New 2021 Mercedes C-Class hybrids revealed

C 300 e plug-in hybrid sees electric range doubled; rest of range goes exclusively mild hybrid, while AMG hybrid is in the works, too

New 2021 Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes has taken the wraps off the new fifth-generation version of its big-selling C-Class executive saloon and estate. This will be the first 'mainstream' Mercedes model to offer only electrified powertrains, with all of the standard petrol and diesel engines using 'EQ Boost' mild-hybrid technology and an improved plug-in hybrid model in the line-up, too.

On the outside, the latest C-Class gets a styling revamp to mirror that seen on the most recent versions of the larger E-Class and S-Class models. The four-door saloon and five-door estate versions of the car are launching simultaneously, with orders opening towards the end of March and deliveries commencing in summer 2021.

Exact pricing and specifications for the UK market have yet to be announced. The mild hybrids will arrive first, with the new plug-in hybrids set to follow "soon after the launch", according to Mercedes. An AMG version of the car is also in the pipeline, powered by a new four-cylinder hybrid engine being developed by Mercedes' performance arm.

New Mercedes C 300 e plug-in hybrid engine, battery, range, power and charging

For the time being, Mercedes has only announced details of a single plug-in hybrid drivetrain for the new C-Class: the C 300 e petrol. The C 300 de diesel-electric plug-in hybrid will also make a return for this generation, while more or less powerful plug-in options may also be added to the range at a later date.

The C 300 e combines a 201bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine with a 127bhp electric motor. The maximum system output is 308bhp and maximum torque is a healthy 550Nm. A 25.4kWh battery (up from the old model's 13.5kWh) provides sufficient energy for up to around 60 miles of electric driving, says Mercedes, at up to 87mph.

Unusually for a plug-in hybrid, the C 300 e will offer the option of DC rapid charging capability, at a speed of 55kW for a total top-up time of just 30 minutes. The standard on-board charger will offer 11kW top-up speed (or 7.4kW from a single-phase electrical supply, as found in the majority of UK homes). Claimed fuel-economy and CO2 emissions figures have not yet been confirmed.

Mercedes describes the new C-Class hybrid's driving experience as "significantly more electric" than its predecessor's, with the increase in electric range (from circa 30 miles to circa 60 miles) opening up the possibility of even more regular journeys being completed using no fuel whatsoever.

The amount of energy recovered from braking has been increased, while the car can use navigation data to determine the most efficient mix of electric and petrol power to deploy in the course of a journey. Both a 'battery hold' mode (to preserve battery charge for use later in a journey) and an 'electric' mode (to force the car to stay on electric power as much as possible) are available to be selected by the driver.

Practicality and boot space

A moderate increase in exterior dimensions has translated to more space inside for occupants: Mercedes claims 22mm more elbowroom in the front and 15mm more in the rear compared to the outgoing C-Class. Rear headroom is said to have increased by 13mm in the saloon and 11mm in the estate, while there's a claimed 35mm more kneeroom in the rear.

There's a major improvement in the boot, where the battery no longer results in an awkward box-shaped intrusion into the luggage area. In the saloon, there's been a 45-litre increase in luggage capacity, to 360 litres in total, while the estate can now hold 490 litres with seats in place and 1,375 litres with them down. The length of the boot floor in the estate has increased 63mm to 1,043mm, and height of the compartment by 150mm to 732mm.

New 2021 Mercedes C-Class Estate

Interior and technology

Inside, the redesigned C-Class dashboard is divided into an upper and a lower section: there's a wing-like section with flattened round vents, as well as a trim piece that flows from the centre console to the dashboard without interruption. The dashboard and central displays are slightly tilted towards the driver by six degrees for added 'driver focus'.

Like the latest S-Class, the new C-Class is equipped with the second generation of the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system. For the driver's display, there's either a 10.25 or 12.3-inch screen depending on trim level, while the central display measures 9.5 inches as standard, with an 11.9 inches on higher-spec cars. The on-board technology can be further upgraded with a head-up display and augmented video functionality as optional extras.

As on the first-generation MBUX introduced by the current A-Class, voice commands using the phrase 'Hey Mercedes' are supported. The system can also be used to request instructions for or explanations of certain functions, while it can recognise different people's voices. It's also possible to link the system to 'smart home' devices to remotely control your lights, heating or alarm system from your car.

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