What’s not to like about an advanced-technology turbocharged inline 6-cyl. diesel that, compared with a same-size gasoline V-6 in a midsize luxury sedan, punches the car from 0-to-60 mph (97 km/h) a half-second quicker – and deals out more than 30% better fuel economy?

What’s not to like, indeed, about DaimlerChrysler’s spectacular Mercedes CDI 3.2L I-6 turbodiesel, the latest generation of Mercedes diesels that now incorporates direct injection and common-rail fueling to generate, in the Mercedes E320 CDI midsize luxury sedan, the same highway fuel economy – 37 mpg – as a 4-cyl./manual-transmission Honda Civic, and more torque than Ford’s new 4.6L SOHC V-8 in the Mustang GT?

The 3.2L CDI turbodiesel’s tectonic-plate shifting 369 lb.-ft. (Nm) of torque hammers more than just the Mustang’s V-8, and comes close to the 390 lb.-ft. of Chrysler’s almighty 5.7L Hemi V-8, an engine almost twice the CDI’s size.

Meanwhile, check out the Mercedes E320 CDI’s city/highway Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fuel economy ratings of 27/37 mpg (8.7 L and 6.4 L/100 km) against the gasoline E320’s 20/28 mpg (11.8 L and 8.4 L/100 km).

Mercedes CDI 3.2L I-6 turbodiesel is spectacular.

“Totally thrilling performance,” says one 10 Best Engines judge of the 3.2L CDI I-6’s thunderous torque. “There’s no question this is better than any comparable-size gasoline engine.” Mercedes quotes a startling 6.6-second 0-to-60 mph time for the E-Class powered by this thrust-monster, and even by today’s performance standards, that’s not exactly sitting around.

Forget all you remember about diesel noise, vibration and harshness, too. At idle, you’d better have an ear on the hood to hear anything: The 3.2L CDI “clatters” to the tune of just 44 decibels, just 2 dbA louder than the gasoline V-6. At full throttle, the E320 CDI is 4 dbA quieter. Yes, quieter. That’s testimony both to the noise reduction engineering for the engine itself and to the fine encapsulation package that keeps radiated noise to a minimum.

Somebody besides the Ward’s 10 Best Engines jury got the word. Mercedes blew through the 3,000 E-Class sedans with the 3.2L CDI turbodiesel it planned to sell between the April launch and the end of ’04, and quickly ordered another 1,000 to squelch the clamor. The company won’t offer sales projections for ’05.

Finally, the 3.2L CDI turbodiesel is a you-gotta-be-kidding bargain: just $595 more than the same car with a gasoline V-6. Can you say “no-brainer?”

So surf the awesome torque wave, dude, get wicked fuel economy and join the really tuned-in “save the earth” crowd that understands new-age diesel is a good thing. Mercedes’ 3.2L CDI is an engine enthusiasts and environmentalists can embrace with equal pride.

DaimlerChrysler
Mercedes 3.2L DOHC I-6 CDI turbodiesel
Engine type 3.2L DOHC I-6 turbodiesel
Displacement (cc) 3,222
Block/head material iron/aluminum
Bore x stroke (mm) 88 x 88.3
Horsepower (SAE net) 201 @ 4,200 rpm
Torque 369 lb.-ft. (500 Nm) @ 1,800-2,600 rpm
Specific output 63 hp/L
Compression ratio 18:1
Application tested Mercedes E320 CDI
Fuel economy for tested vehicle (EPA city/highway mpg) 27/37

bvisnic@primediabusiness.com