The new generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, which will be launched in the European showrooms on June 10th, faces an exceptional acid test right at the beginning: On October 21st, 33 E-Class cars with diesel drive start on a long-distance drive from Paris to Beijing, where the local production of the business saloon is currently starting. The symbolic bridging between Europe and Asia over long stretches of the journey, follows the route of the first transcontinental car race in history which was started exactly 99 years ago on June 10th, and which led from Beijing to Paris in 62 days. With the modern E-Class cars, Mercedes-Benz aims to accomplish this journey, which in parts runs through pathless terrains, in only 26 days.

“2006 is the year of the E-Class for Mercedes-Benz”, explains Dr. Klaus Maier, responsible for Sales and Marketing in the Mercedes Car Group division management. “With the new generation of the E-Class, we have thoroughly overhauled the core of our brand and have made it even more attractive for our customers.”

The E-Class fleet which starts from Paris on October 21st, consists of 33 series-production E-Class models with diesel engine, some with 4-MATIC, the all-wheel-drive. Alongside thirty E 320 CDI, three E 320 BLUETEC partake in the journey. Through this forward-looking technology diesel cars become particularly clean, especially by reducing the emission of nitrogen oxides.

The E320 BLUETEC which will at first be launched in the USA in the autumn of 2006, has the cleanest diesel engine in the world and consumes 20 to 40 per cent less fuel than comparable vehicles with petrol engines. It is the target of Mercedes-Benz to offer BLUETEC in a passenger car to their European customers no later than 2008.

“70 years after Mercedes-Benz as the first car producer introduced the diesel engine in passenger cars, we now want to underline the performance of our modern diesel technology with the long-distance drive from Paris to Beijing”, explains Dr. Thomas Weber, member of the board of DaimlerChrysler AG, responsible for Group Research & Development of the Mercedes Car Group. “As fuel prices are going up continuously, independent experts too forecast a worldwide trend towards diesel cars and expect the global diesel market share to rise from currently 18 to nearly 30 per cent in 2015.”

13,600 kilometres in five stages}1}

The long-distance drive Paris – Beijing 2006 will start in the heart of Paris on October 21st, and spans a total distance of approximately 13,600 kilometres, crossing the borders of eight countries, to finish in Beijing where the teams are expected to arrive on November 17th. One day later, the “AutoChina 2006” starts in Beijing, the most important automotive fair, where also the new generation of the E-Class will be presented. In this drive, the sportive challenge for the participants lies in achieving the lowest possible fuel consumption on both the individual stages and in total, and all this in spite of the ambitious time schedule. Added together, the 33 E-Classes will drive more than 450,000 kilometres in 28 days, two of which are resting days for the teams. This equals more than eleven times the circumference of the equator.

Altogether 330 drivers will be sitting behind the steering wheels of the cars, taking the stages in turns. Amongst these are Mercedes-Benz customers from various countries, as well as journalists, taxi drivers and celebrities.

The first stage stretches over approximately 3,400 kilometres from Paris to Stuttgart, Berlin and Warsaw as well as the Baltic capitals of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn to finish in St. Petersburg. On their way, the participants pass some of the most beautiful places of old Europe, as well as widely unspoiled regions like the Masurian Lake District in the north east of Poland.

East of Moscow, which the teams will reach at the beginning of the second stage, the lesser known part of Europe begins. Cities like Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan on the so-called “Wolga Highway”, the inner harbour town of Perm or Yekaterinburg, situated on the other side of the Ural Mountains, the imaginary frontier between Europe and Asia are , to most participants “terra incognita”, as much as the regions they are driving through for around 2,700 kilometres: Chuvashia, Tatarstan and Udmurtia.

Reminiscence of the first transcontinental car race in history}1}

As far as Yekaterinburg, the route of the E-Class long-distance drive mostly follows the original route of the first transcontinental car race in history, which was started in Beijing on June 10th, exactly 99 years ago.

“Is there anybody who would like to go by car from Paris to Beijing this summer?”, the French newspaper “Le Matin” had asked in January 1907 in his search for fearless drivers. The initiators’ aim was to prove the technical superiority of the car over the horse. After the race had been reversed in direction due to reasons of weather conditions, thus starting in Beijing, eleven adventurers with five automobiles started their journey into the dark on June 10th, 1907. Prince Scipione Borghese started onto the track in an Italian Itala with 40 hp. Charles Godard steered a Dutch Spyker with 15 hp, accompanied by a “Le Matin” reporter. Two other vehicles, French De Dion Boutons with 10 hp, were driven by the car dealers Collignon and Cormier, and another Frenchman, Auguste Pons, participated with a three-wheeled Contal with 6 hp.

10,000 miles later and after stresses and strains which are hard to imagine today, Scipione Borghese reached Paris after 62 days on August 10th, 1907. And he had even taken a detour over St. Petersburg to visit a ball. Collignon, Cormier and Godard reached their destination three weeks later. Auguste Pons had had to retire from the race shortly after the start, as his three-wheeler had not endured the crossing of the Gobi desert.

From Europe’s east to China’s “Wild West”}1}

At Yekaterinburg the E-Class fleet turns off the original route of 1907 and – rather than going through Siberia – makes its way through Kazakhstan in the direction of China. The third stage with its 2,500 kilometres leads from Qostanai and the new Kazakhian capital of Astana to Almaty, the country’s old capital. For this trip, the participants cross the seemingly endless vastness of the Kazakhian steppe and the “Steppe of Hunger”, in the middle of which lies an uninhabited region in the expanse of Hungary.

Almaty, even until today the economic and cultural heart of Kazakhstan, lies in the shadow of the Tian Shan mountains with their breathtaking glaciers, the highest of which reach up to 5,000 metres, overlooking the city. From here, the fourth stage of approximately 3,100 kilometres takes the drivers into China’s Wild West. North of the Taklamakan desert, the contrasts could not be any more glaring. Only a few hours drive lie between the lonely yurt camps of the nomads and the new metropolises like Ürümqi, from the sandy oasis town of Turfan it is a trip of minutes to its fruitful wine-growing district.

On the Silk Road to the Yellow River}1}

22 days from the start in Paris, south of Hami the E-Class teams hit another legendary route: the Silk Road. On this historical trade route the participants reach the western offshoots of the Great Wall, and finally, at the terminus of their fourth stage in Lanzhou, meet yet another Chinese lifeline: the Yellow River.

About 1,900 kilometres the drivers of the last stage have in front of them before coming to the tour’s final destination. First, the route follows the valley of the Yellow River, then crosses the offshoots of the Gobi desert and the grass pastures of Inner Mongolia. On November 17th, the 26th driving day and 28 days after the start in Paris, the drivers are expected to reach the destination of the exceptional long-distance drive of 13,600 kilometres: the walls of the Forbidden City in the centre of Beijing. On the following day, the “AutoChina 2006” opens its gates.

E-Class made in Beijing: business class for Chinese drivers}1}

The E-Class made in China counts amongst the highlights of the leading Chinese automotive fair, which takes place biannually in turns with the “Auto Shanghai”. The business saloon for Chinese customers will be produced in a completely new plant in the Beijing Development Area, in the southeast of the city. Beijing Benz-DaimlerChrysler Automotive Ltd. (BBDC) is a joint venture of DaimlerChrysler AG and their long standing partner Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Company (BAIC). BBDC is an expansion of the Beijing Jeep Corp., China’s first automotive joint venture, which started building Jeeps in 1984.

The safest car in its class}1}

With a market share of around 30 per cent, the E-Class was once again number one amongst the classic business saloons in Western Europe in 2005. In Germany about 38 per cent of all buyers of a luxury class car decided in favour of the E-Class saloon in the same period of time, which made it the market leader for the fourth year in succession. Mercedes-Benz has sold around one million vehicles of the current E-Class around the world since spring 2002 – 860,000 saloons and 140,000 estates.

The new generation of the E-Class as a technology trendsetter again sets new standards and with the standard fitted PRE-SAFE safety system, the also standard-fitted NECK-PRO headrests, the novel Intelligent Light System and adaptive brake light, innovations, no other automobile worldwide in this market segment has to offer. This comprehensive safety equipment makes the E-Class the safest car in its class. The new DIRECT CONTROL package with direct steering, a newly tuned chassis and six new or enhanced engines ensure significantly more agility and driving pleasure. Maintaining an invariably economic fuel consumption, the new E-Class develops up to 26 per cent more performance and 18 per cent more torque. Altogether, in the new E-Class around 2,000 components have been newly developed or enhanced.

Six-cylinder Diesel with world record experience}1}

The V6 diesel engine of the E 320 CDI which will be the power plant in the cars of the fleet during the long-distance drive, has 165 kW/224 hp and a maximum torque of 540 nm. The economical and clean power pack had its debut in May 2005, again with an unusual acid test. In three series produced E 320 CDI cars the engine completed a failure-free test marathon on the high-speed course of Laredo, Texas. The results were three FIA-acknowledged diesel world records over 100,000 kilometres (at an average speed of 225.93 km/h), 50,000 miles (at 225.456 km/h) and 100,000 miles (at 224 km/h). In spite of the extraordinary strains, the maintenance-free diesel particulate filter worked without any losses over the entire record distance –clear proof of the reliability and longevity of this exhaust technology.

With the long-distance drive from Paris to Beijing, Mercedes-Benz ties in with this sporty top performance.

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