By 2008, Mercedes was moving full steam ahead with its BlueTec diesel models. Why? For one thing, cleaner-burning, lower-sulphur content diesel fuel was finally making its way into Canada. For another, the price of gas was starting to climb and people were looking for higher-mileage alternatives.
Briefly put, Mercedes' BlueTec diesel engine featured a more efficient and thorough combustion process with an upgraded exhaust system. Among other things, this setup also featured a particulate filter to trap any leftover "soot," as well as an oxidation catalyst to re-treat spent exhaust gases and extract hydrocarbons. There was also a self-cleaning feature that routinely scoured the engine to root out any stubborn residue - usually during highway cruising.
Mercedes introduced BlueTec to its North American E-Class model in 2007, but it had been available in Europe well before that. Incidentally, this engine took home the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) Best New Technology award, and garnered a World Green Car award in Europe in 2007.
The 2008 E-320 BlueTec was rated at 210 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claimed it had a 0-100 km/h time of just less than seven seconds, which made it one of the faster four-door sedans on the market. And it delivered a miserly 6.1 litres/100 km on the highway. Transmission was a seven-speed automatic with a manual shift mode and two performance settings.
In virtually every respect, the BlueTec engine was completely civilized. Cold starts required a very brief waiting period - two or three seconds at the most. And this was only during particularly chilly winter weather; if the car had been driven earlier in the day, for example, there was no wait time.
The 2008 E320 BlueTec came with a full roster of comfort and convenience features. Heated front seats, power windows, remote keyless entry, walnut wood trim, front, side and side curtain airbags, and so on were all standard issue.
There were also available extras like Bluetooth capability, power tilt/telescoping steering, a heated steering wheel, Sirius satellite radio, and Mercedes' "Pre-Safe" accident-sensing system, which tightens up the seat belts and closes the windows and sun roof immediately before an accident. You could also get a full leather interior, a navi system, rear window sunshade, back-up warning sensors and a power trunk lid.
A couple of things to keep in mind, however. First up, like most diesels, the BlueTec required an inordinately long time to clear the windshield and warm up the interior in the morning. Secondly, the E320 featured extremely sensitive steering and, during parking and cornering, the power steering mechanism could feel kind of peculiar.
Two recalls to report, both from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. One concerns a possibly faulty crankshaft sensor that, should it fail, will result in a dramatic power drop and an inability to re-start the vehicle. The second is a fuel pump-related glitch that could lead to incorrect fuel gauge readings. NHTSA also has 23 technical service advisories on file for the E320, and they range from suspension issues to instrumentation malfunctions, to minor oil leaks, to problems with the turbocharger unit. These bulletins affect all E320 models, not just the BlueTec.
Good grades in almost every area from market research firm J.D. Power. Aside from some minor issues with accessory features quality and dependability, it receives top or near the top marks right across the board. J.D. Power gave the E320 its Highest Ranked Premium Mid-sized Car In Initial Quality award in 2008, and it gets top marks for vehicle dependability and overall quality and design.
Consumer Reports also likes the 2008 E320 BlueTec, giving the car its highest possible rating and the coveted "Good Bet" award. The only questionable areas of the car seem to be the suspension and audio systems; otherwise, it's all good. Some comments from owners: "expensive maintenance," "scarcity of diesel fuel when we're travelling" and "the controls are kind of confusing." Superior fuel economy is a common praise.
All this comes at a price. Expect to pay anywhere from $35,000 to $40,000 for a three-year-old E320 BlueTec. This is just more than half of what it cost new. And the price of diesel has also risen proportionately. Depending upon where you live, it can be as much as $1.50 a litre.
2008 Mercedes E320 BlueTec
Original Base Price: $68,100; Black Book: $39,200; Red Book: $36,400
Engine: 3.0-litre V-6 turbo-diesel
Horsepower/torque: 210 hp/400 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.0 city/6.1 highway; diesel fuel
Alternatives: BMW 5-Series, Infiniti M35/45, Cadillac CTS, Audi A6, Jaguar S-type, Lexus GS350