Seven speeds keep it in the sweet spot
The seven-speed automatic is calibrated to make the most of the engine's torque and keep the revs low, almost lugging it along at low revs whenever possible and allowing a wide sweep of revs and a correspondingly broad swath of ratios. Even when you're accelerating lightly and the engine is turning at just 1,100 or 1,200 rpm, there's no clatter, no vibration, and no indication that the engine is at all unhappy in such an endeavor.
There's definitely more of a pause, compared to a gasoline car, from the time you press quickly down on the accelerator—the consequence of trying to cram that much additional air and fuel into such a high-compression engine—but this is a diesel that's surprisingly responsive once underway.
The second part of our BlueTec drive took us on some much curvier mountain roads; and here this E-Class felt far more lively than we expected; with less weight in the front, the E250 BlueTec is definitely more nimble than the former V-6 diesel—and much more coordinated in tight switchbacks.
High performance driving simply doesn't feel like the sweet spot for this car. Fuel efficiency and top-notch cabin luxury are part of its sweet spot, as is technology. And one world-first technology that you can opt for in the 2014 E250 BlueTec i's especially useful. And shocking.
Steers itself, too
Called Distronic with Steering Assist, this new system uses a combination of stereoscopic cameras plus radar sensors to actually take the reins and steer the car for short distances. When you engage Distronic here, an image of red hands on a steering wheel flashes on the instrument cluster, and the system, almost miraculously, follows gentle corners in the road and keeps you in your lane.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTec is refreshingly straightforward, and an alternative to luxury hybrids that simply makes more sense in a wide range of conditions. Unless you do mostly short trips in the city,
Yes, the new E250 BlueTec is a gamble as a new base E-Class; but it could pay off as a market advantage. Mercedes-Benz has sold nearly 9,000 diesels so far this year (through July); that's roughly triple the amount sold by BMW, Porsche, or Audi (although of course not as many as VW).
And kudos to that; now, those who happen to walk into a Mercedes-Benz dealership and take the most affordable E-Class out for a spin could end up with something very green.
The new BlueTec models begin reaching dealerships next month.
See the full review over at The Car Connection for more details.