If you're planning on seeing the pope in the near future, you might get a chance to see him with his new set of (eco-friendly) wheels.
Yes, the Pope will be receiving a new popemobile.
But don't expect to be able to go out and purchase one for yourself: the machine is "a custom-made M-Class plug-in hybrid based on the technology found inside the Mercedes Vision S500 plug-in hybrid."
In some ways, Pope Benedict doesn't so much "choose" the vehicle, as "receive" it; Mercedes has given vehicles to the pope for decades.
But while the gift doesn't express his personal taste so much as Mercedes' generosity, you car-buffs out there might be interested to recognize a confrere in his predecessor, Pius XII.
In this endearing address to Members of the Car Club of Rome in 1956, he spoke highly of automobiles—almost like a wine connoisseur would speak lovingly of wine; I can't decide whether he sounds more like a BMW advertisement, or simply like every reader “Auto Week” magazine I know:
The car is certainly one of the most expressive symbols of the modern age, his desire for comfort, speed, technical progress. We do not know what should be the most admired in its devices: their power and increasing their agility, the mechanical refinements, provided by the elegance of their profiles.
I love in particular how, the way he describes it really brings out the beautiful masculinity of mastering a machine 5 times your speed and 10 times your size. (Note: I couldn't resist leaving in the gendered language of the Italian when it refers to the automobile as a "she").
"No doubt the car will appear often less as a means of transport as a wonderful object of entertainment, which demands great skill and confidence, dominion over yourselves and physical endurance. You love to feel your power and dominion to ease the energy it contains in its sides, and you will win easily flattered by her resistance, her whims, sometimes her stubbornness, and thus have the opportunity to prove your mastery of the steering wheel, your experience of the road and your mechanical skills."
For you fans of "American-Made" vehicles, you might be happy to know that Pius XII's favored vehicle was a Graham-Paige, gifted to the papacy just days after the great stock market crash of the 1920s - an interestingly parallel to Mercedes' continued care for the popes despite today's economic difficulties.
And next time you take your own for a spin, you might keep in mind his own papal “rules of the road”:
"But you do not forget…to respect road users, be courteous and fair with other drivers and pedestrians, and show them your obliging nature. Pride yourselves in being able to master an often natural impatience, in sometimes sacrificing a little of your sense of honor so that kindness is a sign of true charity. Not only so you can avoid unpleasant accidents, but also it will help to make the car a tool even more useful for yourself and for others, and is capable of giving a genuine pleasure."
Now that's a sentiment that most guys I know can relate to.