Diesel’s back in big Mercedes-Benz – USATODAY.com

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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