Mercedes-Benz has brought back a diesel version of its big S-Class sedan to the U.S. the first since the 1996 model.
It seems odd that it waited so long to field a diesel for the S-Class that met U.S. emissions rules, because Mercedes has been a diesel pioneer here and is doing good business with diesel power in its smaller E-Class sedans and in its SUVs.
Called the S350 Bluetec and introduced last fall as a 2012 model, it has all-wheel drive (called 4Matic) standard. Starting at $93,425 with shipping, it is near the bottom of the S-Class price list. Only the S400 hybrid is cheaper, at $92,725.
That makes the S350 diesel a relative bargain. For just $700 more, the diesel gives you the 4Matic not available on the hybrid, as well as better mileage and quicker acceleration. M-B says the hybrid sells best on the Left Coast, the diesel in the East and Snow Belt, and each accounts for about 5% of S sales.
The Bluetec diesel, emissions-legal in all 50 states and D.C., is a 3-liter, turbocharged V-6 and rated a modest (typical for diesels) 240 horsepower. But it’s rated a jaw-dropping 455 pounds-feet of torque available at just 1,600 engine revolutions per minute.
Perversely, for all that low-speed torque, it can’t get out of its own way from a dead stop if you nail the throttle. It oozes ahead until about 8 mph, then begins to accelerate as you intended.
But, if you ease into the throttle — push firmly and deliberately — the car gets going acceptably.
Mercedes-Benz acknowledges that “the engine will take a moment to spool up all systems” but says the pattern quickly becomes second nature.
Once underway, throttle response is vigorous and prompt.
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