In NYC, the people who care about money and appearance seem to value the brand's prestige. Also OCD people, ones who have to have everything letter-perfect, and or best-of-class in their lives, aspire to owning one. But since I got a used one, I've had 2 or 3 of my more bohemian friends (I'm a rock musician) tell me, "I didn't think you were a Flash Person and that's a Flash Car" or "I didn't figure you for the Mercedes type." An implied looking down on Benz owners. Is it the envy of wanna-be's? Maybe. Maybe not.
Like everything in The States, it seems people are polarized into 2 antagonistic groups, the Benz lovers and the Benz haters. And I'm in the middle! - Politics, brand recognition, economics-both real and imagined (I paid less for this 2003 E320 than I paid for the '96 960 Volvo wagon I got in 2003...)
I think of all these 'factions', your motivation, that you had a great great ride in one as a young person, is the purest and most admirable!
Hope this helps your research a bit.
PS. I bought a Benz wagon, thinking it would be the closest upgrade to my powerful but aging Volvo. It's an awesome machine. More different than I expected it would be. But I have a respect for it that grows each day, and sometimes I drive it, not because I have to get from Pt.A to Pt.B, but just for the experience, something I NEVER did with the Volvo...