Curt's Newsletter

February-March 2007

© 2007
No part of this newsletter may be reprinted elsewhere including internet websites without written permission from the author
GL320 Bluetec

Ten Best Engines Award

Ward’s Auto World Magazine Recognizes BLUETEC Clean Diesel System
MONTVALE, NJ-The new Mercedes-Benz BLUETEC turbodiesel engine has been named among the world’s finest engines by Ward’s Auto World magazine.  Announced today, the V6 BLUETEC engine is the only diesel powerplant among the winners of Ward’s Ten Best Engines.

Ward’s editor Bill Visnic said, “The new BLUETEC engine is a powerful and frugal V6 turbodiesel that far surpasses gas-engine performance while providing 25 percent better fuel economy.  The only light-duty diesel available in the U.S. for 2007, the high-tech 3.0-liter DOHC turbodiesel is coupled with new exhaust after-treatment technology that will soon make diesels as low-emitting as today’s gasoline engines.”

What is BLUETEC?

Heralded as the world’s most advanced diesel technology, the Mercedes-Benz BLUETEC can meet even the world’s most stringent emissions regulations.  BLUETEC engines are built on a foundation of advanced engine design that includes the latest CDI electronic injection, a turbocharger with variable nozzle turbine and exhaust gas recirculation.  Combining several technologies to minimize exhaust emissions, this high-tech powerplant represents a dramatic step forward that is already changing people’s dated perceptions about diesels.

The E320 BLUETEC achieves significantly better fuel mileage and longer cruising range (less frequent fill-ups) than a comparable gasoline-powered car, but more important, it does it without the usual tradeoffs of diesel ownership. Additionally, the E320 BLUETEC is an impressive performance car, accelerating from 0-60 mph in just 6.6 seconds.

Wards Ten Best Engines Awards

An annual selection process that began in 1994, Ward’s Ten Best Engines involves two months of evaluation by six Ward’s editors.  This year, they began by nominating 33 different engines for the competition.  Eligible engines must power a production vehicle with a base price of no more than $54,000, and must go on sale in the U.S. no later than the first quarter of the year.  Using a number of both objective and subjective criteria in every-day driving, the journalists consider power and torque output, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels, technical relevance and basic comparative numbers.

Since Ward’s Ten Best Engines awards began 13 years ago, Mercedes-Benz powerplants have won seven times, including its previous-generation turbodiesel – the 3.2-liter in-line six.

Automotive Hall of Fame


MONTVALE, N.J. -- Bruno Sacco, the man whose lasting impact on the design of Mercedes-Benz automobiles and the designer who put the face on Mercedes-Benz, will be admitted to the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, MI as a tribute to his life work.  Sacco, the now retired designer whose work for the brand with the three-pointed star spanned more than four decades, will join a small and select group of outstanding and deserving personalities from all over the world whose careers have demonstrated a commitment to individual mobility.

A native of Udine, Italy, Sacco completed his studies in Turin and joined the Daimler-Benz design staff in 1958.  As a stylist and designer he was involved in various projects including the Mercedes-Benz 600 and the 230 SL roadster.  In addition, he was made project leader for the design of the safety exhibitions of the day as well as the so-called “test labs on wheels,” the C 111-I and C 111-II experimental vehicles.  In 1970 Sacco became Head of the Body Design and Dimensional Drawing department.  Under his aegis this period saw the development of the ESF (Experimental Safety Vehicle) prototypes and the 123 series.

Mercedes-Benz Design Philosophy

In 1975 now bearing the title Senior Engineer, Bruno Sacco took over as Head of the Styling department at Mercedes-Benz, where in addition to developing current projects, he also put together a design philosophy to which Mercedes-Benz design adhered.  A design family was to be created to which all passenger cars bearing the three-pointed star belonged.  The first law of this philosophy was that a Mercedes-Benz should be intuitively recognizable as part of this family by members of the public worldwide.  And should a Mercedes-Benz undergo advanced development in a subsequent model generation, then the identity of the model series was to be safeguarded.  This was the central pillar of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy and ensured that a predecessor model did not appear outmoded following the presentation of a new model generation.  The goal of this strategy was to retain the positive aura of a Mercedes-Benz on the roads for as long as possible.

The second main pillar of the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy was brand identity.  This called for traditional design characteristics to be maintained, further developed and featured in all model series simultaneously.  It found outward expression, for example, in the design of the radiator grille, headlamps and tail lights.  Although there were formal differences in detail between sedans, coupes and roadsters, the family likeness was obvious to the casual observer at first glance.

Mercedes-Benz Design In The Hands Of Bruno Sacco

In 1978, Sacco was appointed Head of the Styling Department.  Under his direction, his department caught the world unaware with a third C 111 project, a diesel record-breaking car that was aerodynamically inspired and featured sharp body lines.  In no previous brand design project had technical innovation and design creativity been so powerfully combined. 

Numerous design elements later found their way into new production models of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Its precise edges and clean lines that ran parallel to the so-called flow line also heavily influenced the design of the future Mercedes-Benz 190.

The “small Mercedes” opened a new and successful chapter for the Mercedes-Benz brand in late 1982 where it offered up the so-called compact class as a completely new vehicle category positioned beneath the established Mercedes-Benz sedans.  Its moderate wedge shape with clean edges, distinctive C pillars and high, rounded trunk lid later found many imitators.

A second masterpiece in the new era was the Mercedes-Benz SL of 1989 (R 129 series).  Another new design, it embodied the dynamics of the roadster with perfect proportions and sporting details.  The elongated, dipping engine hood, the A pillars as a stylistic continuation of the front wheel arches, the muscular short hardtop and the aerodynamic, gently flowing sidewalls collectively amounted to a controlled bundle of energy with looks that would keep youthful for years.

The S-Class from the 1991 W 140 series waved goodbye to traditional decorative elements.  Diagonally split rear lights underlined its innovative character, as did the new design of the radiator grille.  For the first time, this had been integrated into the engine hood and completely encased in metal.  The three-pointed star was no longer attached to the chrome trim, but sat instead on the engine hood.  The S-Class had been transformed from successful business sedan to powerfully elegant trendsetter destined for the luxury market.

Having proven an immediate success, the Mercedes-Benz 190 was superseded in 1993 by the entirely new C-Class (W 202).  It was to be the last model series to adhere closely to the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy that had been introduced in 1980 and – in comparison to other automotive brands – strictly adhered to. 

Fully aware of the growing complexity of the Mercedes-Benz value world arising from the forthcoming product initiative, Sacco relaxed the strict application of his design philosophy.  Differentiation of the radiator grilles was an attempt to achieve a simpler structure.  At the same time, new product-specific headlamp and wheel-arch packages were bundled together by the designers with a view to reinforcing the independence of the model series.  The watershed was made public with the appearance of the E-Class from the W 210 series in 1995, when the so-called four-eyed face of the coupe study unveiled at the 1993 Geneva Motor show entered large-scale production.

The CLK coupe (C 208) followed by the CLK convertible, harmonious combinations of pure driving pleasure and elegant appearance, were successfully integrated into the Mercedes-Benz product family, establishing a CLK series.

In 1997 the M-Class (W 163) was launched, daring to combine the elegance of a station wagon with the austere sportiness of an offroad vehicle. The designers succeeded in disguising high ground clearance, wheels in flared wheel arches and a raised seating position for passengers using a design language that drew to a significant degree on Mercedes-Benz sedans.

The Mercedes-Benz SLK (R 170 series) introduced in 1996 imitated the aesthetic qualities of its elder brother, the Mercedes-Benz SL, and with its power domes on the engine hood even made reference to the stylistic features of the legendary 300 SL of 1954.  Its stretched form and short overhangs front and rear seemed to symbolize the car’s forward urgency.  In terms of formal creativity, everyday practicality and functional reliability, the innovative folding roof set new standards in modern automotive design.

With the arrival of the A-Class (W 168) in 1996, Sacco’s theory that only the combination of bold innovation and brand-loyal design could lead to a trendsetting and durable product was confirmed.  The new A-Class reflected innovative technology in avant-garde form.  It was packed with detailed solutions that were pioneering – both stylistically and functionally.

The S-Class of 1998 (W 220) was to prove Bruno Sacco’s great valedictory.  He made it the brand’s innovation-bearer.  The traditional front section with integrated bumper turned the sedan into a sculpture.  The windshield and rear screen were more slanting than had previously been the case and gave the sedan a lower, leaner appearance.  The muscular image of the new S-Class added a new dimension to the internationally prized Mercedes charisma.  It radiated confidence and individuality and achieved a new quality of distinguished automotive self-assurance.

In March 1999 Bruno Sacco took retirement.  But the spirit of the first real design strategist of the Mercedes-Benz brand continues to inhabit the design department.  His successor on the tightrope between innovation and brand tradition is now Peter Pfeiffer who is challenged not only to create new trends that carry the Mercedes-Benz brand across short-term fashion currents but also to forge ahead into new dimensions of mobility, as represented by the successful new spatial concepts in the shape of the Mercedes-Benz B- and R-Classes.

Bruno Sacco is among an elite group of automotive leaders associated with Mercedes-Benz to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame.  Carl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach, Béla Barényi and Max Hoffman have previously received the honor.

Automotive Hall of Fame – A Celebration Of Automotive Progress

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan is the world’s largest institution dedicated to celebrating creative achievements in the automotive industry.    The Automotive Hall of Fame recognizes achievements in four categories:  people who have rendered outstanding general service in the field of human mobility; people who have made a particular contribution on specific themes; industry managers of the year and the industry’s risings stars of the future.

ML320CDI at 7500 Miles

We’ve been putting a lot of miles on the ML320CDI.  Fuel mileage has increased with every tank and is almost 24 mpg overall.  When you’re putting 400 miles a week on a vehicle, it’s nice to have a 500-600 mile range.  I don’t normally run it into the yellow light zone, but I needed to once, and the trip computer went from displaying 30 something mile range to a picture of an ML getting fuel.  I still had over a gallon when I filled up.

Of course, considering how much we’re being overcharged for diesel right now, it should have shown a picture of a gas station attendant robbing a driver at gunpoint.

I’ve had no problems finding Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel.

Clean Diesel

Reminder: clean diesel is the only alternative fuel that works today.  More energy is used making ethanol and trucking it to stations than it produces, and Mexico has already had a problem with the cost of tortillas climbing drastically because of the increase in corn prices.  If ethanol begins using a lot of corn, famines in third world countries will increase.

Hydrogen isn’t there yet.  It’ll be a massive breakthrough if they ever get it working economically, but it’s not there yet.

Hybrid cars and trucks of usable size have this pesky problem of costing $7,000-9,000 more than their gasoline counterparts and then not living up to their advertising claims for fuel mileage.

The ML has never averaged a tank below its city rating.

Diesel requires less crude per gallon than gasoline and produces less “Greenhouse” gases as well as better fuel mileage.

New Message

At almost 7500 miles the multifunction display said, “Check Engine Oil Level at next fill up.”  I did, and it needed a quart of Mobil 1.  A quick conference with the service writers revealed that seems about par for the course with the new batch of engines.  Thus I’ll put a quart of Mobil 1 into the spare tire storage area (and a clean shop towel for checking oil.)  I’ve become a Mercedes owner and thus don’t check my oil.  Of course several cars with the electronic dipstick spoiled me.

Fortunately the multifunction display came to the rescue.  If you get a similar message in your car, don’t panic.  You just need a quart of oil soon.  The sump has 8.5 quarts.  I got one at work.  If you have to look for Mobil 1—5W40, you might get frustrated.  So buy a quart and keep it in the trunk.

(“But Curt, I don’t have to do that with my Lexus.”  No, Lexus has you change oil more often so you don’t notice.  Duh.)

I’m trying to program all multifunction displays to display “Send Curt Rich $500,” every 7500 miles, but so far I can only get it to work at 10,000-mile intervals.

4 Things

There are 4 things I won’t do without for a main vehicle, and this one has them all:
Bi-Xenon headlamps.  They also come with the cornering fog lamps.  Twice The Redhead has told me I had a light out when I was maneuvering the ML at the RV Park.  “Which one?”

“The fog lamp.”

Of course, I didn’t have the fog lamps on, but I was turning the wheel hard, so the appropriate fog lamp came on and illuminated the corner in that direction.  Really cool.  With my vision it’s really helpful, too.

Sirius Satellite Radio—Okay, I would take XM.  There is no significant difference as far as I’m concerned.  I don’t listen to Major League Baseball (Major League Boring), NASCAR (Pro Wrestling with cars), or Howard Stern (proof American society, as we know it, has gone completely to hell).  The major channels are either the same or similar enough.  Sirius added a Sinatra station for those of us who remember music.  Sirius also got the Playboy channel away from XM.  But it’s hard for me to see the point since there are no pictures in radio.  Duh.

But either satellite radio service is vastly superior to AM or FM radio.  Channels are nationwide, and many are commercial free.  Not having to hear Mattress Mac is worth $10/month.

Navigation—This system is vastly superior to the 2002 system I had for 5 years.  It’s easy to use, especially with Voice Activation.  You can also put in a business’s phone # and get directions to it.

I didn’t realize it until lately, but the ML, GL, and R navigation work with the optional Voice Activation just like the S-Class.  That I knew.  The E and CLS don’t.  That I didn’t.  Bummer for them.

Putting in a destination is as easy as this.  Push one of the two Voice Control Buttons on the steering wheel.  Listen for a click.  That means Helga, the voice control lady, is listening.  Amazing!  You can get a woman to listen to you by just pushing a button.  Would that this were more common!

You: “Enter destination.”

Helga: “Spell a Texas street name.”

You: “W-e-s-t-h-e-i-m-e-r.”

A list appears on the COMAND screen of Westheimer, Westheimer Rd., Westheimer Parkway, etc.  Westheimer Rd is #2.  Helga will ask you to select one.

You: “Two.”

It will then give you a choice of Houston or Harris County on the screen.  If the street exists in several cities, it will list them.  Pick one by saying the number.

Helga: “Do you wish to add a house number?”

You: “Yes.”

Helga: “Go ahead.”

You: “1-1-5-0-2.”

“Helga: “Would you like to start route guidance?”

You: “Yes.”

Now, it helps if (a) you can spell, (b) if you know the actual number, and (c) you can read.  With some streets it helps if you know the zip code.

Having the ability to put the instructions on the multifunction display is a real plus when looking for turns where there are more than 1 opportunity in a 500 ft area.  Now you can keep your eyes on the traffic and still see the bar graph showing that you’re not quite there even though Helga has said, “Prepare to turn left in 500 feet.”  It’s the NEXT left after thisone.  Helga says, “Turn left,” and that confirms it.


The lumbar adjustment, when turned off, leaves too much support for my particular back.

There is no convenient, secure place for something the size of a Colt 1911.

No supermodel has asked me for a ride.

Distronic Plus and Radar Detectors

When our radar controlled cruise control, Distronic, came out, the first question I asked was. “Will it interfere with radar detectors?”  The answer was no.  I delivered several cars with Distronic and never had a complaint about radar detectors.

Then Distronic Plus was introduced in the 2007 S-Class.  This is an improvement over Distronic.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is Steve Kingsley of Custom Car Stereo informed me that it uses Ka band radar and will set of your radar detector and probably everyone near you.  Turning off Distronic doesn’t turn off the radar.

It’s an option on S550s, so you don’t have to get it.  Problem solved.

Oops.  It’s standard equipment on the S600.

Strangely enough, the fire-breathing S65 AMG lists it as an option, so you can run a radar detector on an S65 if you order well.

If you don’t use a radar detector this is a non-issue.

A Test

1.  You’re in the right lane, and a car is trying to enter an on ramp.  He is right next to you.  Do you:

a. Speed up to cut him off

b. Slow down to let him in.

c. Do nothing.  He’s on his own.  If he hits you, you can sue him.

2. You’re on the diamond lane.  An entrance occurs where for a few hundred feet the diamond lane is 2 lanes wide.  There is a car in front of you that keeps to the left.

a. Use the entrance lane to go around him

b. Back off a little so entering traffic can merge.

c.  Tailgate

3. In heavy traffic that is stop and go and bumper-to-bumper, you’re in the middle lane.  A car has entered an entrance ramp and is signaling left.  The entrance to the HOV lane is a few hundred feet ahead, so you surmise he’s trying to get to it.  You:

a. Tailgate to block him

b. Back off and let him in front of you.

c. Accelerate when he does.  Decelerate when he does.  Stay right beside him.

4.  You’re on the northbound feeder road to I610 approaching Memorial Drive.  The road has been 2 lanes, and a left lane has just opened.  The road straight ahead is not a through street.  Most of the traffic is in the middle lane, which goes left at the-intersection at Memorial.  You’re in the right lane, which is empty, but it is forced right.  You need to go left and then right, so the middle lane is the proper choice.  You:

a.  Drive down the right lane, and when the light turns green, shoot ahead and turn left, cutting off a car turning left in the middle lane.

b.  Merge into the middle lane as soon as possible.

c.  Merge into the middle lane at the intersection.

5.  You arrive at a 4 way stop at the same time as 3 other vehicles, one in each direction.  The vehicle with the right of way is:

a.  The 1-ton duallie pickup that didn’t stop on the right.

b.  The 1-ton duallie pickup that didn’t stop on the left.

c.  The 1-ton duallie pickup that didn’t stop straight ahead.

6.  You’re on an on ramp to I10 west.  It starts off 2 lanes, and a sign indicates your lane ends ahead.  You:

a.  Pull up to the back bumper of the vehicle ahead to prevent one of the cars from the right from getting in between you.

b.  Merge, allowing a vehicle or two from the right lane to go ahead.

c.  Stop, get out of the car, and throw a tantrum over the lousy traffic in Houston.


4 or more B answers, you’re obviously on anti-depressants and have learned well how to handle Houston traffic.

4 or more A answers.

Congratulations, you’re the average driver in Houston.  You’re also a thoughtless, stupid, dangerous jerk who should be forced to ride Metro for all eternity.

4 or more C answers:  You’re off your meds.  Take them.

Question 5 is a trick question.  All answers are wrong.  The garbage truck passing the 1-ton dualie on the right has the right of way.  Missing this indicates you are insufficiently trained in Houston’s driving conditions to survive long unless you drive a Mercedes.

Miscellaneous Ravings

Driver OK after car goes over wall, falls 20 feet in Bellevue

The Seattle Times reported the driver of a silver Mercedes-Benz S430 sedan tried to back out of a parking space, but instead drove forward over a 20-foot-tall concrete embankment on a main Bellevue street.

The driver escaped serious injury.

Investigators had determined that the car had been stopped in the parking lot, however, when the driver tried to back out of a parking space but instead ended up going forward, over the wall.

The S-430 Mercedes sedan went over the wall and came to rest on the street and sidewalk at the bottom of the embankment, sliding into another car stopped in the northbound lanes of 116th Avenue Southeast.

The 83-year-old driver lost consciousness, but then recovered and was able to talk to officers. He was taken to a hospital as a precaution.  He suffered a head laceration. Investigators believe the accident was caused by a medical problem.

Witnesses said the car seemed to fly through the air and then crashed to the ground.

"I saw a car in midair and I heard a smash," said Jim Bates, of Duvall, a waterproofing contractor who was working nearby.

The Problem with SIRIUS

SIRIUS Satellite Radio is a really great system, and the setup in the ML is superb and easy to use with 10 preset channels and steering wheel mounted seek controls.  It has only one fault.  It has an All-Elvis channel.  The Redhead wants to listen to that channel when she’s in the car.  I want to listen to Fox News.

So we compromised.  We listen to the All-Elvis station.

But only when she’s in the car.

Combined issues

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a 2-month issue, but things got behind, and I didn’t want to be behind all year, so this is February/March.  With luck we’ll be back to monthly next month.

Arthur Pendragon

Moving the Cat

Whenever we take the cats from the house to the RV or back we put them in a cat carrier.  It stays out so that they won’t get the idea that when they see it, it’s time to hide.

Doesn’t help.  The sight of suitcases makes them hide.  I went to get them the last time, grabbing the first one I saw, Emerald, and putting her in the carrier.  Would that the first one I saw was Arthur.  But that was not to be.  I began searching t he house for him and went upstairs to the game room.  Other rooms upstairs have their doors perpetually closed to keep the cats out.  He was, indeed, in the game room.  I found him sitting on the treadmill.  As I approached, George S. Patton, Jr, the Dog, ran to him, causing him to jump straight up and head for the stairs, with George and me in hot pursuit.  When I got downstairs, no sign of him.  I put George into the master bedroom and continued the search, upstairs, downstairs, looking behind everything.  No Arthur Pendragon.  Several times I looked under the bed and headboard, to make sure he hadn’t gotten there before the door was closed.

No Arthur Pendragon.  He wasn’t upstairs or downstairs.

I retraced all steps, knowing that he had to be moving from place to place and staying one step ahead of me.

Finally, on the third or fourth search, I found him under the headboard.  So I moved the king-sized bed to get to him.  He went to the center of the bed.  I moved it again.  He was at the far corner of wherever I was.  Finally he made a run for the door.  It was closed, and George S. Patton, Jr. was waiting for him and cornered him.  I reached to get him, down at his level.  He climbed the wall three feet and went over my head.  Another fifteen minutes went by as we danced around the bed.  Finally he lay on the headboard, bored with the chase.

But when I picked him up, the tiger-like hiss, blood curdling growl, and 20 claws all came out simultaneously.

I put him in the carrier, holding him carefully to avoid the claws best I could.  Gee, that was fun.

Curt Rich February/March 2007