In a nutshell - I think MB has the competition covered with the latest generation of C, E, and S-class models, particularly in styling and interior design....with enough performance to keep a car nut like me satisfied. The gap to BMW, in driving feel and hard numbers performance, has been closed.
Over the last 32 years, I've owned 66 cars of various types, though by far most were Euro sports or sports sedans. My background includes 20+ years of amatuer racing (SCCA/IMSA/POC/PCA), and I am a typical gearhead in that I have owned, worked on, and driven some pretty cool cars, from a 1971 OTAS (ever heard of that one?
) to my current '04 E55.
My "first" MB was a 1984 190e that was a company-provided car while doing a 1 year temporary assignment in the UK. To say the least, I was unimpressed - at the time my daily driver was a newish ('81) 911SC, and in almost all respects (except storage space), it was a far superior car in every way. Until a couple years ago, I usually had a Porsche or a BMW sedan (2002tii, 528ie, 535- x2, M3, 540i, 540 Dinan) as my daily driver. The handling and overall 'feel' of BMW's were, to me, far superior to the MB's I had driven on test drives...the ridiculously slow throttle tip-in, excessive body roll, tire squeal, etc. all turned me off.
In 2005 I was in the market for a new daily driver, as my '98 Dinan was making some pricey transmission noises (at 95K miles). I got a chance to drive an associate's E500, and I was very impressed...a couple days later my Dinan was replaced by a mid-mileage '03 E500. It has been a great driver, though I have had my share of issues with reliability (stranded twice out of state with out-of stock parts, Pano roof issues, and some electrical gremlins). At 94K miles, I decided to look into a new BMW 330, used 545 or M5, a E550, or an E55.
After driving an E55, the same day as an '05 M5 and '07 545, the decision was cake. I cannot stand the Bangle-ized BMW's, but could deal with it if the driving experience was better than the MB. Unfortunately (for BMW), to my eyes (and senses), the E55 was superior in every way. Finding a killer deal last week on a 40K mile, CPO'd '04 E55 was the clincher....my new black/black toy sits in the driveway today.