Want to give your kid a head start when it comes to driving? To drive on the road you need to be aged 17 or older and as a minimum have a provisional licence and licence holder in the passenger seat, but if you’re keen to get some experience in ahead of this point then one option is the book a slot at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey.
Available to anyone tall enough to reach the pedals of a Mercedes A-class or B-class, the experience can be booked for a minimum of 30 minutes, although we opted for an hour.
Included in the £100 fee is the aforementioned hour in an A- or B-class, a qualified driving instructor and access to Mercedes-Benz World’s test track, which MB refers to as a “driving facility”.
Booking your slot is simple and can be done online through the Mercedes-Benz World website or over the phone. As well as selecting the length of time you or your kid would like to spend behind the wheel, you can also choose if you’d like to opt for a manual or automatic car.
It's also possible to buy the experience as a voucher, so that it can be given as a present and booked at a later date. However, there can be a long wait for the most popular slots, such as weekends and school holidays.
In this case, the earliest Saturday booking was six weeks out.
Mercedes-Benz World has plenty of parking and check-in for the driving experiences is easy and all the staff are exceedingly helpful and friendly. It’s advised you arrive 30 minutes before your session even though check-in only takes a couple of minutes.
In the meantime there’s plenty to see inside Mercedes-Benz World from the latest new cars to some lovely classics and even an area dedicated to the F1 cars.
After being guided outside to meet the instructors with about half a dozen other kids with parents in tow, the kids are paired with instructors and taken off to the cars.
Assuming the weather’s agreeable, there are a couple of viewing areas. However, for the majority of the experience, the cars are out of sight on a dedicated road section of the Mercedes’ test track. However, the kids do an initial low-speed drive past so that parents can take pictures or video. Parents can then grab a coffee and a cookie, see more of Mercedes-Benz World or watch drivers on the skid-pan learning to slide E63 AMGs - which it most amusing when they inevitably spin.
Back with the kids. The instruction is, as you’d hope, highly professional and for those that have never driven before starts with the very basics including setting up your seat and mirrors to working out which pedal is which.
When booking you can choose either a manual or an automatic car – it’s entirely up to you. And all cars are dual control so the instructor can intercede if necessary.
The experience then starts with the basics; moving off, braking and steering, before going on to cover turns, roundabouts, reversing and parking as well as a gentle hill-start.
At the end of the session, the kids are handed back along with a neat little booklet recording the details of what they’ve learnt. The booklet also allows them to record future experiences, should they return to Mercedes-Benz World.
This author’s kid loved the experience even though she admitted to some nerves. She reported that her instructor, Helen, was good and they got on well.
She said she’d recommend it to her friends because it was “really good fun” and would like to go back.
Other points she noted were that she didn’t really see the other cars, which she was pleased about mostly because beforehand she her biggest fear was crashing into someone else.
And even though she didn’t try a manual, and has never driven any other car, she was glad she had an automatic as it allowed her to focus on the very basics of stopping, starting and steering.
Sold as a £30 extra is a video recording of the experience. We opted for this, mainly for the purposes of this article, but we were glad we did. As a nosey parent, who couldn’t sit-in with his child, it was great to see what she got up to. It also provided more to share with relatives and, of course, social media.
Next stop: the skid-pan.