Who doesn’t like a proper wacky duel? Like the one where James May raced a Ferrari against a camel, or when the guys from TopGear did a “train vs Aston Martin” from London to Cannes?
As in the case of the proverbial hare and tortoise, when you set two unlikely opponents against each other, you get some entertaining results — and you might even prove a point. That’s what Germany’s AutoBild (print edition, March 5) tried to do when it tested the assumption that power = speed.
They raced the slowest E-class Mercedes station wagon against the fastest one, on German public roads, over a distance of 1,000 KMs. It was E63 AMG vs E200 CDI; 525 HP against 136 HP; 6.2L vs 2.1L displacement, V8 against Diesel-L4. 0-60 in 4.6 s vs 10.9 s. And not to forget, purchase prices of €42,483 against €108,409. So, what happened? Not what you might think…
But first, some more data and some rules. The AMG had its standard 250 km/h speed limiter left in place, and both cars had optional 80-liter fuel tanks fitted. Drivers had to stick to speed limits — this wasn’t supposed to turn into a Kanonenkugel-Run. The route was from Flensburg in the northern tip of Germany, down to the Austrian border. This is a relatively rural Autobahn that had plenty of unrestricted stretches and goes through only one major conurbation, in Hamburg.
The driver of the AMG wrote about an uncomfortably hard ride, and more to the point, reported that the super-station wagon fostered a stressful style of driving. You push it, as he wrote, up to the limit, then hit the brakes as soon as somebody who underestimates your speed moves into the left lane, then you push it again. In heavier traffic, the ratio of power-to-freedom was perceived as particularly irksome. The major concern, however, was the constant need to re-fuel. With a fuel consumption of 13.7 MPG, the AMG had to stop for gas after only 422 KM, seriously slowing down its average to 124 km/h.
Meanwhile, the Diesel enabled a flowing, relaxed driving style with a softer ride, lower noise, but yet enough power — the E200 CDI apparently felt quite comfortable in the 160-200 km/h zone. And the Diesel’s average of 28.7 MPG meant that re-fuelling could wait for a few hours, until after the 750 KM mark, at which point it had averaged a speed of 125 km/h.
So, despite all the long stretches where the AMG seldom had to slow down to speeds below 200 km/h, one of the world’s fastest station wagons reached the chequered flag in exactly 13 minutes before the oil-burner. Thirteen minutes gain, €184 additional fuel costs: is that what power amounts to?
As surprising as the results may seem, they match my experience in Europe. If you absolutely push it while driving in the dead of night, you can sightly better an average of 130 km/h, but your licence will be at risk. Take it slow, drive safe, and your average sinks to 110-120.
Note to AMG: on modern congested roads, power equals nothing more than frustration. If you really want people to associate pimptastic with fast, you need to equip your cars with 300L tanks — and preferably a built-in urinal.