If the exhibit has been unfortunately pre-booked for a party talk nicely to an attendant to make sure you see it.
The ground floor continues the story. There is an exhibition of the history of Mercedes from the early days of Benz and Daimler. There is a replica of the very first car made by Karl Benz and an exhibition of some of the famous marques. Again remember the rules – ask and make sure you really have seen the cars, the engineering and the engines – make sure you have seen the doors opened and the interiors. And then there is the ‘Solve’ area. Automated exhibitions are there to touch and point to the screens and you can test your reaction to a drive along the road compared with what automation can achieve. There is the inevitable shop if you really would like a memento.
All this is free but if you really want an adventure you can take a ‘driving experience’ but you do have to pay. Outside is a test track and skid pad. Several packages at different prices are available from being driven to driving yourself – even children! The ‘being driven’ was good enough for me. The car was from the AMG range, each one of which is hand built to the requirements. Seat belts fastened, its 6.5 litre engine burst into life driven at high speed under perfect control around the tight corners of the test track. From a standing start in just a few yards took the car to 70mph with vast acceleration before the emergency stop showed the control of the car coming to rest within a few yards in a straight line. The slightest wheel spin was immediately compensated by the ESP brakes and the road holding was demonstrated driving along a snake like course. The circular skid pad was negotiated with well controlled circuits. It was altogether an exciting drive demonstrating so many of the features of the car and leaving a feeling that you had taken part in a fast race. You may have to save up to go on such a drive but if you are a ‘car person’ it is really something to do and you will come away with quite a glow. It would be a marvellous birthday present for one of your children which would give you a good excuse to go on it yourself! You need to book this in advance or to talk persuasively to the person at the desk.
The building houses much more. There are cafes and restaurant, conference rooms if you need such a facility, and of course you can buy a car if you want to. But it is there for you to enjoy and if you have any love at all of the motor car it is a new attraction well worth a visit (0870 400 4000 or email http://www.mercedes-benzworld.co.uk).