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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.