August 22, 2016 @ 04:59 PM

Road Trip: Mercedes-Benz C-Class C 350 e – When C stands for Clean-er

Electric-motor zaps combustion engine to generate more horses with less emission


You have met the S 500 Plug-in Hybrid some months ago. You journeyed with me through the roads of Denmark and Sweden and found that the luxury limo can and will take every opportunity to run with electricity rather than depend on fossil fuel.

And while the quoted 2.8l/100km mileage did raise a few eyebrows, there were instances that the number can drop to zero. Follow Mercedes-Benz’s strategy to the letter and you’d be going through a whole week with the fuel indicator unmoved. Maybe, even months.

Having said that, the whole point to a plug-in hybrid S-Class isn’t only for its fuel economy, which is just part of the equation. The amount of carbon that is released into the air is also taken into consideration because we really don’t want to add to the stuff that’s already polluting the atmosphere. The S 500 Plug-in Hybrid only emits a mere 65g CO2/km; a number that is previously unachievable with a lux limo.   

Now, that same technology has been repackaged to make it available with the C-Class’ four-cylinder petrol engine. It makes sense because not many can, or want to, afford luxury limos. The end figures for the C 350 e doesn’t mirror the S 500’s, and I’m not talking about the smaller combustion engine. The C-Class has a smaller battery capacity just so it will fit into tighter confines. Well, almost every car will appear tight compared to the S-Class.

So, it is 6.38kWh of the C 350 e versus the S 500 Plug-in Hybrid’s 8.7kWh. While the S-Class can run up to 33km on pure electricity, the C 350 e will stop 2km short. Having said that, it is very possible to stretch that 31km if one takes advantage of downhill roads to recharge the lithium-ions — it makes the deficit barely noticeable.

Efficient braking, coasting and light acceleration will also postpone kick start of the combustion engine. You could, however, switch the drive mode from Hybrid (the default) to Charge and the computer will use most of the engine’s workload to charge the battery.

There are two more modes that filled the space in between Hybrid and Charge that needs to be mentioned. The E-Mode forces the car to strictly depend on the electric motor for propulsion. Capable of producing 60kW of power and 340Nm of torque, you know that the motor isn’t just garnishing. The top speed achievable in this mode is 130kph, a number that no one can accuse as being slow.

Mercedes-Benz also thought that it would be a good idea to include a ‘haptic’ accelerator pedal that forms some sort of an invisible checkpoint to tell you that you’re at the limit of the electric drive. Step down just a little bit and the combustion engine will come to life.

The E-Save mode is unique, in that the car does all it can to save the battery charge. You can already see the difference here. This mode limits the use of the electric motor to save battery. The argument here is you can still drive around in places that only allow zero emissions vehicles in.

I remain in Hybrid, preferring to drive as how the everyday person would. It isn’t until I am well past San Francisco’s city limits and halfway on the Great Highway, heading towards Half Moon Bay that the combustion engine kicks in. The journey started early on a Sunday morning, in the Bay Bridge area and continued through the hilly streets of the eerily quiet San Francisco.

The journey turned towards the Golden Gate Bridge then drove past white-capped Seal Rocks. Up to now, I would have already driven somewhere in the ballpark of 30km, give or take five. The engine’s resurrection did not cause discomfort. In fact, the activation of the petrol engine is so smooth and discreet — just a slight rumble from the exhaust — that the start will catch off guard those who are not paying attention.

The engine is a familiar one; the 2.0-litre is turbocharged and tuned to produce 211bhp with 350Nm of torque. This being a hybrid, the engine is almost never left alone for too long. Not that you want to. Maximum performance can only be wrought with the influence of the electric motor. Floor the accelerator and expect 279bhp and 600Nm (electronically limited) rushing to the rear wheels. 

When that happens, all semblance of eco-friendliness goes out the door, highlighting the age-old struggle of efficiency versus power. You get plenty of torque going through the seven-speed automatic just as soon as the sole of your feet touches the pedal, which gives the car its 5.9-second century sprint time.

So it is easy to power out of the curves and charge down the slight straight before another curve shows up. Handling is quick and precise, which makes shuffling the wheels even sweeter. And despite having to lug extra weight in the form of lithium-ions, the C 350 e retains all the agility and grip of the combustion-engine-only C-Class saloons. 

One big feather in its ability cap is how the battery never goes flat. Prolonged hard driving of any hybrid vehicle will result in the battery charge being gobbled up as quick as mob raiding the supermarket, grabbing all they can from the shelf as if a zombie apocalypse is around the corner. The C 350 e performs just the opposite. The car uses energy from braking to quickly recover electric charges so you will always have enough to run with even in its sportiest setting. 

Depending on which grille you end up optioning for, let me tell you that the AVANTGARDE’s grille is one of the best-looking Mercedes has ever produced. The other one, from the EXCLUSIVE line, looks classic and functional at the same time. Whenever the car is coasting, the classic grill automatically closes to improve airflow and aerodynamics, which in turn saves fuel — fossil and electric.

There’s really nothing to pick and poke with this car. This car has everything the C-Class is known for with the addition that this one uses fuel more efficiently. So here’s the downside to this review — the C 350 e isn’t coming to Malaysia. Yet.

Whether or not it will come solely depends on how supportive the infrastructure is. More changing stations are desperately needed before Mercedes-Benz can even consider shipping this one in. It is the same for all the other manufacturers with electric cars. Which means in the meantime, let’s file this one under KIV.

CHRIS NG

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Love

Travel a sizeable distance without using fuel
Hate
It is not coming here
Verdict
No complaints. Great car, go buy it. Oh wait, you can’t
4.5/5

Engine
1991cc, 4-cyl, high-pressure injection, one turbocharger, 211bhp @ 5500rpm, 350Nm @ 1200-4000rpm, electric motor: 60kW/340Nm, total system: 279bhp/600Nm (electronically limited)
Transmission
7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance
0-100kph in 5.9s, top speed 250kph, top speed electric 130kph, 2.4-2.1l/100km, 54-48g/km CO2, electric range 31km, 
Weight
1780kg
On sale
Not yet

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