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Mercedes C350e Sport Test Drive Review

Date: 02 April 2015   |   Author: Nat Barnes

Category: Executive
P11D price: £37,820
Key rival: Volvo V60 PiH
On sale: June
Equipment: LED headlights, 17" alloy wheels, leather upholstery, Airmatic air suspension, heated front seats, Active Park Assist, Sat nav, Collision Prevention Assist Plus
Engines: Petrol: 279bhp 2.0-litre turbo plus electric motor
Trims: Sport, Sport Premium, Sport Premium Plus
Transmissions: 7-speed automatic

You've got to take your hat off to Mercedes, when it sees a potential market, it truly goes for it. Having only just introduced the S500 Plug-In Hybrid, June will see the arrival of this new C350e and by 2017 there will be a total of 10 plug-in hybrids in the three-pointed star's showroom.

Whatever your opinions of the technology (and there are many), it's hard to argue against the C350e's numbers. A lowly 48g/km CO2 figure, just 5% BIK, 19 mile electric only range and £756 annual tax bill at 40% are very tempting figures indeed. Even though the rate rises to 7% for 2016/17, that will still mean numbers that most business drivers can only dream of.

Under the C-Class's bonnet is the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine as the C200 petrol which, combined with a 6.2kWh battery, produces 279bhp and manages an impressive 0 to 62mph time of 5.9 seconds and 155mph top speed. Added to that are the aforementioned 48g/km emissions and, on-paper, 134.5mpg average fuel economy giving it an impressive balance of performance and parsimony.

As with other plug-in hybrids, the C350e's electric motor can replace or support the petrol engine with four different operating modes (Hybrid, E-mode, E-save and Charge) together with four different gearbox settings (Economy, Comfort, Sport and Sport+). Unusually though, the C350e not only uses radar to help recuperate its braking energy for the batteries but also what Mercedes terms its 'Haptic' throttle pedal to enable drivers to drive as economically as possible.

In essence, this throttle pedal has two different functions when in Economy mode. The first is a pressure point, so that the driver knows when the combustion engine will fire up when in hybrid mode. The second is when approaching a slower car ahead it gives a light tap under the pedal to tell the driver to lift off the throttle to better enable brake energy recuperation and also to allow the car to coast to save fuel.

It might all sound a little odd, but the reality is that it works and is easy enough to ignore when you want to. What's not quite so easy to ignore though are the brakes which initially use energy recuperation before the actual physical brakes cut in. That change between the two modes isn't as smooth as we'd have liked and the brakes can frequently feel quite grabby and unprogressive.

That's a shame when the rest of the car is so good. We'd prefer to be able to vary the level of brake energy recuperation, but the reality is that it doesn't take too much concentration to coax some decent economy figures from the C350e. On one 30 mile journey in Economy mode, the engine remained off for 19 miles, we averaged 53.4mpg and 'won' 3.4 bonus miles.

The combined power delivery is smooth and, unlike some plug-in hybrids we've driven, it's remarkably easy to stay on electric power for as long as possible.

The downside of that is that the C350e isn't the most involving of driving experiences once you turn onto twistier back roads. Flicking it into Sport mode noticeably stiffens the car, but you can never escape the fact that it feels like a wide car and there's the (not-so-small) matter of that 315kg additional weight penalty over the C200 petrol. The steering could do with more feedback too.

The C350e makes a good case for itself, but like the BMW 3-Series Active Hybrid and Volvo V60 Plug-In, it's a pricey option against some talented turbo-diesel stablemates and needs some serious thought to make work financially for daily use.

Mercedes C350e Sport saloon

Model price range                          £37,875-£40,670
Residual value                                             35.4%%
Depreciat­ion                                                £24,445
Fuel                                                                 £2437
Service, maintenance and repair                    £2646
Vehicle Excise Duty                                              £0
National Insurance                                            £887
Cost per mile                                                   67.8p
Fuel consumption                                      134.5mpg
CO2 (BIK band)                                     48g/km (5%)
BIK 20/40% per month                              £378/£756
Warranty                                       3yrs/ unlimited mls
Boot space (min/max)                       335/ 1370 litres
Engine size/power                              1991cc/279bhp


A refined drive with low running costs
  • Refined drive, temptingly low tax bill
  • Not the most involving driving experience, slightly grabby brakes