By on September 18, 2014

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The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed.

For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old V6 was good for 240 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, the new 4-cylinder will put down 200 horsepower and 362 lb-ft. Fuel economy is said to improve with the new mill, but a big car and a small engine tends to sometimes hurt real world figures, as the smaller mill must work harder to motivate the same amount of mass. Official fuel economy and towing ratings will be released later.

While AutoGuide.com quotes an M-B product manager as saying that the change comes from consumer demand for increased fuel economy, you can bet that CAFE had a lot to do with this change. Mercedes-Benz sells plenty of gas-guzzling cars, SUVs and AMG models and has been fined over $260 million for not meeting CAFE standards. No surprise that M-B has been a vocal opponent of the regime, which it says favors large trucks and SUVs.

So what better way to juice their CAFE averages than by saddling a large SUV with a tiny diesel engine? It’s not like this is something unknown for Mercedes-Benz. How many gutless, MB-TEX equipped 240Ds did they foist upon the American public, painted in hideous hues and sold at prices far beyond what many Americans expected a Cadillac or Lincoln to sticker at. Decades later, you’ll still have to fork out a $50,725 base price for the privilege of driving an ML250 BlueTec.

We may not exactly be in the Second Malaise Era – not with the advances made in automotive safety, fuel economy and power outputs, that let us have a 22 mpg Hellcat – but this ML250 is mostly definitely a modern day Brougham. Or a 250TD, if you prefer.

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60 Comments on “A 21st Century 240D...”


  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    Decades later, my hunch is that you’ll find a lot more of those MB-TEX equipped 240Ds still on the road than you will its Cadillac and Lincoln compatriots. Heck, a good number of them are running on frying oil.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very true.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Methinks WVO would void the warranty in a common-rail vehicle though :/

      (And >B20 isn’t supported either IIRC, though the beefing-up of fuel components due to ULSD shouldn’t make weeping or gasket degradation be big problems)

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Yes, you could drive one around until you die, most likely. And then when you died, St. Peter would meet you at the pearly gates and say, “dude…WTF was it with the 240?”

      Sorry, that thing was the automotive equivalent of a hairshirt.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I’m always jealous whenever I see a W123 or Checker Marathon.

    • 0 avatar
      PentastarPride

      One of my biggest automotive fantasies (aside from Chrysler’s cab-forward innovations making a return) is a C-Class with a good, reliable and economical four-cylinder diesel engine here in the US. I know the E-Class now offers this, but I have a feeling that a diesel C-Class would best the E-Class with 50 mpg highway. It would be a direct descendant of the 240D, only a lot more nimbler.

      Too bad the C-Class has never seen a diesel engine, at least here in the US, especially the W204. In my opinion, it was the best looking C-Class, especially with the traditional M-B grille (not with the “sport” version with the big three-pointed star and no hood emblem). Among other things, I don’t see any traditonal M-B resemblance in the current C-class (W205), let alone the rest of the current lineup.

  • avatar
    vvk

    And still no manual transmission. Crazy, right?

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    “Decades later, you’ll still have to fork out a $50,725 base price for the privilege of driving an ML250 BlueTec.”

    The Dodge built on this platform can be had for under $30K, with a gas V6, so there’s always that.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    If they don’t sell, it won’t help CAFE averages. The Germans don’t foist cars on their dealers like the domestics. They will have to make them salable with terms or learn some new tricks.

    • 0 avatar
      spreadsheet monkey

      Presume the retained value after 3 years will be better on a diesel ML compared to a gas equivalent. So M-B should be able to offer some attractive lease deals.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Mercedes’ strategy with the GLK has been to offer an entry-level diesel, with an higher trim level gas engine. That’s not usually how it’s done, but it appears to be an experiment that is intended to target the fact that those who spend more cash tend to be more indifferent to MPGs.

    It would appear that they are simply extending this approach to a different model. It wouldn’t make sense for a domestic or Japanese automaker to take this route, but it is a perfectly logical choice for a German-branded automaker that does well with whatever diesel niche that there is in the US.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I don’t think the small engine vs big car thing will be as troublesome with a diesel as it is with a gas engine.

    I’d much rather try this 2.1 TD in an ML250 than a 2.0 Ecoboost in an Explorer.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “A 21st Century 240D”

    Now, now.

    I suspect this thing can damn near do a quarter mile in the time it took a 240D to hit 60.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Luxury customers buy diesel for the economy, not the power: if 0-60 times were a priority, you would’ve bought the gas version. Better fuel economy, more range, lower price- a win/win for 99% of potential buyers.

    The only people left out in the cold are those who want a FAST diesel, which, as the previous-gen 335d/X5d show, is not a market worth perusing in NA.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      At least you can still get a 535d.

    • 0 avatar
      bosozoku

      Exactly. The 800-1000 mile range is the real draw. Once it’s up to cruising speed on the interstate, the diesel and gas engines are indistinguishable, except for need to feel the tank that is.

    • 0 avatar

      For years I’d said I wanted a diesel German AWD wagon. Closest I could come in 2010 was an X5 35d.

      I love that thing, it’s like a kraut tank. I’ve gotten up to 30 mpg on long road trips in flat terrain and it averages ~24 mpg mixed city/highway here in hilly New England.

      Mine came with summer tires on 20″ rims. After driving it one of my (miata owning and Spec-Miata crewing) coworkers took to calling it the Fruck, as in Fast-Truck.

      I wouldn’t want to trade the power and torque for even better fuel economy, buy I probably don’t represent a typical buyer.

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    I can understand the 2.1L diesel in smaller cars like the GLK and the C-Class, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how the down-engined diesel E250 and ML250 can compete with BMW and Audi, which continue to offer 3.0L sixes in their mid-size sedans and SUVs (535d, X5d, Q5, Q7, A6, A8). Plus the reduction is price over the prior *350CDI prices is nothing to write home about.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Derek, the fact that you compared this to a 240D means one thing: you’ve never driven a 240D. I have. A stiff freakin’ wind could outrun one of those things!

    A nice summation of the old Mercedes diesel automotive lifestyle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgYEuJ5u1K0

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Let’s remember that the 240D was designed for taxi service in Europe where top speed doesn’t matter. When it was introduced in the U.S., th 55 mph speed limit was well-established and pretty aggressively enforced. At least in my experience, most highway traffic travelled at around 60 mph. The 250D was perfectly comfortable at 60 and was distinctly not comfortable at 65. The 4-speed manual transmission versions did not feel slow in town or suburban traffic; although passing on a two-highway was out of the question unless the vehicle being passed was a farm tractor or a bicycle.

      People’s expectations about acceleration have gotten progressively higher, even though speeds haven’t. In say, the late 1960s, a 0-60 time of under 10 seconds was considered pretty quick, and many, many economy cars, such as the ubiquitous VW Beetle were much, much slower than that, even though the Beetle would cruise at 65+.

  • avatar
    Ion

    I haven’t driven the E250 yet. I have driven the diesel ML,GLK, and GL. The GLKs diesel is rough and noisy the 166’s on the other hand are flawless. The only perceivable difference is engine note.It’s not a loud engine note just clearly not a gas engine soundtrack. I’m not sure I would mess with the ML350 considering how the GLK behaves, but I’d really have to drive a e250 to figure out if the problem is the engine or the platform.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The 642 engine, (the V6 diesel) is an absolutely terrible engine. It’s such a huge step down from the previous 648 straight six. The new 651 inline 4 hasn’t been out for long enough to see how it holds up, but it would be difficult to make it worse than the 642.

      • 0 avatar
        kmoney

        Would agree with this. I’ve only driven an ML with this engine once, but taking off from every light with a hiss of turbos and clack clack clack diesel noise was definitely a detractor for s supposedly luxurious SUV.

      • 0 avatar
        DubVBenz

        What’s so bad about it? It’s down on power a bit from the BMW Diesel in most variants, but the version in SUV’s and the S class is good for 240HP and 455LB, so what’s so bad?

        I specifically purchased a W211 OM642 rather than the older version (which I could have had at a discount). My car is chipped and feels like a rocketship with all of that torque.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          Wait until things start braking. The way they crammed everything inside the valley of the engine makes it difficult to service, and failure prone because of all the turbo heat. This raises both the service costs and frequency of when repairs are required. Out of all the Mercedes engines I work on, it has got to be the least reliable. If someone told me it was actually an VW or BMW engine I would believe them, because that’s how it compares.

          • 0 avatar
            DubVBenz

            at 90K, so far the problems I’ve had were the Valve Body on the 7-speed’s speed sensors went, which is unrelated tot he engine. I also had a really small crack in some of the plastic ductwork that feeds boost which was cheap to replace.

            Finally, just did a glow plug relay.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            I would be surprised if your oil cooler isn’t leaking. Also, your intake manifolds are likely coked up with carbon, and the intake port shutoff motor codes are right around the corner. If you have any of the above repaired, make sure you do all three. The intake manifolds have to be removed to get to the oil cooler seals, so at the same time have them disassembled and cleaned. Replace all the plastic parts that you can, and the intake port shutoff motor. It won’t be cheap, but you will save by doing all three at the same time.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    Anyone claiming a smaller lower hp motor inherently will use more fuel should read a Thermodunamics book.
    Assuming everything else equal the larger motor under partial load will be less efficient than smaller motor at full load. Unless, of course, engineers screw up the design.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Nice wiggle word – inherently.

      Engines burn what they burn. Thrash a little engine past it’s comfort zone and you may very well lose in the bargain.

      Not likely an issue here, but little gas engines really due lose efficiency when thrashed, and that’s more likely if it must be so treated to get bearable results.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      As Landcrusher stated, probally the current example probally won’t apply, but compare something like a 2l 4 cylinder and 3l 6 cylinder. Lets say 200hp and 300hp respectively. The 4 cylinder will be screaming to get that 200hp out of it, and at that point not at all efficient. The 6 will be able to get 200hp out at a lower rpm and load, and will not use as much fuel. Now if you can keep the 4 cylinders load and rpm down, such as in an EPA test, the 4 cylinder will give you better fuel economy. Just don’t load it up.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        So you say if you had a 6-cylinder and 4-cylinder version of the same car (assume each with same type of injection etc.) and drive them the same way (same accel. and speed etc.) The larger 3l motor has better mileage?

        For arguments sake compare Accord in I4 and I6..which one has better tested and real world mileage?

        If you were right driving the Hellcat should be more efficient than driving similar weight I4. Especially in the City it should be very efficient since load in % is even lower.

        And all the utilities are foolish running their powerplants at 100% load all the time.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          I’m not going to argue with you. Believe what you want.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            I think the argument was settled by science a long time ago. Read this or any other book on thermodynamics:

            http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/engineering/thermal-fluids-engineering/thermodynamics

            I now have to swap my I4 for a V12. Because you know, it will be much more efficient being under partial load all the time.

        • 0 avatar
          MBella

          If the Accord was loaded up with people and stuff, then yes the 4 cylinder would use more fuel than the 6

      • 0 avatar
        bosozoku

        At WOT, perhaps this is true. But most engine operation is done within that comfort zone by design, so the point is moot unless you’re taking you Accord on a track day.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I wouldn’t use utilities as a comparison because they have very specific boundary conditions. They are specifically sized for a specific output and shouldn’t be asked to handle the different scenarios that a car would. (A car, for example, only needs 20~40hp to keep moving down the road. If you compared to a utility company, we’d all have 20~40hp engines in our cars.)

  • avatar
    Carrera

    I am sure this engine will do just fine. Most people are not looking for a performance diesel engine. That’s why a lot of people were not too excited about the BMW 335D. Yes it was fast for a diesel but it was only getting 33-34 mpg hwy. The new 320D gets close to 50 mpg hwy. The 0 to 60 is not the same of course, but it is more than adequate for 90% of the buyers. If this Mercedes gets 34-35 mpg hwy, it will be amazing for such a portly vehicle.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I shall say something now which most won’t agree with: I think this is the best looking ML to date. As long as it doesn’t have the chrome-behind-door handles, it’s very nice looking. Especially in darker colors, it has more presence than other similar CUV vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      raresleeper

      Yes, it’s a nice ML.

      But there will not be another 240D. And if the name comes back (which hell itself would freeze over first), that unbreakable, solid car, is gone and is not coming back.

      Bad comparo! Bad!

      And I’ve seen the chrome door handle surrounds behind the door handles on a “newish” (I think?) C-Class. Just yesterday en route to the office. I began to think, “wow, what website did he order the adhesive backed door dressing from?”

      One word: no.

      • 0 avatar
        MBella

        Those are a Mercedes accessory. Although cheap and tacky in appearance, they do a good job of their main purpose, preventing scratches behind the door handles.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I don’t understand how people have this problem. Your rings are up by your knuckles. Grab the handle with the tips of your fingers, only your first or perhaps second joint of the finger is needed. Then pull.

          You’re not grabbing a heavy shopping bag, it does not require a full grip. Get a grip and use less grip!

          It’s not worth having to have those god awful chrome plastic handle surrounds.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            I always feel like I do as you say, but still have scratches in that area. It must be the couple times I’m not paying enough attention and a nail or two touch the paint. I wish they would offer those plastic things as close to body color as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      bkmurph

      I agree, CoreyDL, the ML has a definite presence. I’d go a step further: It’s not just one of the best-looking luxury crossovers, but one of the best-looking vehicles in the entire M-B lineup. It’s more stately and more cohesive in its styling than any of the current M-B sedans.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    a friend burnt out his land cruiser’s engine.
    the orig was 4 litre I-6
    and he dropped a chebby 327 in it, he told me it uses less fuel and more power so.

    the 327 = 5.55 litre and 2 more cylinders to tote around.
    i guess something didn’t quite added up for a smaller engine.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      There are all sorts of things that can cause a smaller engine to get worse mileage.

      Even when getting better mileage, cost of operation can be much better in a larger engine because it may need less repairs due to not being wrung out all the time.

      Theories don’t always work so well in actual application. Politics or engineering, it’s the same.

      Otherwise, you could get get a free lunch by simply building itzy bitzy engines. And as we all know, TINSTAAFL.

      And in case someone wants to talk about Physics, go find a physics professor and ask him how to get a fee lunch. Isn’t one in physics. All laws of physics follow TINSTAAFL.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    This is unfortunate. The ML350 Bluetec drove far better than the ML350 with the gasoline 3.5L. Their customer base probably doesn’t use enough throttle to know the difference between the two anyway.

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