2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec Review and First Test Drive

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DRIVING THE 2012 MERCEDES-BENZ S350 BLUETEC SEDAN

The S350 BlueTec joined our short-term test fleet a few days after I returned from driving our new long-term E350 BlueTec in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands. 

Clearly, the E-Class and S-Class are two very different sedans and intended for different audiences.  In addition, in my first week I drove over 1200 km in the E-Class, largely on German Autobahnen and Dutch snelwegen, and my driving with the S3530 BlueTec has been more of a mixture of in-town driving and highway.

The first thing I noticed was how quiet the cabin was, even quieter than the S550 and very surprising for a diesel.

At low speeds, acceleration was a bit unhurried but the 455 pound-feet of torque made passing and acceleration on highway on-ramps a breeze.  Cornering at speed, however, was not the S350’s strong suit and I sense that the ContiProContact “Grand Touring” tires may be part of the reason. While they provided an ultra smooth ride and were very quiet, they appreciated plenty of notice before entering a curve.  The diesel’s additional weight (roughly 400 pounds more than the S400 Hybrid) not to mention the latter’s better weight distribution also might be to blame.

The Distronic Plus radar cruise control not only allows one to set a desired speed and distance between vehicles and let the car do all the work, but it also does it more smoothly than most drivers would, thereby improving overall fuel economy.  On a 90 minute, 44 mile (70 km) drive in a mix of stop-and-go highway traffic and local streets, the S350 BlueTec used 8.4 l/100 km (28 mpg) of fuel with an average speed of 30 mph (48 km/h)

While comfort in front was excellent, with seats that seem to adjust in infinite directions and four different massage programs for both the driver and the passenger, rear-seat passengers are hardly left out.  Their seats are fully adjustable, heated, and ventilated, and each passenger had an individual climate zone, an LCD entertainment system, and power side-window sun shades (there’s a rear windshield shade also).  Up front, the SplitView Comand screen allows the driver to see maps and directions while the passenger can watch a video or movie.

Even at Autobahn speeds, the S350 BlueTec’s cabin was hushed and subdued.  Infinitely adjustable seats, massage, technology that tells the driver when he’s too tired to drive, and an interior that exudes a sense of luxury and comfort make this a supremely rational luxury car.

Today’s oil burners are the smart choice for new luxury car buyers in the U.S.  While the hype may continue to be about hybrids, diesels tend to be less expensive to purchase and maintain while providing comparable fuel economy.  The S-Class, currently the most expensive diesel in the U.S., provides a combination of luxury and unsurpassed fuel economy for its class, that should merit the consideration of most luxury car buyers.

 

2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec
Base price/price-as-tested $90,000 (estimated/NA
Drivetrain Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6
Horsepower/Torque 240/455
Transmission 7-speed automatic
Curb weight  (lbs) 4,784
Wheelbase  (inches) 124.6
Length x width x height  (inches) 206.5 x 73.7 x 58
0-60 mph (seconds) 7.0
City/Highway fuel economy (mpg) 20/31

 

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