We drive the sensible diesel engine S350 CDI version of the brilliant new Mercedes-Benz S-Class
The Mercedes-Benz S-Class was a quantum step ahead for luxury cars of that category. The S500, which we drove a few months ago, felt leaps and bounds ahead of cars that were twice its price range while managing to give out a sense of restraint. Mercedes-Benz has now decided to go the sensible route and launch the eagerly awaited diesel version of their flagship S-Class with the all-new S350 CDI. But will a diesel engine make the S-Class experience even better? Read on to find out.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S350 CDI on the outset looks the same as its much more expensive petrol powered sibling. The large swept back LED headlamps combined with the massive chrome grille are not just imposing to look at, but command instant respect from everybody on the road. Although the shade of black that this particular S-Class is in does tend to subdue the fine lines of this rather massive car, the sheer length and width of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S350 CDI is enough to make everyone strain to take a second look. Mercedes-Benz have omitted the handsome diamond cut wheels that you get on the more expensive S500 for a set of rather plain looking multispoke 18-inch wheels.
The main difference between the S500 and the S350 CDI on the exterior front though is at the rear. While the S500 gets a slightly sportier rear bumper with built in trapezoidal exhaust tips, the diesel gets a conventional bumper with a hidden exhaust pipe setup. The LED festooned tail lamps though continue to be a common feature and as with the S500, the S350 uses only LED bulbs though the entire car completely omitting conventional lighting techniques.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S350 CDI’s interiors are a brilliant place to be in. From its strangely likable two spoke steering wheel wrapped in leather and festooned with high quality aluminum, to its four prominent AC vents that would look right at home on a bespoke Rolls-Royce, the S-Class is clearly built to delight. The large comfortable leather seats up front offer a level of luxury that makes one want to curl up into a ball and fall asleep.
The two large LCD screens that form the instrumentation cluster and the central command system are both crisp and offer a range of options to play around with.That said, as with the S500 we drove earlier, the actual operating system in the S-Class does feel a little outdated and repetitive as it is the same one used in all other models too. With Apple’s CarPlay operating system expected to make an appearance in Mercedes-Benz models a little later in the year, one can expect that to change.
As the S350 CDI is a lot cheaper than the S500, Mercedes has omitted a few key features that do seem to take away from the S-Class’s glamour. Most annoyingly, especially for a hot country like India, Mercedes-Benz has gotten rid of the cooled front seat option while keeping the heated seat package untouched. Mercedes has also omitted the electronic boot controller, which means that one has to manually shut the bootlid, which, on a S-Class is just ridiculous. Forget the uber cool ‘leg swipe’ feature that opens and shuts the boot on the S500, even a button to shut the boot is absent!
Other omissions include the rear central console that incorporated features like built in laptop tables.The rear captain seats too have been ditched in favor of a bench setup. That said, the rear seats still get electronic adjustment that lets them recline and a cooling seat option, which is absent in the front. Thankfully, the phenomenal Burmester audio system is still there and converts the S-Class into the Royal Opera house wherever commanded.
Now to the important bits. How does the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S350 CDI drive? Well, one could have expected a diesel engine to be noisy and unrefined, but then you realize you are in a S-Class. The only time you can realistically hear the engine is if you mute the music and lower the air conditioning fan speed to minimum. The refined 3.0-litre, twin turbocharged, V6 engine makes a healthy 262PS of peak power and 620Nm of peak torque. Mated to the 7G-Tronic Plus seven speed dual clutch gearbox, the S350 CDI can go from 0-100kmph in a claimed 6.8 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 250kmph.
Not only does the power delivery feel instantaneous as it ought to, the S350 CDI does everything that it is commanded to do with no fuss at all. There is no hint of turbo lag whatsoever even in the relaxed comfort mode.In fact, the way the S-Class in general wafts on Indian roads is nothing short of the kind of comfort and ease Aladdin must have had on his magic carpet.
Although us auto journalists enjoy putting a car through its paces, this is one of the cars that even us'wild-bunch' drive with a whole lot of dignity and respect. That said, we did subject the S-Class through a bunch of twists and turns and it came out with flying colors. The Airmatic suspension can be adjusted to either Comfort or Sport mode, both of which exhibit very significant changes in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S350 CDI’s suspension characteristics. To facilitate high-speed stability, the S-Class automatically lowers itself by 20mm over speeds of 120kmph hunkering down onto the road like a supersonic cruise missile.
The S-Class we drove rode on a set of 255/45R18 wheel and tyre package, essential to keep the 2132kg (kerb weight) S350 CD planted on the road at all times. The S-Class even has a height adjustment system, which can increase the ground clearance of the car by 20mm in order to navigate a particularly nasty speed hump or pothole, the likes of which are quite common in India, especially with the monsoon fast looming.
So does the diesel engine and slightly less tech take anything away from what is claimed by Mercedes-Benz to be the ‘Best car in the world’? Well, no. If anything, the frugal nature of the engine combined with good real world performance makes the package juicier. With prices starting at a steep Rs 1.07 Crore (Ex-showroom), the S350 CDI is certainly cheaper than its petrol sibling but more expensive than all its main competitors.
But then, it does offer a lot more than most cars twice its price. When we drove the S500 a few months ago, we were in awe of the massive jump that the current car was over its last generation. The S350 CDI is as good in terms of the level of luxury and toys it offers and gets the added advantages of the frugal diesel engine. No wonder Mercedes-Benz dealers have its customers lining up for a taste of what can be undoubtedly termed ‘Sensible Luxury’.