We are cruising in the flagship over the high hills of Vermont, down to the rolling sea of farmland just over the border in New York State. Our goal: the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

And what smoother way for three young boys and two old ones to travel than in the flagship of the Mercedes-Benz line, its new 2000 S-Class luxury sedan?

Yes, this is still your father's Mercedes (assuming he could afford one). Some cars are made for true drivers -- those who love the feel of the road at toe, heel and hand, and what I like to call the Gee Forces of amazement in high speed turns. This car, however, is made more for travelers: folks who want to feel right at home, as in livingroom comfortable, as the miles roll away.

And yet, for Mercedes, this is also a transitional model as the company attempts to lower the average age of its S model buyer from 55 to somehwere near 50. They're doing it with snappy speed and electronic wizardry.

This is a surprisingly quick car, given that it weighs just over two tons. This 2000 S-Class, an S430, will do 0-60 in just under seven seconds and even at highway speed will burst out to pass with eye-opening acceleration.

Ever been bothered by drivers who, when you roll out to pass them, suddenly speed up for God knows what reason? In this car, that is not a problem. Touch the pedal and they are suddenly a speck in the rear-view mirror as you accelerate like Lou Brock swiping second. And since this is a baseball journey we are on, it is worth noting there are many traits that this car shares with Hall of Fame ballplayers.

The enduring legacy of Babe Ruth

Accept it: When you talk about the Bambino of Luxury, and you talk endurance, and you talk snubnosed recognition, Mercedes is the best-known name in the world.

Time was, as folks aged in this country, they dreamed of that Cadillac or that big Lincoln as their last car. Today, that's changing, and many aging Americans have opted for luxury SUVs. Mercedes, meanwhile, has held its market and is looking for this sleeker, less boxy model, to broaden that appeal.

The crafty inventiveness of Satchel Paige

If traveling in this car is like sitting in your living room, then driving it is like sitting in your computer room at home.

At the heart of its electronic wonder is the COMAND system, which stands for Cockpit Management and Data. Between buttons mounted on the steering wheel and a complex array of instrumentation featuring a video screen, sound, climate and even navigation are controlled by this system.

When we left the New Hampshire seacoast, Cooperstown-bound, the onboard computer was asked to find us the shortest route. It did just that, and every step of the way warned us by voice of upcoming turns and then told us when we were at those turns.

And we couldn't fool it. Stray off course and the computer first tells you to turn back to the original route. Then, as if deciding you m ust just be numb, it automatically recalculates a route from wherever you are to wherever it is you want to go.

At one point, just when we thought we had fooled the computer, my human navigator suggested that a right-hand turn through the Adirondacks must be coming up. The words were no more out of his mouth than the computer, having figured out our game, announced that a right-hand turn was coming up.

But there is more: Want to make a telephone call? Press a button on the wheel and tell the system what number you want. It calls it and you then have a hands-free conversation. An electronic phonebook will accept up to 99 numbers which it will recognize by name only, as in, ``Call Tony's Pizza.''

Have an emergency -- a wreck, an illness, a carjack attempt? Push the SOS button and a crisis center comes on line. If you can't speak, it figures out where the car is, what color it is, and sends help. Deployed airbags set it off.

Broken down? Push the little button h a wrench on it. Mercedes sends the repair truck.

Confused? Push ``i'' as in information, and a Mercedes rep comes on line to talk you through the operation of your car.

The raw power of Mickey Mantle

The hills over the spine of Vermont are steep. It is the only stretch of road in the East I know of with runaway truck lanes. The Mercedes, all 17 feet and two tons of steel, charged up the passing lanes like running on a Salt Flat.

What is a whisper quiet ride is broken not by the sudden sound of highspeed, whistling wind, but instead by the stacatto chatter of the sleeping giant under the hood.

If I have a complaint with the car, it is that it is so smooth, even at speeds well over the limit, that you have to be a flatout lawbreaker to appreciate what this car will do.

The elegance of Joe DiMaggio

Leather is everywhere. The front seats have 14 points of adjustment and by using buttons on the doors can be programmed to remember how you like all those seat parts arranged when you enter the car.

Airbags are everywhere. Front and rear, doors, up high to protect the head.

Each frontseat passenger has individual heat/air controls and it is remarkable how one side of the car can be steaming while the other is chilly.

The grace of Roberto Clemente

There is an effortless ease with which this car takes tight turns, bumps -- frostheaved Adirondack roads were the test here -- and straight-ahead, numbing hours of driving.

The brakes and throttle automatically correct for oversteer and understeer; cruise control not only maintains your speed, but a radar up front maintains a preset distance from any car ahead of you.

Shifting is nifty: fully automatic, or, when the mood strikes, a plus-minus, left or right click of the lever turns it into a manual shifter.

Again, this is a traveler's car, not so much a driver's car, though drivers can have fun with this one, fun in a deceptively fast and sporty way.

It was Satchel Paige who warned of life that we should never look back because something might be gaining on us. In the 2000 S-Class, you don't need to look back because nothing will be.

Nice touches:

-- The seat controls on the front passengers' doors. Each button is shaped like a piece of the seat and together they make up a silhouette of the seat.

-- Underdash carpeting that comes all the way to the knees. No edges, no wires, no scratches.

Annoyances:

-- There is no Autobahn in America.

-- The shiny strip of fake wood that bisects the dashboard. It is so shiny, it reflects whatever is going on above the car -- clouds, trees -- and as these roll by the effect is like having a television scroll out of control before your eyes.

SIDEBAR:

The numbers

Base price: $69,700

Price as tested: $69,700

Horsepower/Torque: 275 hp/295 lbs.-ft.

Wheelbase/Overall length: 121.5 inches/203.1 inches

Width/Height: 73.1 inches/56.9 inches

Curb weight: 4,133 lbs.

Seating: 5 passengers

SOURCE: Manufacturer