You know the green bandwagon has gathered momentum when a horsepower hungry tuner like Brabus turns its attention to eco-friendly models like the Mercedes E300 Bluetec. Coming from a company better known for big-cube, bonkers bhp engine conversions this may be a surprise, but in fact diesel tuning has become a huge part of Brabus’s business.
The Bluetec exhaust treatment has been a key component in Mercedes’ attempt to woo American buyers into diesel cars, and has been offered Stateside in E320 CDI form since 2006. Continental Europe got its own version in 2007, in detuned (read more economical) E300-spec.
So why don’t we get it in this country – especially given the current obsession with emissions? Well, blame our legislators’ simple-minded obsession with CO2 for that. The Bluetec system tackles tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons. But CO2 is a separate matter and so long as our taxation system is driven by this single issue Mercedes sees no market incentive for selling Bluetec cars in the UK.
So why are you telling me about a Mercedes E300 Bluetec that I can’t buy?
Given the importance being placed on all matters eco the fact that even the tuners are taking notice is significant. And there’s also a perverse pleasure to be had in driving a mean-looking, ruded-up Benz that also happens to be far more deserving of its green halo than the pious hybrid driving masses might expect.
But there is relevance for UK Merc drivers too. Brabus diesel upgrades have quietly been offered in UK Mercedes dealerships for some time now. And a version of the D6 tweaks on this E300 Bluetec can also be fitted to the familiar E320 CDI we get over here.
Indeed, somewhat surprisingly Brabus boasts of a long history of eco-friendly diesel upgrades, even claiming the first-ever use of a particulate filter on its E V8 diesel of 2001. And it has a full range of PowerXtra upgrades for all diesel Mercs, again available through official Merc dealers. The kit we're testing here adds £1700 to the base price.
Click 'Next' to see what happens when Brabus meets Bluetec
Ok, so the basic gist is I can go fast and save the planet?
That’s probably putting it a bit strongly. But with 255bhp and a thumping 450lb ft of torque – up from the standard E300 Bluetec’s 208bhp and 398 lb ft – the D6 Blue has the power to sprint from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds. Not bad for an eco special.
And all the while puffing out emissions that better the 2011 Euro V emissions standards by 65 percent – Brabus is the first tuner to offer such compliance. What’s more, Brabus claims this comes with no penalty over the standard car’s 38.7mpg combined fuel consumption or 184g/km CO2 emissions. Impressive.
The E300 Bluetec uses a lower compression ratio than the standard 320 CDI on which it’s based, together with a particulate filter plus oxidising and NOx storage catalytic converters to reduce hydrocarbon, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide emissions. The Brabus PowerXtra plug-in unit further refines the fuelling and other parameters to create the power gains.
What if I don’t care quite so much about the environment and just want to tweak my E320 CDI?
The V6 diesel E-class’s 221bhp and 398lb ft is already pretty healthy. Add the D6 PowerXtra chip and this is boosted to 268bhp and 435lb ft, slashing three tenths off the 0-62mph sprint and boosting in-gear acceleration across the board. Brabus remains cagey about exactly how the PowerXtra unit achieves these gains but the bottom line is that it works a treat.
If you get the kit fitted at a Mercedes dealership when the car is new there is no change to the three-year manufacturer’s warranty and you’re also covered by the Brabus three-year/60,000-mile guarantee. The kit can be retrofitted to existing cars too, although Mercedes will not cover any consequential damage to cars older than two years or with more than 18,000 miles on the clock.
So it’s a hassle- and worry-free upgrade. And nor need it trouble your conscience, Brabus claiming the extra power means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard to achieve comparable performance thereby saving fuel. And when you need a bit of extra shove it’s a twitch of your right foot away. A D6 kit for the E320 CDI costs £1370, plus around half an hour’s labour for fitting.
Just how do these tweaked diesels drive?
Muscular in a word, even in the environmentally conscious Bluetec version we tested. The Mercedes V6 diesel is a brilliant engine anyway and, in all honesty, not compromised at all by the Bluetec modifications.
Throttle response is sharp, the torque seemingly unstoppable and on the autobahn you’re playing with the big boys in the fast lane in no time. It means back home in the more regulated UK you’ll have to watch yourself if you’re to keep your licence clean, so effortless are big speeds in this car.
If you really want to drive hard you’ll still get more satisfaction from a petrol motor, for which Brabus also offers numerous upgrades of course. But if you cover a lot of miles and want some hassle-free extra oomph for minimal outlay there really seems no good reason not to spec your E320 CDI with a bit of Brabus magic if you live in the UK.
Win-win. For a modest outlay you get more go, and if you want more show Brabus can always help you there too. There is of course an expansive range of Brabus styling and performance upgrades to feast upon, from bodykits to wheels and even chromed quad exhausts. Bling or stealth – the choice is yours.
And the diesel upgrade is equally effective on all the 280 and 320 CDI engined Mercs, proving especially popular among ML buyers. Brabus is to be applauded for including eco-conscious Bluetec buyers among its potential customers, and if the technology is ever offered in the UK it’s nice to know you can have your eco cake and eat it with the D6 Blue package.