“I’m here for the stripper,” I announced with a grin.
Sometimes I think I’m pretty funny.
In the parlance of the automotive trade, a “stripper” is a bare-bones base vehicle.
No bells. No whistles. In fact, not a whole lot of anything.
The Other Rob, who works at Mercedes-Benz Canada, just sort of looked at me. He knew I was pulling his leg. I just wasn’t doing it too effectively.
Because, while the Mercedes S 350 BlueTEC diesel lurks near the lower end of their large sedan lineup, the Sonderklasse (German for Special Class) is the culmination of Mercedes’ sedan expertise and even the bottom rung of this prestigious lineup ranks right up there in the rarefied strata of premium price and product.
I was even technically wrong because another vehicle—the S 400 hybrid—is actually the lowest priced car in the S-Class stable, costing a couple of thousand less than the diesel.
The Other Rob handed over the S 350 key fob and led me outside to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a butt-naked Benz.
The car is, of course, beautiful.
The sleek design of latest generation S-Class styling combines a just right mix of refinement and muscularity that, in this case, was dipped in Obsidian Black and bejeweled with just enough chrome and LED lighting highlights. The big Mercedes sedans always look best in black, although silver, taking its cues from the historic Silver Arrows of the past, follows in a close second.
Open the door and slip into an aromatic, leather-wrapped embrace and you begin to understand why even entry-level S-Class sedans carry a six-digit starting price.
The Other Rob started his short course seminar on just how fully dressed the vehicle was.
Along with a too-long list of standard equipment this S 350 tester added $17,300 worth of options including a Premium Package with wood/leather tilt/telescopic steering wheel, door-integrated roller blinds for rear side windows, Climate Comfort heated and cooled 16-way power front Drive Dynamic seats with three memory positions and massage function, heated rear seats, rear view camera and Panoramic Sunroof.
An Advanced Driving Package added DISTRONIC PLUS (radar controlled cruise), Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Night View Assist Plus.
And an AMG Sport Package added AMG styling and appearance package bolstered by optional 20-inch AMG 5-spoke wheels.
After a head-spinning series of demonstrations, the Other Rob asked if I needed any more information or if he should integrate my cell phone into the Bluetooth communication system? I said no, I had plans for the rest of the day. Point taken.
I started the engine and drove away.
Ah, and the real reason for the excitement over the S 350 lies under the skin, with the first modern combination of diesel power and standard 4MATIC all-wheel drive that this model introduced to the lineup in the 2012 model year.
The 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve turbo diesel makes 240 hp at 3,600 rpm and 455 lb/ft of torque peaking early from 1600-2400 rpm. Admittedly, 240 hp does not sound particularly overwhelming but, as with most diesels, it’s the bottom end torque launch that helps get the job done.
Sure, you can knock a couple of seconds off the 0-100 km times with the gasoline-powered V8 and V12 of further upscale S-Class models, culminating in the AMG S 65 at almost double the price, but the turbo diesel pulls handily with little drama and with excellent fuel economy.
The diesel engine is rated at 10.2/6.3L/100km (city/hwy). My highway numbers registered close to the official rating but after a test period of mostly city driving, my combined average worked out to a still respectable 9.4L/100km.
The turbo diesel is quiet and refined. Independent tests have rated the engine quieter than some of the gasoline-powered alternatives, quieter even than the hybrid.
My wife, at one point, asked me if Mercedes-Benz still offered a diesel S-Class model, not realizing she was actually riding in one.
Power is translated seamlessly through a 7G-TRONIC PLUS seven-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel paddle controls and the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive. Dynamic technologies include the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with Brake Assist ABS, hill start assist and ASR traction control.
Ride and handling performance levels are excellent, as expected. The S 350 comes only in the long wheel base platform, which adds to the on-road poise. It also provides for roomy rear seat accommodation and a large 560-litre trunk.
As tested here, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz S 350 BlueTEC 4MATIC won Best New Prestige Car honours at last year’s AJAC Car of the Year program and has garnered other awards for its unique blend of ultimate sedan luxury and socially conscientious fuel efficiency. Who says you can’t have it all?
The 2013 model, now coming to market, carries over relatively unchanged but, lest there be some confusion, the new $119,900 MSRP listed on the website now comes with a standard Avantgarde package that includes many of the optional extras listed on this test vehicle.
Expect an all-new 2014 S-Class lineup next year followed by the unique addition of a four-door cabriolet version for the 2015 model year.
And no, no strippers.
Mercedes-Benz S 350 BlueTec 4MATIC 2012
Body Style: Premium sedan
Drive Method: front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve turbo diesel V6 (240 hp, 455 lb/ft torque)
Fuel Economy: 10.2/6.3L/100km (city/hwy)
Cargo: 560 litres
Price: Base price $109,900; As tested $128,700 including AMG Sport Package ($6,500), Advanced Driving Assistance Package ($4,900), Premium Package ($5,900), 20-inch AMG five-spoke wheels ($1,500)