Mercedes Benz Launches ‘Hybrid Offensive’

Sure, it’s an interesting choice of words, but Mercedes Benz insists it’s launching a “hybrid offensive” with the premiere of two new models at this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month. Both new hybrids are from the Benz workhorse E-Class lineup.

While both models are taking their first bows in Motown, they are bound for different markets. The new E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid combines a 204 horsepower four-cylinder turbo diesel engine with an electric motor that adds another 27 horses to the output. Benz says that combo is good for about 56 mpg, making it the most economical luxury model in the world. A turbo diesel, available as either a sedan or a wagon with a powerful engine, plenty of torque, great fuel economy, low emissions…. What’s not to love? If you live in the United States, you can’t get one. The car will only be available in Europe.

benz e400

image via Mercedes Benz

American drivers will have to console themselves with the new E 400 Hybrid. Instead of that turbo diesel, the E 400 features a six cylinder gas engine capable of generating 306 horsepower. That six is joined up to the same electric motor in the E 300 to offer 27 mpg. While the efficiency isn’t as good as the E 300, the speed ain’t bad: The E 400 can go from zero to 60 in a very respectable 6.7 seconds and has a limited top speed of 130 mph (the E 300 hybrid does the zero-60 run in 7.5 and tops out at 150 mph).

Both models use the same hybrid system available in the Benz S400 hybrid, which runs the gas/lithium-ion battery motor combo through a seven-speed transmission. Both models also feature regenerative braking, aerodynamic styling and a “sailing” mode that can decouple the engine from the transmission at speeds of up to 100 mph in order to allow the car to coast along the highway with minimal frictional losses from the drivetrain. Although no pricing info was released, the E400 should start showing up on these shore in the second half of 2012.

Steve Duda lives in West Seattle, WA with three dogs and a lot of outdoor gear. A part-time fly fishing fishing guide and full-time writer, Steve’s work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Seattle Weekly, American Angler, Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Democracy Now! and many others.

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