MOVERS and shakers, decision makers and high-fliers love nothing more than a premium badge adorning their motors - and for many Mercedes is the top choice.
But it is getting stiffer at the sharp end of the executive car market with plenty of alternatives from Teutonic rivals BMW and Audi and a rejuvenated Jaguar as well as the likes of Lexus and Infiniti from Japan.
The Mercedes E-Class saloon, though, has remained a firm favourite with business buyers thanks to a classy combination of comfort and refinement.
A comprehensive facelift a couple of years ago also brought the design bang up to date and saw the introduction of a comprehensive array of safety equipment.
Two distinct body styles give buyers the choice between Merc's traditional conservative approach in SE trim or the sportier, purposeful trappings of the AMG Night Edition I drove.
This version, as the name suggests, takes many of its design cues from the £75,000, 155mph E63 AMG high-performance model.
That means you get exclusive bi-coloured five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, AMG body-styling with glossy black trim, twin stainless steel tailpipes, leather sports seats, a three-spoke multi-function AMG sports steering wheel and brushed stainless steel sports pedals.
While you get some of the looks, though, you won't get the same adrenaline-pumping performance as the flagship flier - but you won't be grumbling either.
Even the entry level 2.1-litre E220 BlueTEC diesel engine offers some satisfyingly perky performance, with the 0-62mph benchmark sprint coming up in 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 141mph.
The most economical option, other than the diesel hybrid version, it also offers a claimed 64.2 miles per gallon on average, with the help of an unobtrusive automatic start/stop system.
No manual gearbox is offered but the seven-speed automatic transmission featured here - some range-toppers get a nine-speed version - is smooth and efficient and steering wheel mounted paddles offer the driver the option to intervene if so desired, although I never felt the need.
Despite sportier settings for the brakes and suspension, the AMG Night Edition is still set up to provide Merc's trademark comfort, so you won't get quite the same driving thrills as with a BMW, but you do get a very relaxed and settled ride, while handling is still nimble and precise.
Inside impressive soundproofing keeps occupants well insulated from exterior noise while the standard of fixtures and fittings is what you would expect of a premium motor costing not far shy of £40,000.
Pliant, soft-touch materials cover most surfaces while a contrasting panel across the dashboard can be specified in wood or aluminium-effect finishes at no extra cost.
With no touchscreen functionality on the infotainment display, the extra switches may make the centre console a little busy for some tastes and some are on the small side. The parking brake is also fiddly, with a pedal to engage and separate lever to release it, but these are minor grumbles.
Head and legroom is generous all round and there is plenty of storage for personal effects dotted around the cabin. The boot is spacious enough but subject to the same access limitations as any saloon when compared to a hatchback, and it's a little disappointing that you have to pay extra for folding rear seats.
Equipment levels, though, are top notch and include active parking assist, climate control, sophisticated sat nav, internet access, on-board wi-fi, Bluetooth, DAB radio, heated front seats, automatic lights and wipers and headlamps that sense when high beam is needed.