Track Tested: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec


Certainly it doesn't match the carbon-spewing glory of fully uncorked diesel trucks, but there's a certain fun factor to be had launching the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec down the drag strip. Perhaps it's because this vehicle, a $50,333 diesel luxury sedan, is supposed to be yet another answer to our massive gas-burning ways. But maybe it's just because this turbocharged V6 develops 400 pound-feet of torque from a lowly 1,600 rpm.

While the torque figure is impressive, the 3.0-liter V6 has a lot of mass to lug around: 4,251 pounds of mass to be more specific. That combination of weight and power is good for an EPA rating of 22 mpg city/33 mpg highway and a combined rating of 26 (we averaged 26.3 with a best tank of 400 miles). So the frugality is there, but what's the fun factor? On our test track, does the diesel diminish the otherwise solid driving characteristics of the E-Class, or is this a case of having your cake and eating it, too?

Vehicle: 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec
Odometer: 3,948
Date: 11/23/2010
Driver: Mike Monticello
Price: $50,333

Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Seven-speed automatic
Engine Type: Turbocharged, diesel V6
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 2,987/182
Redline (rpm): 4,200
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 210 @ 3,800
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 400 @ 1,600-2,400
Brake Type (front): 12.7-inch drilled rotors with single-piston floating calipers
Brake Type (rear): 11.8-inch rotors with single-piston floating calipers
Steering System: Hydraulic-assist speed-sensitive power steering
Suspension Type (front): Independent, coil spring, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent, multilink, coil spring, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 245/45R17 95H
Tire Size (rear): 245/45R17 95H
Tire Brand: Bridgestone
Tire Model: Turanza EL400-02
Tire Type:  All-season
Wheel size: 17-by-8 inches front and rear
Wheel material (front/rear): Alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 4,251

Test Results:

0-30 (sec): 2.7 (3.2 t/c on)
0-45 (sec): 4.8 (5.3 t/c on)
0-60 (sec): 7.5 (8.0 t/c on
0-75 (sec): 10.9 ( 11.4 t/c on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 15.4 @ 89.7 (15.8 @ 89.5 t/c on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 7.2 (7.6 t/c on)

30-0 (ft): 30
60-0 (ft): 125

Slalom (mph): 64.3 (62.1 t/c on)
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.83 (0.82 t/c on)
Db @ Idle: 44.5
Db @ Full Throttle: 67.6
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 65.7

Acceleration: The Bluetec does few things quickly. It takes its time revving to its 3,900 rpm automatic shift point and it's also fairly nonchalant about getting the actual shift accomplished even in Sport mode. But even though it doesn't rev high or hard, you do get a sense of its strong low-end torque. Has a sluggish launch if you don't load up the torque converter.

Braking: The E350 Bluetec's brakes work fine with a good, firm pedal feel and ABS working properly, but the stops are on the longish side. The main culprits here are the all-season tires, which don't offer much grip. It feels like the tires are just sliding along the pavement.

Handling: Skid pad: Lots of understeer here with minimal grip from the tires, unlike in the slalom, where the ESP could be quite intrusive. Here it didn't cut in at all when in ESP Off and was sporadic in its intervention when on; sometimes would allow significant front-end pushing before it would add brakes and later, cut the throttle. Slalom: The E350 Bluetec has a lighter steering effort than is typical of most Mercedes, which are usually pretty heavy. Maybe to feel lighter on its feet than it actually is. Through the slalom it struggled with lack of grip and under-damped suspension. Making things more difficult is that ESP cannot be fully defeated. The best way was to be as smooth as possible so that the system wouldn't intervene.