EXCLUSIVE! M-class goes green with hybrid/diesel technology
16 April 2007
Author: Hugh Hunston
Mercedes' M-class is likely to be the first of the brand's range to benefit from a combination of hybrid and Bluetec diesel technology within two years.
With anticipated CO2 figures well below 200g/km and fuel consumption figures approaching 40mpg, the M-class hybrid should form the advanced guard for a series of fleet-friendly Mercedes.
Although Mercedes will not officially confirm plans for the hybrid diesel off-roader a European source said: "I would bet that our first move into hybrids will come with the M-class within two years, harnessing the low-emission Bluetec diesel engines, probably a 3.2-litre V6 unit."
Mercedes believes the matching of Bluetec and the two-mode hybrid system developed jointly with BMW and General Motors offers a superior environmental solution to Lexus's trend-setting hybrid applications on the RX400h and GS450h on both sides of the Atlantic.
The US market 320 CDI Bluetec-powered E-class and large 4x4 GL-class register around 35mpg and 26mpg respectively and markedly reduce both nitrous oxide and particulate emissions.
Mercedes believes introducing diesel-hybrid powertrains in its 4x4 range helps counter mounting environmental hostility while the additional cost on a higher price per unit vehicle is less market sensitive.
While the M-class's direct rival, BMW's X5, is also expected to use the two-mode hybrid system, GM's Korean-built Chevrolet Captiva and Vauxhall Antara small 4x4s are favourites to incorporate the technology first for European consumption.
The two-mode hybrid system, announced in April last year by the three corporate partners, involves an electric motor incorporated in transmission systems to save weight, improve mechanical efficiency and reduce power absorption.
Last year Lexus's 400h accounted for nearly 63% of RX sales while the RX's fleet factor was 42% against 24% for the combined Mercedes M-class range.
* Check out BusinessCar's exclusive interview with Mercedes sales boss Simon Oldfield