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Mercedes debates hybrid E-class

$20k question: Mercedes-Benz is contemplating bringing the diesel-electric E300 BlueTec Hybrid sedan to Australia.

$20k premium for E300 Hybrid gives Mercedes-Benz Australia pause for thought

23 Jan 2012

HOW many luxury car buyers would fork out an extra $20,000 for the satisfaction of a 15 per cent fuel saving and the bragging rights of owning the most fuel-efficient large luxury car on the planet?That’s the question Mercedes-Benz Australia product planners are pondering as they mull a business case for the diesel-electric E300 BlueTec Hybrid sedan and wagon that could be in Australian showrooms by the end of the year.

The most fuel-efficient Mercedes E-class – capable of a claimed 4.2 litres per 100km on the combined test cycle – was unveiled alongside the V6 petrol-electric E400 Hybrid at the Detroit motor show earlier this month.

While Mercedes-Benz has signaled its intention of producing the hybrid cars in right-hand drive, the Australian arm of the German company is thinking twice before jumping in for the E300 Hybrid – the most likely choice for this diesel-friendly market and potentially the first hybrid Benz in Australian showrooms.

The issue is that the existing Mercedes 2.2-litre diesel E250 CDI already achieves combined-cycle fuel efficiency of 5.1L/100km, less than a litre per 100km thirstier than the E300 BlueTec Hybrid.

4 center imageLeft: Mercedes-Benz E400 hybrid sedan. Below: B-Class E-Cell Plus.

C02 emissions are said to be 135 grams per kilometre for the E250 CDI and 109g/km for the E300 Hybrid.

Mercedes-Benz Australia corporate communications manager David McCarthy estimates the extra technology in the hybrid version – including the 20kW electric motor and 0.8kWh battery – could end up costing a $20,000 premium over the existing E250 CDI, which starts at $83,300 in base Elegance guise.

A $20,000 premium for the hybrid technology would take the E300 Hybrid price north of $100,000 in Elegance spec, and around $118,000 in the more luxurious Avant level.

He said Benz had just started looking at the business case for the E300 hybrid, which is favoured for Australia over the petrol version, the E400 Hybrid, that primarily is designed for markets such as the US, China and Japan, where diesel is not in vogue.

Mr McCarthy said the E300 Hybrid would have no luxury car tax advantage over the E250 CDI, which already qualifies for the discount rate applicable to fuel-efficient luxury cars.

Both cars share the 2.2-litre 150kW/500Nm four-cylinder diesel engine, with the E300 adding the 20kW/250Nm electric motor for extra performance that is said to rival that of a 3.0-litre diesel E-class.

According to Mr McCarthy, if the company decided now to take the E300 Hybrid, it could be on sale here by the end of the year.

The local Mercedes distributor ultimately will have to make similar marketing decisions about other hybrid models, including the range-extender B-class, called E-Cell Plus – Mercedes’ rival for GM’s Volt.

Unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show in September, the petrol-electric five-door hatchback will be available only in left-hand drive in the first batch due to go into production next year.

However, right-hand drive might be on the cards for subsequent batches, and in this instance the Australian importer is more interested.

The front-wheel-drive E-Cell Plus has an electric range of 100km – about 40km more than the Volt – extending to 600km when the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder petrol engine kicks in.

Under 60km/h, the combustion engine runs a generator to produce on-board power for the motor in ‘serial mode’, and above 60km/h the petrol engine switches to ‘parallel mode’, driving the front wheels in tandem with the electric motor.

Mercedes-Benz is preparing to launch the all-new B-class range in conventional petrol and diesel guises in April.

The most fuel-efficient of these launch models will be the B200 CDI BlueEfficiency diesel, at 4.7L/100km. Pricing for that model is yet to be announced.

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