Time will tell if the Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec is a great car. What is sure right now is that it's a very good one.
Even more impressive: It's a very good diesel car. That's right. A $52,325 European luxury performance sedan is an oil burner.
There's no cloud of diesel fumes either as it gets to 60 mph in a very slick 6.6 seconds.
Big V-8? Nope. It has a 3L V-6 engine of 215 turbocharged horsepower. But the torque (the twisting force that drives the rear wheels) is a massive 400 foot-pounds and the equal of some V-8s.
This adds up to bad fuel economy, right?
Wrong again. The EPA city is 26 miles per gallon. That rises to 37 mpg on the highway. So there's hot-rod power and subcompact-like fuel economy. Add a 700-mile cruising range to that.
The gas version goes for $1,000 less and gets fuel economy of 19 and 26.
Bluetec combines technologies to minimize exhaust emissions while an advanced turbocharger provides the power. The only downside is availability of the diesel supply. It has to be of the ultra-low sulfur variety Bluetec requires. Refueling can get messy and diesel fuel smells.
The Bluetec handles like a sports car with the interior trimmings of a luxury automobile -- just like Jaguars. It takes curves eagerly and accurately. Straight ahead, it eats up the miles making it a true cross-country cruiser that's also fun-to-drive.
|Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec
•Engines: 3.0L V-6 turbo-charged diesel
•Dimensions: 112.4" wheelbase; 191" length
•Base price: $52,325
•Fuel economy: 26/35 mpg
The exterior styling is the best to come down the Mercedes autobahn in years. The close-coupled stance doesn't penalize rear-seat headroom or rear vision. The hood slopes down to an aggressive point complete with full ground effects. Tires fill the wheel wells.
Seats are club-car comfortable with 10-way adjustments. The wood-and-leather steering wheel holds multi-function keys. Trim is burl walnut.
All that performance drives through a seven, count 'em, seven-speed automatic transmission. The tranny will chose the best gear when downshifting – it can skip a gear if necessary. Fuel economy is helped with a lockup clutch for all gears, not just the top one.
The Touch Shift gearshift lets driver do the job "manually" – just by pushing the lever slightly in one direction or another. The regular "drive" position does a great job automatically. Shifts are sure and barely felt.
Mercedes says some forecasts predict a 15 percent market share for diesel cars over time. It was a measly 3.5 percent when last measured in 2005. That took 70 years from the first production diesel car. It was a Mercedes-Benz 260D.