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Car and Driver: The Future of Mercedes Powertrains Includes Inline-Sixes, 48-Volt Hybrid Systems

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Mercedes-Benz is betting on an entirely new generation of four- and six-cylinder engines. Car and Driver has learned that the entry-level diesel version of the upcoming E-class will be the first application of the new engine family, a four-cylinder making around 180 horsepower. It will be followed by four-cylinder gasoline engines and inline six-cylinder diesel and gasoline engines down the road.

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The new engine family marks the return of the inline-six to Benz showrooms; the layout was used in a whole range of vehicles for decades—including the iconic 300SL, as shown above—but disappeared from Daimler’s lineup in the late 1990s when a new generation of V-6 engines was launched. Mercedes-Benz will rejoin BMW, currently the only maker of inline sixes after both Volvo and Daewoo/Chevrolet dropped them from their lineups.

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Mercedes-Benz also will bet strongly on mild hybrid systems with a starter-generator integrated into the transmission. They provide accelerative boost, and they make the engine stop-start function smoother and less obtrusive than using conventional starters. Far cheaper than high-voltage conventional hybrids, they offer many of the same advantages, although they cannot match the range and performance of modern plug-in hybrids.

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The 48-volt mild hybrid system also will launch in the new E-class, and subsequently be made available on a number of additional models. It requires the new electric/electronic architecture that is being launched with the E.

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