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Monday February 10

Mercedes-Benz USA to Offer High-Tech Diesel Car in 2004

Mercedes-Benz, the company that invented the diesel car, has announced that it will again offer a diesel-powered car in the U.S. market.

Starting in 2004, the company will market an E320 CDI, a more fuel-efficent diesel version of its highly successful E-Class sedan. The new diesel engine is quiet and very fuel-efficient, while achieving lower exhaust emissions than previous diesels.

The turbocharged six-cylinder powerplant will feature electronic fuel injection -- considered technically impossible on a diesel until only a few years ago. CDI stands for "common-rail" diesel injection -- a term denoting the fuel line loop supplying constant fuel pressure to each of the six solenoid injector valves.

The leap to electronic fuel injection means that the E320 CDI engine can be even cleaner, quieter and more powerful than conventional mechanically-injected diesel powerplants. Diesel engines inherently produce 30 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions and significantly lower carbon monoxide than gasoline engines, but historically, diesels have produced more oxides of nitrogen and soot or particulates.

However, with precise electronic control of fuel delivery, hand in hand with an oxidation catalyst, the E320 CDI can pass current 45-state emissions standards. When low-sulphur diesel fuel becomes available in the U.S. around 2007, Mercedes-Benz engineers are optimistic that the CDI diesel can meet emissions standards in all 50 states.

Mercedes-Benz debuted the world's first diesel passenger car -- the 260D -- in 1936, and on a global basis, diesel engines power about 40 percent of Mercedes cars around the world. In the early 1980s, over 75 percent of the Mercedes-Benz cars sold in the U.S. market were diesel-powered, but as consumer tastes evolved, diesel cars became a smaller and smaller part of the company's product mix.

Mercedes-Benz last offered a diesel car -- the E300 Turbodiesel -- in 1999. The company planned a one-year hiatus for the diesel until its new CDI engine was ready, but in the meantime, emissions standards were proposed which further delayed the new U.S. diesel.

Diesel engines consistently provide over 30 percent better fuel efficiency than comparable gasoline engines, which means that a full-size luxury sedan such as the Mercedes-Benz E-Class can get well over 30 miles per gallon on the highway and cruise nearly 700 miles before refueling. Relying purely on the heat of highly compressed intake air to ignite the fuel, diesel engines operate without spark plugs or other ignition parts.

According to a company press release, the latest generation of electronically-injected CDI diesel engines are likely to change consumers' dated perceptions about diesel engines. With surprisingly good performance, low exhaust emissions and great fuel economy, electronic control of diesel fuel injection even makes it possible to soften the power pulses and help make the diesel nearly as quiet as a gasoline engine, even during idle conditions.

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