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Auto Hypnosis

If You're in the Market for the Planet's Priciest Production Cars, Look No Further
Joshua Shapiro
From the Print Edition:
Pierce Brosnan, Nov/Dec 97

(continued from page 2)

Of all the Wilsonmobiles, the Mercedes V12s come closest to being practical rather than pure extravagance. With a worldwide production run of 4,600 units last year, they benefit from being able to spread the costly engineering effort over a reasonable number of units. Mercedes are safe, reliable, spacious and supported by a large dealer service network. No special marketing is done to promote the V12s, and their styling is so conservative that only the cognoscenti can distinguish the S 600 from the other S-class sedans. Only the S 600 sedan has six horizontal chrome cross bars on its grille; the non-V12s have only three.

The S 600 embodies the philosophy that "more is better." It has more features and subtleties than the average owner could noticein a year. The S 600 also has sensors that vary the speed of the windshield wipers according to the amount of rain, adjust the speed of the air conditioning fan according to the amount of sunlight,automatically switch to cabin air recirculation if smog levels surpass a given threshold, dim headlight glare in the rearview mirror, and secure the doors and trunk should they be left slightly ajar. The key fob will close the windows and the sunroof when the car is locked. The excellent Bose Beta sound system shifts the volume to accommodate changes in the speed of the car. Like the Porsche Turbos,the 600s come with nifty Xenon headlamps.

The cabin is luxurious. The dashboard, steering wheel, center console and doors are lavished with a forest of burl walnut. The seats are two-toned Nappa leather. The dashboard shift knob, steering wheel, sun visors, rear shelf and upper door panels are all trimmedin leather. Even the headliner is genuine suede. The heated front seats are adjustable 12 ways, have three levels of variable back support, inflatable side bolsters, three separate memory settings, and front- and side-impact air bags. But then again, the back seats are also heated and adjustable and have individual lit vanity mirrorsand powered rear-window sunscreen, all of which makes the sedan eminently suitable for chauffeured driving.

Driving the S 600 is like driving a vault. Volvos seem flimsyby comparison. The combination of double-thick window glass and heavy engine-compartment insulation makes the car exceedingly quiet. Like other Mercedes, the 600s have great suspensions and brakes. The S 600 coupe is so buttoned-down that only when the speed exceeds 120 mph does it begin to manifest personality. The S 600 sedan is more accessibly practical, being one of the few exotic cars in which four adults can ride in sustained comfort. This staid car will hustle from 0 to 100 mph in 12.3 seconds, only a second slower than a Corvette. For those with more than a million dollars and a craving for something more exotic, Mercedes is considering building 20 to 30 "street" versions of its racing mid-mounted, 6.9-liter V12 engine-powered CLK-GTR.


My favorite experience regarding the Aston Martin DB7 Volante was listening to a couple's conversation, which went like this:

Woman: "Isn't that the new Celica?"

Man: "No, that's a new Aston Martin."

Woman: "All cars look alike."

Man: "That Volante is just another car, like Claudia Schifferis just another woman."

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