2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec Review and First Test Drive

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My first introduction to the S350 BlueTec was at the tail end of my trip to Europe to pick up our new E350 BlueTec sedanThe hotel I stayed at after dropping off the E350 at the port in Bremerhaven, the Park Hotel Bremen, had an S350 BlueTec sedan used for driving guests to the airport and other errands.  Needless to say, my drive to the airport was fast and comfortable.

Inside the cabin, one finds soft ambient lighting and even softer leather.  High-quality materials abound and there is a fastidious attention to detail in evidence. The doors close softly on their own, side bolsters expand to support the driver during moderate to heavy cornering, and numerous massage settings invigorate.

Before the driver is a glass cockpit instrument cluster; the speedometer and tachometer may look real but this technology allows other vehicle systems, including night vision, to magically appear on the LCD panel upon request.  When the navi is in use, its instructions appear there as well.

The LCD panel also provides a variety of car-related information, from trip computers and fuel economy to audio and entertainment details.  It is controlled by buttons on the steering wheel that provide scrolling and allow for the selection of specific functions and information.

Numerous innovative safety features keep the driver and passengers safe. One such feature is Attention Assist.

At the M-Class launch in May, I inadvertently renamed Mercedes “Attention Assist” feature the “Coffee Cup Assist” (a small coffee cup logo is visible on the dash when the feature is active).  Attention Assist alerts the driver to the fact that he may be more than a bit tired (drowsiness is the cause of more than 100,000 accidents per year in the U.S. alone).

In developing the feature, Mercedes-Benz engineers discovered that drowsiness doesn’t set in suddenly; rather, it builds up over a period of time.  In the first 20 minutes of a drive, the car establishes a profile for the driver.  If a driver is sleepy, the subtle changes in the driver’s steering wheel input will reveal a potential problem

Based on the profile, if the driver appears to be driving somewhat erratically at speeds over 50 mph (80 km/h), the car beeps and flashes an Attention Assist warning (“Time for a Rest?”) on the dashboard.

Although I’ve never been a big fan of cruise control, I found myself using Mercedes’ Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control on both the E350 BlueTec and the S350 BlueTec.  The system uses radar sensors to maintain a preset distance behind the vehicle ahead. It can brake the car to a complete stop and then resume acceleration when appropriate, making it particularly useful in stop-and-go traffic.

In combination with Distronic Plus, Pre-Safe Braking applies full braking power in emergencies.  When the system senses an imminent collision, it emits three warning tones.  If the driver does not react, roughly 1.6 seconds prior to likely impact, the system initiates partial braking and Pre-Safe safety measures such as closing the sunroof and side windows, tightening safety belts, and moving seats to a safer position, are initiated as well.

Click here to continue to Page 3 – Driving the Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec Sedan

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