2013 Mercedes S350 BlueTEC review

Driven: The new 2013 Mercedes S-Class. Still the best car in the world?

By Tim Kendall | 24th October 2013

Vital Statistics

  • Model: S350 BlueTEC L SE-Line
  • Engine: 3.0 Turbo-diesel (258hp)
  • Transmission: 7-speed auto
  • Price: £65,650 (£95,990 as tested)
  • 0-60: 6.8 secs
  • Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
  • Economy: 50.4mpg (combined)
  • Options fitted to test car:
    See Text

What is it?

In case you hadn’t noticed, the all-new 2013 S-Class is here. Granted, that’s bigger news for airport-run chauffeurs than common-or-garden wheelmen.

Tested here is the 2013 Mercedes S350 BlueTEC L SE Line, which is essentially the bread-and-butter of the range and the one expected to deliver the lion’s share of new S-Class buyers into Mercedes showrooms. Powered by a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, the headline figures are not too shabby: 258bhp, 50.4mpg and 0-62mph in 6.8 seconds. The ‘L’ denotes the long-wheelbase model, which is being launched first. Thank Mercedes’ army of Far Eastern customers for that.

2013 Mercedes S350 BlueTEC

The new Mercedes S-Class. Still the best car in the world?

The new 2013 Mercedes S-Class. Why is it important?

The brief for any new S-Class is a simple, but challenging one – to be the best car in the world. It’s a crown the flagship Benz needs to try harder to hold onto now that the chintzy, misunderstood Maybach badge has quietly popped its clogs. A tough ask given the big S courts a broad demographic, its brief being to appeal to the whimsy of third world despots and media moguls as well as the Chairman of the Board. Does it deliver?

DrivingTalk finds out…

New Mercedes S-Class

The biggest seller of the new S-Class range is set to be the 50mpg S350 ‘BlueTEC’

What’s interesting about the new Mercedes S350 BlueTEC?

Well you’ll need to take a week off work to familiarise yourself with the array of on-board tech. The S-Class has been around since 1972, each successive model showcasing the fruits of Mercedes’ endless hours of R&D. With the newest and best gadgets typically appearing first on an S-Class and then trickling down to anything else wearing the three-pointed star, this is where you’d look to find out what tech the A-Class of tomorrow might get. So what’s new here?

Magic Body Control for starters. Rather than a pair of figure-enhancing slacks, it’s Mercedes’ new-fangled active ride control system. Using windscreen mounted cameras, it scans the road ahead and softens the damping to iron out any undulations. Does it work? I can’t tell you first hand – it’s only available on V8 S-Classes (a £4,340 option on the S500) and DrivingTalk pedalled the V6. Suffice to say, journos have waxed lyrical about its uncanny ability to transform roads from rutted to billiard smooth. Standard cars get ‘airmatic’ air suspension with adaptive dampers. Which is no hardship.

Any other gadgets of note on the 2013 S-Class?

Aside from 360-degree vision and an army of driver-assistance systems? Well there are no light-bulbs in the S-Class. At all. Far from meaning you can’t drive it after dark, Stuttgart’s flagship is instead crammed with LEDs. So the headlights and a myriad of interior mood lighting use the more fuel-efficient diodes – nearly 500 of them. According to Mercedes’ white coats, the new LED headlights need just 34W compared to 120W for halogen lights or 84W for xenons – translating into a fuel saving of 0.05 litres per 100km.

Mercedes S-Class LED bulbs

The new S-Class does away with bulbs. Over 500 LEDs are used instead, including the headlights

Magic Vision Control – or fancy windscreen wipers – also make an appearance on the S-Class. These apply wash fluid directly in front of the wiper blades to minimise vision disruption. There’s also radar guided cruise control and lane-keeping assistance, pedestrian detection, night-vision and all manner of three letter acronyms associated with electronic functions you weren’t aware had been invented.

Will the new Mercedes S350 L BlueTEC look good on my driveway?

Perhaps not so much your driveway as the directors’ parking bay in your local business park, yet it cuts a dash in a restrained, business-like way. Idi Amin wouldn’t approve of the softly sculpted nose – and the lack of flag holders on the front wings, but the S-Class is still a big, bold, slightly intimidating Benz – just how it should be. The AMG body-kitted S500 provided for interior shots wore a sharper suit and bigger rims than the slightly under-wheeled S350 tested here, but DrivingTalk expects the combination of frugal S350 engine paired with the AMG styling package to be the cash cow of the range.

Mercedes S350 BlueTEC

To be seen outside an airport near you soon…

What about the new Mercedes S-Class interior?

It’s screwed together impeccably well. Forget the dark days of the early noughties when you weren’t sure if you were sitting in a Benz or a Hyundai Sonata, such was the creakiness and nastiness of Mercedes interiors. The bean counters have been slapped into submission and someone with appropriate levels of OCD has got to work on the build quality. It’s what you’d expect from a top-flight Mercedes – the leather is beautifully finished, everything feels reassuringly solid, and controls and buttons have a smooth, expensive feel. The two spoke steering wheel and fussy speaker grilles for the Burmester sound system won’t be to everyone’s taste though…

2013 Mercedes S350 interior

Don’t sit in here if you have a phobia of gagdets

What’s it like in the back?

Arguably more important than the driving experience is the feeling from the multi-adjustable massaging, reclining rear seats. Mercedes has a weather eye on the Far East market where customers prefer to be driven and the length of your wheelbase is directly proportional to your social standing. So they’ve spent some time trying to get it right back there.

And it’s exceptionally comfy, if slightly overflowing with gadgets. Mercedes had us chauffeured for the full S-Class experience and the total serenity with which the S-Class envelops you is nothing short of astonishing. So if you’re tired after your G8 summit or global crime-lord pow-wow – reclining in the back of an S-Class will cure what ails you.

You're unlikely to get bored back here...

You’re unlikely to get bored back here…

2013 Mercedes S-Class interior

Reclining rear seats are part of an option package…

The test car came equipped with the optional Rear Seat Comfort package (£2,370), which includes twin screens mounted on the front seat headrests. These control entertainment functions (including the wireless networking), ventilation and also the hot-stone seat massaging – a curiously alluring thing that could save you the odd weekend at a health spa.

What’s the new Mercedes S350 L BlueTEC like to drive?

Of its genre, the S350 BlueTEC is darn good. When the brief is to build the best car in the world, you’d reasonably expect it to extend to the driving experience and the S-Class is genuinely satisfying to pedal from the driver’s seat. It won’t set your pants on fire in S350 tune, but it will pick up its coat tails and fly even in dirty diesel guise. If you fancy sacking Parker and driving yourself, it’s no hardship in the new S350.

The driving experience befits a luxury express. Serene and capable, but not involving

The driving experience befits a luxury express. Serene and capable, but not involving

The 3.0-litre V6 diesel motor is a carry-over from the last S-Class, but it does the job remarkably well – paired to a 7-speed auto box, it propels the S350 around with ample, muted thrust. Rarely will the turbo-diesel unit be caught napping thanks to 457 lb ft of torque on offer from 1,600 rpm – but the switchable gearbox is best left in Sport rather than Comfort, should you need to put an E-Class in its place at short notice.

It must be said too, that the S-Class shows the world what refinement really means – the engine is barely audible unless you are caning it, and wind and road noise are so well-supressed you may as well be travelling in a vacuum. Through the helm, there’s precious little feel, but the steering is accurate and body control good, even on the standard airmatic suspension. This big lump of metal is very easy to drive fast if the mood takes you. But unless you’re starring in a remake of Ronin you don’t buy an S-Class to drive on the ragged edge. It’s the most unruffled and smooth riding exec express out there. Deeply impressive.

What does all this luxury cost?

That really depends on how twitchy your pen hand gets when it hovers over the options list. The ‘base’ price of this S350 BlueTEC L SE Line is £65,650 on the road. Begin to add a few choice gadgets like the Rear Seat Reclining Package (£1,500), Rear Seat Comfort Package containing the massage and rear entertainment functions (£2,370) and the 24 speaker 3D Burmester sound system with 1540W (£6,430) – and that figure shuffles uncomfortably northwards. The fully loaded test car chimed in at £95,990. Owner number two will be rubbing their hands with glee.

The full 3D Burmester soound system is an additional £6.4k....Natty speaker grilles though

The full 3D Burmester soound system is an additional £6.4k….Natty speaker grilles though

Options fitted to test car:

Burmester 3D surround 24-speaker 1,540W sound system (£6,430), Driving Assistance Package – blind spot & lane keeping assist, brake assist and radar ‘distronic’ cruise control (£2,300), Rear seat reclining package (£1,500), Rear Seat Reclining Package (£1,500), Executive Rear Package – comfort ventilated and electrically operated seats (£3,510), 360-degree camera (£880), Night-view Assist with pedestrian detection (£2,250), Panaramic sunroof (£1,430)

 

2013 Mercedes S350 BlueTEC review

  • Performance: 7/10
  • Ride & Handling: 8/10
  • Economy: 8/10
  • Equipment: 8/10
  • Want one factor: 7/10

The Verdict

Well it’s very hard to ignore the new S-Class if you’re fishing for blue-chip wheels. There’s not much else in the realm of the executive express that can hold a candle to the S350 BlueTEC’s combination of enveloping luxury and compelling efficiency. Add strong performance to a whiff of ‘80s bank vault Mercedes quality and that verdict becomes a resounding yes.

Summary

  • Supreme refinement, economy
  • Supreme price when fully optioned

By Tim Kendall
24th October 2013

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