At first glance, the 2011 E350 BlueTec looks like just another mid-sized diesel car from Mercedes-Benz. Nothing special, right?
1. Powering the E350 BlueTec is a 3.0L turbo-diesel that makes 210-hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.
2. Acceleration is rated at 6.7 seconds to 60-mph with fuel economy of 22/33-mpg (city/hwy).
3. The diesel-powered Benz starts at $50,900; a $1,400 increase over the gas-powered E350.
4. Mercedes is planning to deliver more diesel models in the U.S., including a diesel C-Class and GLK.
Well, considering that the company is now celebrating the 125th anniversary of its founders creation of the automobile, and that Benz has a history with diesel engines in production vehicles dating back nearly a century, it’s worth a second look.
A modern ‘E’ is so far removed from the 1936 260 D, but there’s plenty of spirit and smart engineering in both to keep that familial link alive.
BLUETEC DIESEL: POWERFUL AND EFFICIENT
At the heart of the E350 BlueTec is a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine that – true to form – produces adequate horsepower and monster torque: 210-hp and 400 lb-ft respectively. Combined with the short gearing in the seven-speed automatic transmission, this Benz just flat-out scoots, hitting 60 mph from a stop in 6.7 seconds.
The electronic assists work hard to keep the rear wheels from peeling out, especially since the torque peaks at only 1,600 rpm. Floor it, feel the gearbox drop a couple – or three! – ratios, and it’s just a quiet, refined shot of power. The gears slur from one to the next with no real sense of change, unless you choose Sport mode where things are programmed to deliver slightly more feedback.
For those wondering if the BlueTec is a smelly, noisy mess, the answer is no. The engine is 50-state certified for emissions, and in the E350 provides fuel economy ratings of 22-mpg in the city and 33-mpg on the highway. That’s a massive leap forward from the gas-powered model, which only gets 17/24-mpg. With the 21 gallon fuel tank, the BlueTec has a potential range of over 600 miles between fill-ups.
BUT THERE’S A CATCH
The only complication is Mercedes-Benz’ reliance on urea injection into the exhaust – known as AdBlue – which does require topping up with almost every oil change to keep the NOx emissions low. While not horrendously expensive, it is another regular cost to consider above and beyond the maintenance costs compared to a gasoline-powered equivalent.
Regardless, the E350’s extra costs might be swept away after experiencing one yourself. The E-Class sedan is the segment leader in style and poise. The modern, sculpted shape is designed to cut through the air more efficiently, hiding a well-engineered platform with an independent suspension all around that’s adjustable for firmness. The brakes are well sized to bring the 4,059-lb. sedan to heel quickly, while standard 17-inch wheels with 45-series all-season tires do an adequate job of translating the driver’s demands to the pavement.
Visually, every E-Class can be ordered in either traditional Luxury trim with a four-slat grille and a monochrome interior highlighted by Burl Walnut, or with a no-charge Sport package that adds cross-drilled front brake discs hiding behind different 17-inch wheels, a three-bar grille, LED running lights, and a two-tone interior with aluminum accents. Regardless of which you choose, all BlueTec models come with LED taillights, heated power mirrors with integrated turn signals and dual exhaust.
The standard interior features include 14-way front seats with memory, power windows and locks, dual-zone climate control, a glass moon-roof, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio and phone functions integrated into the face, an eight-speaker sound system with a seven-inch screen, and Bluetooth hands-free. That’s pretty decent equipment for a mid-range model that starts at $50,900, but Mercedes-Benz loves when people spend money on options and personalization.
Two Premium packages carry most everything you could imagine. The first includes hard-drive-based navigation, a harmon/kardon HD sound system with a 6GB music box, a rear-view camera, power rear sunshade and heated seats for $4K.
The second – and you’re required to buy the first to get the second – adds an electronic trunk closer, active bi-xenon headlights with washers, LED running lights, and keyless ignition for another $2,500.
There’s also a Driver Assistance Package with nearly $3,000 worth of electronic nannies like radar-based cruise control, blind-spot assist and a system that keeps you in your driving lane. Other standalone options run the gamut from a panoramic sunroof, automatic parking, and a night-vision front camera, to a massaging driver’s seat and rear side airbags.
For now, the E350 BlueTec has the advantage of being the only mid-sized luxury car available with a diesel engine. Both the BMW 5-Series and new Audi A6 will be available as hybrids in North America, but the derv-burners are staying in Europe. Expect the new Lexus GS to follow suit in the next year too. The current GS does offer a hybrid option with similar power and fuel economy, but the rest of the package is dated.
Like all E Classes, the 350 BlueTec hits the sweet spot for power, features and luxury but now adds fantastic fuel efficiency too. If they only slapped that turbo-diesel into an E-Class Wagon, Mercedes-Benz would have the ultimate road-trip machine.