Like it or not, society today gauges someone’s level of success based on what they own, be it the house you live in, the clothes you wear and especially the car you drive. This is especially true of the many stories that has been circulating around the social networks as of late telling the stories of unkempt but wealthy individuals walking into showrooms ending up shocking the unsuspecting dealer by trading in a bag full of cold hard cash for a supercar, who had assumed that these low profile individuals couldn’t afford a Touch ‘n Go card. Well, it’s always good to take note that there are many kinds of people out there; the pompous and the understated.
And understated is what Mercedes-Benz E350e is; it may look like a regular E-Class, but its one rare Pokémon that does fuel efficiency and outright performance in a premium luxury package. I drove it on a three-day Kuala Lumpur – Johor – Terengganu road trip two weeks after its official debut at Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s Pekan Production Plant in Pahang. Initially, I felt that the E350e had some slightly rough edges, but having to spend a lot more time in it now; I’m really, really, utterly falling for the E350e.
The plug-in hybrid luxury saloons comes in two trims; the E350e Executive Line and the E350 AMG Line – this very car you see in pictures – priced at RM392,888 and RM395,888 respectively. The AMG Line trim looks good, however I’ll take the Executive Line over the AMG version as it has a elegant look and feel, which I personally feel that the E-Class in general is more formal than track and field.
Whether if it’s the AMG Line or Executive Line tickles your fancy, the E350e is very much equal to the regular E-Class models when which you should be expecting to get all of the latest tech. One of them is the Multibeam LED headlamp and its quite a clever bit of kit.
It has 84 individually controlled LEDs in each cluster that automatically and precisely distribute light in pitch dark routes effectively without blinding anyone that’s in front – including cars, bikes and trucks – and smart enough to distinguish what’s on and not on the road, highlighting parked vehicles with people filling up plastic carboys with spring water in the dark, exactly as demonstrated in the short presentation video above. Also, they automatically reduces glare on road signs and on wet roads. This feature is available when the auto high beam is engaged.
Interestingly, the rear lamps are just as unique; the E-Class comes with the ‘Crystalline’ rear tail lamps that are just as thoughtful as the front lights. The lights are dimmed to 80% at night and 60% when the car is idle, which not only reduces energy consumption but also cuts glare experienced by other motorists.
The high-resolution 12.3-inch screens are integrated seamlessly into the dashboard, which the infotainment functions are controlled by a dial and touchpad positioned between the front seats. First introduced in the flagship S-Class limousine, the double high-resolution displays of 1,920 by 720 pixels each side providing current vehicle information and other infotainment related functions.
On the right side, the driver can choose their preferred interface cluster designs of “Classic,” “Sport” or “Progressive” on demand via touch-sensitive control buttons on the right side of the steering wheel – similar to swiping on a smartphone.
This allows access to current driving information such as the car’s mileage, current and average fuel consumption, hybrid drivetrain status, and other vehicle related information and warnings.
The other interesting feature in the latest E-Class models is the ambient lighting, which you have the option to choose 64 different colours ranging from white to blue and even periwinkle. Besides the hues, there is an option to adjust the intensity and the lighting sections inside.
The left touch-sensitive and steering control buttons allows you to tinker with the COMAND Online infotainment system, providing you navigation, radio, Bluetooth, media connectivity and Apple Car Play on the 12.3-inch display. All of the buttons and dials have a quality tactile feedback and the infotainment hotkeys come useful especially when moving from one function to another while driving.
Both screens provide crisp and clear visuals albeit with minor reflections to be seen on the driver’s side screen but it’s never a huge issue as you can see yourself driving a Mercedes-Benz, “Happy little accidents” as Bob Ross would always say. There’s also navigation with live traffic information, WLAN and Wi-Fi hotspot, and LINGUATRONIC voice command system if you’re too occupied to lift a finger off the steering wheel.
When it comes to sound reproduction, the Burmester system never fails to impress. The premium sound system consists of 13 high-performance speakers with 9-channel DSP amplifier distributes its 590 W output across the speaker system. Interestingly, 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? I’d say the ones in the cinema is not a fair comparison, here’s why. To have good sound, there must be accuracy, enjoyability and intelligibility, which can be subjective as it boils down to sound source, and to truly test something out playing lossless digital audio files or CD is preferable. 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 that sorted, the Burmester system is as faithful as it gets. Majority of in-car system tend to be a tad high on bass, but with this setup, there are no adjustments 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. There’s a good level of detail throughout, expressive and doesn’t break a sweat at maximum volume.
And of course, it has the interior to match. The front Nappa leather seats provide both comfort and support and are 12-way electrically adjustable with three memory presets. The front seats provide comfort for long distance journeys and support when the going gets spirited through tight and twisty bends.
Even seriously long-legged drivers should have no problem getting comfortable behind the wheel of with near limitless driving positions achievable to suit almost anyone who holds a valid drivers’ licence, be it small framed or large. Likewise, the rear passengers could bask in the E-Class’ generous head and legroom with similar comfort levels enjoyed by the front occupants.
There are wide storage pockets in both doors, along with a decent-sized covered area at the bottom of the dashboard with removable cup holders and a cubby beneath the central armrest enough to fit a tissue box inside. If you need to lug perishable items on a short trip, the glove compartment is air-conditioned and can keep snacks or your passenger’s overheating smartphone.
Having to lug a large battery around for electricity, the boot space has been sacrificed a little. There’s only 400-litres of boot space available, slightly smaller than the 540-litre space enjoyed by its regular fuelled stable mates.
Located behind the permanent rear bench seat sits a 6.2kWh 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 an hour and a half, or three hours via a standard domestic socket. The car’s electric-only range is a decent 33km, but with the different drive modes allow the electric assistance to be used or conserved in different ways.
The M 274 DE 20 AL two-litre turbocharged petrol engine makes a stout power output of 211hp at 5,500 rpm with a maximum torque output of 350Nm available from 1,200 rpm to 4,000 rpm. The two-litre ancient liquid fossil burner is connected to a 9G-TRONIC plug-in hybrid transmission fitted with an electric motor, which alone makes 88hp and 440Nm from 0-1000 rpm.
Operating in unison unleashes 286hp and 550Nm 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. How quick is it? From null to centennial, the E350e does it in 6.2 seconds and that’s pretty impressive for a luxury saloon that weighs 1.9 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.
The E350e’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, I managed to achieve 2.2 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 50km provided there’s an EV charging station at your workplace.
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 E350 e comes with the brand’s Air Body Control 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. 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.
It’s not just plush, but the E350e is an easy car to drive and well mannered even when driven close to its limit. Having to spend more time with it, there’s actually not much of body sway through corners, and while the steering is light, tight and accurate, it provides little 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 550Nm torques to the rear wheels, pinning you back into the seat.
Braking in most Mercedes-Benz cars is highly commendable and the E350 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 turning into corners. This makes left-foot-braking a lot easier, too. The hybrid system does play a part in slowing the car down, which the regenerative braking is subtle and not overly aggressive like in the Volvo S90 T8.
To sum things up, the Mercedes-Benz E350 e Plug-in Hybrid ticks all of the right premium luxury saloon boxes; the car has 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. The E350 e is a preview of what is to come in the near future, a future where cars will be powered by an electric motor and get its energy from a wall socket.
+ Timeless looks
+ Practical upmarket interior
+ Smooth and powerful engine
+ Frugal fuel consumption
Mercedes-Benz E 350 e AMG Line
Price Msia: RM395,888
Engine: 1,991cc in-line four cylinder
Power: 286 hp (combined)
Torque: 550 Nm (combined)
Fuel Economy: 2.2 l/100km (Tested)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic transmission