Putting out oil burners
German makers embrace the diesel challenge, writes PAUL GOVER
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.