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Tired out by spare tyre issue

Readers get worked up about horrible inflation kits, while Campbell Spray finds a book about the joys of driving

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The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class range has petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid versions

The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class range has petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid versions

Daimler AG

The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class range has petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid versions

When I wrote a month ago about spare tyres and, more to the point, the increasing absence of them and their replacement by inflation systems, it generated a number of emails.

People rightly get very worked up about this issue, no one more so than John, who wrote: "Firstly, I think the idea of bringing a spare wheel only on occasions is crazy. How do you know when you will get a puncture?

"A spare wheel is essential. If you get a cut on a tyre, the inflation system is useless. If you are out at night and have no mobile signal, how do you contact the breakdown service?

"My Mercedes E-Class has no well for a spare, so if I buy one I have to put it in the boot or on the roof. In fact, many people don't realise they don't have a spare.

"I was going to Cork airport last year for an early flight to London. Got a puncture on the motorway and no phone signal. Missed flight. A spare would have solved the problem."

When I told John I'd be returning to the subject, he replied: "That's great, I'm passionate about this. At the moment, Audi comes with a space saver wheel. Honda will supply a wheel and jack for around €200 but usually dealers will give it free of charge. It also has a wheel well, unlike Mercedes, which has no wheel space.

"While I accept the reason is to keep weight down for tax bands, many would pay extra to have the wheel. First question I will ask the dealer is if it has a spare, and while I knew the E-Class didn't, I took into account the comfort of the car."

Meanwhile, Hazel wrote that she got a "good giggle" from the article and then told her history of having a Golf for 15 years with a full-size spare wheel "which, to be fair, I think only ever got used twice but each time I was very pleased I had it".

In 2014, Hazel changed the Golf for a brand-new Mercedes B-Class: "When I was buying it, I noticed there was space for a (space saver) spare wheel in the boot but none was there - instead only the (horrible) inflation repair kit. So, I asked the salesman if he could get me a spare wheel for it, he laughed and said 'when did you last have a puncture', I said, 'oh not for a long time, but that's not the point', and eventually I got him to agree to throw one in.

"Within six months (and doing very little mileage) I had two punctures! Better still - on both occasions the punctured tyre was able to be repaired and put back on (unlike, I believe, when they are filled with the inflation gunge stuff?). Happy days.

"Came to change that B-Class (I had been sold a diesel and never liked it) for a new petrol model last year and - (guess what?) - no receptacle in boot for a spare of any description, and just the inflation gunge repair kit. Grrrrr. Apparently, Mercedes don't think we need to carry a spare at all, they offer no options.

"So … in my wisdom ... I removed the space saver from the car being traded in, bought a tyre cover for it on Amazon, and now carry it around in the main part of my boot - which obviously fills a large chunk of my boot space which is not great and I am sure it is a very bad idea from lots of viewpoints (safety?), including the weight issue you mentioned in your article. And, not having had to use it (yet, fingers crossed), I actually don't even know if that particular space saver would fit my current car - how crazy is that - guess I'll find out if I ever get a puncture!

"Like you say, I really should take it out and only carry it on longer journeys, but now I feel if I take it out I am sure to get a puncture 5k from home - sod's law - so I dare not.

"As you can imagine, me and my spare wheel has become a bit of a joke in my family!"

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The thing I most hate at car launches is the incredible time given over to a car's connectivity.

There are workshops from enthusiastic geeks showing how the car has become an extension of your mobile phone and is well on the way to becoming a mobile office.

The geeks must be loving the present crisis in their own way. Forget the home office, live in your car!

In all this, I'm a bit of a Luddite. I just want to skip the tech stuff and get behind the wheel. Raised by a father who loved his old Rileys, Wolseleys and eventually Saabs, there was nothing more I liked than going off for a drive.

I would set off for hours on end, so much so that the 500-mile trip from Manchester or Leeds to the very north of Scotland or Cornwall was no bother.

I hated to stop, just enjoying my 10 hours behind the wheel while others had to deal with such things as feeding, changing and shushing children.

That's why I was rather drawn to a new book, Why we Drive: On Freedom, Risk and Taking Back Control (Bodley Head, €20 approx) by Matthew B Crawford, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.

That he is also "restoring and radically modifying" a 1975 VW Beetle tells you a lot about Matthew. His book is a libertarian, biographical attack on rules of motoring, the design of cars and all the devices that remove the motorists from full engagement with the act of staying on the road.

For the author, "the pleasure of driving is the pleasure of doing something; of being actively and skilfully engaged with a reality that pushes back against us".

Crawford's politics slightly worry me but there are some lovely parts in the books. It is a paean to the open road, when the traffic lights have failed and the individual motorist takes over with skill, common sense and courtesy.

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The E-Class is at the very centre of the Mercedes-Benz range and more than 14 million saloon and estates have been sold since it was first introduced just after World War II. Now the first models of a new generation are arriving here after 1.2 million units of the previous one were sold.

This latest E-Class offering includes two plug-in hybrid versions - one petrol and one diesel with an all-terrain option. Described by its sales manager, Ciaran Allen, as a range 'perfectly configured' for owners seeking to future-proof their motoring requirements, the emergence of hybrids serves as an indication of what he says is: "The growing importance of alternative energy vehicles in future Mercedes-Benz model planning."

Prices start at around €53,000, an average price increase of about 1pc but with nearly €4,000 of extra equipment on board.

Sunday Independent