Think your Toyota Prius is the most efficient car on the road today? You’re going to be in for a surprise for the 2013 model year, then, as Mercedes-Benz is slated to introduce its new E300 BlueTEC Hybrid Diesel sedan in the third quarter of 2012, followed by an E400 gasoline hybrid to American shores sometime next year. Always at the forefront of burgeoning technologies in the automotive world, Mercedes-Benz is grasping on the increasing popularity of hybrid vehicles and blending it with their notoriously efficient and long-lived diesel power trains. The result is what may arguably be the most fashionable way to save the planet yet conceived.
Based on the existing E 250 CDI sedan, Mercedes’ new diesel features a modular hybrid power train that delivers approximately 15% more fuel economy than the previous engine, coupled with more power. This means simply that no major modifications are necessary to incorporate the BlueTEC hybrid system into the E300 architecture, and that the system can be incorporated into any Mercedes-Benz vehicle currently in production. This stands to reduce production costs, making this newest Merc potentially much more of a value with regards to ownership costs, as well as the beginning of what could well be a diesel hybrid revolution. An S550 AMG diesel hybrid? The BlueTEC hybrid system could make such a thing possible. Boasting as much as 56 miles per gallon in fuel economy, this car could be the one that makes diesel engines desirable again.
Previous generations of diesel engines, notably the ones that helped to make the 1970s and 1980s such a smoggy mess, were inefficient, noisy and malodorous, and simply weren’t worth the additional cost and the additional weight that were added to the cars they were installed in. Even more recent examples from the 1990s were found to be sluggish and joyless to drive. Thanks to modern engineering practices, though, not to mention Europe’s infatuation with the diesel engine as an alternative to expensive gasoline, today’s diesel engines are quiet, powerful and even (gasp-inducingly) sporty.
The biggest problem with the E300 diesel hybrid, though, is that there are as yet no plans to import this vehicle to the United States. Although numerous manufacturers are set to offer hybrid engines in their vehicles beginning with the 2013 and 2014 model years, Mercedes is sure to keep their cards close to the vest until it has become clear that the American buying public is ready to fully embrace the benefits of buying diesel instead of gasoline. Once that hurdle is overcome, a diesel-electric hybrid might not seem like such a lark, after all.