Future Cars

First Look: 2010 Mercedes Benz ML450 Hybrid

Mercedes has a strong showing at this year’s New York auto show, and half the debuts are aimed at reducing the automaker’s emissions and increasing fuel economy. The 2010 Mercedes-Benz ML450 Hybrid will be the second hybrid in Mercedes’ lineup once it goes on sale in December (the S400 BlueHybrid will beat the ML450 Hybrid to market by three months).

Power comes from the same 3.5-liter V-6 used in the S400, but the ML450 will be able to move without running the gasoline engine. The engine runs on the Atkinson cycle and produces 275 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Two electric motors are housed in the six-speed automatic transmission. The first motor is designed to increase performance and produces 83 hp and 173 lb-ft of torque. Another electric motor produces 80 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque to accelerate the vehicle from a stop on electric power alone. Combining the thrust of the electric motor and gas engine yields 335 hp and 381 lb-ft of torque, which should propel the ML from 0-60 mph in 7.8 seconds or return a combined 22 mpg, depending on the driver’s goal.

Drivers will be able to choose between sport and economy modes for the transmission and there’s even a traffic jam feature to keep the SUV in electric mode during stop-and-go traffic. The hybrid transmission came from the partnership between BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, and General Motors, but Mercedes appears to have the most advanced application of the technology. A nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery pack adds 183 lbs to the ML450 Hybrid’s curb weight, and has a chill-down mode to prevent problems if the pack experiences extreme load or temperatures. There’s no loss in interior volume, because the battery pack fits below the cargo floor.

The ML450 matches the highway fuel economy of an ML320 Bluetec at 24 mpg, but boasts an impressive 3 mpg improvement (to 21 mpg) in city driving. A quick look at the spec sheet suggests the ML450 Hybrid will be a little better for mixed driving than the ML320, thanks to an extra 125 hp, though 0-60 mph times are reportedly within 0.2 seconds. Actually, the Hybrid and Bluetec MLs are quite similar, though the Bluetec will tow more. It should be interesting to see how the sales split between the hybrid and diesel SUVs once both are on sale.

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