Putting out oil burn­ers

Ger­man mak­ers em­brace the diesel chal­lenge, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Prestige News -

THE big three of the lux­ury world will have diesel flag­ships in Aus­tralia within 18 months. Audi al­ready has a diesel in its A8, Mercedes-Benz is about to in­tro­duce an S-Class diesel and BMW is com­mit­ted to a diesel 7 Se­ries by the first half of 2010.

All three are chas­ing the holy grail of re­duced emis­sions, im­proved fuel econ­omy and bet­ter per­for­mance in cars that are usu­ally per­ceived as lardy, in­ef­fi­cient and over­priced.

They are also cash­ing in on the grow­ing de­mand for diesel en­gines in Aus­tralia and coun­ter­ing the hy­brid push from Lexus with its im­pres­sive LS 600h.

Mercedes’ S-Class 320 TDI is com­ing with 174kW and 540Nm from its diesel en­gine, up from 165kW and 510Nm in the 350 V6 petrol mo­tor.

‘‘This is a good way to main­tain our place in the lux­ury class. We have al­most 50 per cent share with the S-Class al­ready,’’ MercedesBenz’s Peter Fe­dayev says.

‘‘We have cus­tomer de­mand. We’ve had feed­back from cus­tomers since the pre­vi­ous model, and now we’ve been able to get the car for Aus­tralia with this new en­gine.

‘‘The car will be in show­rooms later this month. It has the same diesel en­gine we use in the ML and GL 320, but has been up­graded with a bit more power and torque.

Fe­dayev says Benz is do­ing well with diesels, though its growth isn’t as dra­matic as Volk­swa­gen’s or BMW’s. ‘‘At the end of last year it was 21.8 per cent over­all and it’s still grow­ing.’’

The 7 Se­ries diesel is ex­pected about a year af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of an all-new head­liner next March. It will take that long for the com­pany to gear up for the en­gine be­cause of the ex­pected petrol de­mand.

‘‘It will be a green flag­ship— and high per­for­mance,’’ BMW Aus­tralia man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Guen­ther See­mann says.

‘‘Hav­ing a diesel does not mean we cre­ate a cheap en­try model. We bring only the high-per­for­mance diesel . . . it is a mat­ter of show­ing so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity in terms of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.’’

He says the 7 Se­ries will have a de­vel­op­ment of the twin-turbo diesel six al­ready used in the X5 and will give BMW a greater share of the up­per lux­ury class.

‘‘The seg­ment in Aus­tralia is about 1000 cars, so if I sell 450 cars I am the world cham­pion. To­day we are sell­ing about 200,’’ See­mann says.

Dic­ing with depth: Audi (above) al­ready has a foot in the diesel door with its A8. Mercedes (left) will tackle the Aus­tralian mar­ket with an S-Class 320 TDI.

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