Benedict XVI gets vamped-up Mercedes popemobile

Mercedes-Benz presented Pope Benedict XVI with a sleek, ecologically-friendly "popemobile" on Friday which has been vamped up with the latest gadgets for maximum comfort, the Vatican said.

The 85-year-old head of the Roman Catholic Church was given two models of the new white Class M car -- which has bullet-proof windows and runs on unleaded petrol -- at a ceremony in the Vatican gardens.

Benedict will be taking one of them for a spin for the first time on Saturday, when he visits the square at the Spanish Steps in central Rome for a yearly ceremony celebrating the Immaculate Conception.

"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," said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of Daimler AG, the German company which produces the luxury Mercedes-Benz brand.

Popes have been using Mercedes cars for over 80 years, he said.

The new model has been lowered by a few centimetres to make it easier to transport by plane when Benedict travels abroad. The air-conditioning and lighting have also been improved in a bid to help the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics relax during long trips.

Mercedes has provided the special cars to successive popes since the 1980s, the high-sized, reinforced glass design allowing for maximum viewing with high levels of security.

The bullet-proof 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 press, he has emphasised the defence of "God's works" and therefore the need to protect the environment.

  • Wednesday #sgroundup: More than 300 people missing after South Korean ferry sinks - coastguard 3 minutes 32 seconds ago
    Wednesday #sgroundup: More than 300 people missing after South Korean ferry sinks - coastguard

    Here are the top trending stories of the day in case you missed them:

  • 2015 Chevrolet Trax small SUV rolls back to America 11 hours ago
    2015 Chevrolet Trax small SUV rolls back to America

    For the past two years, car shoppers from Acapulco to Winnipeg could wander into their Chevy dealers and kick the tires on a city-sized sport utility vehicle named the Trax — and about 90,000 have done so. Today, Chevy revealed the version of the Trax it will bring to the United States, for those less well-heeled buyers who want the shape of an SUV without the window sticker they usually carry.

  • Ford Transit Skyliner concept revives the ultra-luxury van 14 hours ago
    Ford Transit Skyliner concept revives the ultra-luxury van

    “Once you do stand-up, you don’t want to go back.” No, we’re not talking about comedy, but rather an emerging trend in luxury transport that’s bringing us ever taller, more capacious, more pimpdillyicious limousines. The quote came from a Ford designer, Tim Stoehr, predicting an increase in interest in limos based on big vans like the new Transit. Of course, these are nothing new; up-fitters have taken quite kindly to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and apparently Ford is chomping at the bit to get in on the action, too. So Ford enlisted the help of the largest Ford dealer in the world, Galpin Auto Sports in Van Nuys, Calif., to help design and build its first super-lux Transit concept, dubbed the Skyliner.

  • Amazon to release smartphone later this year: report
    Amazon to release smartphone later this year: report

    Amazon is preparing to release a smartphone in the second half of 2014, thrusting itself into a market already crowded with Apple and Samsung models, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company aims to announce its new product by the end of June and ship to customers by the end of September in time for the holidays, the Journal said in a Friday report, citing unnamed people briefed on the matter. Amazon, it said, hopes to differentiate its phone from other models with a screen that displays hologram-like three-dimensional images, which can be viewed without special glasses. Earlier this month the retailer unveiled a new media streaming device, Amazon Fire TV, which it touted as simplifying the experience of watching video online.

  • Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying
    Supermodel Qi Qi is afraid of flying

    The supermodel said that she will take her daughter in a vacation but will try to avoid boarding a plane

  • One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks
    One dead as S. Korea ferry with 476 passengers sinks

    South Korea's coastguard said Wednesday one person had been killed as it struggled to rescue 476 people -- mostly high school students -- aboard a ferry that ran aground and sank off the southern coast. "The ferry is almost completely submerged," Lee said, adding that a detachment of South Korean Navy SEALS were taking part in the rescue. Of the 450 passengers on board the ferry bound for the southern resort island of Jeju, 325 were students from a high school in Ansan, south of Seoul. The 6,825-tonne ferry, which had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening, ran into trouble some 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the island of Byungpoong.