If the Mercedes-Benz C300e sedan had a song, it would be Henry Higgins in the musical My Fair Lady lamenting his pupil Eliza walking out of his life in “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face”.
Yes, she was a handful, but he’s fallen in love with her.
Same here with the Merc.
Never mind having a plug-in hybrid for a week with no power point in the carport to charge it (the manual says DO NOT use an extension cord), which takes seven hours.
No, it didn’t have an optional charging cable, which could be plugged into a public charging station and takes just two hours.
Nor does it have DC fast-charging capability, which would take only 20 minutes to get an 80 per cent charge.
But get past these obstacles and you understand the point of the tech, which is a stepping stone on the road to a CO2-neutral future, offering all the benefits of electric urban running without any range anxiety because you have a normal petrol engine as a back-up for longer journeys.
It also means you can use the electrical system to warm or cool the car in summer or winter before you get in: just set the start time and temperature beforehand.
The C300e has an $84,000 list price but, as tested, ours was $92,700 in “cavansite” blue paint ($1500) with vision package ($6300), the latter including a head-up display, 360-degree camera and panoramic sunroof with roller blind, plus a seat comfort package ($900).
The battery charging port is set into the bumper, so you need to park on the correct side or your cable won’t reach.
You get a claimed 52km on a full charge; we managed 48km, enough for the average daily commute and the ride was quiet, like gliding on skates.
Once used to it, you miss it when the petrol engine kicks in, which you hear more than feel.
Under petrol power, things are suddenly noisier and heavier — but this is a Merc, so we’re splitting hairs in an otherwise all-round luxe ride including air suspension, keyless start, hands-free boot opening and loads of driver tech.
Multimedia and connectivity is split between a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and a 10.25-inch media display accessed in various ways, including a scroll dial and touchpad on the centre console that lets you zoom into maps; you get used to it, much like the stalk gear lever on the steering wheel.
On the road, this Merc’s got your back with the driving-assistance package with adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot warning and steering and lane assist with cross-traffic function. It even self-parks, if you’re game.
The lithium-ion battery is at the rear, meaning you only get 300 litres of boot space compared with 455 in the C300.
It also means the C300e weighs 275kg more than the C300. Together, the electric motor and petrol engine have a maximum output of 235kW and 700Nm for a claimed 0-100km/h 5.4 second sprint — and there’s no reason to doubt it because acceleration was fast under electric and petrol power.
Claimed fuel consumption is 2.1L/100km, but we were around 4.1L/100km driving in electric mode on a full charge with the balance in petrol over two short freeway runs and several suburban shopping commutes.
Apparently, the tech in the car allows it plan to ahead and adjust energy consumption and recuperation according to speed and route, so you’ll notice the electric battery charging when you brake and take your foot off the accelerator, which gives you enough, at least, for an electric start each time.
There are four operating modes: Hybrid, which combines electric and petrol, E-mode for a purely electric ride, E-save when you want to keep the battery charge for later use, and Charge to boost the battery.
You can combine these with various drive modes, Comfort being the nicest, most fuel-efficient ride. Sport mode is pointless in a hybrid as the petrol engine is always on, just as it’s pointless operating it in charge mode because it guzzles fuel. We tried and ended up with 10.2L/100km.
Find a power point and plug it in, instead, or buy a dedicated Mercedes-Benz wallbox, then maybe you can sing along with Janis Joplin: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz”.
Luxe plug-in hybrid combining the best of both worlds for urban electric running and long-range petrol driving, so long as you charge the battery every day.
2021 MERCEDES-BENZ C300e SPECIFICATIONS
- Price: $84,000 (as tested $92,700)
- Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol plug-in hybrid
- Outputs: 235kW/700Nm combined
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
- Fuel economy: 2.1L/100km