Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
For decades, the Mercedes S-Class has been the standard by which all other luxury cars are judged.Many times, features that appear on an S-Class are a glimpse into the future of the regular car.
The S-Class has always been a technical wunderkind; a testbed for the latest and greatest automotive technology that Mercedes has to offer.
The current car has everything from massaging seats to lane departure warnings and voice commands to a night vision camera. Yes, you read that right, the car has a night vision camera.
Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
This generation of S-Class is due to be replaced for the 2014 model year. But thankfully, Mercedes finally brought the best version of the car to America.The S350 BlueTEC is the first diesel fuelled S-Class to be offered in the USA in ages. We think it is absolutely magnificent.
Recently, we spent a week with the new S350. Our test car was chock full of options, which made the $92,550 base price balloon to $112,855. In fact, if you combine the prices of the last three cars we tested, the S-Class still costs $30,000 more.
This is easily the most expensive car we have had the privilege of parking in the BI Garage. And if you need to take a client to dinner, drive the kids to boarding school, or want to be a chauffeur in your spare time, there is nothing better.
If you want to take a car to a track day, the S350 is not for you.
However, if you want to be comfortable on a highway cruise or not feel potholes, this is the perfect car. The ride quality is impeccable.
But the big story of the S350 is the engine. The 3.0 liter turbo-diesel V6 has a mere 240 horsepower. However, it has a monstrous 455 pound feet of torque. Low-end torque like this equals great drivability.
From a standstill, the S350 feels like it can pull stumps out of the ground. On the highway, you can accelerate for a pass and the car pulls effortlessly.
The car also injects an additive called 'AdBlue,' a urea-based formula, into the exhaust to negate emissions. The S350 is one of the cleanest cars on the road.
We never got tired of the distinct turbodiesel sound. There was just something awesome about driving a big sedan that sounds like a large truck.
Driving tech also abounds. There is a lane departure warning, an automatic braking system, radar cruise control, and even a system that knows if the driver is drowsy. We aren't totally sure how that last one works, and our attempts at feigning drowsiness went unnoticed.
While the controversial 2002 E65 BMW 7-Series was panned by consumers and critics alike, BMW had started a trend towards more avant garde styling for cars.
The S-Class followed that trend when it hit the roads in 2006. The trunk rises above the rest of the body and the the taillights were divided by slats.
Much like the BMW, the S-Class received a refreshed style shortly into the production run, as the design proved to be just a little too far removed from industry trends.
What was controversial has evolved into an attractive car. The LED accent lighting is a nice touch.
But that has not made it appear any smaller. No matter how you look at it, the S350 is very large.
The interior is glorious.
Rich leather and wood is everywhere to touch. The lighting comes on slowly as if you are in a theatre.
There are even intricate details, like textured handgrips behind the door handles. It's small nuances like these that separate the S-Class from other cars on the road.
In the dash, the analogue clock received immediate compliments from everyone that was in the car.
Then there are some amazing features. The front seats are heated, cooled, and even have four different massage settings. There are even three different colours for the interior lighting.
The navigation screen has a setting called 'SplitView.' This means the driver sees radio stations or navigation, while the passenger can watch a movie...on the same screen.
For rear seat passengers, there are reclining, heated and cooled seats (sorry, no massage), dual video screens, and electric sunshades.
Everything about the interior politely whispers class and sophistication. We never wanted to get out.
There is some wood on the steering wheel. We didn't care for that.
Other than that, there is a more existential issue. The day we picked up the S350, we were also dropping off a Hyundai Genesis.
On the way to the Lincoln Tunnel in the morning, merging was a cinch. People were just friendly to us in the Hyundai.
However, when we were heading home, it seemed people were going out of their way to block us from changing lanes. Simply put, it seems there is a resentment or jealousy factor among other drivers towards the S-Class.
Or it may have just been anger that a 25-year old was driving one.
Another interesting note is that we ran over a sizable screw with the car and got a flat. To our surprise, the S350 is not equipped with run flat tires. This is a good thing for ride quality, as run flats tend to be very stiff and heavy.
However, the clientele for a car like this typically are not adept at changing tires or getting their hands dirty. Roadside assistance will definitely be getting its fair share of phone calls.
We love nearly everything about the car.
Aside from typical S-Class fare, like the interior that is nicer than a house, the turbodiesel is what sets this car apart.
It is a throwback to the solid, bulletproof Mercedes cars of old.
The diesel also was very economical. We saw around 30 MPG for the week, and we touched 40 MPG on the highway a number of times. A range of nearly 700 miles meant we didn't even have to get diesel.
If you are shopping in this class of car, you cannot go wrong with the S350.
If you are shopping for an S-Class, frankly, we think it's foolish to buy any other version.
The S63 AMG and S65 AMG simply do not fit in the lineup. Huge power, massive wheels, and a stiffer suspension mean you'll be avoiding potholes and bumps left and right and cursing every time you get near one.
The other models, the S550, S400 Hybrid, and S600 do not have the same combination of economy and drivability that the S350 has. It is silent at speed and sounds great under acceleration. The availability of low-end torque is what makes the S350 fantastic.
Unfortunately, diesel has always had a negative connotation in America for being dirty and smelling bad. It is going to be tough for Mercedes to teach people otherwise.
And that's too bad because the S350 is the best S-Class, and one of the best cars, money can buy.
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