Germans discover fuel economy

Consumer Reports tested a fleet of half a dozen luxoboats for the November issue, and the runaway winner in the Least Thirst derby was the Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec diesel, which recorded an astonishing 29 mpg, way ahead of the second-place Lexus hybrid (23). BMW held down a solid third with 22 mpg (from 300 hp!), and the E350, the gas-powered version of the same Benz, was fourth with 21. (Volvo and Infiniti brought up the rear.)

This BlueTec figure, mind you, was achieved in a car that weighs two tons (4005 lb, they say) and does zero to sixty in eight flat without any of the car-mag fast-launch techniques. (Car and Driver tested an ’07 BlueTec and got it to sixty in 6.8; what’s more, they reported 34 mpg.) Trini, who just got rid of a gas-guzzling truck in favor of a modest little Saturn Ion with a stick shift, gets numbers no better than this.

So the next question is: Will Benz buyers fork over the extra $1000 for a slightly-slower but way-stingier car?

Me? Only once did I ever seriously consider buying a Mercedes, and this was during my newlywed days. The Benz in question was a three-year-old 240D with four on the floor and the ubiquitous MB-Tex upholstery; it had been owned by a physician around Enid way who apparently still made house calls, or something, because he’d put 100,000 miles on it, and what’s more, he’d installed an auxiliary fuel tank, so it took 45 gallons to fill the beast to the brim. The upside, of course, was the 1350 miles you could go on that single fill. On the other hand, only 65 ponies dwelt behind the three-pointed star, which meant that acceleration was theoretical at best, and if we wanted to get up one of Oklahoma’s notoriously-short onramps at eight in the morning, we would have been well advised to start around six-thirty. Ultimately, we wound up buying a two-year-old Chevrolet Nova with a small-block V8, which had the further advantage of costing a few grand less; perhaps perversely, we bought it from a Chrysler-Plymouth store. (Previously mentioned, in considerably less detail, here.)

That said, would I consider the BlueTec? If my budget permitted a $55k sedan, sure. I’m not holding my breath, though.

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