The big three from Deutschland have all now revealed and released (or very soon to be released) their hybrid luxury cars for the UK. Interestingly all three have gone for the mid range of the traditional three tiers, i.e. the A6, E Class and 5 Series. However all three have gone very different ways. Auto Express have recently reviewed each separately and here we will look at bringing that data together to see what we have learned about, like it or not, the future of motoring.
Audi A6 Hybrid – 242bhp/480Nm (combined) – 4 Cylinder, 2.0l turbo, 208BHP – 40kW motor, 53BHP, 210Nm.
BMW ActiveHybrid5 – 335bhp/450Nm (combined) – 6 Cylinder, 3.0l turbo, 302BHP – 40kW motor, 54BHP
Mercedes E300 BlueTEC Hybrid - 228BHP (combined) – 4 cylinder, 2.1l twin turbo diesel 201BHP – 20kW, 27BHP, 250Nm
Conclusion: BMW has gone down the Lexus GS route of performance hybrid, Audi have gone for the cheaper economy version of petrol hybrid, while Mercedes have gone for ultimate economy with the diesel electric hybrid setup. Three very different ways but do they work and is there any point when diesels are so good?
Economy and Performance
Like previously mentioned all three have gone very different ways with their hybrid systems for different reasons, however when people hear “hybrid” they think economy, not KERS F1 power boost. With that in mind improved economy has to be a factor, especially in a saloon car that is made for everyday driving. The A6 Hybrid offers the 2.0 Turbo not available in the A6 normally, and with the hybrid setup offers 44MPG combined. Hardly stunning figures, but decent for a 242BHP turbo petrol car. However Auto Express comment that “the A6 Hybrid lags trails the faster 3.0-litre TDI quattro by more than 10mpg. Another dynamic flaw is that by combining such a high power output with front instead of four-wheel drive, this model can be left scrabbling around for grip when pushed – not what you expect from an Audi.” Could do better Audi, hybrid technology is not new anymore and we all expect more.
If you really hate diesel and you can’t get over it, then it maybe worth a look. However then you would also have to overlook the BMW. Although it costs an estimated £4,000 more you will get a glorious six cylinder turbo and nearly 100 more horses. This is where the BMW also makes no sense. Sure go for a performance hybrid, but why not mate the battery to the Twin turbo from the 535i instead of just the 530i model? Or go the more economical but still fast route and mate it to the 528i’s fantastic new twin turbo petrol or the excellent 520d engine. 44MPG is superb for a turbo six that does 5.9 to 60, and kind of puts the Audi to shame on paper (Auto Express saw 30.1MPG around Portugal in tests). However the 535d puts it to shame in every sense. It is cheaper, faster in the real world and more economical. One just for the American’s maybe.
That leaves the diesel electric Mercedes. For me, the clear winner here. At 67.3MPG it blitzes not only the other two but also the E350 CDI and its non hybrid brother the E250 CDI by over 10MPG. Auto Express comment how “by comparison, the standard Mercedes E250 CDI is 0.2 seconds slower to 62mph and can only manage 53.3mpg. Crucially, the Hybrid reduces CO2 emissions to a class-leading 109g/km which has money-saving implications for company car drivers. Previously the cleanest E-Class emitted 129g/km.” The only question is price. At present it is going on sale for just over 51,000€ which translates to low £40s. If this works out in reality then Mercedes are on to a winner especially as you get a huge amount of standard kit with the E300 to justify the price.
Winner: Mercedes E300 Hybrid – Outstanding real world economy for such a powerful car. Autocar even managed to beat the official MPG
Loser: BMW ActiveHybrid 5 – A hybrid for performance boost than economy. Auto Express only saw real world 30MPG compared to the 535d’s 40+ on similar roads.
Winner: Mercedes E300 Hybrid – Sure the BMW is faster 0-60, but with all that torque the Mercedes holds its own in the real world. That twin turbo 4 with the electric boost makes it feel like a E350. BMW should have gone all out for the 535i engine if they wanted a true performance hybrid.
Loser: Audi A6 Hybrid – you need every one of the 8 gears to make it work against this company. That wouldn’t be a problem if it its MPG was in the 50s but at 45 it needs more as its Audi’s TDI units leave the hybrid standing in every sense.
It sounds like the Audi is a bad car. It is not. Far from it, it just seems to have an incredibly small niche and does not push the boundaries. As Auto Express comment, “the deciding factor for the A6 Hybrid will be price”. How many people out there want a reasonably quick petrol executive saloon with good MPG. When you say it like that, the Audi makes some sense, but for some reason I feel let down. Maybe a Quattro version or this drive train in an A5 would be better. If this car came out 4 years ago I would say wow, but in today’s world its just good.
The BMW is an interesting car, but like I mentioned before it too seems held back. It seems they also have aimed it at the Lexus GS rather than the Audi and Mercedes, which for it’s US target audience makes sense. I think UK / Mainland Europe buyers would like to see the 528i engine or the 520d unit combine with a battery. The Petrol being what the Audi could have been (50+MPG and 250+BHP) or with the diesel a car similar to the Mercedes E300.
The Mercedes kind of wins by default. That’s not saying it’s not that great. With any of the big three German luxury brands you expect class leading figures from every model. The Mercedes does this with superb performance, economy and just a great general drive. That is why it is the winner of these three.
Original Articles and images from Auto Express: