Diesels may turn the heat up on hybrids

While hybrids are still a hot topic here in the U.S., especially after Toyota just introduced the new Camry Hybrid at the Detroit auto show, diesels appear to be making a strong move to capture the North American mileage crown. We base this claim solely on the passion with which Dieter Zetsche talked about DaimlerChrysler’s new BLUETEC 3.2L engine that will be fitted into everything from the E-Class sedan, R-Class tourer, ML-Class SUV and new GL-Class full size SUV.

Zetsche stressed two things over and over in his press conference on the BLUETEC 3.2L diesel engine: 1. It meets the world’s most stringent exhaust emissions standards, including all 50 U.S. states, and 2. it gets great gas mileage in every vehicle.
The best matchup between diesels and hybrids we saw at the Detroit auto show were GM’s new Two-Mode Hybrid Tahoe and the Mercedes Benz GL 320 BLUETEC, two large and heavy SUVs that could stand a little moderation in their liquid diets. Where Zetsche was shouting from the rafters that the BLUETEC-equipped GL-Class would get 26 mpg, GM would not speak about what actual mileage its Hybrid Tahoe would return.

Instead, every press release says the H-Tahoe will see a “25 percent improvement in composite fuel efficiency” over the standard Vortec V8. We did the math and that would turn out to be 20 city/25 hwy, or a combined average of 23.5 mpg. Nowhere does GM mention composite power numbers for the Two-Mode Hybrid system, either. The BLUETEC 3.2L diesel six, however, produces 224 hp and an undisclosed but presumably large amount of torque.

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