Mercedes-Benz C350e (2016) First Drive


We visited the Mercedes-Benz Plant in East London this week to welcome the locally-made C350e plug-in hybrid to South Africa. Get all the details here!

The new Mercedes-Benz C350e is the first petrol-electric hybrid passenger car to be built in South Africa (for the local and export market). To accommodate the manufacture of the C350e at the German brand's award-winning East London plant, the facility underwent a R100-million upgrade. It now features a new Lifter and High Station in the assembly area, as well as a manipulator on the trim line that helps install the electric motor's battery into the car. 

The introduction of the C350e coincides with the arrival of the S500e, while the GLE 500e can be expected later this year. The launch also included a tour of the plant floor, which was followed by a drive from East London to Port Elizabeth. Let’s take a closer look at what the C350e has to offer…

Hybrid power for C350e

The C350e offers sporty performance with the benefit of reduced fuel consumption when driving in the city.

The C350e is powered by a combination of a combustion turbopetrol engine and an electric motor. The electric motor can either support or substitute the work of the combustion engine in specific situations and braking/coasting energy is converted into electric energy and stored in the battery.

The combustion engine is a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbopetrol motor developing 155 kW and 350 Nm of torque. The electric motor contributes an additional 60 kW and 340 Nm of torque and the C350e has a total combined output of 205 kW and (up to) 600 Nm of torque.

The high-voltage lithium-ion battery has a total capacity of 6.2 kWh and weighs 100 kg. The battery is mounted in a sheet steel housing under the rear axle and can be charged at a 230V, 16A, 3.7 kW single phase wall-box in approximately 1h45min or it can be charged using a domestic socket. A charging time of 2 hours is also possible using a 230 V, 13A, 3.0 kW connection.

The C350e is equipped with a 7-speed automatic transmission as standard and the hybrid module features an additional clutch that decouples the combustion engine in all-electric mode. The Benz has a total pure EV range of 31 km and Mercedes-Benz claims a consumption figure of just 2.1 L/100 km.

In terms of performance, the C350e is capable of completing the zero-to-100 kph sprint in 5.9 seconds and can reach a limited top speed of 250 kph.

Hybrid-specific features

The C350e features a haptic accelerator that, when the C350e is running in electric (EV) mode, lets the driver know when maximum electric performance is being delivered by offering a point of resistance in the pedal. If the driver depresses the pedal beyond the point of resistance, the combustion engine will kick in to provide additional propulsion.

The pedal, in conjunction with the ECO Assist function, will also signal a double impulse, suggesting that the driver should stop accelerating to deactivate and decouple the combustion engine. Assuming that the driver does what the double impulse suggests, the intelligent engine management system of the Benz will vary the deceleration mode between unpowered (sailing) and recuperation, using data from the car's radar systems as its basis.

Furthermore, the C350e offers 5 driving modes including Economy, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. When driving in Comfort or Economy modes the driver can also choose between 4 modes that regulate the interaction between electric mode and the combustion engine. These modes include Hybrid, E-mode (for electric driving), E-save (charge status maintained) and Charge (battery can be charged using the combustion engine).

The C350e also employs a route-based operating strategy to optimise energy use over a given route (provided the driver enters the route into the navigation system). Otherwise, the plug-in hybrid derivative offers the familiar range of equipment found on the C-Class, but is additionally specced with air suspension as well as a pre-entry climate control system that can be controlled via the Internet. Avantgarde and Exclusive exterior equipment lines are available.

What’s the C350e like to drive?

The C350e is comfortable and refined to drive. Air suspension is standard, adding additional damping to the ride quality.

Our launch route started at the Mercedes-Benz Plant in East London, taking us a total distance of 283 km to Port Elizabeth. The route consisted mostly of open-road driving, so we didn’t have an opportunity to drive the C350e in EV mode, which is mostly reserved for city driving or congested traffic situations.

The C350e did, however, impress us with its strong performance. The Benz can accelerate rather briskly, courtesy of additional boost from the electric motor, and in typical C-Class fashion, the sedan was comfortable, refined and its ride well-mannered. Due to the route, we never experienced fuel consumption figures near 2.1 L/100 km and we arrived in Port Elizabeth with an average fuel consumption 9.4 L/100 km being displayed on the trip computer. This figure, however, can be improved upon with relative ease if a more conservative driving approach is employed. Fuel consumption will be reduced even further if the electric driving mode is activated in typical city driving situations. We will hopefully have the C350e on test soon to give it a thorough evaluation.

Mercedes-Benz C350e – Price in South Africa

The derivative costs R804 900, which includes a 6-year/100 000 km Premiumdrive maintenance plan.

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