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First Drive: 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 Turbodiesel

A powerful performer that also delivers great mileage.

by on Dec.09, 2011

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec.

Let me get this out of the way: I’ve been a fan of Mercedes-Benz products for decades.  I remember my freshman year in college, when everyone still drove American cars, and my buddy Joe had a mint condition 230 sedan.  Yes, it was slow, but it still was a Benz, and I not only felt cool riding around in it, but I also felt incredibly safe, and for good reason, as Mercedes-Benz has long been a leader in safety technology.

Graduation in the early 80s saw diesel powered Benzes at their peak.  You could choose from entry level diesel sedans, to a cool coupe, to the top of the line S-Class diesel.  In fact, 80% of Mercedes-Benz sales during that time were diesel-powered models. But due to increasing diesel fuel prices, and a general dislike of the then smelly, slower accelerating process that was diesel, sales waned, and the last full-sized Benz diesel sold in the United States was the 1995 S350.

So, perhaps, it’s appropriate that the diesel new flagship of the German maker’s U.S. line-up is the new 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec.

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Though Mercedes restarted U.S. production of diesel powered cars and SUVs several years ago, model year 2012 represents the return of the big S-Class diesel, and it is an incredibly fun car to drive.  Because high torque diesels make their power at low RPM, when you put you foot into the new S-Class, it moves out with startling authority (0-60 mph in seven seconds). And with new technology, very low sound levels accompany this powerful acceleration.  Take one on a test drive, and if you didn’t know going in you were driving a diesel model, I’d bet nine of ten drivers would not know they weren’t driving a gasoline powered car.


Mercedes Adding New Model at U.S. Plant

All new product will be fifth in Tuscaloosa.

by on Oct.21, 2011

Mercedes-Benz will add an all-new model at its Alabama assembly plant.

Daimler AG plans to spend $350 million to produce another model at it US production center in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, starting in 2015, and also plans to add jobs next year at its Western Star truck plant in Portland, Oregon.

The entirely new Mercedes-Benz model will roll off the production line as its fifth product and is expected to add some 400 additional jobs at the plant.

Tuscaloosa has been the production site of the Mercedes-Benz M-, GL-, and R-Class SUVs and is also slated to start build the Mercedes-Benz C-Class for the North American market beginning 2014.

Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Daimler Board of Management and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, said the new model coming to Tuscaloosa is part of the company’s plans to broaden its product line.

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“This new model from the Tuscaloosa plant is an important element of our growth strategy. It is one of the ten additional models which we will introduce within the next four years alone across all segments,” said the CEO, adding that, “At the same time, we are systematically broadening our manufacturing footprint in the NAFTA region.”


First Look: 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class

Beauty is more than skin deep.

by on Dec.23, 2010

Body changes are modest with the 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but there are some big changes under the hood.

Beauty should be more than skin deep.  So, while most makers will be pointing to the all-new sheet metal they’ve got on display at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, expect Mercedes-Benz to be pointing out what’s underneath when it comes time to preview the new 2012 C-Class.  And, curiously, the German maker will have the car on display only during a brief backgrounder for journalists, but not on the show floor at Cobo Center.

In fact, the cosmetic changes to the popular luxury sedan will be relatively modest, especially on the exterior, with a new aluminum hood and updated headlights and running lamps.

Sitting behind the wheel you’ll notice a bit more significant update, with a new leather-wrapped wheel lifted from the CLS and a completely redesigned dashboard, now aimed to spotlight the new high-resolution, multi-color instrument cluster.

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But you may need to read the manual – or actually listen to the salesman’s spiel to discover all the additional features, notably including safety updates like Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Attention Assist – which will flag you when you appear drowsy – and Parktronic.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class gets a significant interior update, including an all-new IP.

Another place Mercedes offers some assistance is at the gas pump.  The maker claims to have improved fuel economy by up to 15% with the introduction of two new direct-injection engines and an updated 7-speed automatic gearbox.

The top-of-the-line powerplant for the C-Class will now be the C350’s 302-horepower V6.  That’s up 34 hp, while torque jumps from 258 to 273 lb-ft.  Using the BlueDirect process, the maker says, it has been able to bump up performance and mileage simultaneously, the C350’s 3.5-liter powertrain driving 0-60 times in the low 6 second range while fuel economy improves 5%.

The big mileage gains come from the new turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four that will power the C250. Combined mileage is 24 mpg – 15% better than the old C300 — with 0-60 times rated by the maker at 7.1 seconds.

Mercedes Will Double its A- and B-Class Line-Up

Sees growing demand for urban commuter cars

by on Apr.14, 2010

Mercedes-Benz will double the number of its offerings in the A- and B-Class segments.

Mercedes-Benz plans to double the number of vehicles it offers in the A- and B-Class segments by the end of 2011, Daimler AG chief executive officer Dieter Zetsche told the company’s shareholders.

“By the end of next year, we will offer four models in our current A-Class and B-Class segments instead of the previous two. Each of these models will demonstrate that a small Mercedes also can thrill customers,” Zetsche said as he spoke at the company’s annual meeting.

“We are very happy to have the A-and B-class class vehicles in the portfolio,” Zetsche said, adding they help Mercedes meet new regulations mandating substantial cuts in C02 emissions, which are forcing carmakers of all kinds to re-shape their product lines.

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The Daimler CEO stressed that unlike small cars of the past, the new models “will be profitable,” as well. That’s a significant issue in the luxury market, where buyers have traditionally equated size with worth.

“We will base all four successor models of the A-Class and B-Class on largely identical vehicle architecture, while simultaneously ensuring maximum product differentiation for our customers,” Zetsche said.