Efficient Mercedes C 350 e comes at a price

Hybrids can easily make a bad first impression. Take the new C 350 e from Mercedes as an example. When it was dropped off for road test the battery was flat and because I had no opportunity for a quick charge and barely had enough time to acquaint myself with the systems, it averaged 9l/100km.

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Things improved dramatically after leaving the Mercedes C 350 e on charge for the night. Yes, the charging point is positioned oddly on the back bumper but the rest of the routine is standard and fuss free to use.

We obtained the best efficiency results when we actively selected the driving modes from a button fairly obscured from view and inconspicuously labelled.   Here you can set preferences to store battery power (E-Save), deploy it in a combination with petrol engine (Hybrid), charge the battery on the move (Charge) or go full electric (E-Mode).

What we like about the Mercedes C 350 e is these modes do exactly what they promise. If you put it in E-Mode mode and mash the throttle, it won’t suddenly fire up the engine. It’ll just give maximum electric power – which is brisk enough not to cause any hassles.

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The same menu is home to a Charge mode where the car will only use the petrol engine while harvesting power for the batteries at an impressive rate. For every 3 or so kilometres in Charge mode, we almost got 1 kilometre back of stored battery power. In urban environments, we achieved around 50% of our journey without using a drop of fuel!

Mercedes claims that its C 350 e has a pure EV mode of 31 kilometres. Not the furthest distance by any comparison but one of the most attainable and easy to use. They also say 2.1l/100km and while that can be achieved, a realistic figure as it vacillates between electric and petrol is closer to around 6.5l/100km.

In conjunction with the standard driving modes Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, the car will configure its optimal delivery. Sport uses any battery reserves with the petrol engine for best performance. Pure electric mode or charging is not available in Sport, or once you select a gear via the gearshift paddles.

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Since it weighs 200 kilograms more than the petrol-only version, the Mercedes C 350 e doesn’t quite have the performance that 205kW and 600Nm would normally ensure. With everything dialled up to the max it will do 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds which is identical to the standard Mercedes 350 with 180kW and 370Nm. Slightly disappointing.

Our only gripe is the interior layout; graphics and on-board systems don’t do much to uplift the cabin from regular C-Class fare. Yes, the systems are easy to use but we’d like more energy flow charts, large diagrams and some reward or coaching system so that as a driver you feel immersed in the process. Instead the existing layout has seen a very slight modification which fails to add much glitter to arguably one of the best hybrid systems of 2016

Sprung on air suspension as standard, the Mercedes C 350 e rides serenely but it does come with some typical hybrid spoils. Like the brakes, they’re a bit dead in feel courtesy of brake regeneration and there is a bit of frictional resistance on the drivetrain at low speed which one can just detect but will dismiss as a fair trade.  Boot space is marginally affected by the battery systems – another clue this is piggybacking off existing C-Class architecture – but these lithium-ion systems are less bulky than in the past.

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As the only hybrid C-Class in South Africa, it’s also Mercedes’s most attainable hybrid model yet still costs a whopping R190 000 over and above a similar C 300. To put it bluntly, that dissolves any argument for the C 350 e to anybody but those blindly determined to sample new technology – we’d never suggest you could make that sort of premium back, certainly not in the short term. As a hybrid sedan though, the C 350 e is the leader while giving the brand a strong springboard for future evolutions.

Base Price R830 700
Engine Capacity 1 991 cm³
No. Of Cylinders 4-cylinders
Aspiration Turbo
Power 205ekW at 5 500 r/min
Torque 600eNm at 1 300 r/min
Transmission 7-speed Auto
Drive type Rear-wheel drive
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 5.9 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed 250 km/h
Service Plan 6-yr/100 000km
Warranty: 2-yr/Unlimited km

 

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