Does 31 MPG, eked from a 4,255-pound, five-passenger luxury sedan swimming in leather and wood and all the techy accoutrements to which the 1 percent have become accustomed, sound reasonable? Fathomable, even? - "AutoWeek.com"
It's what we managed during a recent two-week stint in a 2012 Mercedes-Benz E350 Bluetec, and to a person, all staffers who drove it made note not only of the car's amazing return on the gallon but also how much they enjoyed the performance along the way.
“The diesel returns more than 30 mpg. Few luxury cars on the market today will deliver that kind of fuel economy,” one editor remarked. “And rarely does 210 hp feel this stout. Even two-lane passes are done with little drama.”
We found the E350 Bluetec to be an effortless highway cruiser, the 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V6 turning just less than 2,000 rpm when locked at 75 mph in cruise control. And with the heart of the torque band hovering right around that range, a light prod of the throttle is all it takes for a power surge sweeping enough to overcome all other traffic.
“If you need further proof that a turbodiesel is the ideal powerplant for a big luxury car, look no further than the E350 Bluetec,” another editor said. “With its sense of mass and effortless torque, the sensation when moving away from a stoplight is akin to the takeoff roll in a Boeing 777. It's not the neck-snapping power you experience in an AMG as much as it is sheer thrust—the inevitability of forward movement.”
Still, one might question whether that real-world mpg is good enough to eclipse a $1,200 price premium and, arguably, the incrementally higher maintenance fees associated with keeping the diesel-combustion process relatively clean. All Mercedes Bluetec vehicles require special exhaust aftertreatment.
On paper, the base E350, with its 3.5-liter gasoline engine, should achieve an EPA-estimated 24 mpg combined, or just 21 fewer miles per tank of fuel than its diesel stablemate at an EPA-rated 25 mpg combined. As of March 27, the median price for a gallon of premium gasoline in our zip code was $4.15, and a gallon of diesel was $4.19, according to www.gasbuddy.com. Given that, at the rate of 10,000 miles driven per year, it would take 22.6 years, the time it takes to raise a child from birth through college, to recoup the premium on the Bluetec. Does anyone even own a car that long anymore?
But here's the complicating factor: If you consistently achieved as high an average as we did during our time in the diesel E-class, the break-even point shrinks to just 3.2 years.
In either scenario, the question remains: Is it worth it? Does that even strike you as a “green” choice? We're not entirely sure.
What we are sure of is that we love looking down at a trip odometer reading 300 miles—with 350 more miles of range. “When two tons of luxury sedan can get more than 30 mpg indicated in mixed driv-ing with no extension cords, weird clunks or CVTs needed,” one editor explained, “I have to ask why so many manufacturers (and so many Americans) are wedded to the idea of hybrid/electric propulsion.”