A Mercedes Luxury Hybrid is to Hit the Middle East in 2009

mercedes middle east abu dabai photoThe S400 was unveiled to the region at last week’s 2008 Abu Dhabi International Motor Show, and is expected to go on sale next August.

Mercedes is touting its car as the first luxury hybrid in the Middle East, though Lexus has been selling its luxury RX400h SUV in Israel since 2007.

But no one disputes that the S400 will be the first lithium-ion battery powered car on the market. Toyota’s Prius isn’t scheduled to come out with the more efficient LiIon battery instead of a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery until 2010.

A prototype of the S400 was first shown off in Frankfurt in late 2007 and then again a couple of months later in Los Angeles, and the company has changed specs somewhat both between those two showings and this week in the Persian Gulf, but the essence remains the same: a high end sedan that will get at least 30 MPG with performance close to that of a non-hybrid vehicle.

Christoph Mueller, the Mercedes engineer in charge of the S400, says the car will run at 299 horsepower and have 385Nm of torque when operating in the combined petrol and battery mode (for a comparison, the Toyota Prius has about 76 horsepower and 111 newton meters of torque).

Reviews from Abu Dhabi say the car performs excellently, with no noticeable difference from Mercedes tradition non-hybrid S series vehicles. Mueller says the lithium-ion bettery will be able to power the electric engine alone when the driver wishes or if the tank is empty, allowing the car to function as a zero-emissions electric vehicle with a range of up to 65 kilometers.

Mercedes also notes the cars emissions come in at 186mg of CO2 per kilometer when running the gas engine, this is 10 to 20 percent lower some of the cars luxury sedan competitors (3.0L Audi A8 or BMW 7-series), but still much worse than even non-hybrid low emissions vehicles.

And, buyers in the Middle East who care about the environment even more than luxury could instead purchase fully electric vehicles such as those that will soon be hitting the market in Israel in conjunction with Project Better Place, or the urban REVA which is already on the roads of Dubai, and is expected soon in Israel as well. Car sharing schemes are also a possibility, such as Car2Go in Tel Aviv.

What Mercedes does have coming up though that is worth watching are their Concept BlueZERO cars that are expected to be unveiled next month at Detroit’s auto show with a range of up to 200 kilometers per battery charge.

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