When a friend, colleague or relative of the opposite sex expresses incredulity at my obsession with cars, I often find myself drawing analogies with shoes and handbags. For me, and other male petrolheads, getting into a car is the male equivalent of trying on a new pair of Manolo Blahniks or investing in a new Mulberry: no matter who you are, or how you are feeling, it makes you feel different.
Getting into a Range Rover always brings out the public school boy and repressed country gent in me. Driving a BMW 5 Series Touring always makes me want to buy a Labrador, invest in some property in the South of France and father three children. And, it turns out, getting behind the wheel of the Mercedes E Class makes me feel like ... Arun Sarin, the former CEO of Britain's Vodafone Group.
How? Well, like Vodafone, the E Class is a bit gadgety: coming with blind spot and lane-change warning systems, a drowsiness detector and Distronic Plus cruise control, it's the closest thing to a self-driving car. Like Sarin, who is now senior adviser at PE firm KKR and on the board of Cisco, it's powerful, albeit discreetly; its 369 lb ft of torque puts it up there with the BMW M3.
Like all FTSE chief executives, it's smooth: even though the stop-start system makes the car a bit jittery, and the parking sensors have only two modes ('you're okay' and 'you've crashed the Benz'), the E Class is the most elegant thing I've been in since I tried on an Oswald Boateng suit.
Also, to add a racial generalisation, the E Class is, like Sarin, surreptitiously Indian. How so? Well, for all the surprising number of Facebook groups and Yahoo chatrooms out there that question why Indians are so obsessed with the German marque, and for all the proferred explanations ('bc mercedes kick a.s.s.'; 'Mercedes was traditionally associated with Indian presidents etc'; 'posh cars are a way for Indians to recreate the caste system in vehicular form'), nothing provides as complete an explanation as the E Class. With fuel consumption of 57.6 mpg, this car is ludicrously good value. And nothing is more Indian than good value.
4 OUT OF 5
Mercedes E250 CDI
Engine: 2.1 litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 204 bhp @ 4,200 rpm
Torque: 369 lb ft @ 1,200 rpm
Transmission: 7-speed auto
Fuel consumption: 57.6 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 138 g/km
0-62 mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 149 mph