Finding the perfect car for a private chauffeured tour of New Zealand.

Well, I’ve gone and done something naughty. This is a short story about how I came to have a new car for our tours. If you don’t like cars as much as I do (and I like cars – a lot!), maybe just skip to the pics as they well tell you most of what you need to know. If you want to know a little more about the car (and the mind of the guy who drives it), read on.

The original plan was to hire a nice car for each tour and get a vehicle that suits the needs and wants of each client. The problem is, the right car isn’t always available in the right location at the right time. Also, it’s much harder to pack or bring along the little extras that can really help when on the road (sewing kit, bug repellent, USB chargers, binoculars, not to mention first aid kits, tools and a fire extinguisher). You never REALLY know what you’re going to get until you collect the car.

This is a pretty flimsy excuse, but it was all running through my mind when the perfect car came onto my radar, for sale in Wellington. It got me thinking about what makes a great tour car. Obviously comfort is top priority, but there also has to be the right balance of style, practicality and space. So we’re looking for a roomy, stylish comfortable car, that also has to be well built and at least for me – fun to drive. How much more fun will your tour be if your driver loves every minute behind the wheel? I was going to go into how the choices were whittled down to German brands then down to one brand but it’s much more exciting for me to just get on with it…

Front Quarter WidePlease welcome to the family my new (to me) Mercedes-Benz E500! This car was sold brand new right here in Wellington and has only ever had one owner! He was a lovely guy who barely drove it and looked after it very well. In the last 12 months he had only driven about 4000km, I had to tell him I would be doing a LOT more than that! It has a lot of fancy tricks including the air suspension for a more comfortable ride, so I had it inspected pretty thoroughly prior to purchase. It passed with flying colours! One of the nicest features of the car is the Panoramic Roof, an all glass roof with a sunroof in the front and the back – perfect for the mountains of the South Island. There is plenty of space in the boot (trunk!) for luggage (no trailer hitch though so don’t go crazy when packing, I need to fit my small suitcase in there too), and plenty of power up front with the ultra smooth and quiet 5 litre V8. The stereo is sublime, and there’s an auxiliary jack so we can listen to whatever audio device you choose to bring along. The car is roomy inside without being huge like a stretched model could be, so we remain nice and nimble on the winding New Zealand roads.

Of course, this is perfect for the solo traveller, couples or families. It can seat 4 passengers, but unless you are very close friends (or have small kids), 3 is usually the most passengers we would take in this. Any more than that, and I’d hire a luxury minivan, minibus or small coach. I I’m licensed to drive up to about 25 passengers.

For more images, visit my Flickr page, where I’ll keep updating with shots from the road.Want to know more about the car? Please ask questions below, I LOVE to talk about this great car.


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