Hot news for 2010: Although there are two brand-new models for 2010, the big news is the S-class hybrid, which is the first in the industry to use lithium-ion batteries; it’s also the least-expensive S-class, likely because the hybrid does not come with all-wheel-drive. Ÿ New ML-class hybrid uses traditional batteries.
Carryover: C; CL; CLS; G; GL; M; S
n Lexus claims the crown as the automaker - luxury or otherwise - with the most hybrid models, whereas Mercedes-Benz has just two. But just how interesting is the new S400, in particular? It’s the first hybrid to use the much ballyhooed lithium-ion battery pack, what is widely considered to be the next-generation power source. The battery is actually small enough to be located inside the engine compartment and feeds power to a disc-shaped 20-horse electric motor positioned between the engine and its seven-speed automatic transmission. It recovers “juice” from kinetic energy captured when the S400 is braking. It also maintains power for the car’s vital electrical functions when the 275-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is shut down, such as at a traffic light or in stop-and-go gridlock conditions.
The ML wagon also gets a hybrid option for 2010, but it doesn’t use the new lithium-ion batteries. Still, there’s 335 total horsepower on tap and in-city fuel economy is 21 mpg. Buyers can thus equip their wagon with gasoline, diesel or hybrid powertrains.
The GLK, which actually arrived in early 2009, is the smallest of Mercedes’ quartet of sport utes, but should prove to be one of the most appealing. From a size and weight standpoint, it’s similar to the BMW X3 and Acura RDX, but the GLK does enjoy about a six-inch advantage in width. Unfortunately, that does not translate into more storage space behind either the front or rear seats, a specification that significantly lags behind those of the Acura and Bimmer.
The GLK’s underpinnings are based on the C-Class sedan. Also sedan-based is the 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Power flows through a seven-speed automatic transmission; a center differential in the 4MATIC permanently engaged drive system splits torque between the front and rear wheels on a 45/55 basis under normal driving conditions. A rear-wheel-drive version will arrive next spring, after the GLK’s launch.