Mercedes-Benz Launches 4-Cylinder S Class
Are you ready for a four-cylinder Mercedes Benz S Class?
It seems unthinkable. The same number of cylinders in the big Mercedes that is in a Volkswagen Golf?
The German automaker is rolling out an S-class sedan called the S250 CDI, which has a four-cylinder diesel engine. Mercedes developed the car for Europe, which counts diesels about 40%-50% of new car sales, but so far does not plan to sell it in the U.S.
But that could change in future. Mercedes, BMW and Audi, as well as Volkswagen, have all brought diesels to the U.S.
The German car companies have long been champions of diesel for the U.S. But American consumers have stubbornly long memories of terrible defect-ridden diesels from General Motors in the late 1970s and 80s. The legacy of those cars is that politicians and regulators remain hostile or indifferent to diesel cars in terms of lowering taxes on diesel fuel at the pumps, as Europe did, and ease CO2 standards for diesels.
The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI (Diesel), for example, costs about $2,000 more than the gasoline counterpart, but gets 30/42 mpg versus 23/30 mob for the gas version.
Diesel-powered four cylinder engines are common in sedans and crossovers in Europe. Turbo-charging and direct injection of fuel into the engine, plus the diesel aspect gives the vehicles lots of low-end torque (power at relatively low rpms for the engine) that is more than sufficient power. Diesel cars have surprising amounts of power and acceleration, though their horsepower ratings tend to be low.
But direct injected, turbo charged four-cylinder gas engines are turning up in U.S. showrooms in vehicles many will find surprising: The Ford Explorer, Buick LaCrosse sedan and Chevy Equinox SUV. Ford and Hyundai are finding high demand for their four-cylinder versions of the Fusion and Sonata sedans respectively.
And in the luxury space, BMW is bringing a four cylinder version of its 3 Series and 5 Series to the U.S.--engine configurations that have long been Europe-only.
Mercedes says its S250 CDI uses 5.7 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers. That translates to 41 miles per gallon - about the same as a Ford Fiesta or Ford Fusion Hybrid!
The S250 CDI's 2.2-liter engine generates 204 horsepower. That's about half the power of the V8 S550 sold here, but it's enough to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in about eight seconds. While the S250CDI isn't scheduled for lated for sale in the U.S., Mercedes says it will bring a fuel-saving six-cylinder turbo-diesel version of the S-Class to the U.S. for the 2012 model year.