At the mid-quarter of 2012, Mercedes-Benz Australia announced that it would cut the prices of some of its C-Class variants due to the fact that it had escaped the so-called Luxury Car Tax that Australia imposed recently. But aside from the country down under, most industrialized countries also impose a form of tax on cars that do not meet government-mandated fuel efficiency levels. By not paying the gas guzzler tax, Mercedes was able to apply these savings to customers buying the C200 and C250 models.
Mercedes’ advertising blurbs credit their start/stop technology for allowing their small-engined C-Class variants to slip under the luxury car tax guidelines. Stop/start technology allows a car to conserve fuel by shutting off the gasoline engine when the vehicle is, well, stopped, such as at a traffic light. When the driver steps on the gas pedal, the engine is automatically re-started, making it a seamless and transparent technology for the driver while doing away with unnecessary idling that wastes fuel.
But more than this particular technology, it is the drive toward better fuel efficiencies that has driven manufacturers to produce more efficient, smaller-displacement engines. The most prominent of these technologies nowadays are direct injection and turbocharging, which means that four-cylinder engines are now able to offer power levels that were once possible only with 6-cylinder or even V8s. At the same time, the fuel consumption for the equivalent horsepower output from the larger engines has dropped by at least 50%. The motivators for the implementation of these technologies are several, among them CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) regulations, stricter emissions standards, fluctuating fuel prices and an eco-friendly mindset among the majority of car buyers.
Although hybrids and electric vehicles get most of the press nowadays, diesel technology has also improved by leaps and bounds. These more fuel-efficient powerplants have steadily improved to the point that some models offer even better fuel economy ratings than hybrids. Add to this much-reduced particulate emissions and the disappearance of the traditional smoke and clatter that gave them the name oil burners, and you have another alternative powerplant that can use synthesized or bio-waste derived fuels when the dino juice finally runs out. For commuting and people moving purposes, the new crop of powertrains is definitely a good thing. But big engines still have their place in the transport realm and we should not expect these large-displacement units to disappear anytime soon. The development of more fuel-efficient engines and other alternative only means that consumers and enthusiasts alike do not have to worry about the future of transportation that all of us rely upon.