A welcome austerity measure (Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec L)

Refined and frugal – the Mercedes S 350 Bluetec

Refined and frugal – the Mercedes S 350 Bluetec

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the current crop of low cost, low consumption and equally low emissions-rated small cars. No question, manufacturers are doing a sterling job in reducing CO2 and raising fuel economy for the masses.

But what about luxury cars? With more weight to pull around there’s only so much you can do. And it’s unlikely that occupants would be pleased to see the creature comfort count shrink to levels more common in a city runabout.

Clearly it’s going to be a compromise, although it doesn’t have to end in tears. And when you start talking about big cars you can’t not mention Mercedes’ S-Class.

Despite the car’s luxury aura, the S-Class is a regular fixture at airports, outside company headquarters and wafting along motorways. In the world of business class travel, the S-Class is the big cheese of premium limousines.

One thing we all know about business types is that they don’t like spending their own money, which is why fuel consumption and road tax are big issues for big cars. Mercedes has done some sterling work with its smaller models in reducing such burdens through efficiency savings, and the same is true of the S-Class.

In Bluetec form, the S350 diesel variant offers buyers – be they individuals or companies – the ability to save some cash without having to compromise on the important bits: space, refinement and performance.

Under the bonnet is a 3.0-litre V6, turbocharged diesel motor producing 258 horsepower. Quiet at idle and hushed at moderate speeds around town, it’s perfectly compliments the car’s refined and understated character. Mated to a seven-speed auto gearbox, progress is smooth and there’s rarely a reason why you’d need to reach for the gearchange paddles located behind the steering wheel.

Reaching for you wallet should also be a less frequent activity with the S350. The official figures make for some impressive reading: combined fuel consumption of 41.5mpg is partnered with a 177g/km CO2 rating. These numbers are also true of the long wheelbase model, which makes up the bulk of sales in the corporate world.

Maintaining the no compromise principal of luxury motoring, the S350 is no slouch. Of course, such economy figures can’t be achieved when you’re making determined progress, but it’s good to know that the car will easily sprint to 62mph in a reassuringly brisk 7.1 seconds and motor on to an electronically limited 155mph. For a big, economy-focused car, that’s a pretty good effort.

Aside from a slew of tweaks to help the car slip through the air and the engine sip fuel efficiently, the last piece in the eco puzzle is an engine stop-start function. A familiar feature on many cars now, Mercedes’ solution quietly cuts the engine when you’re at a standstill and restarts it in a fraction of a second when move from the brake to the throttle pedal. If needs be you can turn it off, and it won’t work until everything is up to operating temperature – so there’s no chance of it cutting in when you’re still demisting the windscreen on a winter’s morning.

All in all, the various elements that make up the S350’s frugal behaviour combine to reduce consumption and emissions without compromising the ownership and driving experience. Every other aspect of the car is pure S-Class, which means acres of cabin space – more so in a long wheelbase car – and a generous level or standard kit befitting the car’s status and a hushed, composed ride.

The S-Class is also an agile beast and even the eco-friendly nature of the diesel engine can be teased into letting go once in a while, resulting in a surprisingly brisk turn of speed. And not just in a straight line, too.

Still, many such cars will end up in the hands of business-minded drivers tasked with executive hire or chauffeuring duties, and this context the S-Class is hard to beat whether you’re behind the wheel or in the back seat. Factor in the Bluetec variant’s money saving attributes and it’s not just the bean counters who will be impressed.

Model: Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec L, from £64,140 on the road.
Engine: 3.0-litre diesel unit developing 258bhp.
Transmission: 7-speed automatic transmission as standard, driving the rear wheels.
Performance: Maximum speed 155mph, 0-62mph 7.1 seconds.
Economy: 41.5mpg.
CO2 Rating: 177g/km.

By Iain Dooley

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