It’s not a full-on battery electric vehicle, but it’s probably the closest thing to it.
As we run through the next few years of the transitioning phase between petrol power and electric, we are seeing EV ranges increase in BEVs, PHEV batteries increase in size and range, hybrids improve economy, and the fear of the unknown and the frightening topic of range anxiety, battery life and more often cloud the conversation.
For those with the fear of running out of battery, or adopting too early, the Plug-In Hybrid EV is the perfect choice for right now.
And the model that’s taken a big step for PHEV-kind is the Mercedes-Benz C Class 350e, one of the first to offer 100km+ of electric range.
The Mercedes’ Benz C Class sedan may be a traditional staple of the family luxury car over recent decades, but with SUVs taking over and now more than half of all global vehicle sales, the arrival of the new C Class earlier this year may have arrived relatively understated, but for those who crave and consider a premium sedan as a sign of status, the C Class remains a great hook upon which to hang your tailored Hugo Boss suit.
When launched in March this year, the two model variants offered plenty in terms of features and luxury and performance, with 1.5 and 2.0-litre engines in the 200 and 300 models, respectively.
While we wait for the full-house AMG model, this 350e is a nice addition to the range when everything is currently about fuel prices and economy.
First, forget any government rebates, as the C200 is well over the $80k price cap, with the 350e starting at $111k. But while the eco-friendly C200 offers of frugal 6.9l/100km, in the week we had the 350e, we saw a positively astonishing average of 0.8l/100km – and as low as 0.6l/100km, despite the official claim of 1.6l/100km.
That’s the key advantage of a good PHEV, that the driver has a level of involvement that can dictate money savings… even for $100k cars.
We were quite diligent of charging and kept the battery charged as frequently as possible, but even when the long trip demanded it – a 113km drive from Hamilton to Auckland – the battery stayed as the only source of motivation for 102km of 99 percent 110/100km/h motorway driving, before the stop-start final 11km where it drove as a hybrid, recharging under braking and downhills, to minimise time the petrol engine needed to fire up.
The large (for a PHEV) 25.4kWh battery is largely responsible for all this, and while a smaller (than C200/C300) 50-litre fuel tank is partly the reason, the offset created is fine by us, with petrol range for the week that we drove it actually increasing from 495 to 505km, thanks to the frequent charging.
Being such a big battery, there is the potential to exhaust and recharge from the home wall 230v socket, so in those cases, its 0-100 per cent charge would take theoretically around 20 hours – we saw 1.8kW charging rates from the home socket, which would bring it down to 14 hours, making the wall socket still feasible for overnight charging.
However, there is the option to take on DC fast charging (not always a PHEV given), up to 55kW, once the temporary switch option is enabled – as before finding that option in the MBUX charging menu, we spent way too long at a 300kW charger sitting at 11kW. At 55kW, a full charge takes around 45 minutes from flat to full.
A home charger, offering around 7.4kW, drops that time to charge from flat to full to around 3.5 hours.
All that charge and battery means is the 350e offers an EV-like driving experience. In our week with the 350e, we used around 5-10km of petrol, proving 100km of PHEV power is a magic number and highly practical as a real step into electric without the practical sacrifice or having to adapt or thinking about charging. After all, EV ownership is all about mindset.
It also has a good bump in power, too, positioning its 0-100km/h performance between the C200 (7.3 secs) and the C300 (5.9 secs), with a solid 6.1 seconds.
It wasn’t perfect, though, as the few times it did transition to petrol power – twice, in fact – there was a noticeable surge shift in power delivery between the drivetrains as the petrol power kicks in. There are also subtle movements in the drivetrain when power kicks in and out, even when parked. On two occasions when parked and still ‘running’ for accessories, the car shifted (maybe out of gear and into park?) enough for me to think someone bumped into the car, with not another person or car nearby. First-world problems, though.
The Mercedes-Benz C 350e represents the next evolution of PHEVs, and its 100km+ EV range, fast charging and ultra-economy are a reassuring sign of things to come. While not everyone can afford a $100k Mercedes, this is the type of PHEV tech that we’re sure we’ll see in smaller lighter cars, not just Mercedes, in the near future.
BREAK IT DOWN
Mercedes-Benz C 350e
ENGINE: 2.0 petrol turbo four-cylinder
GEARBOX: 9-speed auto
0-100KM/H: 6.1 secs
ECONOMY: 1.6l/100km (WLTP)