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Published on October 26th, 2011 | by Zane Merva

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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC Diesel worth the 15 year wait?

Mercedes is serious about offering S-Class buyers a lot of choice when it comes to the engine that will power their Benz. Today, buyers can choose from six unique and compelling powerplants that deliver big on everything from raw power to fuel economy.

Want a 621-horsepower V-12 four door sedan? You’ve got it in the S65 AMG. Maybe you fancy all the luxury but really wanted a hybrid.  No need to worry, because MB also offers the S400.The most popular model, the S550, offers some middle ground.  A 4.6L Twin-Turbo V8 producing 429-horsepower.  If those options are not right for you, then a 510-horsepower S600 and 536-horsepower S63 AMG will most likely be right up your alley. Even with an all you can eat powertrain buffet, one type of engine has been noticeably absent in S-Class.  A diesel.

2012 marks the year that a diesel engine option returns to the US S-Class for the first time since 1996.  In the US, cheaper priced gas mixed with misconceptions about diesel have fueled a negative perception about the use of diesel in cars. In reality, diesel makes a great choice in cars for many reasons.  While it may be a more expensive fuel per gallon, diesel engines provide a significant increase in fuel economy.  Diesels are also fun to drive, producing power in a more usable and lower RPM range compared to their gasoline counterparts.

The S350 BlueTEC is powered by a 3.0L turbodiesel. It’s the same basic engine that you’ll find on other Mercedes BlueTEC models that are currently on the market, but slightly more powerful.  It produces a not so great looking 240-horsepower, but in reality that’s not very worrisome.  Because it’s turbocharged, the diesel engine in the S350 produces an earth moving 455 lb-ft of torque.

Think  four-door super luxury sedan that punches you in the gut every time you throw down the throttle.

We drove the S350 on the streets of downtown Boston and came away with the impression that the car is a bruising sleeper. First off, you’d never know it was a diesel unless someone told you. It’s that quiet and that smooth. Secondly, the low end punch on acceleration is impressive for any car, let alone one of this size.

Along with brute force, the BlueTEC diesel also satisfies the fuel miser in all of us.  Able to get an estimated 31-mpg on the highway, the S350 rates 5-mpg better than the S400 hybrid or the popular S550.  That’s right, the diesel S350 out performs the hybrid S400 on city and highway fuel economy by a large margin. The S350 also comes standard with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, which is sure to make northerners happy.

To top everything off, the S350 is the second cheapest in the S-Class lineup. It’s $92,550 base price is only $700 more expensive than the S400 Hybrid.  The specifications of the S350 nearly make the S400 Hybrid obsolete.  All-wheel-drive and a 5-mpg gain on the highway seems to be a great deal for only $700 more.

But not everything about the S350 is better. Because it’s a “clean diesel”, the S350 uses a diesel exhaust fluid to curb emissions. The fluid must be refilled periodically, but Mercedes believes that most owners will never have to worry about filling the separate 7-gallon tank (located under the spare tire).  This is because a full tank should only need to be refilled beyond the 10,000 dealer maintenance interval, and thus will be topped off by dealers.

Owners who want to refill on their own can do so relatively easy since the process only requires removing the spare tire.

The bottom line

We drove the S350 BlueTEC around Boston and came away impressed.  The low end torque is outstanding and the fuel economy is impressive.  Mercedes diesels have proven to be bullet proof, so expect the engine in the S350 to keep churning for as long as you keep the car around it intact. It may have taken Mercedes-Benz 15 years to offer a diesel engine in the S-Class again but as far as we can see it was well worth the wait.

We’re itching to spend more time in the S350 and hope to do so late next month.  Look for our full review then.

 

 

 

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About the Author

Obsessed with cars since he was a kid, he's long loved tinkering with a wide range of vehicles, from trucks to sports cars. His passion for writing about cars was kick-started by a S-10 ZR2 and a Chevrolet Corvette.



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