Better late than never, at least as far as Mercedes-Benz is concerned. Though the automaker has been putting most of its emphasis on clean, fuel-efficient diesels, it used the New York International Auto Show as the opportunity to unveil its first high-mileage hybrid-electric vehicle.
The ML450, which goes on sale for the 2010 model-year, “offers V-8 torque with 4-cylinder fuel economy,” declared Ernst Lieb, President of Mercedes’ U.S. sales subsidiary, during a NY press preview.
You’ll need a close look to spot the hybrid badge on the ML450, which relies on a two-mode gasoline-electric drivetrain system developed through an unusual joint venture with Chrysler, BMW and General Motors. The goal of the consortium was to overcome a fundamental problem with early hybrid systems, such as the drivetrain in the Toyota Prius, which provides a significant boost to mileage in-town, but can actually reduce fuel efficiency on the highway.
The hybrid SUV delivers 24 mpg on the EPA’s City cycle and 24 mpg on the Highway.