German Hybrids Arrive, With Big Engines and Big Price Tags
Nearly 10 years since the first hybrids hit US roads, BMW and Mercedes both announced pricing this week for their first gas-electric hybrids arriving in showrooms this month.
The BMW ActiveHybrid X6 will sell for $89,725. The two-mode hybrid mates a 4.4-liter twin-turbo 400-horsepower V8 engine with two electric motors delivering 91 and 86 hp each. The ActiveHybrid is geared for performance, granting 0-60 speed of 5.5 seconds. The hybrid system means a 20 percent improvement over the standard X6—but that only adds up to 17 mpg in the city and 19 on the highway.
Standard features include 7-speed automatic transmission, leather interior, 20-inch aero wheels, rearview camera with top view and heads-up display.
The Mercedes-Benz ML 450 Hybrid shows slightly more deference to fuel economy, with its 3.5-liter, 275-horsepower V6 and two motors providing 335 horsepower. Mercedes says the ML 450 Hybrid will deliver fuel economy of 21 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway. That’s a nice boost compared to the V8 ML550, which rates 13/18—and roughly compares to the clean diesel Mercedes ML350 Bluetec rated at 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Curiously, the Mercedes ML 450 Hybrid will only be offered on a lease of $659 a month for 36 months, or $549 a month for 60 months. Mercedes USA spokesman Rob Moran said, “We are offering this vehicle as lease only due to a limited supply of batteries available. We felt a lease only program offered the best option for customers.” Reading between the lines, Mercedes has some concerns about maintaining or replacing the nickel metal hydride batteries in the future. The new Mercedes S400 Hybrid, which went on sale a few weeks ago, uses lithium ion batteries—a technology expected to supplant the current nickel-based hybrid batteries.
More than four years ago, Deiter Zetsche, Daimler CEO, was fending off criticism about his company’s sluggish plans for producing a hybrid gas-electric vehicle. He quipped, “As my wife often says, if you know you’re going to arrive a bit late to the dinner party, be sure you bring the best wine.” With the ML 450 Hybrid and the BMW ActiveHybrid X6, German carmakers have arrived to the hybrid party with keg-sized jugs of expensive stuff. Unfortunately, the most exciting green car party has already moved on to plug-in hybrids and electric cars with much greater potential to reduce fuel use and emissions.