Mercedes confirms plan for diesel-hybrid E-Class




Mercedes-Benz has confirmed that a diesel-hybrid version of the upcoming E-Class is in the cards.

The new gas-engine E-Class will arrive this summer, while the new-generation E 350 BlueTec diesel is slated to come to Canada next March.

Joachim Lindau, head of overall vehicle testing at Mercedes-Benz AG, confirmed the hybrid plans at a press preview earlier this month for the 2010 E-Class, which will have the same 3.5-litre V-6 and 5.5-litre V-8 engines as the current model.

The upcoming diesel engine will be a new design that uses urea injection and a more potent exhaust emissions system; the AdBlue exhaust-scrubbing additive will need to be replenished at every oil change. No AdBlue fluid change, no squeaky-clean emissions — if the driver ignores warnings of low AdBlue levels, the car is programmed not to start.
That's true of all Benz diesels with the latest BlueTec clean-diesel system. It was the only way Mercedes-Benz could assure American legislators that BlueTec drivers would continue to replenish the system, keeping emissions clean even as the vehicles age.

The new E350 3.0-litre V-6 BlueTec will offer 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, or about the same power as the current E320 diesel, which is rated at 9.0 L/100 km city and a miserly 6.1 on the highway. Like the rest of the E-Classes coming for 2010, Mercedes-Benz Canada is launching the diesel E with a visually aggressive AMG Sports package as standard equipment.

Details of the further-out diesel-hybrid E are still sketchy. Although Lindau confirmed that an E-Class diesel hybrid is in the works, neither timing nor engine size were discussed.

However, Germany's DPA news service reported that a diesel-electric ML SUV would make 340 hp from its 3.0-litre V-6, while at least one online rumour had the ML diesel-hybrid on sale in North America by the end of this year.

Mercedes-Benz has shown various diesel-electrics at different auto shows over the last two years, including a diesel-hybrid S-Class, which produced 265 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque from a hybridized BlueTec V-6. A smaller four-cylinder diesel-hybrid engine was also previewed in the Vision GLK concept at last year's Geneva auto show; it boasted some eye-popping numbers: 224 hp, 413 lb-ft of torque and an estimated average of 40 mpg — that's 5.9 L/100 km.

'Stunning' sales numbers shock analyst

"Stunning is the only word I can think of," said shell-shocked auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers in his review of February sales numbers in Canada, which showed that GM had lost its traditional top spot to Chrysler, even tumbling behind Ford.

He noted that GM had not lost the monthly sales race in this country since at least 1949, and perhaps even longer than that. "I suspect you have to go back to the early 1900s to find a month when GM was not at least in second place."

The three Detroit Three subsidiaries were within 542 units of each other, so it was really a three-horse nose-hair finish that could have gone to any of them. But the historic significance remains: the largest car company in the country — by employees, dealers and vehicle owners, if not February new-vehicles sales — could no longer maintain its generations-long hold on the sales crown in Canada.

Chrysler seemed an unlikely candidate to depose the sales king, with its own serious financial issues well-documented in appeals by both companies for billions of bailout dollars to governments north and south of the border.

Toyota seemed to be the most threatening contender, noted DesRosiers, but it finished in fourth place in February.

The Detroit Three units collectively lost 37 per cent in sales, compared to a loss of 17 per cent for offshore-based auto makers.

In the United States, GM managed to retain its best-selling company title with sales of 127,296 vehicles, with Toyota coming in second at 109,583, followed by Ford and Chrysler.

Buick looking to adopt Opel platforms

The close vehicle-sharing relationship between Saturn and its German cousin Opel could be reflected in future Buicks, Autoweek magazine reported this week, although the models would more like cousins rather than identical twins.

Opel platforms are being looked at as the basis of future Buick sedans, Buick vice-president Susan Docherty said, although there could also easily be Buicks not sourced from any of its European divisions, such as the Enclave crossover or new LaCrosse sedan (called the Allure in Canada).

Even if Opel is eventually sold, as GM is trying to do, the company will likely keep an alliance with any potential buyer to keep the currently planned platforms in place, an unnamed source told the magazine.

Docherty also noted that, as Pontiac's lineup is slimmed down, Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealers will receive more sedans to keep the channel "well-rounded" with four-doors and crossovers.

Electric Tesla Roadster coming to Canada

The Tesla Roadster is coming to Canada by the end of this year, the company said this month; Canadian orders are being taken for deliveries expected in the fourth quarter.

At first, the cars will come from regional centres in New York and Seattle that will be up and running by mid-year, the company said. But it hopes to establish Canadian dealers in Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec, likely at some point after Tesla has something more to offer than the slinky little two-seat sports car.

Getting enthusiasts and, soon after, the general public excited about electric cars was probably the Tesla Roadster's greatest accomplishment, as the Lotus Europa-shaped convertible's sizzling 0-96 km/h time of 3.9 seconds helped garner the little car tons of media exposure.

Canada could be a showcase country for Tesla, because the majority of electricity across the country is from renewable resources, the company said. "An EV recharged from the current Canadian grid, on average, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 85 per cent compared to an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle," according to the release announcing Canadian sales, with about 80 per cent in Ontario coming from hydro or nuclear sources.

"In hydro-dominant British Columbia, Quebec and Manitoba, the reduction would be an impressive 98 per cent."

The cars cost $109,000 (U.S.), and although a Canadian price has not yet been confirmed, it will reflect "exchange rates at that time (of delivery)."

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