Mercedes-Benz, the specialized vehicles made to transport and protect the leader of the Catholic Church are no laughing matter. In fact, they take their job so seriously that they have created several different automobiles to get his holiness from here to there, each bearing the papal seal, with varying levels of amenities depending on what they’re used for. This is not to say that others haven’t tried to cut in on the racket. For example, carmaker Renault presented the pope with their Kangoo model earlier this year to tool around in on his papal estate, Castel Gondolfo. But while the car does offer reduced carbon emissions, in keeping with Benedict’s green ideals, it does not officially qualify as a popemobile because it lacks the armor and bulletproof glass that have become a staple of the MB models.
In any case, Mercedes-Benz has provided the papal office with official public and parade vehicles for decades, although it wasn’t until 1981 that they started installing enhanced safety features like armoring and bulletproof glass (following the incident in which Pope Jean Paul II received a gunshot wound during a failed assassination attempt). Some simply look like regular cars, while the parade vehicles, of which there are now a few, come complete with a sort of boxy, glass viewing compartment from which the pope may sit or stand as he is transported along parade routes, in order to better be seen by the masses as he waves and hands out a general blessing. And MB is constantly improving on their formula as new advances become available, or as the needs of the current pope change.
Benedict XVI has been dubbed “the green pope” for his stance on preserving “God’s creation”, and MB has seen fit to include that (and other practical considerations) in their latest design. On December 7th, during a ceremony at the Vatican gardens, the pope was presented with not one, but two new M-class automobiles featuring the standard reinforced glass and other safety precautions that have come to characterize his parade cars. But what the 85-year-old holy man may be more pleased by are the creature comforts. He will not only enjoy a plush captain’s chair as he travels, but also improved air conditioning and lighting options that will allow him to better control the climate in his glass gallery. The car has also been subjected to custom lowering, although only by a few centimeters, as an accommodation for plane trips (so that the vehicle may be more easily transported overseas).
Of course, MB has also provided Benedict with a vehicle that meets his eco-sensibilities. In fact, it is estimated that the latest model of their SUV burns 25% less fuel than its predecessors (although it still runs on unleaded – the pope might like a fully electric vehicle, but security concerns likely prohibit the use of such an automobile). Still, it seems that Benedict has no complaints for his local Mercedes dealer. He took the new wheels out for a spin the day after he got them, arriving in style at the Spanish Steps to celebrate the Immaculate Conception.