This week brings the official launch of the first European-branded vehicle equipped with the two-mode hybrid system that was co-developed between General Motors, Daimler, BMW and Chrysler. The Mercedes-Benz ML450 edges out the BMW X6 ActiveHybrid in getting to showrooms but it actually shares much with the BMW. Mercedes is building the re-packaged two-mode transmission that is being installed in both vehicles. And while the vehicles bear German nameplates, both are actually built in the southeastern United States.
Unlike the BMW, Mercedes has tuned the ML for improved fuel efficiency compared to its conventionally-powered siblings. While the BMW uses a twin-turbo 4.4-liter V8 to achieve 17/19 mpg ratings. The ML450 instead uses an Atkinson cycle version of Mercedes 3.5-liter V6 to achieve up to 335 hp and 381 pound-feet of torque in combination with the electric motors. The result is a boost in mileage compared to the V8 ML550 to 21 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. That compares with the ML350 Bluetec diesel which is rated at 18/25 mpg.
Interestingly, Mercedes has actually opted not to sell the ML450, instead offering it only for lease for either 36 or 60 months at $659 or $549 per month, respectively. According to Mercedes USA spokesman Rob Moran, "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."