We had an ’84 Mercedes-Benz 300SD in the family. My diesel-loving stepfather randomly picked it up after wrecking his Jetta TDi. While it had a lot of issues, I loved that car. The 5-cylinder TURBODIESEL engine would propel the car approximately five seconds after the gas pedal was pressed, but when it did it, it did it with furious anger and a thick cloud of smoke. There were other problems too, such its inability to start in cold weather and the sound it made when it did start. And that is precisely what Mercedes-Benz wants you to forget, so much so that they are not even calling the new S-class diesel a “diesel” or, more properly, a “turbodiesel” – they are calling it S350 BlueTEC.
Side-effects aside, our 300SD was the perfect cruising vehicle. The seats were perfect for road trip, wide and comfortable, large moonroof allowed in plenty of light while remaining quiet, and the trunk was big enough to hold everyone’s baggage. The turbodiesel, which was positively miserable in the city, was in its element on the highway and smooth passing power being only a tip of a throttle and a whistle of a turbo away. The icing on this West German cake was the 30mpg+ fuel economy.
Thirty years of automotive progress is pretty much an eternity. Aside from the emblem, I was not expecting the 2012 S350 BlueTEC to be anything like my 300SD. This was proven before I even got into the car. When I took the picture of the blue-magical-mystery-fluid tank in the trunk, I was standing next to the car for good five minutes. At no time did I realize the engine was idling. It was silent; as opposed to the BMW X5d or 335d which can be recognized as a diesel at idle from about twenty feet away.
Driven around the city, the big Benzito behaved like any other modern luxury car, and unlike the 300SD. Power delivery was smooth and linear from stand-still, but some particularly sensitive could still sense a bit of a turbo lag. Bury the gas pedal into the plush floor-mats however, and you got shoved with into the leather, heated and ventilated, massaging, automatically-adjusting-side-bolster seat with furious anger and… almost-eerie silence.
On the highway however, is where the ancestry of the 300SD became evident. The big moonroof once again allowed the light in. Ahead a big hood with a star in the end, comfortable seats, and a ridiculous amount of passing power was just a tip of a throttle and a distant turbo whistle away. It is worth pointing out that the EPA rates this 4800-pound sedan at 31mpg on the highway. Road trip anyone?
My drive of the S350 was rather quick, few laps around town a quick stretch of the highway. While I managed to get a decent driving impression of the car I really wish I had more time to play with all the toys features of the S as there was a ton of them. Overall, well, it’s an S-Class Benz so it better be damn nice, and it was.
Few observations and opinions about the S350 BlueTEC:
- German companies really need to quit it with the weird names.
- The S350 has a temporary spare tire mounted over the blue-magical-mystery-fluid tank with its own lug-bolts. Why the Germans still refuse to use lug-nuts is beyond me.
- 4750rpm redline.
- Same equipment as S550 and S400 Hybrid, but the S350 comes only with all-wheel-drive.
- Priced between S400 Hybrid and S550.
- The optional power adjustable, heated, and ventilated rear seats were amazing.
- 7-Speed automatic transmission.
- The S comes in two wheelbases, but U.S. only gets the longer one.
- This is not the same engine as in the ML350, GL350, and E350 – the turbos are different.
- I guess the BlueTEC name is supposed represent the owner as being almost green, or socially responsible, but not being a tree-hugger. The tree-huggers can save the polar bears and prevent global warming by buying the 4600-pound S400 Hybrid.
- MB says that 5% will buy the hybrid and about 6% will buy the diesel.
- The bread-and-butter S550 is predominately sold with AWD.
- See where is says “HOLD” in the picture to the left? That’s a nifty little feature that holds the brakes for you at a stop light so you don’t have keep you foot on the brake – perfect for the uber-lazy like me.
- With the S-Class just around the corner, why introduce so late in the life cycle? MB says because of issues with engine certifications. I find that interesting because the W220 was available with a six-cylinder engine only during its last model year. Hmm…
- Unlike in a Lexus, the whole engine bay was not covered in plastic.
- Did I mention how quiet it was?