Quick Drive: 2011 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec

By Winding Road Staff

November 03, 2011

I drove the S350 BlueTec not long after trying out the S400 Hybrid. Personally, I was more of a fan of the hybrid, though. The S400 has more horsepower, and the sensation of driving the already near-silent car under electric power feels super smooth and stealthy. For my money, though, I’d buy the S350, even though the two versions are only several hundred dollars apart in price.
If I’m buying either the S400 or S350 over the S550, part of the focus is on fuel efficiency. The diesel S-Class achieves 21/31 miles per gallon, while the hybrid only gets 19/25. If I own this car along with others, this is going to be the one I take on longer drives, where highway mileage is more important.
And what a great road-trip car this would make. The seats are super comfortable, and the Drive-Dynamic seats offer active bolstering and various massage settings. With the night view assist, driving through the night is a little easier. Plus, it’s hard to beat the amount of space and quality materials inside the S-Class. They really do afford a lot of comfort.
—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor
John has the right idea here. The S350 is the more fuel-efficient ride, and it’s considerably smoother than the hybrid S-Class. That being said, I wouldn’t want this diesel anymore than I’d want the S400 Hybrid. No, give me the good ole’ V-8-powered S550 instead.
As good as the S350 was, I never really felt like I was driving an S-Class. That diesel exhaust note and the short-lived punch (relative to the brawny V-8) of the 3.5-liter oil-burner never put me in the mindset of driving a very high-end luxury sedan. Yes, you still get the beautiful interior found in ever S-Class, and the available options are excellent, but without that traditional V-8 powerplant, this vehicle never felt quite right to me.
Finally, if I’m spending over $100,000 for a full-size luxury sedan, odds are I can afford some extra dino juice. The S550’s rating of 16 and 21 miles per gallon aren’t great, but the sacrifice for the powerful feeling of a V-8 S-Class is totally worth it.
—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager
Diesel engine balances good power with 30-plus mpg on the highway
This car is incredibly quiet and comfortable
455 pound-feet of torque gives plenty of off-the-line punch
Stingy on steering feel and feedback
Diesel exhaust note lacks the refined sound of a V-8 S-Class
Optional equipment can raise the base price of $92,000 to our tester’s $113,000 price quickly