November 2007
send to a friend printable version
Mid-luxury sedans: The money class
The Infiniti M35 is tops. And the new 'clean diesel' Mercedes E320 has that sweet smell of success

Lexus LS 460L, Mercedes-Benz E350 & BMW 535i in driveway.

 

The Infiniti M35 is a class leader in our tests of mid-luxury sedans. But the other big news is that two versions of the freshened Mercedes-Benz E class are close in its rear-view mirror, with the new diesel-powered E320 BlueTec and its gasoline-powered twin, the E350. We tested the rear-wheel-drive base M35 as an update to the all-wheel-drive M35X that we had previously tested and that was our 2007 Top Pick for luxury cars. Not only did this version score nearly the same as the M35X, but it's one of the least expensive cars in the category. (See Infiniti M35: Still the one to beat, available to subscribers.)

The Mercedes-Benz E320 is the first of a new wave of "clean diesel" cars that we've tested. It achieved an impressive 29 mpg in overall fuel economy. (See "The Lexus GS 450h hybrid vs Mercedes-Benz E320 diesel," available to subscribers, for a comparison of the E320 and Lexus GS 450h Hybrid.) For this mid-luxury group, we also tested the freshened BMW 535i, now powered by a new twin-turbocharged engine; the redesigned Volvo S80; and the Lexus GS 450h. Prices for this group range from $45,305 for the Volvo to $60,172 for the Lexus. We tested two wheel-drive versions; each model is available with all-wheel drive.


BLENDING COMFORT AND HIGH TECH

Luxury cars are designed to cradle their occupants in comfort. They surround them with rich materials and a host of convenience features, and they typically have strong, refined engines to provide effortless acceleration. Many mid-luxury models also provide agile handling that adds a sporty dimension to their character.

The Infiniti M35 illustrates the range of driving characters you'll find. Both versions of the M35 are well-rounded, nimble cars that successfully blend sportiness with comfort. They are as capable handling a twisty road as they are cruising the highway. But they aren't as quiet as some other models. (Also see our test of Ultra luxury sedans.)

Several models now offer adaptive cruise control that uses radar to keep a car at a set distance behind a vehicle in front, slowing down or speeding up as necessary. The Volvo S80 takes that one step further. It uses the radar to determine whether you are approaching a car too quickly and, if you are, it will alert you to brake or even slow the car itself.