Does elec­tri­fi­ca­tion en­hance (or de­tract from) an al­ready great car?

Car (South Africa) - - DRIVE - MERCEDES-BENZ C350e 7G-TRONIC PRICE: ETA:

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

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