Curt's Newsletter

November 2006

© 2006
No part of this newsletter may be reprinted elsewhere including internet websites without written permission from the author

2007 CL600

The much anticipated 2007 CL series was just released. Shown is the CL600, the flagship of the fleet

Scientific American Award
Mercedes-Benz Bluetec wins Scientific American 50 award
MONTVALE, NJ – Mercedes-Benz Bluetec technology has been named by Scientific American magazine as one of the Scientific American 50 – the magazine’s prestigious annual list recognizing outstanding acts of leadership in science and technology from the past year.  Announced today, the Scientific American 50 appears in the magazine’s December issue, on newsstands November 21, and the complete list may be accessed on the magazine’s web site at

What is Bluetec?
Heralded as the world’s most advanced diesel technology, Bluetec combines several technologies to minimize exhaust emissions.  Bluetec is 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.  This high-tech powerplant represents a dramatic step forward that is destined to change many of the dated perceptions about diesels. 

Like any diesel, the E320 Bluetec will get 20-40 percent better fuel mileage and longer cruising range (less frequent fill-ups) than a gasoline-powered car, but more important, it does it without the usual tradeoffs of diesel ownership.  The E320 Bluetec is nearly as quiet and clean as a gasoline-powered model, and under acceleration, the car feels faster than the comparable gasoline-engine car, a result of its whopping 400 foot-pounds of engine torque – the pulling power of a V8!

The Scientific American 50
Said Scientific American editor-in-chief John Rennie, “The Scientific American 50 pays tribute to individuals and organizations who, through their efforts in research, business and policy-making, are driving advances in science and technology that lay the groundwork for a better future.  Not only does our list honor these prime movers, but it also shines a spotlight on the critical fields that are benefiting from their achievements.”

Selected by the magazine’s Board of Editors with the help of distinguished outside advisors, the Scientific American 50 recognizes research, business and policy leaders who have displayed a critical role driving key science and technology trends over the past year in fields including robotics, genetics Alzheimer’s research, nanotechnology and more.

Past Scientific American 50 lists have spotlighted visionaries from an array of fields such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; noted stem cell researcher Douglas A. Melton, professor of the natural sciences at Harvard; Nobel prize-winning neurobiologist Roderick MacKinnon, professor of molecular neurobiology and biophysics at Rockefeller University; aviation leader Burt Rutan, president, Scaled Composites; global public health leader Gro Harlem Brundtland, former World Health Organization secretary general; corporate chief Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO, General Electric and high-tech innovator Steven Jobs, Apple CEO.

Best of What’s New

Popular Science Honors BLUETEC Technology and Adaptive Brake Lights
NEW YORK, NY – Mercedes-Benz garnered two automotive “Best of What’s New” awards today from Popular Science, the oldest and best-known science and technology magazine in the U.S.  Mercedes-Benz Bluetec and its adaptive brake light technologies have both won awards in their automotive category.

Mark Jannot, editor-in-chief of Popular Science, said, “Best of What’s New is the ultimate Popular Science accolade, representing a year’s worth of work evaluating thousands of products.  These awards honor innovations that not only influence the way we live today, but that also change the way we think about the future.”

Each year, the editors of Popular Science review thousands of new products in search of the top 100 tech innovations of the year – breakthrough products and technologies that represent a significant leap in their categories.  The winners – the Best of What’s New – are awarded inclusion in the much-anticipated December issue of Popular Science, the most widely read issue of the year since the debut of Best of What’s New in 1987.  Best of What’s New awards are presented to 100 new products and technologies in 10 categories: Automotive, Aviation & Space, Computing, Engineering, Gadgets, General Innovation, Home Entertainment, Home Tech, Personal Health and Recreation.

From Tuesday, November 7 through Thursday the 9th, Popular Science is taking over Vanderbilt Hall in New York’s Grand Central Station to showcase The Best of What’s New.  Featuring displays of the winners with product experts on hand to answer questions, the three-day consumer event is open to the public, and admission is free.

Adaptive Brake Lights
Expected to reduce rear collisions, adaptive brake lights flash rapidly during emergency braking.  In testing, following drivers’ reaction time was reduced by 0.2 seconds, which resulted in shorter stopping distances.  From 50 mph, stopping distances were more than 13 feet shorter.  Another Mercedes-Benz safety first, adaptive brake lights are standard equipment on the new-generation CL600 coupe as well as the limited-production 2007-model S600 and S65 AMG sedans.
The rapidly flashing LED brake lights are triggered primarily by the car’s Brake Assist system (standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles since 1998), which automatically provides full-power braking assist whenever it senses faster-than-usual brake pedal application.  They can also be activated by the car’s ESP stability control system (standard on all Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles since 1999) if it senses low-friction surfaces such as snow or ice.

About Popular Science
Founded in 1872, Popular Science is the world’s largest science and technology magazine with a circulation of 1.45 million and readership of 6.5 million.  Each month, Popular Science reports on the intersection of science and everyday life, with an eye toward what’s new and why it matters.  Popular Science is published by Time4 Media, a subsidiary of Time, Inc., which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner, Inc.


Going Diesel
I have been called an anti-environmentalist.  I’m not.  I’m a realist, maybe a bit of a cynic.  “Save the rainforest.”  “You mean the jungle?”  “No, no, it’s a rainforest, not a jungle.”  “I’ve been in a few ‘rainforests.’  Trust me.  It’s a jungle out there, Jane.  I’m not opposed to saving it, just giving it a warm, cuddly name.  Environmentalists started calling jungles rainforests because they were smart enough to know old jungle fighters like me would be more likely to give money to save jungle fighters than to save jungles.   (I’m happy if they want to save them.  Just don’t ask me for money.  Use your own. iI you want to save something, the way to do it is the way Ted Turner is saving bison, by buying up large tracts of land and keeping it wild.  What?  You don’t have that kind of money?  Funny, neither do I, so quit asking for it.)

Alternative fuels that don’t work
Then I pooh-poohed gasoline/ electric hybrid cars and trucks as being overly expensive and not saving the buyer any money.  Sure, they get good gas mileage in town, but they cost more than their gasoline counterparts and require extra maintenance expenses (batteries, electric motors).  Electric cars still suffer from the need of a long cord.  E85 doesn’t seem to be pointing toward economic feasibility or saving energy to any extent.  Hydrogen cars are a long way away.  Biodiesel, in large-scale quantities, is a long way from being workable.  Saying these things bursts the bubble of their proponents who work on emotion instead of reason.  Thus the name-calling.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is
But after I came to the conclusion that modern diesel is the only alternative fuel that works right now, I put my money (a lot!) where my mouth is and bought a 2007 ML320CDI.

The Sainted ML55 AMG and Casper Milquetoast
You’ll remember my last ML was the ML55 AMG, famous in song, story, and legend, a fire-breathing monster capable of 155 mph speeds.  Several people couldn’t understand how I could stand going from that to a Casper Milquetoast diesel.   Well, it might surprise some of you to know I actually read Drive to Survive, and my driving is appropriately defensive.  The ML320 CDI is fast enough for what I do.  I seldom need to go over 130 while commuting, so it’ll work.  With 398 lb./ft. of torque and 7-speeds, it is very responsive and agile.  It’s more Clark Kent than Casper Milquetoast.

Airmatic with ADS
It also has an extremely gentle ride.  I got the Airmatic Dual Control suspension with Adaptive Damping System, as is standard on the S-Class, CLS, and E550.  It has “Comfort,” “Sport,” and “Auto”. “Sport” is fairly gentle, getting a bit choppy, but the parameter steering is noticeably tighter.  The seats have a lot of lateral support, and the driving position is quite comfortable.  Having a steering wheel that telescopes as well as tilts helps.  That was lacking in the ML55.

Three Zone Climate Control
To get the Airmatic Suspension, you have to get Premium Package 3.  Premium Package 3 includes the 3-zone climate control.  The Redhead and I sit in the front, so this means George S. Patton, Jr. has his own temperature control.  I hope he appreciates it.

Back-Up Camera
I also got the backup camera.  I’m getting used to it.  I haven’t gotten to the point of trusting it because, “objects may be closer than they appear.”  No kidding.  It’s a fisheye or semi-fisheye lens.  But it does have a bright picture of the world behind me.  To really protect against bumping into things in the night (as opposed to things that go bump in the night), I should have gotten Parktronic.  I can’t tell where the front bumper is.  I can’t on most modern vehicles.  This bothers some people to no end.  Parktronic is the cure.  So is experience with the vehicle.  Now I just park 6 feet from the curb when I think I’m a lot closer.

Bi-Xenon Headlights

Bi-Xenon Headlights
Most of you know I can’t see in the dark (or in high glare situations, like my office at certain times of the day).  I won’t get a car without Bi-Xenon Headlights.  These are active, to boot.

19" Appearance Package wheel

19" Appearance Package Wheel, with a month's worth of dirt

Things I didn’t get
I didn’t get the Sport Package.  I did get the Appearance Package when I saw that it came with H rated tires.  If it had come with W rated tires I wouldn’t have.  The Appearance Package gives you 19” wheels that look better than the stock 17” wheels, and chrome here and there.  I also didn’t get the wood and leather steering wheel.  I didn’t like the one on the ML55 AMG.  The stock steering wheel is more comfortable.

In general the ergonomics are wildly improved.  The headlight switch is on the left and just like the German-born Mercedes, ditto the turn-signal/combination switch.  The latter has 2 rain sensing intermittent positions on the wiper switch.  The cruise control, if tapped up or down less than gently, will go, for example, from 61 to 65 or from 55 to 50.  A VERY gentle tap gets one mph change.  The speed set appears temporarily on the readout between the speedometer and tachometer (the multifunction display).

The back seat folds easier and doesn’t require headrest removal.  The storage area is much bigger due to the spare tire being underneath.  The spare tire area already has the extra safety gear I carry, a tool roll, warning triangles, big lug wrench, etc.

I haven’t figured out how the new ML, 9” longer than the old one, fits in a smaller space in the garage.  The hatch has more clearance room between the vehicle and the door when the front bumper is in the same place.  Is a puzzlement, said the King.

The COMAND system has evolved a few generations.  I splurged and got voice control.  The DVD based navigation is fast and easy to program, especially with the voice control.  Having the ability to have instructions on the multi-function display is fantastic.

But, I’ll admit, much of the time the multi-function display is on the trip computer, and I’m watching the numbers get larger.  The sticker says 21 city and 27 highway.  The un-broken-in new engine is in the mid-twenties most of the time on the display.  Not impressed?  This is a 4,600+ lb. SUV capable of towing 5,000 lb. and with full time 4 wheel drive and off road capabilities, not a mini-car.  Subaru advertises mileage like this in their shoebox crossover SUV.

Finding ULSD
Since it requires Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, the new stuff required in 80% of diesel stations on October 15, and since I took delivery on October 25, I began looking for ULSD on October 16 and found it at the neighborhood Shell station.  Not everyone has it.  I received a call from legendary retired Mercedes trainer Walt Swarm.  He couldn’t find it in Illinois.  My response was to ask the dealer where they filled it up and buy there until it becomes common.  Range on the tank is 525 miles in town, after all (to zero!).  It’s 100% in California, common in Texas, and less so the further one gets from those 2 states toward the Eastern seaboard.  It’ll get there.

A Flying J truck stop (“Travel Stop”) just opened in Brookshire, Texas, and they’re selling ULSD at about 20¢/gallon below prevailing market.  It’s been nice going 300 miles and only needing half a tank.

Sound System
The sound system is superior with Logic 7 Surround sound, and SIRIUS Satellite Radio is integrated so I can punch in channel #s onthe phone keypad just like AM and FM.  The Elvis channel is 13.  Fox News is 131.  The Playboy channel is 198.  The channels carrying Howard Stern have been locked out.

When I get in the truck I can disconnect that @%!#! earpiece you usually see me with and use the Bluetooth connector to connect my phone to the COMAND system, hands free and voice activated.

Minor Glitch
Most Bluetooth phones work with the phone system.  The Verizon V710 works but won’t allow the phonebook to be downloaded onto the COMAND screen.  (Put Telephone on the Multifunction Display.  Push down arrow.  Phonebook will download.)  A trip to Verizon for a Motorola Razr solved the problem, but not without the usual problems figuring out a new piece of technology just different enough from the previous one to drive me crazy.  That and the “free” phone cost $96, with a $50 rebate to come.  (We have found 2 or three phones that are not compatible.  Most are.)

 “Nice” Voice System
The Redhead says that the voice system is too nice.  According to her, since it’s a woman’s voice it should be saying, “go left at the next corner—no, no, left.  The other left!  Listen to me when I talk to you!”  If it were properly configured to the feminine gender, of course, it wouldn’t be able to read a map and would point left and say right simultaneously.  A woman’s voice should get shrill and frustrated in traffic, and then shut up after saying, “I just can’t do this!  The pressure is too hard!”

We haven’t been able to name it yet.  Darth Mercedes was all black.  This one is all white.  It’s hard to come up with a dark and evil name like Darth for a white vehicle, and the villains get all the good names as well as the good lines.

Valentine 1 Radar detector mounted in a "hole" in the infrared shield

The new, improved Valentine 1 ECM package has to be mounted in this silly location to avoid the InfraRed shield in the glass. With 1 EZ tag and 1 "Quick Ride" tag, the holes are all used up. I did some testing with it behind the IR shield, and the shield won.

The Dealer Ordering Guide, at the time of ordering, didn’t mention that the Premium 3 package comes with an Infrared windshield.  These are wonderful in keeping the vehicle cool, but you have to know where the magic spots are for the EZ Tag for the Toll Road Authority, the “Quick Ride” tag for the HOV lane, and, of course the Valentine 1 Radar Detector.

Cargo management system divider rail

The Cargo Management System divider rail mounted mid trunk area. The Cargo Tray is in place, holes cut for the Cargo Management System mounts.

Package holding feature

The Cargo Management System allows you to tie down delicate/dangerous packages


Without the Cargo Tray in place the Cargo Management System mounts can be put anywhere on the rails. D-Ring attachment shown.

Learning Tricks
It came with the cargo management system.  On both sides of the cargo area are 2 rails.  A kit comes with several little fittings that pop into the rails and serve as a base for D-Rings, a divider rail, and a grocery bag holder.  I didn’t particularly want this because I keep a cargo tray in the trunk to keep mud off the carpet (we’ll have a discussion of the proper surface for a cargo area at another time).

The cargo tray appeared to make this system unusable.  Then I discovered there are 3 areas on each side that appear to be designed to cut out easily.  Forget about the front two.  They’re already pre-punched for the D-Rings at the front of the compartment, and the rails don’t go that far.  Just put the D-Rings through them, and they become usable again.

But the middle ones, when cut out, leave room for the base fittings with about 2” worth of adjustment.  I did this and mounted the divider rails, so now the briefcase doesn’t slide all over the back anymore.  I didn’t cut out the ones on the back end, either, because I currently don’t have a need for D-rings there.  When/if I do, I will.

There is too much lumbar support on the driver’s seat for me when the lumbar is relaxed fully.  When you play the Playboy channel on Sirius, there are no pictures on the multifunction display.  There’s no hidden compartment just the size of a Colt 1911A1.  I have to pay for it.

Miscellaneous Ravings
The GL320CDI turbodiesel launch has been moved up to December 1, 2006.  Now all of our Alabama-built SUVs are available in clean diesel.Prices, etc., in next month’s newsletter.

Former POW, Pearl Harbor Survivor, and Purple Heart Plates
When the Former POW, Pearl Harbor Survivor, and Purple Heart plates came out in Texas, a recipient was only allowed one per category (one of my friends had a POW plate and a Purple Heart plate, both well earned).  Somewhere along the way the rules were changed, and you can get another for $15 over the price of a regular plate.  The first one is “free.”  Actually, it’s not; it has just already been paid for.

About all the plate is good for is free parking in city lots, such as at the airport.

The “What the hell were they thinking?” file?
Pulling the air cleaner off the new diesel engine to check fluids and putting it back on with the key on can be expensive.  It bends a rod attached to the turbocharger and requires replacing same.  I don’t know why anyone would check fluids with the key on, but if you have a 2007 diesel, don’t.  This wouldn’t deter me from getting one (oh, I forgot.  I already did), because they’re unbelievably good vehicles, just something to watch out for.

Supporting Whose Veterans?
The Democratic National Committee’s website had a page dedicated to “Veterans and Military Families” in its attempt to show support for American troops, the ones they’re usually calling names.  Until someone called attention to it, the DNC site erroneously featured a photo of a Canadian soldier named “Abdul.”  I’m sure it was just a total lack of photos of American military people in uniform.  That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it.

E320CDI Letter
Your October 2006 Newsletter has prompted me to relate my recent trip to California in my newly purchased E320 CDI.  First, I have not had so much fun driving a car since I sold my 1966 Barracuda, Formula S (a very long time ago). Manufacturers claims for cars are usually a bit more optimistic than the reality, but not for the CDI.  It hugs the road like a racecar getting more stable as you increase its speed, and has a set of brakes that are phenomenal.  As for the acceleration, its 6.6 0-60 is extremely impressive for a diesel, but that really doesn’t tell the whole story. In the 40 to 70 range the accelerator response is extremely smooth with no peaks or flat spots and if you “dump” it to the floor in that range you had better have a neck brace.  As for the high end the car accelerates very strongly right up to its U.S. speed limit of 130 mph, and is just as stable cruising at 100 as it is at 65.  I know I sound like an advertisement, but this car is fun to drive.

Now for the less aggressive folks, if you believe that the real speed limit = (posted limit + 4.99 mph) you can drive on I10 from Brookshire TX to Indio CA at 79.99 mph with out breaking the law. That’s about 1350 miles, which I traveled at, an average speed of 74 mph with an average fuel consumption of 36 mpg.  From Indio to Santa Barbara, 230 miles, I averaged 65 mph and got 39.3 mpg. Wow!  Equally impressive is the fact that I filled the tank in Houston, and not again until Van Horn Texas.  I could have made El Paso!  When I started the trip the odometer had 988 miles on it, and I anticipate better mileage as the car continues to break-in.  This is a very comfortable car to drive with a very low noise level.  I am no spring chicken, but still managed 811 miles on the second day and could have gone farther, that’s a real tribute to the ergonomics of this machine.  Obviously I am “sold”.  Mercedes has done it again, leading the way in comfort, performance and economy.

Richard Willingham

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it just about every time.” 

Bob Boze Bell

“If you’re not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

Jim Rohn

Favorite Jack Palance Line:
“Killed anybody today, Curly?”
“Day ain’t over yet.”

If you have an older Mercedes and would like to use the phone system but can’t, check these guys out.

Their Blurb: “For several years, Mercedes-Benz has offered a phone option in their vehicles. However, depending on the year of the vehicle, this phone option required the use of a particular Motorola phone. Moreover, the Motorola handsets had to be purchased from a Mercedes dealership because they had special programming, called firmware, that allowed the phone to integrate into the vehicle. If you purchased a V60, for instance, from your local cell phone store and plugged it into the car, you would find that it did nothing (except maybe the phone would shut off!). Since you were required to purchase this phone from a dealership, you had to pay $500 for a phone that costs less than $100 at a cell phone store. So if it was lost or broken, you had to purchase it from a dealer all over again. You also had limited choices in carriers, many carriers simply were not offered.

“Additionally, since 2004, cellular providers will refuse to activate these phones because they depend on aging equipment and do not conform to current 911 laws. In the end, if you own one of these incredible cars, you find that the excellent and safe integrated phone system is rendered either too expensive to maintain or simply not activated at all. Also, if you live in one of the many states or cities that now has laws against handheld phone use while driving, you may find yourself wearing one of those uncomfortable (and dangerous) wired or wireless earpieces. You don't have to settle for this if you drive one of the best automobiles in the world....

 “Your New Phone Solution (Bluetooth wireless): Not for pre-1999 : The AIK is a wireless solution that uses Bluetooth technology that is common in many of today’s phones. If you have one of the popular phones, PDA, or smartphone with Bluetooth, you may want to consider this option. It is also well suited to cars that have not previously had a phone system installed. It is called the ARGOS Integration Kit (AIK). The AIK is a solution that allows you to use any brand phone and allows you to choose any carrier you desire. The only requirement is that the phone have Bluetooth capability (most phones do). In addition, it allows you to simply get into the car with the phone in your pocket, purse, even your briefcase in the trunk. It connects wirelessly to your phone (after an initial one time security 'pairing' procedure). This is not another aftermarket solution that makes use of just the built in microphone and loudspeakers. Full integration means, using the COMAND Navigation head unit, radio or steering wheel controls to dial, accept/reject calls, browse the cell phone's directory, voice dialing, etc. The unit simply plugs into the network connection that is in your trunk (hidden by a carpet panel).”

George and the intruder
George S. Patton, Jr. has been hard at work trying to protect his people and his turf.  He attacks the front door whenever a doorbell rings on TV.  Heaven help the Chinese food delivery guy.  He thinks we don’t properly appreciate his efforts.  But he’s really baffled that we don’t appreciate his efforts at protecting us from a new intruder he’s just discovered.  It’s hung just below the ceiling in the master bedroom.  It has 4 big blades and a chain hanging down from it.  Sometimes it’s stationary.  Sometimes it’s spinning.  He doesn’t know what it’s for, but he knows it’s up to no good.  If he sits on the bed and barks at it long enough and loud enough, eventually he’ll scare it away.

A Dog that does tricks
If your dog doesn’t do tricks or doesn’t do them well, go to:
The dog there obeys typed commands.  Figuring out which ones he understands reading his responses when he doesn’t is part of the fun.

Rules of the road

1. Light travels faster than sound.
This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
2. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
3. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
4. Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't.
5. Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool.
6. The 50-50-90 rule:
Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
7. If you lined up all the cars in the world end to end, someone would be stupid enough to try to pass them, five or six at a time, on a hill, in the fog.
8. If the shoe fits, get another one just like it.
9. The things that come to those who wait, will be the things left by those who got there first.
10. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat all day drinking beer.
11. A flashlight is a case for holding dead batteries.
12. The shinbone is a device for finding furniture in a dark room.
13. A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
14. When you go into court, you are putting yourself in the hands of 12 people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.

Curt Rich         November 2006