Hey! Can We Have Diesel Hybrids Too?!
That’s the projected MPG of the new Volvo V60 Diesel/Hybrid wagon, due out in 2013. That’s using the UK gallon (bigger), so converted for U.S. it’s 102.3MPG. Still ridiculous. Still astronomical, unbelievable, incredible and unavailable, at least if you live in the U.S. Same thing with Mercedes’ upcoming E300 Bluetech Hybrid. Confused? Curious? Mad? Me too. I don’t know why we can’t get it, but I intend to complain until we can. Read on
3 weeks ago I wondered aloud, “Why can’t we have a diesel hybrid? That would be the perfect drive train for a daily driver. It’s the best combination of torque and efficiency.” Coming on the heels of long drives in diesel cars from BMW and Mercedes I think unless you get a performance model like an AMG or an M car (for the right reasons, not because you liked the stitching on the seats or need to advertise you bank account’s contents) every luxury car should have a diesel motor. They’re quiet, they’re smooth and the torque makes them feel powerful, i.e. expensive. People like torque, because that’s what they feel from a stand still than makes them grab the door handle and get wide-eyed. Very few AMG owners wring their cars out to 6500 RPM at 90MPH. They just want thrust.
A week later the news came down Volvo is making one. “Really? With torque, and efficiency, and quiet, all that jazz?”
Yes. For extra icing on this free-range, Eco-friendly cake you can even plug it in. Based on their V60 wagon platform the car will have a 2.4L 5-cylinder diesel powering the front wheels and an electric motor that powers the back ones. The diesel motor makes 215HP and 324 torque, the electric motor is rated at 70HP (torque figure unavailable from Volvo). It can be driven in an EV for 35 miles, or you can turn on “power” mode and hit 60MPH in 6.2 seconds.
The efficiency (based on the European cycle) is insanely impressive. 124MPG? Even if it was half that, it simultaneously kicks those Prii asses at the pump and the track (no one tracks a Prius, I know). It’s also a wagon, so it has space for stuff. And it has selectable AWD, so you can drive it anywhere a normal person needs to go. In my mind it is the greatest daily driver in the universe.
Mercedes is doing it too; look at the E300 Bluetec diesel hybrid. It uses a hybrid system similar to the E400H hybrid, but with a diesel motor. The 2.1L 4-cylinder makes 200HP and 370 torques. Mercedes says it will get 56MPG, offered as either a wagon or a sedan. I drove the E350 Bluetec a few months ago and it was Frosted Flakes-level grrrreat. Seats, transmission, noise level, looks, feel; all phenomenal in town or on the highway. If I had the money I would buy one. Mercedes says the E350 diesel gets 21/33 MPG but even with 3 people, gear and a slow-cooker plugged in we averaged over 38 MPG.
Remember that number, because the E-class hybrid
we are so grateful we can buy here gets 24 MPG city, 31MPG highway, a whopping increase of 4 and 1 (respectively) over the regular gas-powered E350. All that work for 1MPG. What a joke. But people will buy it because hybrids are the iPod of cars. More hybrids are offered every month. Plus, diesel cars don’t come with a cool green leaf badge on them to announce to everyone how much you care about aminals (misspelled for cuteness). Some hybrids get better mileage, but some don’t (Hi X6 Hybrid). I like everyone’s enthusiasm about saving money the planet but our love of glowing, green balls has blinded us to a better (for now) solution. I know diesel fuel is more expensive, but so is that hybrid option. If you only get 1MPG better with that electric motor how long do you have to drive that car before you save money over the regular car? A while I’m guessing.
The Volvo seems like a huge step for the industry, and it’s not bad to look at either. But…the introductory price is (cover your screen) $75,000. You spit on it, didn’t you? I know it’s insane or at least, insane for a Volvo. But don’t think of it as a Volvo, think of it as a Swiss Army knife that’s also been stuffed with a working socket wrench, a chainsaw and a light saber yet it still fits in your pocket. And Volvo is charging that price for the first 1,000 cars, but if demand was higher the price would surely come down. The BMW X5 diesel we had was about $60k. That car’s 28 MPG is funny car efficiency compared to this thing.
Let’s do some math. The average American male in my age group drives 17,000 miles per year. If you drove the Mercedes E400 hybrid 17,000 miles, getting an advertised 31MPG you would need 548 gallons of gas. Using the current price of $3.23/gal that costs $1,770.
Now we’ll drive the V60 the same distance, but I’m going to cut it’s MPG down to 100MPG (we know Swedish fish is a shitty candy, so I won’t trust their MPG either). You would need 170 gallons of diesel to cover the distance. At the price of $3.82/gallon, that costs $649. $1,100 a year is quite a difference. If you have a 10-gallon tank, you can drive over 1000 miles before re-fueling. 1000! That’s not considering its EV range. (And it may or may not be able to tow a boat.)
Of course it takes 20 years to balance out the price of your V60 with the $50,000-ish E400 but the E300 Bluetec won’t be $75,000, yet that’s not coming to the US either. The fact these are forbidden fruit bugs me, and we’re partly to blame. We aren’t offered these great, fuel-efficient cars because there’s so little demand. Diesel cars accounted for only 7% of Mercedes sales. That means 10% of us bought AMGs because we’re hooligans (guilty) and 83% of us are fucking morons.* Even Ford won’t give us their 65MPG Fiesta diesel, because it would be priced right by the Prius, the teet we all love to suckle at, despite a bigger, nicer one sitting just next to it.
Maybe morons is too strong, but we’re just stuck. We grab at trends with eagerness of Italy’s prime minister at a high school dance and then we hang onto them no matter what information or alternatives are presented. We’re like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, stuck in our routine and if someone offers something else we bang on our heads and scream. Well I think we should read the facts more (something many people in the USA hate doing), because right now we’re telling the world, “Oh, that’s a flying carpet? Hm, I dunno, all my friends have hard-wood floors, so I think I’ll stick to that. Plus, don’t carpets smell?” Well you know what? I want to be able to buy these cars, I want them here, I want a flying carpet. So you people better start buying some ****ing rugs.
- Zack K
*This math is purely arbitrary, other than the 7% of sales part. That’s true.