my 2 cents worth from Down Under.
The first MB I bought was a second hand (60,000km) W202 C240, and it came with a driver information video. One scene showed the car doing a max effort stop from freeway speeds, and still being steerable around other slower cars and avoiding the pile up. I don't think the average Lexus of Honda would be able to do the same :-)
And a lot of what you are paying for is the built in safety stuff. For example, a couple of years ago I went to a Mercedes Safety Day on the local race track. One of the things said at the briefing has stayed with me. The head driver said that MB was the only car on the road in which the computers 'talked' to each other. For example, if you have the rain sensing wipers on, and it starts to rain, so they activate, the car thinks to itself - hmmm, rain on windscreen, therefore rain on road, therefore let's apply the brakes very lightly, just enough to keep water off the disks. So if you do have to stop suddenly, your braking will be just that little bit quicker to act.
IMHO, I can't really agree... When I was considering placing an order for my SLK, since I have many years owning Lexus and Japanese brands, I spent a lot of time trying to understand safety systems from MBZ. What I concluded is for the most part, Lexus has similar capabilities -- they are just named and/or packaged differently, and sometimes tend to have a more conservative approach in what they do, e.g. while MBZ Distronic Plus
will attempt in certain situations to literally bring your car to a full stop, Lexus' Pre-Collision System (PCS) will slow the vehicle with an alert, but won't try to fully stop the vehicle if it came to that; Some of the MBZ versions of Hill-Start Assist have the HOLD feature to keep you sitting still at say a stop light if you take your foot off the brake, but the Lexus version does not have the HOLD function -- only the original Hill-Start functionality intended to keep the brake on for a few moments while you move your foot to the accelerator so you don't slip backwards on a hill. Both brands have all the standard systems such as crumple zones, airbags, ABS, implementations of ESP, Brake Assist, and Lexus also does automatic brake drying when the wipers are on. Both brands also have optional systems like predictive brake priming, blind spot monitoring, adaptive highbeam assist, lane keeping assist... etc. Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Managment (VDIM)
, which I've had now on 2 generations of my SUVs since 2005, is a great example where Lexus also ties multiple hardware and software systems together -- so traction, stability, steering, etc. all work in unison.
The net of all that to me was MBZ is a leader in the creation of new safety systems -- history is clear on that point. They also seem to make a real effort to roll out the latest generation of those technologies across their line in a timely manner even within the same generation of a particular vehicle, whereas it's more hit-and-miss with Lexus timing and what features they make available in different models. Lexus tends to put new features of any substance only into new model generations every few years, and sometimes at a mid-life update, but not often. The Lexus approach as I've said, appears to be more conservative, for the good and bad of it -- perhaps in part given reliability is of such a prime consideration for the brand.
For me, I have no feeling I'll be safer in a MBZ vs a Lexus. What MBZ does bring to the equation is pushing some of those safety systems (like Distronic Plus) a little bit further. I honestly don't think I'll use some of the features that push the envelope too far, e.g. even if Distronic Plus should try to brake for me, there are many documented exceptions where it may not, so I plan to still hit the brake myself, and I'll probably always keep my foot on the brake at a stop light and never use the Hill-Start Assist HOLD feature. I like technology, but some things I'm still old fashioned about.