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Mercedes S350 2011 Review

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ARE you having guilty dreams of luxurious, spacious and performance-oriented saloons and want to wake up? Mercedes-Benz this week rang the alarm clock on its new limousine that beats the Corolla at the bowser and most other cars in a traffic-light sprint.

It claims its new S-Class addition - the S350 BlueTec - gets a fuel consumption average of only 7.0 litres/100km and CO2 emissions of 185 grams per kilometre. It is the first car in Australia to better the ultra-stringent Euro-6 emission regulations - and I mean stringent because Australia is yet to even confirm adoption of Euro-5.

Yet the V6 turbo-diesel is satisfyingly quick, running to 100km/h from rest in only 7.1 seconds.  But it has another ooh-aah moment - it's the cheapest S-Class simply because its fuel economy figure puts it in a favourable tax bracket.

Its 7 l/100km economy means the Federal Government's 33 per cent luxury car tax doesn't kick in until the $75,000 mark. Cars that don't meet that target get the LCT hit from about $57,000.

Mercedes-Benz Australia boss Horst von Sanden says that cuts $7122 off the price. Yes, at $213,428 the S350 BlueTec still isn't cheap. It's just that while buyers warm themselves in the knowledge that they're doing their bit for the planet, they've also reduced their payout and took a financial swipe at the government coffers.

Mr Von Sanden expects the S350 BlueTec and its petrol-fuelled sister, the S350 Blue Efficiency that has an all-new engine, will boost S-Class sales by about 10 per cent this year. Last year, about 240 S-Class cars were sold.


The launch of the 2011 model S-Class includes the two 350 models plus the 320kW/700Nm 4.7-litre bi-turbo V8 S500 (from $296,975) and 380kW/830Nm 5.5-litre bi-turbo V12 S600 (from $412,000) plus the even more awesome S63 and S65 machines.


In the scheme of things, the S-Class is small bickies. But the model is a vital role model for the rest of the Mercedes Range. What big brother S-Class gets as standard equipment - from life-saving technology to clearer audio speakers - flows down over time to the lesser models.

That BlueTec engine technology - with its weeny emission level and uncompromised balance of performance and fuel efficiency - is destined for lesser things within models including the new B-Class (next year) and the staple C-Class range.

The technology is simple: It adds ammonia via a 27-litre tank to the exhaust system. This reacts with the outgoing nitrogen oxides to produce water and nitrogen gas, ridding the air of nitrous oxides and the diesel's visible hydrocarbon soot.  Mercedes says the ammonia tank lasts 20,000km-plus and is topped up at each service. 

"The S-Class remains at the pinnacle of technology," von Sanden says.  "It is the technology leader and there's no way we will change that.  But despite reducing emissions and fuel consumption, we are not sacrificing any other of our hallmarks including performance and comfort."


Inside and out, the S-Class retains the almost aloof lines of the flagship Mercedes Benz. It is a restrained style, one that doesn't quite turn heads yet carries a subtle message of wealth. People who need to know that you carry a bit more than a blue Visa card will get the message.

Standard equipment across the board now includes active lane keeping (warning via steering wheel pulses if the car touches the road lines), active blind spot assist (warns of vehicles in the driver's blind spots); minimum of 19-inch alloy wheels and included among the options, the traffic update system SUNA that starts this month.


The S350 BlueTec turbo-diesel shows virtually none of the signs of being an oil burner. It is unerringly quiet at idle and rises up the rev counter with such smoothness and silence that it is extremely unlikely anyone would pick its engine type.

It gets a seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters for those who need something extra. But the car doesn't need much extra.  Despite its near-2-tonne weight, it is agile and responsive. Shown a fast turn in the country it will bite down on its air suspension and pick its line with a flat body stance and firm yet uncomplaining steering feel.

Impressive is the way the 620Nm of torque can be fed through to the rear wheels at mid corner, producing a forceful push as the car exits.  The torque peak arrives at a mere 1600rpm and starts to drift downwards only from 2400rpm, leaving a fat margin in which the big car delivers its best and most enjoyable performance.

Above that, it is so comfortable. Mercedes seats are firm yet supportive - note that the rear seats feel softer - and that keeps the body intact while having fun through the bends.

The S350 Blue Efficiency - that's the 3.5-litre V6 petrol - gets an all-new engine. Technically there have been huge changes. On the road these translate into improved quietness and smoothness.  It's better again than the diesel, but not by much.

Notable was that despite its cleanly delivered power, it couldn't come near that locomotive thrust of the diesel when driving through hilly country.  City folk who potter around the town would probably stay with the petrol version, probably through habit because the diesel offers so much more including its huge range before refuelling.


Models: S350 BlueTec; S350 Blue Efficiency; S500; S600 Prices (respectively): $213,428; $220,650; $296,975; $412,000
Engines: 3-litre V6 turbo-diesel; 3.5-litre V6 petrol; 4.7-litre V8 bi-turbo petrol; 5.5-litre V12 bi-turbo petrol
Output: 190kW/620Nm; 225kW/370Nm; 320kW/700Nm; 380kW/830Nm
Economy: 7.0 l/100km; 9.0 l/100km; 10.5 l/100km; n/a
Transmissions: 7-speed auto

Pricing guides

Based on third party pricing data
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Range and Specs

S500 5.5L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $48,500 – 61,380 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2011 S500 Pricing and Specs
S63 AMG 6.2L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $63,800 – 80,630 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2011 S63 AMG Pricing and Specs
S350 CDI 3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO $49,900 – 63,140 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2011 S350 CDI Pricing and Specs
S600 L 5.5L, PULP, 5 SP AUTO $56,800 – 71,830 2011 Mercedes-Benz S-Class 2011 S600 L Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist