Mercedes-Benz World, with its new buildings angled into the winter, sits impressively at the end of acres of tarmac track. It is edged by the legends of Brooklands and gleams with promise.
Step inside the main reception area and the promises just get bigger.
Staff, well-dressed and alert, are everywhere. Today, the mid-point of the February half-term, they are surrounded by a swirl of children, parents, grand-parents and car enthusiasts. It could be a nightmare – it isn’t. It’s a masterclass in well-organised family entertainment.
The age range in the half-term crowd is extreme – tots to the tottering – and yet every age group seems relaxed. There’s no apparent herding or containment, and no rush for prime spots. The mood is calm beneath the high central ceiling balanced on its outer walls of glass.
There is light and space, and it works to ease the stress.
Star of the day is, of course, Mercedes-Benz with its history and prestigious machines displayed in different areas of the huge space. In amongst the cars are a shop, cafes, seating, simulators, hands-on-displays, information desks, studios showing film … and always the wide-open view out over the track where cars skid and race.
‘The Best or Nothing‘ is the most prominent message in the building, exemplified by the customer service. Perhaps nothing surprising in that, it is a Mercedes-Benz showroom after all … the surprise is that there is no charge for entrance.
Mercedes-Benz World, if you can resist the coffee and cakes and do without the adrenalin rush of a couple of high-speed pirouettes on the track, is free.
Families of sticky fingers are welcomed. Highly polished metal is within reach at every turn. Historic cars, expensive cars (the embarrassing side of £200,000), sleek and impossible cars gleam on every floor. They do have their minders but there is little that is fenced off.
I have two teenage boys with me who each enjoy a ten minute ‘hot lap‘ and ‘mud lap‘ that cost £15 per head. Both are outdoors. The ‘hot lap‘ car ride spins them on tarmac, then does zero-to-fast in a stomach flip, whilst the ‘mud lap‘ equivalent bounds them up steep slopes before it eases them down.
The boys, one a Thorpe Park veteran, come back shaken and stirred. Perfect.
My verdict: Mercedes-Benz World is well worth a visit. Take your engineers, your teenagers, your learner drivers, your toddlers, and if you need to live closer to the edge, take a turn on the track. If it all takes less time than you bargained for there’s Brooklands Museum next door.
Mercedes-Benz World is open 10am -6pm seven days a week with more than normal on over half-terms and holidays.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2018