Ford Fusion, Mercedes-Benz ML, Lexus RX - Powertrain Comparison

Mercedes ML, gasoline versus diesel

Mercedes offers several trim levels for its midsize sport utility. The ML350 is the baseline offering, followed by the ML350 Bluetec (diesel), ML450 Hybrid, ML550, and ML63 AMG. Available powerplants include a 3.0-liter V-6 diesel, 3.5-liter V-6, 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid, 5.5-liter V-8, and a 6.2-liter V-8 found in the AMG model. Again, no two models are exactly alike, but the ML350 and ML350 Bluetec are essentially very similar. The ML350 has a 3.5-liter V-6 and a starting price of $46,575 (including $875 for delivery), the ML350 diesel starts at $50,575 (a $5000 premium). (The ML450 Hybrid is available only for lease.)

The ML350 puts out 268 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, allowing it to tow 4600 lbs. The ML350 Bluetec makes 201 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque and is capable of towing 5000 lbs.

Fuel costs are a little different in this case, as the gasoline-burning ML350 calls for premium, while diesel is the requisite energy source for the ML350 Bluetec. The national average for premium grade fuel is $3.22, with diesel commanding a slightly lower $3.13 per gallon. The combined fuel economy for an ML350 is 18 mpg, costing 17.9 cents per mile to operate. An ML350 Bluetec averages 21 mpg and costs 14.9 cents for every mile driven.

So, the yearly fuel cost for an ML350 comes in at $2685, and the ML350 Bluetec is $2235. If you choose the diesel powertrain over the standard ML350, it will take 133,333 miles or just over 9 years to break even.

- Price premium for ML350 Bluetec $4000
- Annual cost savings would be $450 for the diesel
- ML350 Bluetec breakeven point can be realized in 133,333 miles

According to the MB website, the ML Bluetec has a towing capacity of 7,200 lbs, not 5,000.
How about accounting for the larger annual insurance costs and larger depreciation that more expensive vehicles of the same type incur? If you did that, you'd find out that alternative powertrains never pay off.

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