Some cars are like clothes; they define who you are to the world, offer clues about your income, your aspirations. This car is definitely one of them.
Just look at its rakish, gangster elegance. From the diplomat hush of the leather interior, to the dark, broad-shouldered hustle of its bodywork, like a Savile Row suit bursting with money, muscle and power, this car has real presence. You’ve arrived baby.
Sit inside this car and you sink into a gentleman’s club. The steering wheel feels like sculpted Italian marble, the buttons and switches work with a fluid, expensive grace. Fire up the V6 common rail diesel engine and whisper your way along urban streets, you will think it’s a petrol engine – there’s no hint of clatter, just class.
How Fast Does it Go Mister?
That’s not important. This is a V6 diesel, so true petrolheads will simply shrug and look elsewhere. The full spec S350 Blue Tec costs £95,000 (base model is £65,410) and for that kind of money you can get some insane, V8 powered, Mad Max refugee, throat-growling lunacy, that drinks unleaded like a fighter jet.
No, what the Mercedes six cylinder, three litre engine delivers is a deceptive, velvet smooth punch of power. The seven speed autobox selects gears like a maitre’d choosing your favourite table. The Merc simply wafts along, but with enough grunt in reserve to humiliate any uppity lettings agents from Surbiton.
Handling and Braking
I wasn’t going to mention the S350’s ability to handle the twisty stuff, because it isn’t the type of driving an owner would do. But when you brake late, the S350 just shrugs and goes ‘try later next time.’ It corners with grace, aplomb and lots of other old fashioned words.
When you do corner hard the driver’s seat firms up by your shoulders, using some electronic magic to keep you firmly supported. It’s a nice touch, the car is reminding you that driving fast is a serious business, so do it properly; sit up straight and concentrate.
Is It Really Worth The Money?
The standard model has a rear parking sensors, all the iPod/Bluetooth/DVD blah-blah gadgetry you could ask for and driving aids like electronic suspension, headlamp assist, anti-skid control and more.
If you want extras there are 19 inch AMG alloys, a panoramic sunroof, rear view parking camera, infrared pedestrian detection in your windscreen and a small fridge for the rear passengers. Nice touch.
The short answer to the question about true value, is that the three pointed star on a Mercedes is the gun sight of your personal ambition. It says to the world, `I’ve made it, now I’m spending it.’ You wouldn’t buy one, but your company might well lease one if you’re doing ridiculously well and use the same tax-avoidance schemes as Google, Amazon, Facebook, Boots, Cadbury’s et al.
But the S350 isn’t as in-your-face as many other rich people’s vehicles, it has more restraint, fewer delusions of grandeur than say a Popemobile white Range Rover, or a footballer’s City Blue Bentley. Some people might think you’re not really insanely wealthy if you drive the S350 – and maybe that’s a good thing?
In the end, for me, the S350 lacks the low-slung, muscular beauty of the Jaguar XF coupe, or the sweet soul music an M3 makes on a track day. The S350 BlueTec is a curiously emotionless car to drive, for all its deft handling, impressive brakes and bullet train power.
The S350 is like Schumacher; great driver, clinical, ruthless, utterly professional and a relentless achiever, a winner.
But Schumacher isn’t not Senna.