- 23 Dec 2016
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Add this New Road to Your Must-Drive List
The road: a billiard table smooth stretch of tarmac scything through the Hemel en Aarde Valley.
The car: The new Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet.
The result: a perfect fusion between environment, driver and machine.
It's first light in the Overberg town of Caledon. Off to the west the Theewaterskloof wind turbines twirl on the horizon like lazy Ginsu blades; to the east the first shards of early morning sun pierce through low-hanging clouds. Stow the C-Class Cabriolet's fabric roof – a one-touch operation artfully effected on the move in just 20 seconds (at speeds below 60 km/h) – and welcome a million miles of headroom.
Turn right and accelerate smoothly onto the R320 climbing towards Shaw's Pass. This brand-new R240-million class-3 asphalt road – transformed from a perilous class-4 gravel road – now offers a more efficient alternative to the R43 to Hermanus.
Navigate a series of inviting switchbacks at the crest of the mountain, then take a rollercoaster dip down into the valley. By this time you'll already have learnt three crucial things about this car:
1. Despite the open top, there's precious little wind bluster thanks to the AIRCAP system, which raises an aerofoil from the windscreen and a deflector from behind the rear seats.
2. The ride quality is silky smooth, whichever configuration you choose on DYNAMIC SELECT.
3. While the diesel C 220 d may seem an unlikely choice for a soft-top cruiser, in combination with the buttery-smooth nine-speed automatic gearbox, the 125 kW / 400 Nm drivetrain has all the pace and refinement you'll ever need.
By the time the ribbon-like road straightens and the gradient flattens down into the valley, I've found that specific rhythm with the car… everything about the C-Class Cabriolet and I have clicked.
At the top the silence is almost deafening. There's a new 30-hectare reserve on the slopes of Shaw's Mountain to the right to preserve the area's endangered fynbos, and the widened road has opened up the valley into the most beautiful vista imaginable.
This, ultimately, is what the Mercedes-Benz C-Class Cabriolet excels at – showing you the world with fresh eyes, allowing you to appreciate South Africa's natural beauty in full.
5 spots to visit in the area:
The ideal setting for wine tasting and tapas-style dining at the foot of the mountain. Its award-winning food-and-wine pairing is a must.
Call 028 212 1107 or visit Creationwines.com
Hamilton Russell Vineyards
Here the vineyards take top priority. The 2015 pinot noir and chardonnay both received SA Wine Index Platinum Awards.
Call 028 312 3595 or visit Hamiltonrussellvineyards.com
Perfectly positioned high up in the valley, experience beautiful views from the unique chapel-like tasting room. Of the four wines on offer, the sauvignon blanc is a winner.
Call 028 212 2007 or visit Ataraxiawines.co.za
Stop for lunch at this gorgeous family-run estate from Wednesdays to Sundays. And be sure to sample the pinot noir – it's world renowned.
Call 028 312 3862 or visit Newtonjohnson.com
The Galpin Peak pinot noir at this celebrated boutique wine estate is yet another multi-award-winning wine, and the Hannibal red blend is also out of this world.
Call 028 312 3515 or visit Bouchardfinlayson.co.za
Images: Peet Mocke.