Until recently, serial numbers in Mercs were to denote engine capacity

A Mercedes E-Class. Boot lid numbers no longer denote the engine capacity as they used to, they denote hierarchy. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The E220 CDI uses the same engine as the 200 CDI with an extra 34hp, which is again the exact same engine in the E250 CDI, but with 70 more horses than in the 200 CDI.
  • Automakers were forced to downsize their engines to reduce emissions, but in order to either maintain or improve performance, they adopted forced induction.

Dear JM,

I am planning to buy Mercedes Benz E 250 or E 350. What is the difference in terms of fuel consumption as far as E200, 250, 300 and 350 are concerned? I was in Singapore recently and after visiting one of the car dealer`s website, I contacted the sales person. I requested for directions to their yard here, but he never got back to me. My question is why is the Singapore Mercedes Benz so beautiful and so cheap? Do you recommend SBT Japan over Singapore market? What is the meaning of blue efficiency blue 7G-Tronic?

Hi Stephen,

Thank you for opening the can of worms that is German motor vehicle branding. Let us first agree that the difference in fuel consumption is nothing that a Mercedes-Benz owner, current or prospective, should worry about. The newer the Benz in question, the more economical it will be, but hoof the hot pedal with little or no circumspection and even the little turbo 1.8s are going to waste fuel like an oil rig on fire.

Exercise the kind of restraint that is expected from the helmsman of “The Best or Nothing” and even the V8s and V12s will return respectable economy.

Case in point is the W221 S550. This model - which came with a 5.5 litre V8 good for 382hp - was classified as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV), which is industry-speak for “surprisingly economical”.


The hotter CL65 coupé with a twin-turbo V12 is capable of 12km/l at highway speeds and during normal throttle openings (at least that is what the brochure alleges).

I have never driven a V12 Mercedes and they cost too much for someone to just hand over the keys for an auto journo to play with. On the other hand, nobody has ever sued Daimler for giving overly optimistic fuel economy numbers, a claim to fame that Honda cannot identify with, so that allegation must hold water.

Now, about the numbers. Once upon a time, the numerals on the boot lid of a Mercedes actually meant something: they were a coded denotation of the engine capacity.

All you had to do was add one zero to the normal Benz’s nomenclature to get the engine size in cubic centimetres; and add two zeros to the AMG version’s tag to get the same result, such that an E230 like the one I run around in was an E Klasse with a 2300cc engine, a C180 was a C Class with a 1.8 litre and an S55 AMG had five and a half litres worth of under-bonnet firepower.

Trouble started with the 65 AMGs. They did not have 6.5 litre engines, they had 6.0 litre twin turbo V12s. This engine was actually smaller in capacity (but had more cylinders) compared to the second-placed 63 AMGs, which should have been 6.3 litres but was actually 6.2 litres, in V8 form.

Then all hell broke loose in the rest of the line-up for people whose bank account balances don’t read like mobile airtime scratch cards.

I won’t go into too many details, but as we speak, this is what you are facing when shopping for a W212 facelift: The E200 is a turbo 2.0 litre. The E200 CDI is a turbo 2.1 litre diesel.

The E220 CDI uses the same engine as the 200 CDI with an extra 34hp, which is again the exact same engine in the E250 CDI, but with 70 more horses than in the 200 CDI.

The E550 is a 4.7 litre turbo V8, while the E400 is a 3.5 litre hybrid. This same engine without the electric motor is what we call the E350.

There is an E200 CGI (not to be confused with the diesel CDI, this one is petrol) which is either 1800cc or a 2.0 litre, depending on when you bought it.


This also applies to the E250 CGI, which begs the question: what’s the difference? They are exactly the same mechanically.

The E300 is a 3.0 litre, or it is a 3.5, which is also the same engine in the E300, E350 and E400. The E500 was originally a 5.5 which then became a twin turbo 4.7.

Then we have the god of anger, the E63 AMG, which started off as a 6.2 litre before becoming a turbo 5.5. With the W213 model, the E300 is now a turbocharged 2.0 litre.

I think that’s enough of an example to show you what is going on in Germany. (BMW and Audi have their own form of confusing numerical going on with their labelling as well, so they are not immune from this affliction).

There are reasons behind this crazy game of numbers though, reasons I have touched on before but will touch on again.

The primary driving force behind the wildly fluctuating engine sizes is because of emissions.

Automakers were forced to downsize their engines to reduce emissions, but in order to either maintain or improve performance, they adopted forced induction.

Fair enough, but this created a marketing problem: Where we had an E240 with a 2.4 litre engine before, we now have the newer, smoother, more powerful and more efficient E250.

This makes sense from both a marketing perspective and for customer psychology.

The customer is always upgrading, and no manufacturer will make it obvious that the buyer is now getting a 2.0 litre turbo 4-cylinder like a tasteless reprobate in a blue Subaru; whereas they had a 2.4 or a 2.6 V6 before.

For this reason, that particular Mercedes will never be called the “E200 Turbo” because it’s ‘embarrassing’ and there already is an E200, which may be a 1.8 turbo or a 2.0 litre turbo; but is down on performance and spec compared to the vehicle you want to replace the E240 with.

With that in mind, the manufacturer has no choice but to call this new car the E250.

The numbers therefore no longer denote the engine capacity as they used to, they denote hierarchy.

You can now see where the problem arises when you ask me to explain the difference in fuel economy between an E200, E250, E300 and E350. They could be the same car.

One or more could be turbocharged, or hybrid, or a 2.0 litre, or a 3.5. Just embrace Mercedes-Benz ownership and rest easy in the fact that none of these vehicles are thirsty (even the AMGs, relatively) if you avoid driving like a yokel.

The Benz trademarks

Thank you for asking me to explain some Mercedes-Benz trademarks. Their PR department should let me have an AMG for a week.

1.Blue Efficiency: this is a suite of measures aimed at energy management and emissions control in Mercedes-Benz cars, more so the derv-run versions; “the main aims being to reduce weight, aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance, to further optimise the engine technology, and to make energy management even more efficient”.

The italicised part is straight off their blurb since the full extent of the engineering behind Blue Efficiency is enough to fill a book, but here are some highlights for you to understand it better.

There is a fan shutter behind the radiator to reduce drag. When the car is not running hot, there is a plastic louvred window behind the grille that closes off that aperture to force air around the car, rather than through it, which reduces the coefficient of drag and makes the car very slippery as it cuts through the air.

They also opted for turbochargers instead of superchargers, since superchargers are parasitic and sap some of the extra power they help create.

Also, never ever remove the thermostat from a Mercedes like you do a Toyota; because it is part of an intelligent thermal management system that comprises part of the Blue Efficiency.

2.7G-Tronic: this is a 7-speed automatic gearbox developed in-house by Daimler and used in some Mercedes-Benz cars. It had the distinction of having not one but two reverse gears in it; which is very unusual in a passenger car even today.

Further distinctions include skipping gears while downshifting and full lock-up control on all seven forward gears.

All these three are characteristics you would not find in an ordinary automatic gearbox. The last time I heard of full lock-up control was in the Lexus IS-F with an 8-speed automatic; which had the feature in first and second gears only.

(The Lexus IS-F is a small saloon car with a big engine. Now that we are on Mercedes-Benz, the Lexus is the size of a C Class, but with a 5.0 litre V8 and is developed as a direct rival to the W204 C63 AMG, which in typical Mercedes fashion, has a 6.2 litre engine.)

Singapore-sourced second hand imports

I had explained earlier the problem with Singapore-sourced second hand imports after a bit of disquisition spread over several issues with my readers and it is as simple as this: Unlike Japan and its uber-strict motor vehicle inspection tag term of Shaken (at home) and QISJ (for exports), vehicles from Singapore do not undergo any kind of inspection.

This means you can buy a high-mileage taxicab that has been buffed and had its odometer time-travelled to the past being presented to you as a beautiful, shiny Mercedes; which you’ll pay money for and be proud of yourself for landing such a deal before finding out the hard way why the car was cheap to begin with.

There is no such thing as a free lunch, especially with Ksh7.5 billion. When the deal is too good to be true, it probably is good to think twice.

This proverb holds water, and as far as Singaporean imports are concerned, and we, as Car Clinic (both the readership and the penmanship) reached a consensus that they are best avoided. Just buy Japanese.

[Disclaimer: Just because I recommend Japan does not mean I recommend SBT automatically. There are a number of import-export companies that deal with or out of Japan, but since I have not dealt with them, I don’t know who is better than the other.]


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