The Bottom Line
My first E320 BLUETEC test drive was a Mercedes-organized event in which we got to flog the diesel-powered Benz through the desert surrounding Las Vegas. This year I wanted to get some more accurate mileage figures, so Mercedes handed me the keys to a 2008 E320 for a thousand miles of travel. Along with the usual round-town routine, I took the Merc on a trip from L.A. to Palm Springs, then handed it off to SUVs guide Jason Fogelson for a run up the Pacific coast to San Luis Obispo. So how did we do -- or more specifically, how did the diesel Mercedes do? Read on.
- Excellent fuel economy
- Strong passing power
- Costs only $1000 more than a gas-powered E-Class
- Luxurious cabin
- Fuelling can be a messy, smelly process
- Lots of tire noise
- Complicated stereo controls
- E320 BLUETEC is the diesel-powered version of Mercedes' mid-level E-class sedan
- Price range: $53,025 - $64,450
- Price as tested: $62,045
- EPA fuel economy estimates: 23 MPG city, 32 MPG highway
Guide Review - 2008 Mercedes-Benz E320 BLUETEC diesel
The Mercedes-Benz E320 BLUETEC reinforces everything I believe about modern diesel cars -- they're economical, powerful, virtually odor-free, and fairly quiet. (The E320 does sound a bit like a Super Duty pickup at low speed, but by 25 MPH the tire thrum drowns out the diesel din. God bless the Germans and their lack of regard for road noise!) The E320 isn't particularly quick off the line, but with 400 lb-ft of torque, its passing power is comparable to a Saturn V rocket. Jason commented, "Mercedes has this powertrain perfectly dialed in. I drove 80 MPH the whole way and averaged 30 MPG."
My highway experience echoed Jason's: Similar MPH, similar MPG. Experimentation showed that slowing down a bit yielded big mileage gains. Set the cruise for 65 and I'm sure the diesel E would approach 35 MPG.
In town, the E320 averaged in the mid-20s; overall fuel economy for the week was just over 28 MPG. For comparison, I averaged 30 MPG in a Nissan Sentra and 20 MPG in a Cadillac CTS under similar conditions.
How do the economics work out? The E320 is priced just $1,000 higher than the gasoline-powered E350. Diesel is pricier at the pumps -- we paid $70 to fill up -- but don't forget that most cars in this class (including gas-powered Es) require premium gas, and while diesel is priced 10-20% higher, it yields 30-50% better mileage. And then there's the novelty of getting 550+ miles between fill-ups.
What about the rest of the car? I think the E's cabin is one of the best luxury interiors out there. Jason disagrees: He hated the ergonomics and cursed the complicated stereo controls. He's got a point: I'd like the E a lot better if it were as user-friendly as a Lexus. Still, I think the E320 BLUETEC proves the point about diesel: It's fast, efficient, and great to live with. Were I buying a $60k luxury car, the E320 BLUETEC would be at the top of my list.