By Zack Klapman.
What is $28,000 worth to you? If you replied “It’s worth $28,000! Hahaha!” then you must be the most entertaining, likable, funny, and clever person in your office. I bet you received zero holiday cards, birthday party invites, or social interaction, probably because everyone knows your life is already so great, you don’t need actual signs of friendship.
The rest of you lovely people understand the question. Let’s say you want to build an addition on your house. One contractor shows you his design and you love it, but it is $89,000 (it’s a big addition). A second offer comes in, with basically the same layout, features, windows, and comfort, for only $61,000. What would those savings do for you?
That’s what I thought of after driving the 2013 Audi S7 and the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E550 4Matic. They both have powerful twin-turbo V8s, 4 doors, and all-wheel drive. They’re quick, they feel sound, and they provide you with all the gadgetry and comforts of a newly appointed living room.
So why does the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E550 start at 61 grand, while the Audi starts at 89?
Is it the engine? The E-class has 402HP to the Audi’s 420. But $28,000 for 18 horsepower works out to $1,555.00/horsepower, and if that’s the going rate, the Chevy Spark should cost 5 times what it does. Besides, the E-class has more torque (443 to 406), and I firmly believe torque is what makes well-heeled people feel important, not horsepower. To be fair to the Audi, it is faster to 60MPH by over one full second, but no normal person is every going to launch their new S7, or E550, only their teenage son will and in that case, I’d prefer he be in the slower car.
The Audi has its legendary Quattro system, so it can brave all seasons and climates. But so can the Mercedes. “4Matic” is German for AWD.
The Merc rides over bumps like a flood of molasses, but feels a bit floaty in turns; it’s a car for ferrying you about in a state of relaxation. The 2013 Audi S7 feels more solid and nimble, and its AWD system can up to 80% of its torque to the rear, depending on how hard your kid is driving. But it’s still 4,300lbs, and you can tell.
Sitting in either car silences most complaints. Heated seats, SAT radio, nice plastics, etc. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz E550 has a few small foibles: I don’t know what that numerical pad on the dash is, but I never used it. All it does is remind me of past cars, the distant past. I also found myself making mistakes trying to adjust the radio and various sound settings. It was hard to tell which menu I was hovering over.
By comparison, the 2013 Audi S7 was easily navigable, and the design will still look current years from now. The Audi’s victories are small, but plentiful. It’s a more engaging drive, and has a more striking shape, both qualities that carry heavy weight with me. Its face is menacing and the profile looks ready for speed. But there’s nothing really wrong with the Merc. It has the power, the space (both have folding rear seats and will hold all the luggage you can carry), and the all-weather capability. Its only real fault is that it looks like…a Mercedes. Its look is handsome, but drama-free, or perhaps humble? It wants to fly below the radar, saving its talents for its occupants.
If my coffers were overflowing, I would take the 2013 Audi S7 simply for its looks and its presence. But, if buying the Mercedes –a car that is just as capable in every single way- meant I could send my kid to a good school, or upgrade my home, I would choose smart humility.