One week into the big Mercedes-Benz diesel marathon from Paris to Beijing, the fleet of 36 E320s have completed the first leg by arriving in St. Petersburg, Russia. The team of drivers will be replaced by a whole new group for the second leg going on to Yekaterinburg over the next five days. So far the only incident has been one flat tire. Each of the cars is fully loaded with from three to five passengers and all of their luggage. The teams have traversed seven countries in the first seven days of the journey.

One of the goals of the trip is to demonstrate the fuel efficiency of the new 3.2L diesel V-6 as the teams try to get the best mileage over the course of the marathon. The average consumption of the fleet is currently about 29 mpg and the best team, consisting of two Polish reporters, has managed 34.6 mpg over the first leg. The best mileage for a single day was over 39 mpg between Riga and Tallin. The fleet includes both rear wheel drive and all wheel drive versions of the E320, which will pull down the fleet average a bit. That makes this level of fuel efficiency a particularly impressive feat. The full Mercedes report is after the jump.

[Source: Mercedes-Benz]

Long Distance Drive Paris - Beijing 2006 in St. Petersburg: Seven Countries in Seven Days - Best Average Consumption at 6.8 litres/100 km

St. Petersburg, Oct 28, 2006
Mercedes-Benz is demonstrating the worldwide potential of its diesel technology with an extraordinary long distance drive over two continents. One week after the start in Paris the marathon fleet of 36 Mercedes-Benz E-Classes arrived at the destination of the first leg in St. Petersburg after a drive of around 3550 kilometres. Together, the diesel saloons have already traversed more than 120 000 kilometres on their rout through seven countries.

Last Saturday the fleet of 33 E 320 CDI and three E 320 BLUETEC cars left the French capital on their way to St. Petersburg. In the former Russian capitals, the saloons will be taken over by a new group of drivers, who will complete the second leg of the "E-Class Experience" to Yekaterinburg within 5 days. Overall, approximately 360 drivers from 35 nations will take turns at the wheel before the diesel marathon reaches its final destination in Beijing on 17 November.

Best Average Consumption at 6.8 litres/100 km

The object of the drive, to test the emission levels, fuel economy, and cruising range of the state-of-the-art diesel cars under the most extreme conditions, was fulfilled by the teams from Europe, America and Asia on the first leg. Although the E-Classes carrying three to five persons with luggage have a heavier load and the route during the first few days included a high share of motorways and expressways, the average consumption of the fleet was just over eight litres per 100 kilometres. The best team with two Polish reporters, achieved average consumption of only 6.8 litres/100 km. The daily record posted between Riga and Tallin was even lower at 6.0 litres. At the same time the E-Classes demonstrated their high reliability in continuous operation. The only accident in the combined total of 120,000 kilometres travelled was a flat tyre.

Positive Experiences in the East

The relaxed atmosphere in Eastern Europe was a surprising experience for many participants. "In my head I still have magazine photos of grey buildings and sad-looking people. And now I am seeing happy faces all around me", said Javier Reynagas. The 40-year reporter from the Mexican daily newspaper"El Economista" is driving a special protection E-Class saloon by MB Guard to St. Petersburg. This is the first diesel saloon worldwide to be offered with B4 resistance level protection, which includes bullet-proof windshields, antiballistic reinforcement guards in the vehicle floor, and is carrying particularly valuable cargo to Beijing: three bottles of magnum in the trunk for the toasts at the end of the marathon in three weeks.

Iris Zimmermanns, 39, who was selected for the long-distance drive from over 50,000 Internet applicants, has meanwhile had some new experiences between Vilnius and Tallin:"I was amazed to discover how many people there speak excellent English. "

Old Europe's New Shine

The highlights of the "E-Class Experience" are provided not only by personal encounters and the great variety of landscapes during the journey – ranging from the metropolitan regions of Paris, Berlin, and Warsaw to the untouched countryside of the Masurian and Baltic regions – but also by the sightseeing landmarks along the route, which include eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in the first leg alone: the Banks of the River Seine in Paris, Place Stanislas in Nancy, the Museum island in Berlin and the historic centres of Warsaw, Vilnius, Riga, Tallin and St. Petersburg.

The event venues likewise reflected the motto of the first leg "Old Europe's New Shine". Following the kick-off in the magnificent rooms of the Automobile Club de France at Place de la Concorde in Paris and an intermediate stop in the historic Bärensaal ballroom in Berlin, where the German Unification Treaty was negotiated, the first leg was officially completed in the famous marble palace in St. Petersburg.

The Mercedes-Benz marathon fleet consists of serial E-Class models, some of which have 4MATIC all wheel drive. In addition to the 33 E 320 CDIs three E-Classes are equipped with BLUETEC technology. This vanguard technology turns the Mercedes-Benz saloon into the cleanest diesel car in the world. The E 320 BLUETEC, which has been offered in Canada and the USA (in 45 US states) since 15 October 2006, uses up to 30 percent less fuel than comparable vehicles with Otto engines in North America. With its enormous range of up to 1200 km on a single tank this vehicle – like the E 320 CDI – is simply predestined for an automobile marathon such as the long distance drive from Paris to Beijing.

Taxi to Beijing

The most unusual vehicles in the remake of the rally are two taxis from Paris and Stuttgart, which are accompanying the fleet over the entire distance over eight national borders and six time zones. While the meter of the German taxi had already reached the enviable sum of 5,766.29 Euro at the Russian border, the taxi meter of the Parisian taxi stopped at 999.90 Euro. The limit specified for taxi rides from the French capital had already been reached after 614 kilometres.

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