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While 2009 was a tumultuous year for automakers, the worldwide economic crisis pushed the auto industry into the mainstream automotive media’s spotlight, making big automotive news stories even bigger. And while new products continued to be introduced, they garnered possibly even more attention that ever before. With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the Top 10 biggest stories of 2009 for an automaker that didn’t recoil, but continued on, unveiling an all-new version of one of its most important models, delivering a new exotic car to market, promising an electric car in the future… and making some big changes in its motorsports program. That automaker is Mercedes-Benz.
#10 Mercedes Goes Green With New Hybrids
Slow to adapt hybrid technology, German automakers began to take on the Japanese luxury hybrids in 2009. Mercedes launched two important hybrid models, the S400 Hybrid and the ML450 Hybrid. The S400 Hybrid was the first Mercedes hybrid to go on sale and is also the first mass production automobile to use a lithium-ion battery. Priced at $87,950 it uses an electric motor and 3.5-liter gasoline V6 to produce 295-hp, while getting mileage of 19/26 mpg – an improvement of 26 percent over the S550 in the city. Despite its high-tech battery pack, the S400 Hybrid is a mild-hybrid, which limits its fuel economy.
The second hybrid model from Mercedes is the ML450 Hybrid 4MATIC. A lease-only model, for either 36 or 60 months, at either $659 or $549 per month, the ML450 is the first two-mode hybrid (like the Toyota Prius) from Mercedes. The ML450 uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine and two electric motors to make 335-hp and 381 ft-lbs of torque. Unlike the S400 Hybrid, it will be able to operate exclusively on electric power for short periods of time. Its fuel economy is rated at 21/24 mpg (city/highway), which is roughly the same as the ML350 Bluetec diesel at 18/25 mpg. This is also a 46 percent improvement over the fuel economy rating of the similarly-powerful ML550.
The next step for Mercedes in the field of hybrids comes with the Vision S500 Plug-In Hybrid, which debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show and foreshadows a plug-in hybrid version of the next generation S-Class. Thanks to a direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to a 60-hp/184 ft-lb electric motor and a lithium-ion battery pack, the car is capable of getting an amazing 73.5 mpg! Possibly more shocking is that the car doesn’t sacrifice performance, with a 0-60 mph time of 5.4 seconds. Additionally, the electric motor will be able to power the car emissions-free for 18 miles.
A full gallery of photos of the 2010 E-Class Wagon (known as the Estate in Europe) have emerged online a month ahead of the car’s official launch at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.
Details on the car are still scarce but we expect Mercedes to bring the 3.5-liter V6 powered E350 Estate over in 4MATIC trim, with a high-performance 6.2-liter V8-powered AMG model to follow a year afterward. The new model is expected to be longer and wider, offering improved passenger space. And we can also be sure it will include Mercedes’ long list of E-Class safety features including Attention Assist, Adaptive Main Beam Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Brake Assist Plus.
Sales are expected to begin in Europe in November and the rest of the world in early 2010.
GALLERY: 2010 Mercedes E-Class Estate