Frank S. Washington, Mon, 26 Mar 2012 02:32:31 PDT
DETROIT - Imagine my surprise when I landed at the airport here expecting to pick up a Mercedes-Benz E Class sedan. Instead, there was a Mercedes S350 waiting. Was I disappointed? C'mon!
The S350 had a diesel engine under the hood and it was another indication of how German luxury car manufacturers are moving toward smaller engines to meet new CAF standards and be politically correct.
By the numbers, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec had a 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel under its hood. It made 240 horsepower and a hefty 455 pound-feet of torque from 1,600 to 2,400 rpm. Top revolutions per minute (RPMs) were 4,750. The powerplant was mated to a seven speed automatic transmission.
This engine was another example of German automakers dispelling the notion of loud, smoke spewing diesel engines rift with knocks and sluggish performance. In fact, I actually pushed the start/stop button twice on my test vehicle when I first got in it because the engine was so quiet I didn't think the car had started.
BlueTec is the name Mercedes-Benz has used to brand its current diesel technology and the simplest explanation I could find for it was by Joe LaMuraglia at www.gaywheels.com.
"BlueTech' is the somewhat awkward name for the technology that Mercedes-Benz uses to make its new diesel engines powerful, efficient, quiet and virtually emissions-free. It consists of a turbo-diesel engine featuring common rail direct injection, a particulate filter and an exhaust treatment technology that pre-treats the exhaust with urea (a liquid) right before it enters the catalytic converter.
The last step is the most significant because the urea, or AdBlue in Mercedes-speak, allows the catalytic converter to reduce the nitrous oxide in the exhaust to harmless nitrogen and water vapor. The result is extremely clean exhaust with none of the black soot that used to be equated with diesel engines."
The upside of this technology is that BlueTec diesels, combined with cleaner diesel fuel, are sold in all 50 states. My S350 had a zero to 60 mph time of about seven seconds and it had a top speed that was electronically limited to 130 mph. The downside is that the AdBlue has to be replenished at the dealer.
Still, I found little difference in the S350 and Mercedes' V8 powered S550. My test car was super quiet, serenely powerful and it could stop on a dime. Someone made an unexpected left turn across my lane and I put maximum pressure on the brakes. My 4,784 lb. test vehicle stopped almost instantly.
On the Lodge Freeway, I pressed the pedal to the metal and the S350 took off and from 60 mph I was approaching 84 mph in a couple of seconds. Acceleration was so quick and the build of torque was so strong that I let up off the gas pedal before things really got out of hand.
Like most cars with a strong character, my S350 changed my driving. Cruising was cool, the car's driving manners were great and the cabin seemed like I was in an old study. My S350 wasn't bad on the eye - inside or out. The exterior was white, the interior featured charcoal leather with French stitching and the wood trim was Eucalyptus.
And my test car's creature comforts could only be matched by a handful of full-size luxury cars. It had an infra red based night vision system which I still think is the best I've seen. The rear seats were not only heated and cooled but they were adjustable including the head rests.
A split view navigation screen, a rear seat entertainment system, an active lane departure system, adaptive cruise control, a panorama (glass) sunroof and rear and side window blinds and massaging front seats were among the ample line up of accessories.
But I found this number most impressive. The 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 had an EPA rating of 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. After driving 171.3 miles my test vehicle still had not burn one quarter of tank of diesel fuel.
One way to think about it is that fuel economy probably doesn't matter to someone who can afford the S350 which had a base price of $92,550. With options, my test vehicle was priced at $113,400. But I say that even the affluent need to contribute to the saving of fossil fuel which improves air quality. And the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 is a great was to do it.