Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC Diesel

I developed mixed emotions while driving the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC diesel. I loved the luxury­– who wouldn't?  And I was totally impressed by the fuel economy. I managed over 30 miles per gallon on the highway. I’ve driven compacts that didn’t do as well.

The front seats are immensely comfortable and with the optional massage feature I felt I was getting the full spa treatment on every drive. These seats are also multi-adjustable. They go back and forth, up and down, and the backrest and bottom cushion angles are varied by pushing buttons that have the silhouette of the seat. Nothing could be easier or more intuitive.

While these adjustments are common in luxury cars, the seats in the Mercedes-Benz also allowed me to shorten the length of the bottom cushion with the push of another button. This eliminated the irritating rubbing behind the knees that shorter drivers must often endure. And, the amount of side bolstering could be varied. The seats even offered active bolsters that applied more support in response to sharp turns. I turned this feature off, however.  More appreciated were the power head restraint adjustments and the heating and ventilation built into each seat, even in the rear.

Other high points included the active cruise control – it will apply the brake if the driver is distracted and traffic ahead slows or stops, the blind spot monitoring that flashes a warning light and beeps if you try to change lanes with a vehicle beside you, the lane assist that vibrates the steering wheel if you go outside your lane without signaling and the backup camera. I loved all these features.

I wasn't so happy with the cruise control stalk. It is right where the turn signal lever is usually found. And the climate controls look wonderful, but the buttons are small and hard to read while driving, but I suppose you get used to it.

Perhaps my greatest frustration and real downer, however, is that all of this luxury is well beyond my budget. Still, this is probably the best luxury car I have ever driven.

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