If you have been paying attention, the production of electric vehicles is very much a thing with many German auto manufacturers these days. BMW has their iPerformance; Mercedes-Benz has their latest EQ; Audi’s upcoming e-tron models, and the upcoming Volkswagen I.D. range of electric vehicles will soon to be on the roads as early as 2020 arrives.
This is mostly due to the fact the EVs make much more power than the ol’ ICE (internal combustion engine), compare the Rimac C_Two and the Bugatti Chiron on paper and then you’ll understand. Also, the former is mechanically simpler with far lesser power loss from motor to wheel as well as their compact size, and electric motors don’t suffer as much at higher elevations. That said battery tech is getting better, too.
Hybrids cars were the butt of jokes, but if you do ride in or drive one, then you’ll know the potential of what these cars are capable of. Of course, fuel savings is a definite – as long you’re careful with the throttle and brakes – with no compromise in drivability and the practical familiarity which it’s a much more agreeable choice when you have older relatives around.
The C 350 e can be specified to either look like the regular and subtle version of the C-Class, or opt for the more aggressive AMG Line bodywork. This test unit comes with the latter; It comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, and the regular other C-Class bits like the LED head and tail lamps. The only difference is that the C 350 e gets new EQ Power badging located on both sides replacing the old BlueEfficiency badging.
If you’re wondering, EQ Power is Mercedes-Benz’s latest brand for its plug-in hybrids and EVs, much like the AMG brand for its performance-focused cars and Maybach for the ultra luxury side of things. The AMG Line option pack comprises of the AMG front apron with distinctively sporty air intakes with chrome trim, AMG side sill panels and AMG diffuser look rear apron with insert in body colour.
The other notable difference is that it comes with a Type 2 charging port located the rear bumper, which makes things easier to charge the batteries and prevents people from accidentally breaking it off, but who walks behind a parked car while charging anyway?
The interior of the C-Class is a nice place to be in, especially in this more souped-up plug-in version. As you can expect, the interior panels are well put together with soft touch surfaces, and no signs of cheapness to be found. The base C-Class gets brown open pore wood interior inserts, but in the C 350 e, the interior is garnished with gloss carbon fibre, and brushed aluminium across the dashboard and on the door panels.
The front seats are comfy and supportive, great for long distance, and spirited driving. The other thing I love about these seats is that they come with manually retractable thigh supports, a useful feature for people with long legs. Both the driver and front passenger will get their thighs equally supported. This supports the thigh while driving, which allow better and more accurate throttle and brake control.
For the rear passengers, space isn’t a big issue; there’s room for knees and room for the scalp even for taller passengers. There’s a retractable centre armrest with two-cup holders making long distance ferrying a lot more bearable. Fitting a fifth person is all right, but not great for long distances. The rear seats fold 40/20/40 easily, either by pulling the toggles in the boot compartment and at the sides of the seats, no sweat.
Mercedes-Benz engineers were quite thoughtful on the whole process; typically in most cars, repositioning the rear seats back up requires either holding them aside while pushing the seats back in. In the GLC, all you could do is just push the seats back in and pull the belt out later with very little resistance. Even the rear passengers can pull them out again to be used. Very thoughtful! There are also ISOFIX anchor points on both sides.
The Thermotronic climate control system provides front and rear passengers a three-zone climate control system, where both front occupants can adjust the air temperature, direction and intensity to suit to their own comfort levels, while the rear will have to settle with one. The rear passengers also get their own climate control interface – like in the GLC reviewed previously – resembling SpongeBob SquarePants.
The only drawback of having a large battery is that the boot space is reduced. The regular C cars boast a compartment room of 480-litres, while in the hybrid C’s room has gone down to 335-litres. But not all is doom and gloom; the rear seats can be folded down flat to accommodate large and bulky items.
Infotainment wise, the C 350 e as tested comes with a seven-inch Audio 20 CD multifunction touch screen display with navigation. The colour screen mounted nice and high up on the dashboard, controlled by a dial and touchpad positioned between the front seats.
The PHEV C-Class comes with the 13 high-performance Burmester speakers with 9-channel DSP amplifier distributes its 590 W output across the speaker system. The woofers are built into the front of the car body instead of the doors, which uses the driver and passenger footwells as acoustic horns to boost sound pressure.
So, is it good? In this test, I’ve loaded 97kHz 24 bit FLAC audio files in a flash drive and an SD card. Sadly, the COMAND system had a tough time loading the large audio files. Therefore, down sampling under 64kHz is required.
With 590 W, there is no short of impact when it comes to orchestra or soundtracks and even with rock, metal and electronic music. The track on play was Snarky Puppy feat. Metropole Orkest’s The Curtain, which the system delivers an airy, spacious soundfield, where the pizzicato heard crystal clear, and doesn’t break a sweat at maximum volume.
Located behind and under the rear seats is a 6.38kWh battery pack, which can be charged by using the charging port at the rear bumper. By using the high-voltage charger, the battery is replenished in around two hours, or two and a half hours via a standard domestic socket. The car’s electric-only range is a decent 31km, but with the different drive modes allow the electric assistance to be used or conserved in different ways.
There are three hybrid models on offer by the three-pointed star, and two of which are PHEVs, which are the C 350 e and E 350 e. Although they do share the same engines, both cars have two different engine and electric motor outputs and different transmissions.
The C 350 e is powered by the same M 274 DE 20 AL two-litre turbocharged petrol engine makes a marginally lower power output of 208hp at 5,500 rpm with a maximum torque output of 350Nm available from 1,200 rpm to 4,000 rpm, similar to that in the E 350 e. The two-litre liquid fossil burner is connected to a 7G-TRONIC plug-in hybrid transmission fitted with an electric motor, which alone makes 80hp and 340Nm from 0-1000 rpm, 8hp and 100Nm less than in the PHEV E-Class.
With both the engine and electric motor at full chat, the powertrain makes 275hp and 600Nm and that’s enough power for huge explosive sprints up to its electronically limited 250km/h top speed—provided that the battery pack has more than 30% charge left. The C 350 e’s claimed combined fuel consumption by Mercedes-Benz is 2.5 – 2.1 L/100km and that’s an achievable figure when the battery pack is topped up with careful management of the hybrid system.
As tested, the C 350 e does between 2.3 L/100km and 4.6 L/100km on my daily commute to work. That’s 2-litres lesser than my tiny 1.2-litre Kia Picanto could do on the same route! And, in theory, you could drive yourself to work almost without a single drop of fuel if your commute is under 60km to and fro provided there’s an EV charging point at your workplace.
Driving position and ergonomics are very much spot on, and no matter how high or how low you sit the line of sight is unobstructed. Ride comfort is for certain in the C 350 e, with minimal wind and road noise from large 19-inch wheels is a good thing when cruising at high speeds.
The dials, toggles and buttons are within reach, and the Command Control interface on the transmission tunnel is hard to miss once memorised. The degree of which you can make yourself comfortable in is huge, where the 14-way electrically adjustable front seats and the rake and reach of the steering wheel enables drivers to adjust to their own comfort level.
Be in towns or cities, the C 350 e can be described as civilised and easy going. The brakes offer a good level of modulation while enough resistance to better control brake pressure. Likewise, the accelerator pedal enables drivers to finely adjust the amount of throttle to be applied, which can come in handy when driving smoothly, be it in the city or cruising on the highway.
There are four Hybrid modes to choose from: Hybrid which leaves the powertrain to its own devices; E-Mode enables the car to run solely on electricity until the battery pack runs out of charge; E-Save keeps the battery level constant and conserving it for use later; and Charge which uses the engine and regenerative braking to recharge the battery pack on the move.
The C 350 e can be driven solely on electric power, with a maximum range of 31Km and a top speed of 130km/h. To further assist the driver, the accelerator pedal provides haptic feedback, which physically limits the amount of throttle input from the driver. The haptic pedal pushes the foot back from the accelerator in order to remain in full battery power.
The haptic pedal also comes into play when cruising. When the C 350 e’s forward sensors detect that the car ahead is slowing down, the haptic pedal gives a little double-tap to encourage the driver to lift the accelerator and begin to coast early. This allows the car to take better, earlier advantage of regenerative braking versus braking aggressively and wastefully later.
The “radar-based recuperation” may sound like a lot to take in, but (like the e-mode’s selective resistance) I found the pedal’s tapping very intuitive and much less distracting than some of the screen- or tone-based systems that I’ve tested previously. After an hour behind the wheel, the haptic pedal was second nature.
The C 350 e comes with the brand’s Airmatic air suspension with continuously adjustable damping as standard. Together with Dynamic Select, the air suspension can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button of up to 25mm, great for clearing tall bumps, or small curbs when necessary. At speeds above 80km/h, the suspension lowers to the car’s normal ride height, while at speeds above 120km/h, the car lowers by a further 15mm to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve driving stability.
Ride comfort is sublime; it absorbs rough roads like a sponge with having little to no vibrations transferred directly to the passengers. That said there’s minimal suspension thumps when passing through annoying potholes and effortlessly rides over medium sized speed bumps. At cruising speeds, refinement is generally good, with very little wind and road noise at 120 km/h and only a gentle background road noise.
How quick is it? From null to centennial, the C 350 e does it in 5.9 seconds and that’s pretty impressive for a compact luxury saloon that weighs in at 1.8 tonnes. What this means in the real world is that it is able to overtake slower vehicles faster which gives you more time to merge back into your lane safely.
Its got a plush ride, and the C 350 e is well mannered even when driven close to its limit with minimal body sway through corners, and while the steering is light, tight and accurate, it provides some genuine feedback. If your pick is on Sport and Sport+, expect a much sharper car with a firmer suspension setting that actually deals well with Malaysian roads mostly. The hybrid system kicks into high gear providing the maximum 600Nm torques to the rear wheels, pinning you back into the seat, as long the battery level stays above 30%.
Braking feel and feedback in most Mercedes-Benz cars is highly commendable and the C 350 e is no exception. The brake pedal feels firm and progressive which makes it easy for the driver to modulate, not only for comfort but makes things easier in managing the car’s weight balance, especially when cornering hard.
To sum things up, the Mercedes-Benz C 350 e Plug-in Hybrid ticks all of the right premium luxury saloon boxes; the compact luxury saloon offers a comfortable ride, low road and wind noise, a pretty good audio system, frugal fuel consumption and an above than average performance. In addition, having a purely electric drive mode can come very useful for driving around in urban areas.
+ Timeless looks
+ Practical upmarket interior
+ Smooth and powerful engine
+ Frugal fuel consumption
+ Easy to drive
Mercedes-Benz C 350 e AMG Line
Price Msia: RM282,954.27 (W/O Insurance with GST 0%)
Engine: Four-cylinder turbocharged
Power: 275 HP (combined)
Torque: 600 Nm (combined)
Fuel Economy: 2.3 L/100km (Tested)
Transmission: 7-Speed Automatic