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Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4X4 Diesel – ‘Murican luxury done right

If you are shopping for the most luxurious 5-passenger sport-utility vehicle you can find that can also tow the SS Minnow to the shore without breaking a sweat, look no further. The 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 comes with an interior as refined as the best Lexus can offer while having the off-road ability of a Range Rover and towing capability of a pickup.  Driving this vehicle will make you very quickly forget everything you thought you knew about who the leaders in sport utility luxury are.

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First Drive: Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC Diesel worth the 15 year wait?

Mercedes is serious about offering S-Class buyers a lot of choice when it comes to the engine that will power their Benz. Today, buyers can choose from six unique and compelling powerplants that deliver big on everything from raw power to fuel economy.

Want a 621-horsepower V-12 four door sedan? You’ve got it in the S65 AMG. Maybe you fancy all the luxury but really wanted a hybrid.  No need to worry, because MB also offers the S400.The most popular model, the S550, offers some middle ground.  A 4.6L Twin-Turbo V8 producing 429-horsepower.  If those options are not right for you, then a 510-horsepower S600 and 536-horsepower S63 AMG will most likely be right up your alley. Even with an all you can eat powertrain buffet, one type of engine has been noticeably absent in S-Class.  A diesel.

2012 marks the year that a diesel engine option returns to the US S-Class for the first time since 1996.  In the US, cheaper priced gas mixed with misconceptions about diesel have fueled a negative perception about the use of diesel in cars. In reality, diesel makes a great choice in cars for many reasons.  While it may be a more expensive fuel per gallon, diesel engines provide a significant increase in fuel economy.  Diesels are also fun to drive, producing power in a more usable and lower RPM range compared to their gasoline counterparts.

The S350 BlueTEC is powered by a 3.0L turbodiesel. It’s the same basic engine that you’ll find on other Mercedes BlueTEC models that are currently on the market, but slightly more powerful.  It produces a not so great looking 240-horsepower, but in reality that’s not very worrisome.  Because it’s turbocharged, the diesel engine in the S350 produces an earth moving 455 lb-ft of torque.

Think  four-door super luxury sedan that punches you in the gut every time you throw down the throttle.

We drove the S350 on the streets of downtown Boston and came away with the impression that the car is a bruising sleeper. First off, you’d never know it was a diesel unless someone told you. It’s that quiet and that smooth. Secondly, the low end punch on acceleration is impressive for any car, let alone one of this size.

Along with brute force, the BlueTEC diesel also satisfies the fuel miser in all of us.  Able to get an estimated 31-mpg on the highway, the S350 rates 5-mpg better than the S400 hybrid or the popular S550.  That’s right, the diesel S350 out performs the hybrid S400 on city and highway fuel economy by a large margin. The S350 also comes standard with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, which is sure to make northerners happy.

To top everything off, the S350 is the second cheapest in the S-Class lineup. It’s $92,550 base price is only $700 more expensive than the S400 Hybrid.  The specifications of the S350 nearly make the S400 Hybrid obsolete.  All-wheel-drive and a 5-mpg gain on the highway seems to be a great deal for only $700 more.

But not everything about the S350 is better. Because it’s a “clean diesel”, the S350 uses a diesel exhaust fluid to curb emissions. The fluid must be refilled periodically, but Mercedes believes that most owners will never have to worry about filling the separate 7-gallon tank (located under the spare tire).  This is because a full tank should only need to be refilled beyond the 10,000 dealer maintenance interval, and thus will be topped off by dealers.

Owners who want to refill on their own can do so relatively easy since the process only requires removing the spare tire.

The bottom line

We drove the S350 BlueTEC around Boston and came away impressed.  The low end torque is outstanding and the fuel economy is impressive.  Mercedes diesels have proven to be bullet proof, so expect the engine in the S350 to keep churning for as long as you keep the car around it intact. It may have taken Mercedes-Benz 15 years to offer a diesel engine in the S-Class again but as far as we can see it was well worth the wait.

We’re itching to spend more time in the S350 and hope to do so late next month.  Look for our full review then.




Road Test: 2009 BMW 335d


MSRP: $43,900
As tested, over $50,000
EPA: 23/36
Engine: 3.0-liter, 265-horsepower, 425 lb-ft of torque dual overhead cam (DOHC), inline 24-valve 6-cylinder Advanced Diesel engine with aluminum engine block, twin-turbo technology and third-generation piezo common rail direct injection Electronic throttle control
Transmission: 6-speed steptronic automatic transmission with Adaptive Transmission Control
Weight: 3825 lbs

2009 BMW 335d

BMW Advanced Diesel in bold black print across the side of this week’s test car let everyone know what was going on under the sleek hood; otherwise, you would never have guessed it was a diesel. I was amazed when I jumped on the gas to be thrown back in the seat like I was in a Porsche, not a finely appointed sedan that seats five. That’s just the half of it. BMW has turned their 3.0-liter in-line six cylinder in to a diesel-breathing torque monster that still sips the fuel and make you feel greener at the pump. It churned out a pavement pounding 425 lb-ft of torque. To put that in perspective, that’s more torque than the V-10 powered BMW M5, and one more lb-ft than a new Corvette. While torque is often a diesel engines strong suit, horse power is not. The 335d is ponied up with 265 horsepower, just what you need to get you going. It does just that with 0 to 60 in 6.0 seconds, according to BMW.

BMW is not the first one to market with a clean running diesel. They have waited to make sure their system outruns the competition. While a VW Jetta TDI is not really a fair comparison to the BMW, the 335d manages 36mpg on the highway while the Jetta can achieve 40mpg highway. The BMW has 125 horsepower more and 189 lb-ft more of torque. On the other hand, the VW’s MSRP is $20,000 less the BMW. On the opposite side of the diesel spectrum is Mercedes E320 BlueTEC. With an MSRP $10,000 higher than the 335d, Mercedes 3.0-liter V-6 produces 400 lb-ft of torque and only 210 horse power. With the Mercedes getting an average fuel economy of only 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway, I would say if you’re in the market for a performance sedan or you just want to get a car with great fuel economy, the 335d is worth a drive. Even if you’re not, it’s worth a drive to see how different this diesel is.

The 335d engine gets a huge boost from the twin-turbo chargers and the common-rail direct injection. The turbos have almost no noticeable lag and the direct injection adds just the right amount of fuel under extremely high pressure to ensure every drop is used. A six-speed automatic gear box is the only available transmission. It is one of the few that can stand up to the massive torque.

2009 BMW 335d

The AdBlue system keeps the 335d 50 state emissions legal. It basically adds a filter and a catalyst to the exhaust system to reduce that nasty smoke we are all used to seeing from a diesel engine. During my time with the car there was no diesel smell, the exhaust smelled better than my gas fueled car. The following paragraph is from BMW explaining the AdBlue system:
To optimize emission management, Advanced Diesel with BluePerformance
incorporates an oxidation catalyst placed just downstream of the exhaust
manifold, a diesel particulates filter housed in the same unit and an SCR
catalyst with the urea injection. In addition to filtering out even the smallest particles from the flow of exhaust gases, this combination ensures effective reduction of nitric oxides (NOX) by way of a chemical reaction within the exhaust system initiated by the injection of a small dose of urea referred to as AdBlue. The ammonia (NH3) generated in this process within the SCR catalyst subsequently converts the nitric oxides (NO and, respectively, NO2) in the exhaust gas into environmentally compatible nitrogen (N2) and vapor (H2O).
More information about the advanced diesel engine is available at www.bmwusa.com.

Besides the latest and greatest under the hood, the most recent iDrive system controls some of the cars systems. This generation iDrive is more intuitive than in the past. Some functions have been returned to the dash to make things less complicated. My test car came with the iPod adapter kit. It was one of the best iPod interfaces I have used in any car. The Lodgi7 audio system makes your playlist sound and feel like a personal concert, minus the smoke and annoying crowds. With thirteen speakers, including two subwoofers, it would make any audiophile drool. The seats are supportive and comfortable even after three hours of highway driving. The ride and handling are crisp and confident around every turn. There is plenty of room for the whole family, with car seats and luggage for a weekend trip. With up to 560 miles on a single tank of fuel I could drive to New York and back to southern Maine without a fill-up. This makes finding gas stations with diesel fuel a moot point.
The navigation system is capable of real-time traffic updated, so getting from A to B can be efficient as possible.

2009 BMW 335d

Most modern cars are equipped with a slew of safety features from advanced braking systems to airbags all around. In the 335d, BMW has added another level of air bag protection. The Head Protection System, (HPS) is an inflatable tubular structure to protect the heads of the front and rear seat passengers. It works with the side air bags to help prevent head injuries in a sever side impact.

Overall, the 335d is an amazing engineering feat and a big advance in diesel technology. I averaged about 33 mpg over the week with a significant amount of driving on the highway.
I would like to see a 335hd, a hybrid diesel, combining the best of both technologies and making a car that satisfies a need for speed, fuel economy, emissions controls, and comfort.

The BMW X5 will also get the diesel power plant, will achieve 26 mpg high-way. Not bad compared to the V-8’s 19 mpg high-way rating.

Road Test Gallery: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI

Most folks here in the United States wince at the thought of driving a diesel powered car. While common in Europe, a diesel in anything but a truck has been a hard sell. With the introduction of the Jetta TDI, Volkswagen is giving us Americans a chance to see what we’ve been missing out on.

We admit skepticism when the TDI rolled up at the office.  Other than great fuel economy- why are diesel engines so popular on the other side of the pond?  We soon found out….the Jetta TDI is a blast to drive.

Look for our full Road Test Review of the Volkswagen Jetta TDI soon

Exclusive Road Test Photo Gallery

Photographer: Zane Merva