2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC Review

Are you looking to spend less on fuel with little sacrifice in performance and refinement? Hybrids are an alternative, but are you willing to spend the extra dough for the technology, not knowing how it will perform years from now? The answer really stinks.

Um, I’m talking about diesel.

One will argue that today’s turbodiesel powerplants are technologically advanced as well, like the one in this 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC sedan. Using a scentless and non-toxic additive called AdBlue which is sprayed into the exhaust flow and reduces nitrous oxide, this system increases complexity and cost, but not as much as a hybrid gas-electric propulsion setup.

Mercedes-Benz-E350-2011_i1photo : 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC,
Philippe Champoux/Auto123.com

As the reason behind opting for a diesel engine amounts to an all-important number, let’s not waste time here: we’re recording a fuel economy average of 7.9 L/100 km. That’s a Toyota Corolla-grade consumption rate, but we’re driving a mid-size Mercedes luxury sedan.

Ok, what about that AdBlue stuff? Does it work the same as that 2000 Flushes toilet bowl cleaner clip-on thingie? Not quite. The AdBlue is stored in its own tank and is managed by the dealer during regular service maintenance stops. No need for the customer to touch it.

Power comes from a 24-valve, 3.0-litre V6 that cranks out 210 horses at 3,400 rpm and 400 pound-feet of torque that peaks from 1,600 to 2,400 rpm. It’s connected to a 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters. This ain’t no high-revving screamer of an engine, and it’s better that way. The turbodiesel mill rarely rises above 2,000 rpm under normal driving, and at 100 km/h, it spins at 1,600 rpm, so it keeps its mouth shut; the distinct diesel clatter is barely noticeable and your passengers will likely never guess you’re burning oil.

But you’ll still be burning rubber; the 0-100 dash takes 7.5 seconds, which is only about a second slower than the gas-powered, 268-hp E350 4MATIC. The quarter-mile flashes by in 15.3 seconds at 150 km/h, compared to 14.6 seconds for the gasoline E350. By the way, the BlueTEC model is rear-drive only.


photo : 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC,
Philippe Champoux/Auto123.com

The E-Class can handle itself pretty well on sinuous country roads; the suspension keeps body motions well under control and the steering offers a decent amount of feedback at higher speeds. However, this car’s cup of tea is gliding leisurely down a stretch of highway or a city street.

This is one of those few cars that will calm you down, that will make you feel serene and seal you away from the horrors of the outside world. Crank up some jazz on the Harman/Kardon 5.1 surround sound system, and you’re sure to relax. Just don’t forget you’re still driving.

The car’s cockpit is impeccably finished; our tester included dark ash wood trim which, on a personal note, doesn’t get my pulse racing; the open-pore Brown Ash trim looked fabulous in an E-Class I drove last fall, although it wouldn’t really match the silver exterior paint, now would it?

No problem with the E’s sheetmetal, though. I’ve heard only positive comments about the car’s knight-in-shining-armour styling; its angular lines, rising side creases and aggressive front fascia suggest powerful elegance and good taste.

Despite the car’s outside dimensions, the E350 doesn’t boast a cavernous interior; then again, neither do any of its mid-size competitors. The back seat has three seat belts, but don’t count on getting one of your adult friends to sit in the middle, as his or her head will ungracefully scrape the headliner. For a four-passenger car, however, the E-Class delivers. Even trunk space, rated at 540 litres, is typically German-sedan immense.

Alas, nothing’s perfect. The COMAND APS multimedia interface lacks user-friendliness. BMW improved its iDrive by adding a few buttons around its control knob to access main features more quickly; Mercedes should do the same.

Also, the dashboard’s business-like design could benefit from a more emotional appeal, and that awkwardly-placed turn signal/wiper stalk, which sticks out on the lower left side of the steering wheel, is hard to reach when driving with your hands in a 9-and-3 position.


photo : 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC,
Philippe Champoux/Auto123.com

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; I despise the moment I must stop and fuel up a diesel vehicle. It’s a smelly, messy experience, like having to go to the men’s room in a crowded $2-a-beer-night bar. You don’t want to touch anything, but you have to if you want to get it over with. And in both the gas bar and the booze bar, there’s never any paper towels left to wipe your hands. Gross.

Base price for a 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC is $62,500 before taxes, freight and delivery charges, which undercuts the gas E350 by four hundred bucks. Our tester also included the $4,900 Premium Package, which adds iPod/USB connect, rear window sunshade, panoramic sunroof, navigation and intelligent key.

Competitors that tout fuel-efficient powertrains are currently limited to hybrid vehicles, such as the $67,300 Infiniti M35 Hybrid and the soon-to-be-redesigned, $71,750 Lexus GS 450h.

The E350 BlueTEC is smooth, comfortable, refined and comes with that all-important luxury-brand crest on the hood. It’s also very efficient, and its 1,000-plus-km range means I can spread out my dreaded stops for fuel. When you have a good turbodiesel in your product line-up, do you really need hybrids? It’s arguable.