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sandeepvr 7th December 2009 10:29

Is a Mercedes C, E or S Class worth the money???
I want to understand the psyche of buying a Mercedes or any other ultra luxury car in India. Having owned and driven a C E & S class Mercedes, I wanted to add my perspective on the ride comfort and value of the C E & S class and try and understand why anyone would pay so much for these cars in India, besides for their status.

I live predominantly in the US and for 4 months in Bangalore. I own a 2007 S550 4 Matic in the states. The S550's ride is simply exemplary. When I bought the car in 07, I paid $102000 including all taxes, converting it to todays Inr equivalent thats Rs.47lacs approx (In Aug 2007 it worked out to 40lacs) . Now I am not trying to stir up any "in the US cars are so much cheaper" debate, so please don't go there!

During the course of ownership of the S550, I have been given a loaner every time I get my car serviced (loaner is when the dealership gives you a car to use during the time your car is being serviced, yes at no cost to you, its pretty common in the US)

Last week, I was given a gorgeous red 2010 C350 sport as a loaner, while the dealership was getting some air suspension issues sorted on my S550, turned out it needed a new air compressor for the suspension.

Needless to say, I had the C350 for a whole week. I put a total of 700 miles during the week, because I went out of town for the Thanksgiving weekend. The C350 that I had runs for $41000 on road and after a week, I would NEVER EVER by this car in my lifetime, that's how pathetic this car was, I had 2 other friends drive this car and they came out disappointed. They own a Hyundai Sonata and a Nissan Altima and they felt their cars were waaay better than the C350, definitely not worth the $41k.

We shared the same conclusions, the car is really zippy and has nice acceleration for driving in the city but definitely NOT A HIGHWAY CRUISER. During short drives to the mall and back the seats are about average; but after 2 hours surprisingly, your back start hurting, in 3 hours my legs felt numb, because I think the seats sit too low to the floor of the car. I am 5'7" and at near maximum seat height, I felt a little better, but the seats of the C350 are extremely small and uncomfortable. The insides of the car and the fit and finish were nice, but the car too small, rear seat space is cramped. The car was extremely zippy but the steering felt over servo-ed, which you eventually get used to, the engine would rev really high and felt like it was under strain when it was pushed. I simply cannot phantom forking out $41K (18.9INR) for this car let alone the 35 lacs it costs in Bangalore for a lower spec-ed car. I think it is substandard for a Mercedes and just not worth the money here in the US, there are far better cars for that money, like Acura and Infiniti. Infact my 2005 Infiniti FX35 that costed 43K is far far better value than the C350 and is better in every single aspect! I give the C350 4 on 10 and would not recommend it for any highway driving.

Now coming to the E, the loaner I was given sometime back was the last gen W211 E350 Bluetec Diesel. The car had some amazing torque but the ride was just about decent, I did not get a chance to take this on a long drive and had it for only 2 days, so my opinions formed were for In the city driving. Back seat is still not great, my FX35 had more space.Of course this is not a fair comparison SUV to car, but the E350 diesel costed about 60K on road, thats 27.6 lacs , my Infiniti seemed like a Bargain compared to the E350. Again the Infiniti I felt outscored the E350 in most aspects except ride comfort, where the FX35 is know to be a little stiff in the ride department. Although the E350 was a whole lot better than the C350, but the interiors were no where near as nice as that of the S550. The E350 just did not feel and ride like a Mercedes. Considering everything I would give the E350 a 6 on 10 after paying US prices.

The S550, I know its a lot more money, but the car is simply the BEST car I have driven to date, nothing I mean nothing comes close to this. This car feels as regal as a Mercedes should feel. The S550 here in the US comes only in the long wheel base version, so at sharp turns you can feel the length of the car, that's about my only gripe. The car has sooo much power that u forget you're in such a big car. This car feels as safe as a tank, the same cannot be said about the E. The E feels tinny in comparison. I am not getting into details about the S because everything is excellent about it, there is really nothing to complain about. Id give a 10 on 10 for the S550 and worth every single penny!!

Now what I don't understand is, given the fact that you cant really push any of these cars in a Indian City why would anyone pay so much for the C, E & S Class in India? I cant justify their prices in the US forget India. Don't you think a Honda Accord or a Hyundai Sonata is more than adequate for Indian driving conditions. I just don't see the point of people giving away their hard earned money towards import duties and taxes which eventually end up lining the pockets of our politicians :Shockked:

Sahil 7th December 2009 11:27

This is a never ending debate, at the end of it all, to each his own !

Yes the Honda Accord and it's likes are better value than the C or E to an extent when it comes to comfort. This fact has been expressed and agreed on by all of us. But thats not all one wants is, it? We need and want a car that doesn't feel wafer light like most japs, we want a car that makes us feel special (this is relative), we want a car that has german engineering and build. And last but not the least, the badge is a big factor for many here, trust me a C350 would have a better snob value in India than what your S550 gets you in america.
That being said, the prices are not justified at all, but what can we really do about it? Heck, you paid exactly as much for your S550 as I did for my BMW 525d ! But that is something we have to live with for now. And your argument about not having the roads to use the power is justified to an extent but I still do not agree completely. We have the expressway, worli sea link,etc where you would be able to even reach your top speed. But it's not only about reaching top speed here, power can be used well within limits. Even a 0 to 100 sprint becomes all the more fun with a powerful engine, all you need for that is a decent main road signal in India to shoot of the line first.

lamborghini 7th December 2009 11:38

There were times I asked myself the same question, however, I completely agree with Sahil.

It's the same as asking you why you got the S550 when there are Accords for 1/5th the price.
It is the feeling you get when you sit in one of these for some, the image for others.
Having owned one, there is a very different way you are treated when you pull up in a German. Be it to a store, or to a business meeting.
I have gotten into Taj wearing a "ghar ka" t-shirt and shorts with bed hair, simply because i went in an Accord (It was as prestigious as a Merc when it was launched).

Besides, if you don't pamper yourself, who do you pamper?

While I agree that it doesn't make sense in India, but there are times when the occasion demands it.

P.S: Me and my family aren't the type who would buy something that is flashy, however, there are times you need such cars.
My dream garage sees me owning a few exotics for the weekend, and some simple cars for the daily run, but it also sees me owning one German simply because at times the impression matters.

issigonis 7th December 2009 12:11


I don't think there are simple answers, or rebuttals for your point of view.
Looked at in simply money terms, there is no case for buying an expensive car, as all cars are meant to provide transportation from point A to point B. One could add safe and reasonable comfort to the transportation and say ' safe and comfortable transportation from point A to point B'.

Taking your reasoning further, one could easily say that for within- a- city- driving, for instance, for two people with little luggage, one could make do with a Nano. For, a Nano can do 30/40/50/60 kmph easily, is compact, reasonably comfortable and safe and so, if I can get a car for say about 1.75 lacs for an airconditioned Nano, I should chose that over an Accord!

The issue is, buying decisions are not made with the help of the left side brain alone : perception of the buyer on value, social conditioning, individual tastes, desirability all play a part.

I can happily wear an HMT watch of my father's era and not wear a Titan/Seiko/Citizen or high end ones like a Rolex/Breitling or whatever because I can reason that all of those brands are equally reliable. But this reasoning might not work for some.

Having said that, I think that cars in India, especially cars in our C, D and luxury segments are overpriced and the reason is that in less affluent countries, the cost of providing infrastructure for maintaining-servicing-running these cars are slightly higher. I will try to illustrate this by a different example: in many third world countries, safe drinking water is an issue- for both visitors as well as citizens of those countries. So, if you visit such a country, you will find the cost of safe, bottled water prohibitively high, especially for its own citizens. Why? Partly because the cost of providing that service is high. Mind you it is partly because of that, the other part comes from high profit margins.

This is precisely the reason why cars in C,D & luxury segments in India are overpriced : cost of providing that service ( duties/taxes & good quality fuel, good quality spares/service centres) + high profit margins.

Therefore the cost of, and cost-benefit ratio of a C class or an E class or any BMW/Audi/Bentley is very high, possibly unacceptably so for most of us. That is why these cars sell few numbers. It is only when India's cost of providing that service ( duties, physical infrastructure and so on,) improves and when people start buying in more numbers due to rising affluence, will automakers reduce prices to account for higher volume sales.


sandeepvr 7th December 2009 12:55

I understand that status is a factor while making a decision on a german import, but what premium do you pay for that status???

I drive 20000 miles every year so comfort and safety was an absolute must and those were factors in my decision making. The status definitively did matter but going by your example, a fully loaded accord costs $36K and rwd S550 85K (mine is a 4matic with a lot more options) so that is a 50K premium or 2.5 times that of the accord.

Now comparing this in India a V6 fully loaded Accord is 31 lacs in Bangalore and a S550 I'm guessing is 1.4cr (S350 on road BLR is 97lacs according to carwale) that's almost 5 times that of the accord. So Mercedes is making a load of money selling a S550 in India. The premium in India for the S550 is 1.1cr wheres I paid 23 lakhs for mine in the states.

I am sure the value of the added comforts and features starts diminishing quickly at this price point and premium. I agree German cars are better built and all that, but then again at what price and the status at what cost, doesn't value matter at all?

I dont want to simply give my money away to Mercedes just because they decide they can rip off the Indian customer, its more a feeling of getting cheated and taken for ride by everyone involved with the sale of such a car. I have compared other cars as well in different segments and noticed this indiscriminate pricing is more obvious as you go up, I just cant seem to digest it!

PS: Sahil, one thing I have noticed when it comes to a Mercedes or BMW unless one knows these cars and their variants India or US, for many people a Mercedes is a Mercedes C350 or S550 there's not much of a difference in either country.

Gooney 7th December 2009 13:32


Originally Posted by sandeepvr (Post 1619846)
I want to understand the psyche of buying a Mercedes or any other ultra luxury car in India.

I do not know how long you have been away from India or what is so confusing to you about the psyche of the Indian buyer. Cars, in general, are cheap in USA. An Accord in the US is a Swift in India-in respect to owner demographics. A person who has a C-Class IS NOT a mid-level executive in an IT-firm; he is either a doctor, a real-estate guy, or a businessman of some sort-someone rich and by no means middle-class.

IMO, people in India buy C-Classes for aspirational value, because all the people who know cars to an extent would opt for the E-Class/5-Series/3-Series (between the C and 3, 3 is better, me thinks).

Now, as you know, the E-Class is bread and butter for Mercedes-Benz (the most sold of all Mercedes-Benz cars). It also is for India; but in India, when you reach those levels of affordability as a consumer, you do not have as many options as you have in the US or Europe. So if you had the money you end up buying an E-Class or a 5-Series.

And mate, people who buy S-Classes in India, do not need to worry about money.

In short, people in India who drive/are driven around in a Mercedes-Benz, already have Accords, Camrys, Superbs in their stable. Yes, if there were options, they might have gone for the Cadillac CTS-V instead of the E-Class ;)

And by the way, Americans do not like the tristar that much anyway, unless its has the AMG or the Brabus badge.

canonball 7th December 2009 16:07

Sandeepn you have hit bulls eye on german car pricing. There are threads where I have raised the same. It is the Indian buyer who is a fool to pay such prices as correctly pointed out the price gap disparity is ridiculous. And everyone seems to be quite about it. So much so that even the workshops are structured to rip you off. I have spoken to several MB/BM/Audi owners who complain that they have to shell out huge sums to maintain these cars in some cases almost 50% of the price of the car over 5 years! Is this the case in the US/Germany?

By the way the spare parts for the same cars cost 1/3 the price in the open market where these same worksops source the parts!!

I always had the perception and feedback from Indian owners of the old 70/80/90 MB's that although you paid high prices you had peace of mind thereafter whilst Indian german cars come with the least warrantee and the highest survice cost is that the case where you are?

I have come to the conclusion that majority of these cars are bought by black marketeers/croonies/politicians and a few corporate executives who are allocated these (some smart ones I know don't even bother they take the cash/encash and drive low key cars). So you can safely categorise buyers into a few diehard car freaks/fans who no matter what must have them, some who are allocated the same, and most who fall in the neo rich/show off/ black market category ;) Theres are some old money/Industry captains who alos patronise these brands but I hear they too are very careful/mindfull and ensure thay are not taken for a ride.

Off late a lot of first time buyers have entered the fray so it is early days wait till these cars become 3 to 5 years old and you will sees ob stories.

canonball 7th December 2009 16:22

Short of the long complete waste of money not to mention complete rip off on all ends. A friend who owned one told me you need to budget for 2 whilst buying one. He has sold his and we both noticed that most people who own these are also somehow in the ripoff business ;)

Hope fully things change sooner than later cheers

DieselFan 7th December 2009 16:50

I term mercs as white elephants. You spend money buying them and you also spend hordes of money maintaining them. The irony here is most of these white elephants come black in colourlol:.

sandeepvr 8th December 2009 11:04

Gooney, your argument that people who buy a Mercedes don't have to worry about money may be partially true but is questionable. In my opinion anyone who has worked hard for their money knows the value of it, unless you are a politician or you have inherited your wealth then you probably don't understand the value of money, but at every price point people will question the value they derive of anything they buy.

Your point that the C Class being an aspirational vehicle I can understand. Buying something for status alone I can get, but if you are a car enthusiast and if you buy a car hoping to enjoy it, I am pretty sure from my experience with a C class, every time you get into a friends Honda Accord you will regret it. Lets not get back into the status argument, I agree status is important factor while buying a BMW or Mercedes, but status at what price, at the price of discomfort that you feel after 3-4 hours of highway driving your C Class? I am sure at that point of time if you are going to be honest to yourself and not in denial that you got ripped off by MB, then you will be questioning what you got for 35lacs, although you might be too proud to openly admit that you got ripped off!! Now if status is the only factor for buying this car, then I say to each his own!! You are completely off , to generalize that people don't car much for MB in the states. In fact America is MB's biggest market in the world!

Canon Ball, I am pleased to hear that for someone who owns a Mercedes in India, you are rational enough to agree that MB is a ripoff in India. I am just trying to keep the discussion real here. The spares for MB here in the states is definitely at a premium compared to say a Toyota, but it is not so bad that you have to budget for 2cars. Plus given the fact that the road conditions are so much better here, the wear and tear on these cars is a whole lot lesser.

The air suspension that they replaced on my S550 was under warranty(4 Year 50miles) so I did not pay for it, but had it been out of warranty, service said it would have cost me about $1100 w installation. I have 35K miles on this car and plan on keeping it until 100k miles. I plan to buy a 7year 100k miles extended warranty for $6500. I doubt I will be able to replace this car with anything better unless I get a Bentley, which right now is probably not as technologically advanced as the S-Class.

A regular oil change and service cost me about $360, 9 months ago I will go back and look at exactly what i paid and provide the breakdown later. Given the cost of the car I think 360 is very reasonable. Overall in the last 2 years, I might have spent under a $1000 in service, wonder how it compares to a similar S-class in India?

canonball 8th December 2009 12:00

3 lacs is what some folks were charged for the S class service only in the first 20k km (considered regular) go figure. I have to many horror stories to tell from owners who forked out close to a crore and were shocked to see the bills as they had the 70/80 impression of the car!

Gooney 8th December 2009 14:10

I see your point of view sandeepvr and I think we both agree to the psyche of buying (or rather not buying) a C-Class.

As for the E- and S-Class, what I feel is (and tried to get it across in the previous post), there are very few alternatives that people can go for in India (comparing apples to apples, that is). And of the few options there are, all are German. Parts and after-sales service for all such OEMs are way up north. The required competition to rationalize the price of luxury is missing in India.

alpha1 8th December 2009 14:13

My point on this is:

Any rational being would follow you line of reasoning, and conclude that its not really a value for the money.

1. But then the person who buys in spite of knowing all this: he says, meh!, I can still afford it, not the general populace.

2. And the person who sees Merc, and knows about money value, and says: Meh! these filthy rich blokes, they can spend money without giving even two hoots.

Now those are exactly the statements a person buy Merc in India would like to make.

Hence, the price is justified.

Of course all this is done under guise of esteemed "German" engg, blah blah etc.

GTO 8th December 2009 18:22

Aw c'mon, a good car is a celebration of working H-A-R-D in life! As petrolheads, all that we dream about are nice cars (more than a fancy house or swanky office). The thread title can be extended to:

Is a 5 star dinner for two worth Rs. 7,000?
Is a Mont Blanc pen worth 15,000 bucks?
Is a Vertu mobile phone worth 1.5 lakhs?
Is a Rolex worth 3 lakhs?
Is a Ferrari Enzo worth 3 crores?
Is Alta Mount road worth 60,000 a sq. ft?

Do we need such over the top buys? Nope. Do we desire such expensive toys? You betcha! Take a look at any industry. Beyond a certain price point, its not about value for money anymore. That's when the emotions of our hearts overtakes the logic of our heads.

sandeepmdas 8th December 2009 19:20


Originally Posted by GTO (Post 1623019)
Do we need such over the top buys? Nope. Do we desire such expensive toys? You betcha! .... That's when the emotions of our hearts overtakes the logic of our heads.

Dubai's Sheik Mohammed paid 2.8 million dollars for a race horse. When he was shown the (original) blueprint of the Burj Dubai tower, his instant reaction was "only 90 stories?"

So they redid the blueprint.

"Men never grow up, they just get bigger"...

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