I was on vacation in Baltimore, MD recently, and Mercedes-Benz loaned me a 2012 S350 BlueTEC 4Matic for the occasion. I was there celebrating the 80th Birthdays of my grandfather and his best friend. So it was only fitting that we had a big luxury cruiser to chauffeur my grandfather around in. Happy Birthday, Pop!
Mercedes-Benz have yet to give RawAutos a chance to test one of their excellent crop of vehicles (kissing up, yes). But this isn’t the first time I’ve had a Mercedes steering wheel grace my palms. Over the years, no matter how spoiled this makes me sound, I’ve piloted about a dozen different SLs, some C-Classes, Es, and a couple AMGs. One car that’s always eluded me, however, was the S-Class.
The e-mail the morning I was leaving to drive from Raleigh, NC to Baltimore read something like this, “Hey Josh, we have an S550 and an S350 BlueTEC 4Matic for you if you still would like a car while you’re up here.” Uh, why yes, of course. I pondered for a second, thinking aloud, “An S550 would be pretty cool… but the S350 is the better story.” I told the gentleman that either would be fine and to surprise me with the Monroney (the legally mandated window sticker) for the one of his choice. I was delighted when I got the sticker for the S350 BlueTEC, a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 diesel making a predictable 240 hp, but a beautiful 455 lb-ft of torque. You’ll need that torque to lug around the 4985 lbs before you put anything in it.
With a base MSRP of $93,425 (including destination fee), the S350 BlueTEC is the first step in the S-Class ladder, followed by the S400 Hybrid -which is, oddly, $170 less with destination fee than the S350. Because of this, you would be forgiven to think the S350 BlueTEC was an uber-luxury sedan that cared nothing about gas mileage. I mean, really, if you’re spending over 100 grand on a car, are you actually worried about how much gas it’s saving you each time you drive it to your mistresses house? Not really. Neither inside nor out are there any signs to let you know that this is in fact a diesel. The only potential hint would be the BlueTEC badge on the rear deck; that is, if you knew what BlueTEC actually stood for. The Blue Efficiency badge on the front fenders are on all non-AMG S-Class sedans.
So why, then, do you buy an S350 BlueTEC diesel? The gas mileage, stupid (for those of you born after 1990, I’m doing a take on this).
The W221 S-Class of current is just visually stunning to look at. As dumb as it may sound, you don’t really need a Maybach in any case, because an S will get you plenty of respect and stares no matter where you drive. People had no idea a turbo diesel lay up under the hood of my S350. And realistically, they most likely wouldn’t have cared less. Once anyone plops their larger American buttox onto one of the supple leather seats that feel like a cushion in Heaven, they’ll forget all about life. Couple that with pure luxury that allows the car to stop for you when you have the Adaptive Cruise Control set.
I went to test out the system with my mother, father, and grandfather all in the car, and I was rather timid. You’re always scared, no matter who’s car it is, when you intentionally don’t touch the brake pedal when everyone in front of you are doing. Instead, the Mercedes S350 BlueTEC came to a nice halt without the slightest bit of drama, or any feeling of error. I feel as though some cars make you feel bad for almost having a crash, whereas the S350 just held my hand and took care of it for me. From this moment on, I set the cruise control and let it stop and go for me. The only times I intervened were when we had to make a turn of some sort.
From behind the wheel you wouldn’t know it’s a diesel, but once you step out of it you’ll hear the motor… if you’re paying attention. Most people didn’t notice. A couple did, but that was only the ones who already knew it was a diesel. My brother Jason, probably the biggest critic of German luxury cars, even said the car sounded perfectly fine, with only a small amount of diesel sound, but so little that you’d never pay enough attention to it. Touché. None of that will matter, however, because you’ll be getting an EPA estimated 21 mpg in the city, with 31 mpg being achieved on the highway. I averaged a nice round 25 mpg between mostly city, with a little bit of highway. I know if I had driven the highway a little more, without the stop and go of all the torrential downpour traffic, I could have seen more than 30 mpg easy.
Unfortunately, for all of the luxury and amazing fuel mileage, you’d certainly never mistake it for a sports car. Now I know that most of you reading this will question my thought process on this, but just hear me out. At no point did I think the brakes were anything more than just good enough. While they work fine, and they stop well, they just didn’t have a lot of confidence when stopping hard and at the last minute. I over shot a couple of turns that I didn’t realize were coming up, and I didn’t believe in the brakes enough to just stomp on them and take the corner. This won’t matter to some, but others will notice it. Again, good enough for daily use, but in last minute situations I would have like a little more feel in the pedal, but also a little more urgency when slamming on them. It should be noted that I never got into a situation where I had to make an emergency stop to avoid anything, though. So it’s possible they would have been fine in that instance.
This brings me to another complaint: the lack of Bluetooth audio. I’ll just say, the S350 BlueTEC doesn’t have it, and that was annoying. The navigation could also let me know that I’m coming up on my turn more quickly, too. It seemed it knew where to go, but would really only alert me when I was about a half mile away on the highway. Which on any part of I-95 in Maryland can mean disaster when trying to get over into the far right lane.
Occupants are treated to a cabin that coddles rather than mimics luxury, like some cars do these days. The S350 BlueTEC I had allowed rear passengers to recline and relax their seats, while the people in the front had just as much comfort. I could go for a little more control on the upper back region, however. I’d like it to tilt to so I don’t have to lean back as much as I did. Regardless, it’s like a Gulfstream G280 inside; not exactly a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, but certainly nothing to be scoffed at. One of the coolest features is the adaptive seats. As you go around a corner, the bolsters help to aid whichever side is leaning into said corner. This way your body stays in one place most of the time. Along with that, you also get massaging seats, which do, well, exactly what they say they do.
Sadly it rained most of the time I was in Baltimore, but the 4Matic all-wheel drive system under the S350 BlueTEC was superb. Never once did I think it wasn’t a rear-wheel drive car, even corner harder at times to see how good the chassis and suspension were, and I didn’t notice any understeer to report to you. Although I did realize that the S350 BlueTEC definitely doesn’t handle like a sports car on back roads. This isn’t really a problem, though, because of all the luxury it does so well.
The S350 BlueTEC I had came equipped with the SplitView entertainment system. And while I didn’t get to use it on this occasion, I’ve played around with this technology in the past; it’s very cool. Basically, the front passenger can play a DVD on the navigation screen while I, the driver, am still looking at the actual nav, the radio, or whatever else. They’re listening to their movie on a pair of Bluetooth headphones while the speakers are free for the driver to hear whatever.
At the end of my week with the 2012 S350 BlueTEC I not only appreciated diesel in luxury cars, I think they’re a necessity for cars of this size. I achieved about 25 mpg between mixed driving. I know if I’d spent more time on the open road, without traffic jams caused by bad weather, I’d have probably exceeded the 31 mpg Mercedes-Benz claim the S350 can do. Over my life I’ve driven everything from BMW 7s, Porsche Panameras, various other luxury cruisers, and I’ve been a chauffeured passenger in the current Jaguar XJ, as well as the Audi A8. While all of them are amazing works of art and comfortable places to be, no one, and I mean no one, makes luxury like Mercedes-Benz do. If you want every piece of technological gadget, the most advanced safety features (the S-Class has been the first, or one of, to use most of the modern safety features that are standard on all passenger cars), and the utmost comfort while being driven, or if behind the wheel, then the S350 BlueTEC is your car.
In 1978 Mercedes-Benz made the first production car to feature a turbo-diesel motor with the 300D with a 3-liter inline-5. A mere 35 years later, they’re still producing one of the best luxury cars with a diesel motor. Thanks for caring a little more about our wallets and safety, Mercedes-Benz.
2012 S350 BlueTEC 4Matic
Destination fee: $875
Price as-tested: $108,640
3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel
4MATIC All-wheel drive
240 hp at 3,600 rpm
455 lb-ft of torque from 1,600-2,400 rpm
7-speed automatic transmission with paddles
Premium 1 Package
- Heated and active ventilated front seats
- Bi-Xenon headlamps with Active Curve Illumination
- Adaptive Highbeam Assist
- Corner-illuminating front lamps
- LED Daytime Running Lamps
AIRMATIC semi-active suspension
Adaptive Damping System
Electronic Stability Program (ESP®)
Perforated front brake discs with 4-piston calipers
10-way air bag protection
Advanced Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Antilock Braking System (ABS)
Antitheft alarm system
16-way power front seats with pneumatic lumbar support
Heated and Active Ventilated front seats
Power tilt/sliding tinted glass sunroof
HomeLink garage door opener
Electronic trunk closer
Heated power side mirrors with power fold-in
Noise-reducing infrared-reflecting glass
Heated headlamp washers
Electronic parking brake
115V AC socket
COMAND with central controller
Hard-drive navigation with Zagat Survey
Hands-free Bluetooth interface with Enhanced Voice Control (EVC)
Sirius Satellite Radio with Sirius Traffic
7.2GB Music Register
6-disc CD/DVD changer
iPod/MP3 Media Interface
harman/kardon LOGIC7 sound system with Dolby Digital 5.1
HD Radio receiver
Palladium Silver Metallic $0
Chestnut Brown/Black Premium Leather $2,290 (special order)
Burl Walnut Wood Trim $325
20-inch 10-spoke wheels $2,020
Premium 2 Package $3,630
Driver Assistance Package $2,950
Rear Seat Package $3,040
SPLITVIEW front-seat entertainment system $710
Special Order $250