Mercedes C-Class hybrid saloon review
The new plug-in hybrid Mercedes C 300 e is going to give its rivals from BMW and Volvo a run for their money, with an impressive infotainment system and 60-mile electric driving range
- Great infotainment
- Refined and comfortable
- 60-mile electric driving range
- Poor acceleration
- BMW 330e better to drive
- Diesel version not available yet
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||62 miles||404mpg||14g/km|
The Mercedes C-Class is a long-time company-car favourite, rival to the BMW 3 Series and Volvo S60 – all of which are now available in plug-in hybrid form. Not to be outdone by the BMW 330e or recently refreshed Volvo S60 Recharge, for 2022 Mercedes has taken the very best bits from its flagship models and transplanted them into the latest version of its entry-level executive saloon.
For company-car drivers, it’s all about the numbers and it seems Mercedes is holding nothing back with the new plug-in C-Class. Compared to the previous generation, the claimed electric driving range has jumped from 35 to over 60 miles, while the average miles-per-gallon figure has skyrocketed from 235 to 404mpg.
All while slashing CO2 emissions in half, from an already-low 31g/km to just 14g/km. As a result, potential company-car drivers can expect big savings, from both a reduction in the C 300 e’s Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating and the number of times you’re likely to need to fill up at the pump.
Under the bonnet is a 201bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that’s combined with a 127bhp electric motor drawing power from a 25.4kWh battery – larger than the one in the entry-level, fully electric Fiat 500!
To make topping up as easy as possible, the C 300 e is capable of charging at up to 55kW, which is relatively fast for a plug-in hybrid. At that rate, recharging from 0-100% should take around half an hour, while doing the same from a standard home wallbox is likely to take closer to three and a half hours.
That’s all very impressive, but then there’s the interior: featuring cues and pinching technology from both the S-Class and EQS executive limousine flagships. Swing open the driver’s door and you’re greeted with what can only be described as a typical Mercedes cabin, featuring materials that feel just as good as those in the S-Class.
The dashboard is dominated by an 11.9-inch portrait-orientated central touchscreen that’s brilliantly responsive and displays Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bigger and better than any of the C-Class' rivals can. It’s also standard on all models, and paired with a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display. Both screens are flanked by five oval metallic air vents that add an industrial-chic feel to the cabin.
You also get the German marque’s ‘Hey Mercedes’ virtual assistant to control most of the car’s functions, which now include integrated Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music, too. It’s one of the better voice-command systems, and means you won’t need to take your eyes off the road, even to adjust the temperature. And it can only improve thanks to over-the-air (OTA) software updates.
The new plug-in C-Class’ 60-mile range seems entirely realistic based on our time with the car, so you’re likely to spend lots of time being propelled by the electric motor alone. Even when you first start the car up, if there’s plenty of juice in the battery, you move away swiftly and silently.
If you're unable to top up the battery before it runs out, then, like most PHEVs, the C-Class runs as a full hybrid, with the brakes attempting to recuperate as much energy as they can back into the battery. If you're on a longer journey and run the battery down, the engine will awake from its slumber. Yet you may struggle to notice its presence, as it only produces a faint hum that's easily concealed if you're playing music – which in the case of our test car, came out of the sublime Burmester audio system.
Our test car also featured 18-inch alloy wheels and overall the ride was a little bumpy, however we wouldn’t go as far as calling it uncomfortable. Similarly, the steering didn’t provide as much feedback as its BMW rival, but as long as you weren’t expecting it to, the Mercedes doesn’t disappoint on the road.
There are few driving modes you can select: the default one is Hybrid, which we think most people are likely to leave the car in. Then there’s a pure-electric mode, and another that maintains battery charge for when you need it most. Unsurprisingly, you also get a Sport mode, which tweaks the steering and throttle response – and instantly fires up the petrol engine.
Nonetheless, acceleration in Sport is impressive thanks to assistance from the electric motor. Remain in Hybrid mode, on the other hand, and performance isn’t as stellar: when you do ask for more power, the otherwise velvet-smooth nine-speed gearbox and powertrain take their time shifting down and getting things going.
Typically, you’d expect a big battery as big as the C 300 e's to eat away at cabin space, especially in the rear. However, that’s not the case here, and in fact there’s more head, leg and elbowroom than in the old model, with the C-Class remaining the benchmark for comfort in this class.
Boot space is reduced by 140 litres from the standard car to 315 litres, but that's still a slight improvement over the previous generation and likely to be big enough for most people, with a flat floor, too. However, if it’s more space you’re after, an estate version of the plug-in hybrid C-Class is on its way.
Our test car was an AMG Line model, which gets slightly sportier exterior styling and a decent amount of equipment to go along with the sizable central touchscreen and digital driver’s display. Prices have yet to be announced, but our car is expected to start at just under £45,000, with the AMG Line Premium and AMG Line Premium Plus trims sitting above.
Mercedes has gone all-out with this version of its plug-in hybrid compact exec, adding an impressive 60-mile electric range, flagship-worthy infotainment system and comfortable interior to an already appealing package. It’s therefore hard to imagine that any company-car driver who isn’t ready to make the switch to electric will choose one of the C-Class’ rivals over this latest iteration. And we expect it’ll be a big hit with private buyers as well.