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TORRANCE, Calif. - An online auto reviewer recently testing out the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid summarily asked, "What's the point of a $94,570 hybrid luxury sedan?"
I've also fielded snippy remarks along the lines of how dare such a pricey, luxury vehicle call itself a hybrid; no green merit badges for this impostor! So therein lingers the dilemma of the got-to-get-green-now culture in the U.S.: The harder people try to go green, the snottier the self-appointed eco-police become.
Which prompts another question: What will ever be good enough for the insatiable eco-purists among us - if not a big luxury hybrid, then an electric motor-scooter powered by a windmill?
Balance in the Machine
Hands down, the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid achieves what I like to call eco-econ-balance; it reconciles the ecological needs to save gas and further clean up the cleanest air over America in decades, with our primal, deep, economic desires for comfort, convenience, and safety.
To put into ever popular Oprah-speak: A balance of needs with desires that makes for a satisfying transportive relationship.
So, let's spend the remainder of this ink and tree slivers on explaining a "point" or two, or sense of purpose for the richly-endowed supermodel of a car, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid, and what it all means for those ponderously inclined.
Why is it Here?
First, let's be clear on why a $105,000 hybrid vehicle (the one I tested had lots of options) exists in the first place. Well, we've sustained a decade-plus worth of hysteria about global warming, government driven green mandates, hectoring from environmental zealots, Al Gore, and celebrity driven eco-poser-trendiness. Mercedes-Benz, like every other automaker, made a logical calculation and delivered a rational ASAP response: Bring a supply of alternative fuel vehicles to market in response to "demanding" demand for greener vehicles and lifestyles.
But some funny things have happened on the way to Holy Green Grail. Climate change consensus has collapsed amid academic/data scandals, and global warming looks more and more like the offspring of global cooling 30 years ago. Far from surrendering to the monkish Mother Earth values of ascetic servitude to nature, we're getting back to those all-American automotive values that save us: technology, innovation, and efficiency.
So what we have here is a supremely engineered luxury vehicle that lacks for nothing, except just two more cylinders, since hybrid technology has not yet rendered itself fully compatible with a high-performance V-8 engine. However, the ample legroom, supportive leather seats, solid, smooth ride, attentive climate control, bathe-you-in-bubbles entertainment, and aesthetic appeal should deliver the complete luxury wheels experience to any discriminating client willing to pay the rates needed to sustain this green vehicle - from a business standpoint. (See sidebar fact boxes for all the stats).