The E320 BLUETEC is the diesel-powered version of Mercedes' revamped E-Class. While the outgoing E320CDI used a 3.2 liter inline-six, the E320 BLUETEC uses a new 3.0 liter V6 engine; BLUETEC denotes Mercedes' new clean-diesel technology. Why go diesel? Fuel economy. The E320's EPA numbers are 26 MPG city/37 highway, the latter holding the promise of 700+ miles on one tank. And with a starting price of $52,550, just $1,000 more than a gas-powered E, it's easy to make up your investment.
First glance: How long can I keep handing you the same old line?
I thought about simply writing the phrase "This is what I've been talking about" over and over again. The About.com article template has space for about 170 properly-punctuated repetitions of this phrase. All the reasons I think diesels are superior to gasoline cars are embodied in the E320 BLUETEC. For all intents and purposes, you may as well be driving a gasoline-powered E350 -- except you won't have to visit the gas station nearly as often.
In the Driver's Seat: E320 makes it easy to forget you're riding in a diesel car
Driving the E320 BLUETEC is little different than driving the gasoline-powered E350. The E320 idles almost as quietly and by 30 MPH or so the rumble of the tires eclipses any noise from the engine. At lower speeds you can sometimes hear the familiar diesel growl, but just barely -- it almost sounds as if it's coming from the car next to you. The E320 uses the steel-sprung suspension of the E350; the E550's wonderful air suspension is, sadly, not available with the diesel.
On the Road: Excellent mileage and clean BLUETEC technology
The BLUETEC system refers to the E320's system of emissions controls. (For more information, see my article How Mercedes-Benz BLUETEC works.) The result is green power: The E320 BLUETEC uses low-sulfer "clean" diesel, available at most filling stations in the US and Canada, and meets emissions standards in 45 states (all except California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont). A 50-state version of the E320 BLUETEC will arrive in 2008.
Journey's End: Return on investment
Of course, old-guard Mercedes diesel owners will tell you they don't keep their cars for 25,000 or 35,000 miles. They keep them for 250,000 or 350,000 or more. Often a lot more. Diesels are durable and mechanically simple, and when it comes to lifespan they are the giant tortoises of the automotive world.
Diesels also offer the opportunity to run biodiesel, a clean fuel derived from vegetable oil. With no set standards for biodiesel formulation, Mercedes will only condone the use of BD5 (5% biodiesel, 95% petroleum diesel) without voiding the warranty, but plenty of diesel owners run mixes from BD20 all the way up to 100% biodiesel. (Visit www.biodiesel.org to learn more.)
Were I in the market for an E, the E320 BLUETEC is definitely the one I'd buy. It's better to drive, more economical, and holds the promise of reduced reliance on foreign oil -- the embodiment of all I love about diesel cars. This is so what I've been talking about! -- Aaron Gold