Gliding along a highway at speed in a Mercedes-Benz automobile is a unique experience. Paragons of comfort, smoothness and control, there’s a reason they cost more. And while all the cars that wear the three-pointed star truly come into their own at elevated speeds, this is particularly true for the turbodiesel-powered Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec.
At startup and around town, a most un-Mercedes-like clatter raucously emerges from the engine compartment. It’s so loud, you might even think something is wrong with the engine; particularly when considered in comparison to the sophistication of the manufacturer’s gasoline-fired powerplants. Around town, the sewing machine on steroids sound is readily transmitted through the firewall of the mid-size Benz. Eerily though, once you attain cruising speed on the highway, the sound drops away completely. On the freeway, all you hear is the whisper of the slipstream as it lovingly caresses the slippery shape of the comely sedan.
And while that might be a high price for drivers who spend more time in urban traffic than on the highway, it's a cost that comes with a considerable benefit. In exchange for its noisier operation around town, our test car returned an average fuel consumption of 25.7-mpg overall. That includes driving in stop and go city traffic, accelerating briskly onto highways, and cruising between 70 and 80 mph on the highway. Taken with the 23.5-gallon capacity of the fuel tank, this gives the car an effective range of over 600 miles without stopping. You could drive it from San Francisco to San Diego and still have around 100 miles left in the tank. The EPA rates the car at 22-city, 33-highway and 26 combined.
This efficient 3.5-liter turbo-diesel V6 makes 210 horsepower at 3.400 rpm and 400 ft-lbs of torque from 1,800 to 2,400 rpm. And while 60 takes a relatively leisurely 6.7 seconds to attain from rest, the BlueTec E350 readily pulls to its electronically limited top speed of 130 miles per hour. The car just keeps going faster and faster and faster—pulling like the proverbial freight train.
Plus, the E350 BlueTec is an E-Class Benz—this means you also enjoy the benefits of all of the attributes that accompany a Mercedes-Benz automobile. Our test car featured a 40-gig hard drive for entertainment, Bluetooth, Sat Radio, Dolby-Digital 5.1 Surround Audio, Voice Control, Keyless Go, and GPS Nav, in addition to all the other typical features you expect in a modern luxury car. A soft band of golden light emanates from beneath the wood trim that encircles the cabin at night. A nice accent, it's a very pleasant effect. All four door armrests are illuminated as well—and yes, that's the entire armrest. These are the sorts of details that set this class of car apart and make you feel special when you're inside it.
Around town, despite the muted clatter from the engine compartment, driving the BlueTec E-Class is a breeze. No manufacturer builds an easier car to operate in urban traffic than Mercedes-Benz. Need a U-Turn? You can pop one off in an unbelievably small space. In one situation, we went directly into a U-turn from a parking space, completing the maneuver in one pass—with more than half a lane to spare.
Solidly planted at highway speeds, the faster you go the more stable the Mercedes becomes. The sedan goes down the road so fluidly and gracefully, you almost expect to look out and see angels clearing a path for you. When changes of direction are required, the E350 responds unhesitatingly. You always feel connected directly to the road. The driving position is excellent, the instrumentation is easily decipherable, and all the controls are intuitive in their operation. The car does absolutely nothing to induce fatigue or incite anxiety.
With fuel prices running north of four dollars a gallon, truly economical cars are going to find themselves in great demand once again. If you’re looking to maximize your MPG without sacrificing your S-T-Y-L-E, the Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec is a car you’d do well to consider. The Mercedes is economical to operate and outstanding both on the highway and around town. It also delivers superb comfort, along with a broad array of the latest safety features. If you can put up with a bit of diesel clatter around town, this Benz might well be the car for you.
Pricing starts at $51,775 with destination charges.