A couple months ago, when it came time for the annual mancation to the Colorado River, we hit up the usual suspects for some suitable off-road-capable transportation. Our official request to Mercedes was something super-awesome, like a G55 AMG.
Two weeks later a diesel-powered ML350 Bluetec showed up. Now, we realize that beggars can’t be choosers, but the prospect of showing up with an M-Class soccermobile had serious implications for our manly egos.
Some 600 miles later and with a little time for reflection, it turns out the ML Bluetec was the appropriate choice. Of course it doesn’t exude the military-tinged testosterone secretions of the venerable Gelndewagen. But, manly egos tucked firmly into back pocket, the ML350 did everything we needed it to, and likely saved us a couple hundred bucks in fuel costs in the process.
The road from our Orange County offices to the River is actually a pretty straight shot up the interstate. Here, the Bluetec’s real-time fuel economy estimator registered solid mid-20 readings, mostly in the 23-24 mpg range. On the way out, with my foot in the gas,the Bluetec averaged 22.3 mpg overalland that included city driving prior to departure from O.C. and in and around Blythe, Calif., our mancation home base. At that point, the ML’s economy computer indicated an overall average of 24-25 mpg for the trip.
Once at the River, more time is spent doing low-speed, city-type driving. We’re bird hunters, so there’s a lot of back-and-forth driving on the gridwork of roads that mark the agricultural fields south of Blythe, scouting, backtracking. We don’t do any real hard-core off-roading, but the car was up to whatever we threw at it.
On the way back, with the cruise control locked between 65 and 70 mph, the Bluetec returned 26.7 mpg. That’s when it dawned on me that I would have probably burned between one or two hundred dollars in extra fuel had I been driving a G550 or G55 AMG. So thank goodness for Bluetec.
Why then are we Americans seemingly so resistant to the clean diesel phenomenon? Although sales are looking more resilient, our overall reluctance to buying diesel-burning cars is still keeping some of the best oil-burners away from U.S. shores.
For example, Europeans have access to a G350 Bluetec, which should return similar economy figures to the ML350. Maybe a little less because of its brick-like aerodynamics. But I would have still been saving money while rolling around looking like a total military badass.
2011 Mercedes-Benz ML350 Bluetec
Longitudinal front engine, all-wheel drive
3.5-liter V6, dohc, 24-valve
Peak Power: 210 hp @ 3400 rpm
Peak Torque: 400 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
0-62 mph: 8.0 sec.
Top Speed: 130 mph
Fuel Economy: 18 city/25 hwy
Price as tested: $64,145