In choosing a diesel vehicle instead of a gasoline model, you almost always get a lot more torque, for comfortable highway cruising and easier towing, plus significantly better fuel economy.
Between the gasoline-powered 2011 Mercedes-Benz ML350 and the 2011 ML350 BlueTec, this is true. EPA fuel economy ratings are 17 mpg city, 22 highway (19 combined) for the gasoline ML350, or 20 mpg city, 25 highway (22 combined) for the ML350 BlueTec.
But many diesel models in the past have been priced at thousands more than their gasoline-powered counterparts. That means, for even those luxury buyers who still do think in dollars (and that's most of them), it's a little hard to justify the added cost.
Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz has priced the new ML350 BlueTec (our favorite of the two 2012 Mercedes-Benz M-Class models we drove this past week) in a way that makes fiscal sense—and amounts to a very quick payback at the pump.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz ML350 starts at $49,865, while the diesel is priced only $1,500 higher, at $51,365.
Using the most recent national-average price (from the U.S. Energy Information Administration), we ran the numbers. On a national basis, the average price for premium gasoline is $3.93, while diesel is at $3.92 a gallon. Using EPA Combined numbers and assuming 15,000 miles of driving a year, that equates to nearly 108 more gallons of gasoline used annually than diesel—or a difference of about $431 per year in fuel costs.
Crunching out the numbers, that means that the ML350 BlueTec will pay for its premium in less than three and a half years.
And of course, if fuel prices rise, the BlueTec could make the payback even easier.