In my opinion, Mercedes quality has declined dramatically since the mid-'80s. The reason is competition from Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura, and the emergence of BMW as a desirable car. In the '70s, BMWs were owned by a few oddball people who understood how ahead of its time the 2002 was. By the mid-'80s, every yuppie wanted a 3 or 5 series Bimmer, because they were the thing to have, much like huge luxobarge SUVs are today. BMWs sold for a lot less than comparable Mercedes models then, and had a much more "hip" and youthful image. The first Benz to try to grab a share of that market was the '86 300E, a milestone car, but still more expensive than the BMW 535i with a bigger engine. Benz had to continue to cut costs on each new model in order to compete with BMW and other "in" brands like Audi, etc. Then the biggest blow was delivered in 1990 when the Lexus LS 400 came out. Here was a car that cost $35,000 (about half of what a full-boat S class cost), was quieter and smoother than anything MB ever made up to that time, and had quality that was hard to fault. Again, MB learned that they were either going to have to compete on cost, or settle for a very small market share made up of older rich people. The above factors resulted in the Benzs we have today, with wrinkly leather on the seats, plastic door handles, plastic chrome trim, and big plastic shrouds over the engines. They ARE cost competitive with similar Bimmers, Volvos, Audis, and other comparable cars, but they are no longer a substantial cut above those cars in the quality area. Whether you consider this tradeoff to be a good or bad thing depends on your perspective, I guess.