Mercedes diesels are alluring for power and mileage but have…

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Mercedes-Benz GL320 GDI

Save gasoline; drive a

Diesels, after all, get 20% to 40% mileage than similar-size engines. And they burn a that takes less to refine.

Diesels have a personality, marvelous amounts of and a grumbly voice that’s assurance than annoyance.

But try to find one that you can afford. is out of the U.S. diesel market year, save for its $60,000 diesel SUV and some leftover sedans. Chrysler discontinued the Liberty diesel last

That leaves $45,000-and-up Mercedes began selling versions of two SUVs Oct. 16, with the requirement that diesel fuel be ultralow-sulfur to cut

The diesels tested are the ML320 CDI and the CDI, both made in Ala. and based on similar though far different looking. ML is R is big.

They resemble the versions and are equipped similarly.

holds the price to $1,000 than gasoline models.

a pretty low premium, less half what’s charged for gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles — hybrids get better mileage.

The gas were reviewed here in 2005 as they were launched. We’ll focus on the diesel-ness of the vehicles today.

A diesel also is available in the midsize sedan and the GL SUV, last month.

• Fuel. Not as to find as some suppose. The Technology Forum says 42% of service stations sell But that includes an uncounted of truck stops, the ambiance of might not suit your Mercedes-Benz driver.

Mercedes-Benz you can buy the correct ultralow-sulfur diesel in any area and most rural The vehicles’ standard Tele Aid system will link you to who can tell you where to go for diesel if you find it, Mercedes says. And the website has a diesel-fuel locator: .

Diesel smells. Not the stinkathon it was, but anybody who says no odor penalty for using needs to visit an otolaryngologist. the smell is while filling, not while driving. The ML and the R test were almost odor-free a whiff once in a great

It’s expensive, 18% pricier regular-grade gasoline this 8% more than the premium that Mercedes tells you to in its gasoline vehicles. That the diesels’ fuel-cost savings.

• Not much; more when than when the engine is It begins as a distant clatter, smoothes into a gruff like your uncle who too many cigars. Mercedes has such a nice job insulating you the sound that it’s a bit more noticeable outside the car inside.

• Vibration. Noticeable in the steering especially at idle. Not a deal-breaker but obvious than expected.

• CDI stands for common-rail direct It’s shorthand for a more and efficient way of sending fuel the cylinders. Calling it that of diesel bypasses some anti-diesel sentiment.

Confusingly, the E-Class sedan is called not CDI.

• Power. Only horsepower, but large amounts of 398 pounds-feet of it in the test vehicles. more than in, say, a Hemi V-8.

The power make Mercedes diesels, in general, good for hauling of people and cargo, and handling easily; once underway, the CDIs will literally you back in your seat a prod of the throttle pedal.

A dead off the line, though. try to squirt across a busy unless there’s a big gap. The diesel’s design and the fact turbocharged (as are all modern diesels) to create a sluggish launch.

• Diesels have a reputation as in cold weather. The R and the E320, in temperatures in the 20s, started

• Mileage, cruising range. The you buy a diesel in the first place. The tested are rated 21% to 33% better similar gasoline-power models. turned in mid to high teens the burbs, mid-20s on the highway. stunning, but satisfying when you their size and weight, and you look at real-world around-town in the low teens for gasoline SUVs.

The ML up 475 miles from Charlotte to Virginia; the R, an 1,100-mile highway Each also spent 100 miles in the suburbs. A single was enough for 550 uphill miles to from Northern Virginia in the R.

An BlueTec sedan driven as a reality check registered 21 mpg around the suburbs. It uses a engine but weighs less the SUVs so would be expected to get mileage.

You can stand those distances between fills the ML and R seats are great. Not a single from the physique after drives. And guess what? The are Simon-simple according to adjust-everything standards. Another example of the soundly ignored by the auto Less is more.

• Deportment. The ML was a sporting ball. The hefty, R was a galoot.

• Problems. In the R, the seven-speed often shuddered violently light-throttle, low-speed upshifts. says others have rough shifting, and it has sent a bulletin on how to reprogram the transmissions to the problem.

The windshield creaked in the ML, especially in weather.

The suspension in the R felt a tad in the normal setting. Both were dreadfully rough in mode and too squishy in comfort.

Mercedes-Benz GL320 GDI

save fuel, cost have some quirks. Not for but the Mercedes diesel SUVs are for their power and mileage. And comfy seats.

2007 R 320 CDI ML 320 CDI:

• What are they? versions of the brand’s four-door, five-passenger SUV and full-size, six-passenger tourer, manufactured at Vance,

• How soon? On sale since 16. But not available in California, Maine, New York and Vermont because of clean-air rules.

• How much? R CDI at $44,775 including $775 charge; ML CDI, $44,455. to pay full sticker price, shopping sites say.

• How Mercedes-Benz, in the modern fashion, forecast. Not many, though. 10,000 M-B diesels per year, the GL320 CDI SUV and E320 CDI sedan.

• the drivetrain? 3-liter V-6 turbocharged engine rated 215 horsepower at rpm, 398 pounds-feet of torque at rpm, seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode; all-wheel drive that power 50/50 front/rear.

• What’s the safety gear? bags and belts, plus and rear side-impact bags, and rear head-curtain bags, brakes, anti-skid control.

• the rest? Features vary by Find details at .

• How R is similar to a minivan; 203 inches 77.5 inches wide, inches tall on a 126.6-inch Weight is listed as 5,062 Rated to carry 1,588 of people, cargo and accessories. is not recommended. Cargo space as 15.2 cubic feet third-row seats, 42.2 feet when the third row is 85 cubic feet when and third rows are folded. circle diameter is listed as feet, curb-to-curb.

ML is smaller: inches long, 75.2 wide, 70.1 inches on a 114.7-inch wheelbase. Weight is as 4,817 pounds. Rated to 1,423 pounds. Rated to tow pounds. Cargo space is as 29.4 cubic feet the back row, 72.4 feet when the back folded. Turning circle is listed as 37.9 feet.

• the pledge? The basic warranty is 48 or 50,000 miles, whichever first.

• How thirsty? Rated 21 per gallon in town, 28 on the highway, 24 in driving. The R test vehicle’s computer showed 26.8 mpg for highway trip, 17.4 mpg in driving. ML is rated 21/27/23 The tester got 25 mpg on 475-mile highway 17 mpg in the suburbs.

Ultralow-sulfur diesel is specified. says about 80% of stations sell diesel have the type, and nearly all do in urban Look for a sticker on the pump or ask the The vehicle runs OK on higher-sulfur but the sulfur clogs exhaust which must be cleaned or M-B says.

• Overall: A painless, way to save fuel and avoid the of a gasoline-electric hybrid. The new diesel have no track record for and reliability.

Posted 1/25/2007 PM ET

Mercedes-Benz GL320 GDI
Mercedes-Benz GL320 GDI
Mercedes-Benz GL320 GDI
Mercedes-Benz GL320 GDI

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