Usually, here in North America, it’s gas or nothing. Otherwise, there are plenty of fleet vehicles that run on natural gas and propane, and who can forget (or find) the wonder-fuel of yesteryear that was E85 ethanol? Electric cars, meanwhile, require electric infrastructure and vice-versa, so that’s still a fuel of the future in this humble gear head’s opinion. The idea of putting food in your tank instead of on your plate or plugging in your car so you can barely go 100 km on a single charge just isn’t as appealing or feasible right now as pulling up to the pump and driving away minutes after filling up your tank with good ‘ole liquid hydrocarbons.
But I’ve neglected to mention a torquey alternative to gas that most Europeans and every trucker across North America can appreciate: Diesel.
The 2011 Mercedes ML 350 Bluetec makes perfect use of diesel instead of gas to motivate this luxury SUV just as well. if not better, as any of its gasoline powered counterparts.
Though the Mercedes Bluetec diesel is relatively new to North America, diesel engines are standard fare in many daily driven European cars. The main reason for this is their superior fuel efficiency compared to gasoline engines, thanks to the tremendous amounts of low end torque that helps get a vehicle moving at lower speeds.
What is torque? In short, torque is the mass of rotating power measured against the distance in feet it’s spinning at, and diesels naturally have more of it than gas powered vehicles.
This translates into the kind of fuel efficiency that gets this Mercedes an average 25 mpg (9.41 L/100 km), compared to the gas powered ML 350’s average of only 20 mpg (11.76 L/100 km).
With 210 hp and 400 lbs./ft. of torque mated to a 7 speed automatic, this Mercedes is no slouch when it comes to power. From a stop, it shifts fluidly from 0 to 60 in 8 seconds while revving thousands of rpm lower than its gasoline equivalent.
In a gas powered vehicle, fewer revolutions per minute mean better mileage at the expense of performance. The diesel engine and transmission shows that the engineers at Mercedes can provide strong, authoritative performance all the way to the 7th gear. It goes through the gears smoothly and concisely while providing a solid amount of power that makes you wonder why there aren’t more diesels on the road today.
The interior is elegantly awesome and has all the features you could want, ranging from the simple sunroof to the sophisticated Blind Spot assist. It’s comfortable and spacious enough for five people and still has plenty of space left over. The utility of having fold-up rear seats is useful for when you need even more cargo space. What really stands out is the Harman Kardon premium sound system that fills the cabin with high quality sound.
As far as a luxury SUV goes, the ML 350 Bluetec is a top contender in all regards. It handles very well given its size, and provides fuel efficient performance that is as refined as any gas driven equivalent Mercedes has to offer.