2008 Mercedes-Benz C350 Sport

Tom Salt

For about thirty bucks, the federal authorities in Switzerland kindly let you use their autobahn network, and it doesn't matter whether you use it all year long or only once between two exits. The latest claim to fame of the national highway robbery association is the world's smallest radar trap, which combines a trick camera the size of a Rolex along with a fine big enough to buy one. The clever contraption is integrated in the guardrail where only eagle-eyed drivers will spot it in time. Alternatively, to detect the sneaky lenses, you can purchase special sat-nav-linked software, which is what most Swiss motorists do if their swift rate of progress is anything to go by.

By far the best part of Switzerland is the mountains. After all, Alpine roads are invariably twisty, and in a country as rich as this, they're also meticulously maintained.

Since the C350's stability control cannot be shut off completely, the fighting line through snow-and-ice-covered second-gear corners is more ragged than rhythmic--serious slidemeisters will have to wait for next year's C63 AMG, which will have about 450 hp in its engine bay. The pending agility package also provides a heightened level of sportiness. In dynamic mode, the dampers jump from lenient to rigid, the steering goes from quick to even quicker, and the automatic transmission switches from eco-friendly passive to acceleration-friendly attentive. But the system scores only two out of three points. While the steering and the gearbox are now spot-on, the dampers overdo it by spoiling the ride, especially on bad surfaces.

Wedged between Austria and Switzerland, the tiny principality of Liechtenstein is a famous tax haven known for its extreme banks-per-capita ratio. They speak a funny dialect here that even the locals reportedly struggle to understand, they entertain an amazingly citizen-friendly tax system, and their license plates feature only four or five digits because of the small population. The acreage around the capital of Vaduz is big enough to swing a large cat, but it's not a good place to unleash the 268-hp C350, because by the time you've revved the engine to 7000 rpm in third, chances are that one of the country's three border crossing points will loom large. Although Liechtenstein has only one real through road worth mentioning, those inhabitants who feel a little racy can always thrash from Triesen to Malbun and back down again. Steep and winding, this picturesque, eight-mile mountain climb is little used by cosmopolitan tax evaders or by binocular-wielding visitors to the microscopic empire of Prince Hans-Adam II.

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