Does electrification enhance (or detract from) an already great car?
EVEN by the usually unrealistic manufacturer-quoted figures, the C350e’s claimed 2,1 L/100 km fuel consumption stat is an eyebrow raiser. As we all know, these NEDC test-derived claims are highly conservative and virtually impossible to replicate in real-word driving conditions ... and this is especially so for hybrid vehicles. Could the C-class plug-in-hybrid surprise us and make a case for itself on efficiency alone?
During the press launch’s city-drive section as we left Benz’s home of East London, we primarly used electric-only mode, with a rare burst from the 2,0-litre, turbopetrol engine. Somewhat astonishingly, the fuel consumption readout hovered at 3,0 L/100 km.
Then we hit the highway, but more about that later...
In creating the C350e, Mercedes started with the C250 that is powered by a 2,0-litre turbopetrol delivering 155 kw and 350 N.m. Engineers then fitted a 60 kw/340 N.m electric motor (for total power and torque figures of 205 kw and 600 N.m) in the transmission housing and included a clutch to be able to disconnect the internal-combustion engine from the drivetrain during electric-only operation. Electrons are supplied by a 6,2 kwh battery pack housed in the boot above the rear axle. These additions mean a mass increase of 271 kg, of which the battery pack alone weighs 100 kg. The boot capacity has shrunk to 355 dm3.
Apart from the fact that there is no engine sound on start-up, driving the C350e feels no different to piloting any other C-class. You can toggle between several driving modes, as well as different hybrid modes, including hybrid, e-mode (for electric driving), e-save (keeps the battery charged for later use) and charge (which charges the battery via the petrol engine).
Facilitating all this is a haptic- feedback accelerator pedal – a clever piece of technology that informs you when you are about to exceed the capability of the electric powertrain and the petrol engine is ready to kick in. The satellite-navigation system also monitors the topography of the road ahead, enabling the powertrain-control system to optimise the vehicle’s efficiency by pre-empting inclines and employing regenerative charging on downhills without driver intervention.
Mercedes-benz claims that the C350e can drive up to 31 km and up to speeds of 130 km/h on electricity alone. As it is a plug-in-hybrid, you can