First drive: M-Class popemobile
NEW POPEMOBILE: Mercedes has converted two M-Class models as security transport for Pope Benedict the 16th but the bulletproof result looks more like a fish-tank on a bakkie.
VATICAN CITY - Mercedes-Benz has presented Pope Benedict XVI with a sleek, eco-friendly "popemobile" with the latest gadgets for maximum comfort.
The 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church was given two models of the new white M-Class with bulletproof glass at a ceremony in the Vatican gardens.
Benedict took one of them for a spin for the first time on Saturday (Dec 8 2012) when he visited the square at the Spanish Steps in central Rome for a yearly ceremony celebrating the Immaculate Conception.
MERCS FOR 80 YEARS
Eco-friendly the cars might be, but the result looks more like a fish tank on a bakkie than elegant transport for the Catholoic leader. And a previous donation, from Renault, was more eco-friendly because it was battery-driven (see gallery). Earlier "popemobiles" - pre-the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope Jean Paul the Second, wer way more elegant.
Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler, the German company which produces the luxury Mercedes-Benz brand, said: "It's a joy to be able to accompany Benedict XVI on his journeys. It's an important commitment which we carry out with passion."
Popes have been using Mercedes cars for more than 80 years (see gallery) , he added. However, they've also had cars from other brands, including a giant truck from Leyland.
The latest, the M-Class, has been lowered by a few centimeters to make it easier to transport by plane when Benedict travels abroad. The air-conditioning and lighting have also been improved to help the head of the world's 1.2-billion Catholics relax during long trips.
Mercedes has provided special cars to successive popes since the 1980's, the high-sided, reinforced glass design allowing for maximum viewing with high security.
The bulletproof windows were added after Turkish assassin Mehmet Ali Agca shot and wounded pope Jean Paul II in 1981.
German-born Benedict is going to be pleased that the new model is ecologically-friendly. Sometimes labelled "the green pope" in the Italian nes media, he has emphasised the defence of "God's works" and therefore the need to protect the environment.