by Frank A. Aukofer
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e plug-in hybrid fulfills its green role as an electrified passenger car. But it hardly seems worth the bother given its limited range on electric power.
It can travel an estimated 20 miles on its 6.4 kilowatt-hour lithium ion battery when fully charged. But in a week of driving in a variety of traffic, the tested C350e never managed more than single-digit electric miles. The best range shown on the instruments after a full charge was 19 but it only managed eight miles before the gasoline engine fired up. With a 240-volt charger, the 350e charges in less than two hours.
Overall, however, the C350e does get a 51 miles per gallon equivalent rating on combined gasoline and electric power (MPGe) and, on gasoline only, delivers a city/highway/combined rating of 35/40/30 miles to the gallon.
The C350e plug-in hybrid four-door sedan, with a $48,895 base price, comes with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine linked to a 60 kW-h electric motor. Total system horsepower is 275, with 443 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic with a manual shift mode,
A standard C300 sedan comes with a base price of $41,245, or $7,440 less. Its 241-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission get a city/highway/combined EPA rating of 24/33/27 mpg.
Of course, any Mercedes-Benz gets more expensive once you start tacking on optional equipment. The tested 350e came with $16,350 worth, sending the bottom-line price to $65,235.
Standard equipment included an air suspension system, regenerative braking, keyless pushbutton starting, leather upholstery, linden wood trim, a seven-inch color display screen, Bluetooth connectivity, a motorized glass sunroof, power folding side mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive braking with brake assist, rear-view camera, automatic headlights, pedestrian warning, and LED headlights, taillights and daytime running lights.
Individual options included blue metallic paint ($720), heated and ventilated front seats ($1,030), panoramic sunroof ($1,000), head-up display ($990), Burmester surround-sound audio ($850), interior LED ambient lighting ($310), air balance system ($350), hands-free trunk access ($250), active lighting with high-beam assist ($800), and parking assist with a surround-view camera ($1,090).
The test car also arrived with options packages: Nappa leather upholstery, the company’s “designo” interior trim and triple memory settings for the powered front passenger seat ($3,800); navigation and multimedia infotainment system with SXM satellite weather and traffic information ($2,200), and a driver assistance package that included adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane keeping and cross traffic assist, and pre-safe braking ($2,250). It’s a load but not unusual among German luxury cars.
The exterior styling could be described as Mercedes Modern Family, making the compact C350e look much like a smaller version of its S-Class flagship sedan.
On the road, all is as expected. This Mercedes is solid and quiet with that heavy and accurate steering feel characteristic of many of its siblings and cousins over the years. Comfort, with well-bolstered front seats, is first-class. The back seats, with less head and knee room, don’t quite measure up and the panoramic sunroof shade is made of a flimsy fabric that admits too much sunshine.
The 350e is surprisingly sprightly, more than you expect from a hybrid, which given the short electric-only range is likely the way most owners will treat it. Instead of plugging it in to get those few miles, most owners likely will skip the plug-in part.
There are four driving modes:
- E-mode. All-electric driving until the battery runs down.
- Gasoline operation alone with boosts of electric power.
- E-save. Mainly gasoline with little or no help from the electric motor to preserve battery energy for later use.
*Charge. The gasoline engine is running but some of its energy transfers to the battery pack to extend electric range.
Whatever. Mercedes rates the 350e’s zero-to-60 mph acceleration time at 5.8 seconds, which is not in drag race territory but better than most vehicles an owner will encounter. However, hybrid owners do not have much of a reputation for stoplight sprinting.
Given current pump prices, it’s not likely that many luxury-car buyers would be swayed by the 350e’s decent fuel economy. But it also has good performance and road manners and is a marker on the way to widespread use of electrified vehicles.
Still, the preference here would be for a non-plug-in, standard hybrid to get this performance for fewer dollars.
- Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz C350e Plug-in Hybrid four-door sedan.
- Engine/motor:0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline; 60 kW-h electric motor; combined 275 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque.
- Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
- Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
- EPA passenger/trunk volume: 91/12 cubic feet.
- Weight: 3,924 pounds.
- EPA city/highway/combined gasoline fuel consumption: 35/40/30; 51 MPGe combined on gasoline/electric.
- Electric range: 20 miles.
- Base price, including destination charge: $48,895.
- Price as tested: $65,235.
Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.
Photos (c) Mercedes-Benz.