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A bird's eye glance of Benz hybrids

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  October 9, 2009 03:43 PM

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mercedes-hood.jpg

(Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff)

The view high above the Staples headquarters parking lot in Framingham was fantastic. But why was I hovering over the parking lot in a boom truck bucket in the first place? Well, as the operator started to give me a fast 360 degree twirl I too wondered this.

electric-crane.jpgThis particular Eaton bucket truck was a hybrid vehicle, part of a lineup of alternative fuel vehicles designed for commercial fleets.

Admittedly, I am not a commercial fleet owner nor do I plan to be one. So, from my bird's eye view of the assembled vehicles I chose two familiar looking Mercedes-Benz vehicles to look at.

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(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

The first was a 2010 S400 Hybrid sedan intended for livery service. This black on black beauty personified elegance. Although intended to be chauffer driven, the driver is provided with all the creature comforts a non-fleet S-Class has to offer. For instance, there is a 14-way power adjustable front seat with pneumatic lumbar support.

Other standard equipment were COMAND system with 49 GB hard-drive navigation system, HD digital radio, Sirius satellite radio, Zagat restaurant guide, and a harman/kardon surround-sound system. The cabin was swathed in luscious leather and dark brown eucalyptus wood trim. I wish my office were as nice.

mercedes-s400-hybrid-engine.jpg

(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

The $95,000 S400 Hybrid has a 3.5 liter V-6, which in "mild" hybrid configuration provides V8-like performance. It assists the vehicle, but does not run as a pure EV. The estimated combined fuel economy is 29 mpg. Not bad for a big Mercedes. The lithium-ion battery, about the size of a breadbox and much smaller then the normal battery found in the non-hybrid Benz, lives in the engine bay. Thus, cargo and passenger capacity is also equal to the non-hybrid S400.

mercedes-ml450-hybrid-engine.jpg

(Glenn Gould/Boston.com)

The other Mercedes-Benz was a light blue 2010 ML450 Hybrid available next spring. This vehicle had a 275 horsepower 3.5 liter V-6 gasoline engine. It will run in EV mode up to 34 mph (its hybrid system was co-engineered with BMW, Chrysler, and General Motors). As with the S400 sedan, Mercedes promotes the ML450 as having V-8-like performance. They state the ML450 gets 30 percent better fuel economy than a comparable V-8-powered ML550. The electric motor generates 80 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. It also has all-wheel drive, so it might be an option for the non-fleet owners among us too.

Not on display, but commercially available is a B-Class compressed natural gas/gasoline bi-fuel vehicle soon to be launched in the southern and western regions of the US. It seems they have a better infrastructure for distribution of CNG than in the Northeast.

Also in the lot were several Chevrolet Ford and Toyota hybrids. GM had a Chevy Equinox fuel cell vehicle that they were giving rides in. Not as cool as the Eaton bucket truck, but the fuel cell Equinox was very quiet. It runs in EV mode all the time.

Oh, we were transported from our parking lot in a Massport CNG Shuttle Bus. I would have preferred the S400 sedan, but the CNG Shuttle Bus beats walking any day.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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