Mercedes-Benz C 300 e PHEV

An impressive electric-only range is just one of the highlights of Mercedes’ latest PHEV, says John Challen.

SECTOR Compact executive PRICE £44,500 CO2 14-24g/km CHARGING 30 minutes (0-100% 55kW DC)

A lot has been made in the past about plug-in hybrids and the sense of ‘dragging around two powertrains’ in one vehicle. The wider arguments for and against are probably best left for another time, but the Mercedes-Benz C 300 e argues a pretty good case in defence of PHEVs.

One of the key elements that the C 300 e has going for it is an electric-only range of 100km (62 miles). That’s almost double the distance offered by the previous version and quite a bit more than competitors such as BMW’s 330e (37 miles).

That attribute alone is enough to get many fleet drivers interested, but delve a bit deeper and the C 300 e offers plenty more reasons to be cheerful. As with the rest of the latest-generation C-Class, there’s a scaled-down version of the infotainment system from the S-Class.

This means a 11.9-inch central screen (alongside the 12.3-inch digital driver display), easy-to-navigate (once you get used to them) menus and over-the-air software updates. The functions can be selected via the touchscreen or by scrolling on the steering-wheel-mounted controls, which enable you to switch between the main central display and the one mounted in the instrument panel.

The other option is voice control and using the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant. We’ve got mixed feelings – and experiences – about these controls, but in the C 300 e, the commands are understood clearly and undertaken promptly. Maybe it’s because of the quieter cabin when running off the battery, but it’s arguably the best one of these systems we’ve seen.

Talking of that high-voltage battery, it’s been developed in-house by engineers in Germany and has a capacity of 25.4kWh. The battery works with the car’s electric motor, which offers 440Nm of peak torque – more than enough power in most situations. Part of a fourth-generation of batteries from Mercedes, it consists of 96 separate cells and enables the car to reach a maximum speed of 140km/h (87mph). At which point the 2.0-litre petrol engine – with its 204hp and 320Nm of torque – seamlessly takes over.

Drivers will invariably experience the petrol power and, while the four-cylinder lump isn’t as powerful as some comparable units, it's got plenty for instant acceleration when overtaking, for example.

That being said, it’s likely the majority of buyers won’t be taking a C 300 e for its performance, nor for its dynamics. The ride and handling setup is arguably spot on for how this car is going to be used, but put petrolheads might be left longing for something sportier.

But it is – as they say – a numbers game. So fuel economy figures of between 256.8-403.5mpg, CO2 of 14-24g/km and a BiK tax band of 7% are always going to win the day for the majority of fleet customers. A more spacious interior – elbow-room has increased by 22mm (front) and 15mm (rear) over the previous model, plus there’s an extra 13mm rear headroom – just adds to the appeal.

Which model is right for you?

There is currently only one model, the saloon, on the market although an estate version is on its way. There will also be saloon and estate diesel PHEV options arriving at a later date. The C 300 e comes in three trim levels: AMG Line, AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus – each of which boasts an impressive list of features.

Our car was an AMG Line model with options such as the Driving Assistance Package Plus and MBUX infotainment with augmented reality for navigation and head-up display. It also featured the impressive Burmester 3D surround sound system, along with wireless smartphone integration – including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Saloon

EXPERIENCE

Mercedes-Benz C-Class PHEV

THE LOWDOWN

KEY FLEET MODEL

C 300 e

STRENGTHS

ELECTRIC RANGE, IMPRESSIVE INTERIOR, LOW RUNNING COSTS

WEAKNESSES

BRAKE FEEL, DRIVING DYNAMICS

THE VERDICT

There might be sportier cars in this segment, but none that offer anywhere near as much electric-only range. The C 300 e is all about driving down costs and it really delivers.

To stay up to date with the latest news and developments subscribe to our weekly Newsletter