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.

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  • sean t

    $89,725 and 17/19 MPG. Not impressed.

  • Ramzy R.

    Not worth my pocket.

  • Mr. Fusion

    If you’re spending this kind of money on a vehicle, I don’t think MPG is too much of a concern. With MPG numbers like this, these SUVs will be for folks with bucks who want to flaunt their greenitude to a similar crowd.

  • wooac

    Conspicuous Consumption Hybrids.

  • Anonymous

    I think they missed the point of hybrid cars

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Folks with the kind of money to buy these pigs should be shamed into buying Tesla Roadsters, the most fuel efficient, high performance, and petroleum-free automobiles on the market.
    I guess the Germans are finally giving in and realizing they have to compete the Lexus hybrid greenwashing market.

  • hth

    $89,725 with that kind of MPG. What are they thinking? I could buy 2 Lexus RX Hybrid for me and my wife with that money with a lot better MPG. Sorry.

  • Dom

    Anonymous said “I think they missed the point of hybrid cars”. And what is that exactly? Oh, that’s right, a Prius. I guess Toyota also missed the point with their Lexus hybrids…

    ex-EV1 driver said “Folks with the kind of money to buy these pigs should be shamed into buying Tesla Roadsters”. Why? Just because it’s your favorite car doesn’t mean everybody with money should want one, much less be forced or shamed into buying one. If they’re shopping for a roadster, then perhaps, but if they want a BMW or Mercedes, or some other luxury SUV or Crossover, then these two hybrids or the similar clean diesels versions are fine choices. Personally I’d pick the diesel, but then, I can’t afford to shop for any of these brands…

  • veek

    If an American carmaker had introduced a vehicle with that kind of price and that kind of mileage, they’d be the laugh of the town and the target of our dumb Congress. The Germans do it and their cars are considered sophisticated green engineering masterpieces. Yes, ’tis a strange world we live in.

  • Hybrid Cars

    I particularly like the BMW hybrid. There are a number of hybrid SUVs that are out there that I like and am considering purchasing as my next vehicle. They don’t mention Lexus’s Hybrid SUV which is also a big contender in the hybrid SUV market.

  • Anon

    $90K “green” vehicles that hold five people, a bit of luggage, and with fuel consumption of a F-150 truck – yeah, makes perfect sense.

    My non-hybrid Sienna:

    1. Will last much longer, will be cheaper in maintenance than these German flops.
    2. Consumes 30% less fuel.
    3. Can comfortably transport seven people, and a whole bunch of luggage.
    4. Costs 1/3 of the Germans.
    5. Non-hybrid – no complicated electronics, batteries, etc.

  • Dom

    Anon – you’re comparing a BMW or Mercedes SUV/CUV to a Toyota minivan?!?!?!?! ROTFL!!! Nobody is going to cross-shop those!!!

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