Mercedes C300e: an accomplished plug-in hybrid cruiser

The German carmaker’s hybrid model is impressive and a bargain to boot. Jasper Spires reports

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) – electric cars with fossil-fuelled back-up – are not everyone’s cup of tea. They make it possible to save on fuel costs, “but only if your driving habits fit a very specific pattern of behaviour”, says Richard Lane in Autocar.

However, the technology “is coming of age” with the new Mercedes C300e. Its 201bhp, 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine is combined with a 127bhp electric motor fed by a 25.4kWh battery. The battery charges at a rate of 55kW, meaning a 100% charge should take around an hour and a half. And the electric motor has a range of 62 miles, double that of the outgoing version, and significantly more than the rival BMW 330e, which manages only 37 miles.

The C300e is, then, a PHEV that’s ideal for everyday uses, but also for longer journeys. “With its digitised cockpit, sweeping design and plush upholstery, the latest C-Class really wants to be an S-Class impersonator at half the price.” It does a very good impression, too. 

The impressive tech is all wrapped up in Mercedes plush hardware, says Steve Fowler in Auto Express. The material quality is top class, the design cohesive, and the cabin dominated by an 11.9-inch central touchscreen. With older PHEVs, “the salesman was never keen to let you see inside the boot or rear passenger compartment for fear you’d spot how much space had been robbed to fit in the battery cells”, says electrifying.com. But the Mercedes has solved that problem too, and the driving experience “hardly differs from a pure electric car”, switching from the battery to the engine gently and quietly.

The good news for drivers of company cars, which are taxed at different levels according to carbon emissions, is that the electric-only miles a car can drive are also considered – the rival BMW 330e will incur benefit-in-kind charges of 11%, while the levy for the C300e is just 7%. 

So are PHEVs really an alternative to your favourite diesel-powered cruisers? The answer is “an emphatic ‘yes’”, says Alan Taylor-Jones in Car magazine. And the charming and accomplished C300s is the one to go for. Price: £45,000

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