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Quick Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC – don’t call it a TURBODIESEL

Kamil Kaluski October 27, 2011 Mercedes-Benz Reviews 50 Comments

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?
  • PotbellyJoe

    Great, now i have LL Cool J in my head. That should be useful for my work day.

  • Hold the lane, and have a cup of coffee.

    Henceforth, I am calling all AMG products RedTECH.

  • TurboBrick

    So where is the coffee maker and can you use just Folgers in it or do you have to buy special AMG grind from the dealer?

    • Kamil_K

      AMG grind… sounds like some kind of dirty dancing that kids these days are doing.
      "Yo, I just AMG grinded her!"
      "No way! all I got was the //M Grab"

      • TurboBrick

        Hmm… Lexus performance special designation these days is the letter "F"… how can I use that as a verb….

  • tonyola

    The 1979-1991 W126 is still the best looking S-class (and possibly the best-looking sedan) that Mercedes has ever made. Serious and imposing in the Mercedes tradition with just enough curves to give it an elegant sleekness.

    • Kamil_K

      You have no idea how much I miss that car. I'll do a story on it one day.

  • OA5599

    The blue pee solution in the trunk reminds me of a story a nurse once told me.

    She was working a job at a drug-screening lab, testing job applicants for drug use. They had special bathrooms for specimen collection–the sinks were outside in plain view, and the toilets were tankless and the water spiked with blue dye chemical to deter applicants from diluting their real urine.

    A guy came out of the bathroom and handed her a cup of blue liquid. She asked what it is, and he said it was his pee. She reminded him that the toilets had blue dye and that the specimen was the same shade of blue, and he insisted there was no toilet water in the cup. "That's just the way I pee," he said.

    Of course, the test showed the sample was indded the blue chemical-treated water, and the company was advised not to hire the guy.

    • dukeisduke

      He should have claimed he was part Smurf.

      • pj134

        He should have claimed his father was a horseshoe crab.

  • Van Sarockin

    I thought BleTec was a VW specific thing. Guess not.
    Impressive new technology, especially since those old turbo diesels were clackitty loud and generated their own smoke screen.
    But it mainly looks like a whole lot of expensive electro techno to crap out on you in a few years. Guess it's pretty good for folks who get them on lease as company cars, though.

    • Kamil_K

      The fluid additive, BlueWhateverItsCalled, is standard for all diesels: VW, Ford, BMW, etc…

      • dukeisduke

        It's a urea solution.

        • Van Sarockin

          Piss off, I knew that.

          • Kamil_K

            Me too!

          • Devin

            That's a wee harsh, don't you think?

            • pj134

              Depends on the state of mind urine.

      • Manic_King

        In Europe it's called AdBlue, another "blue"…..Germans have decided that clean diesel tech = blue

  • dukeisduke

    It's too bad they don't give us a SWB, RWD version. That would be sweet. And what's the deal with the brake hold feature, anyway? What happens if you accidentally put your foot on the gas, while your foot is off the brake? Does it release the brakes and slam into the car in front of you?

    And oh yeah, I hate lug bolts, too. What a pain it was changing tires on my Audi Fox.

    • Kamil_K

      Tapping gas or brake again disables the HOLD feature, smoothly. There is plenty of time to react and the car comes with that safety feature which stops it from hitting the car in front of you. What happens if you accidentally hit the gas pedal in any car tho?

      • dukeisduke

        Ah okay, thanks KK.

      • "What happens if you accidentally hit the gas pedal in any car tho?"

        Well, nothing much, unless you've also got it in gear and let out the clutch…. Oh. Right. Never mind, then.

        • The Professor

          Ha! You just admitted that you were a fossil.

    • I wouldn't even mind it being LWB-only if I could get it with rear-drive (though it would be nice if MB-Tex upholstery was a regular no-charge or for-credit option), but being from L.A., mandatory AWD on a rear-drive-platformed vehicle is a major turn-off for me. Same story with the CL550.

      Can't say I disagree with anything you said about your family's SD, Kamil. I love Lapis Blue, but I'm content to stick with my Orient Red '83.

      • Kamil_K

        The car is so heavy that the AWD is rather transparent.

        Oh, I didn't even begin to scratch the surface of my 300SD issues. 🙂

        • Right, but removing it would probably be worth a MPG or two.

          And I hope you do share some 300SD stories later, i.e. how many A/C compressors and/or window regulators your stepdad went through.

          • Kamil_K

            I think it was a marketing thing, so that it would be differentiated from the Hybrid. Also, the MB PR person started that it helps with the uber-torquey engine… i.e. prevents wheel spin. I don't know if I buy that.

            One the 300SD: one AC compressor, but the HVAC controls were a much bigger issue. Transmission sucked. Becker radio obviously. One rear window did not work and I didn't bother fixing, driver's side was loose. Turbo was on it's way out. Just the basic/common stuff.

            • My Becker is still working fine, and the sound quality through the four stock speakers isn't half bad. Of course, having sent it to Becker's New Jersey facility to install an aux-in jack might have elevated my opinion of it…

  • Feds_II

    Oh man, now I want one, strictly so I can pull up in front of a coffee shop, leave the car running and in gear, press the "Hold the car here while I get a coffee" button, then sue the crap out of Mercedes when hilarity/carnage ensues.

    • Kamil_K

      I don't know about MBs, but the new BMW automatic transmissions shift into park when a door is opened. It's quite annoying, especially when you like backing up with the door open, as I sometimes do.

      • dukeisduke

        Dang nannies.

      • Van Sarockin

        I almost tore the door off my pickup doing just that. I was so focused on getting the trailer headed right that I didn't see the tree right next to me. Luckily, metal that bends can be bent back, sort of.

        • Kamil_K

          Friend did that in high school in his Eagle Talon TSi pulling out of the garage. The sound of the metal slowly crunching as the door was pulled past the 90-degree mark was rather sweet. We all laughted and pointed at him.

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        i've driven my 244 a fair distance with one or more doors open for various reasons. Hypothetically, in a new BMW, if I latch the driver's door most of the way, get up to 30 or so, and then realise that I didn't shut the door all the way (or slammed a scarf in it, whatever excuse), will the car slam itself into park and redecorate the bitumen with kibbles'n'gearbits, or is it smart enough not to pull that shit above a few miles per hour?

        • Kamil_K

          I don't know, I have not tried, but that's a damn good question.

          BMW automatic transmissions tend to "redecorate the bitumen with kibbles'n'gearbits" over time anyway. Soon, auto transmission replacement and cooling system overhaul will be part of a regular maintenance.

          • FuzzyPlushroom

            Give it a shot for science! See if you can work out the maximum speed at which the system will activate.

            Actually, on the way home the other night I suspected, from a faint whistling/buffeting noise to my left, that the door of the Outback I was driving wasn't completely closed; I slowed to 30, pulled to the side, and opened it and slammed it shut. Of course, it was just the frameless window not sealing perfectly to the door and making itself audible above 50 MPH, but still – there's the sort of excuse you'll be able to provide when BMW asks why the parking pawl is sheared, should they not have a safety mechanism in place.

            • Kamil_K

              Next time I am in a bimmer, sure.

  • Blue or bluetec is a German term/brand/thing for clean diesel tech. VAG, MB and I believe BMW all have some kind blue badge/thing for it.

    For us they're an oddity, but diesels have so much more market share over there that it's kind of a big deal.

    At first, I was like "31mpg? Holy crap, that's awesome!"
    …then I realized the car's so expensive, who cares what kind of mileage you get?

    • Kamil_K

      Even if I was able to afford a sun-$100k car, the weekly trip to the pump would still pain me on the inside.

    • skitter

      The car's real party trick is 24mpg on the Autobahn at 120.

      Edit: Maybe it was 19. I don't remember the 1 AM math, and don't want to exaggerate.

      • The Professor

        Oh, come now. This is Hooniverse.

    • dukeisduke

      Hyundai uses the tag "BlueActive"

  • "BlueTEC" henceforth shall be my spiffy new way of referring to two-stroke smoke.

  • We don't get the AWD variant, and the S350 CDI, in RWD SWB format is by far and away our best selling S-Class. Such a shame we don't get the V8 S450 CDi that mainland Europe does. The 350 is already quick, the 450 must be ridiculous.

    I did a cheauffeuring trip in an S350 CDi, propelling our Chief Exec to a meeting at MB HQ. The difficult thing was remembering that I had somebody in the back, monitoring my every move. Kind of a buzzkill. Fortunately, he sensed my frustration and authorised me to misbehave on the way home. At that point the S turned from a great car into a superb one. 65-110 mph was my favourite acceleration increment.

  • NTIV10

    I am just so glad that MB is offering a diesel S-Class in the US again.

  • P161911

    "guess the BlueTEC name is supposed represent the owner as being almost green, or socially responsible, but not being a tree-hugger. "
    So if you just pee in the little Blue tank you have a green car. Yellow+blue=green!

    • The Professor

      Plus, you'll get some smoke back. It's not a diesel unless it smokes like a burning tire.

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