Fuel Economy - From Stuttgart With Love

Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, despite each belonging to a vastly different family – Daimler AG on a shore and the VAG Group on the other - have started as childhood friends, playing in the same neighborhood, also known as Stuttgart, in Southern Germany. They were always playing like brothers, never competing with each other and sometimes even collaborating on projects (you're not too old if you remember the fabulous Mercedes-Benz W124 500E, or E500 after MY1994, which was tuned and partly assembled by Porsche).
Speaking of collaborations, not many automotive industry analysts know that the Cayenne was first talked about at Porsche in the mid 1990s, and an agreement to share its platform with the first generation of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class was almost reached when Daimler Benz's board vetoed the project, deciding to proceed with the W163 M-Class by themselves.

Another uniting feature of the two Stuttgart car manufacturers was the fact that up until about seven years ago, both of them had a model range filled with some of the least fuel efficient mass-produced vehicles in the premium segment.

Porsche had the great-selling Cayenne, with its massive V8 engines running on gasoline, while Mercedes-Benz was deeply caught up in the V8 and V12 power race, which it almost always won against BMW and Audi, despite the fact that it also gave them the worst fuel economy of German car brands, averaged across its entire lineup.

Then, things suddenly started changing. The Cayenne facelift brought new direct injection upgrades for its gasoline V8s, which were soon accompanied by the first ever diesel engine in a Porsche (not counting the Super tractor) and their first Hybrid SUV.

Mercedes-Benz didn't stay still either, with their magic mustache man (aka, Dieter Zetsche) completely restructuring the mottos by which its engineers are creating new engines and automotive technologies. From then on, the key word became efficiency, but without compromising all the other attributes of a Mercedes-Benz car.

Enough chit-chat about the recent history of the two Stuttgart neighbors though, because this is 2013, and things have changed so drastically that a person from 2007-2008 would think that most recent press releases from Porsche and Mercedes-Benz are April Fools Day jokes.

Porsche, for example, has just started selling the Panamera S E-Hybrid, which is currently the most fuel efficient luxury car on the planet. Not for long, though, as Mercedes-Benz just recently announced its first ever S-Class with plug-in hybrid.

Created probably while watching over the fence of their Stuttgart neighbors (even though the Panamera is built in Leipzig), the new Mercedes-Benz S 500 Plug-in Hybrid will soon take the role of the most fuel efficient luxury car on the planet.

Coincidentally, or not, the two models are almost neck and neck when it comes to fuel economy, performance and consumer market. Who would have ever guessed that a two-ton Porsche Panamera or Mercedes-Benz S-Class would ever have an official fuel economy of 3.1 liters per 100 km (75.9 mpg) and 3 liters per 100 km/h (78.4 mpg), respectively?

And let's remind ourselves that both these two luxury behemoths can accelerate from naught to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 5.5 seconds while delivering total comfort and some of the most opulent interiors you have ever been in.

Some would say that the future has arrived, and the Stuttgart neighbors have delivered it first, but my guess is that it's just a beginning of things to come. Not only that, but some might curb their enthusiasm and remember that this seemingly unbelievable feat for a luxury car a few years ago is just a rather pale shadow of what might have been achieved if the business side of the automotive wouldn't have completely taken over the innovation aspect.

Remember, this is after over 128 years of automotive history and evolution - autoevolution if you like - and a cynic would have probably expected more from these two. Especially when that cynic is thinking that one of the Stuttgarters is the inventor of the modern automobile while the other one's founder was the creator of the world's first hybrid, back in 1898 (!?!) in the form of the Lohner Porsche Mixte Hybrid.

An overly positive person would just leave all that history and heritage mumbo jumbo aside, though, and take these two companies for what they are now: the creators of the most fuel efficient and yet uncompromising luxury vehicles on the market. Now we'll just have to wait and see what will happen in the next seven years, because both Mercedes-Benz and Porsche have apparently just entered a new "It's on now!" period.
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About the author: Alex Oagana
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Alex handled his first real steering wheel at the age of five (on a field) and started practicing "Scandinavian Flicks" at 14 (on non-public gravel roads). Following his time at the University of Journalism, he landed his first real job at the local franchise of Top Gear magazine a few years before Mircea (Panait). Not long after, Alex entered the New Media realm with the project.
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