WHILE BMW holds off on a locally-delivered hybrid and Audi concentrates on high-efficiency diesels, Mercedes-Benz is shaping up to be the first European prestige manufacturer to have a hybrid model on the Australian market.
Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific is reportedly close to locking in the upcoming E300 BlueTEC Hybrid for local sales, with the company estimating that it could be here as soon as late 2010.
When it does eventually arrive, it will be the first commercially-available diesel-electric hybrid car in Australia.
The E300 BlueTEC concept that was shown at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show (which most likely forms the basis for the new W212 E300 BlueTEC) coupled a 2.2 litre direct-injected clean diesel four-cylinder engine with an electric assistance motor, with the combined output of the hybrid drive system pegged at 165kW and 560Nm.
Fuel economy for the concept was claimed to be a healthy 5.4 l/100km, but given the improved aerodynamics of the just-released W212 E-Class (read our first drive here), the production E300 hybrid should be able to beat that figure.
Mercedes-Benz hints that fuel consumption for the upcoming car could get as low as 4.5 l/100km on the combined cycle.
The E300 BlueTEC Hybrid will spearhead a number of new fuel-efficient models from Mercedes. The planned S-Class and M-Class hybrids are currently expected to be LHD-only, however future hybrids will likely be built in both LHD and RHD format.
As hybrid technology gains acceptance and sales grow, expect others of the world's car companies - like BMW - to roll out greater numbers of alternative-propulsion vehicles.