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 were surrounded by swirling crowds of children, parents, grand-parents and car enthusiasts. It could have been a nightmare – it wasn’t. It was a masterclass in well-organised family entertainment.
The age range in the half-term crowd was extreme – tots to the tottering – and yet every age group seemed relaxed. There was no apparent herding or containment and no rushing for prime spots. The mood was calm beneath the high central ceiling balanced on its outer walls of glass. There was light and space and it worked to ease the stress.
Star of the day was, of course, Mercedes-Benz with its history and prestigious machines displayed in different areas of the huge space. In amongst them – 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 and it was clearly put into practice by all the staff at every point today. Perhaps nothing surprising in that – it is a Mercedes-Benz showroom after all. But … 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 had two teenage boys with me. They each took a ten minute ‘hot lap’ and ‘mud lap’ costing £15 per head. The ‘hot lap’ spun them on tarmac, then did zero to fast in a stomach flip whilst the ‘mud lap’ perched them on ledges and eased them down. The boys, one a Thorpe Park veteran, came back both shaken and stirred – they would not have settled for less.
My verdict – Mercedes-Benz World is 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.