2016 Mercedes-Benz C350e Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive

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2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e plug-in hybrid, San Francisco, March 2015

2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e plug-in hybrid, San Francisco, March 2015

While BMW leads the Germans with five different plug-in electric vehicles announced, Mercedes-Benz is close behind with three.

A few months ago, we had the chance to drive the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e, the upcoming plug-in hybrid version of the new generation of C-Class luxury sedan.

The C 350e will go on sale this fall, around the same time as the GLE 550e plug-in hybrid version of the company's refreshed mid-size SUV (nee ML-Class).

DON'T MISS: 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e Plug-In Hybrid SUV Arrives This Fall

And the pair will be accompanied by the 2016 S 550e full-size sedan, which for 2015 was called the S 500 Plug-In Hybrid when it was offered in limited areas of California.

Got all that? Good.

These three are the first of 10 different plug-in hybrids that Mercedes will introduce over the next few years, using a common family of electrification components.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-door Sedan C300 Luxury RWD Steering Wheel

2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-door Sedan C300 Luxury RWD Steering Wheel

The latest generation of the C-Class sedan, launched as a 2015 model, has been widely acclaimed for its more sensual design, luxurious interior, advanced infotainment system, and general driving qualities.

We liked the new C-Class when we drove the gasoline version last fall, so our half-day drive of the plug-in hybrid version in March was a return to familiar environs with a different powertrain.

We were sad to learn, however, that the fourth Mercedes plug-in hybrid is one we won't get here in North America: the C-Class wagon, which won't be sold in the U.S. in any form.

ALSO SEE: 2016 Mercedes-Benz S550 Plug-In Hybrid: First Drive

While the S 550e and GLE 550e both use a V-6 mated to an electric motor, the C 350e uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.

The pair power the rear wheels through an adapted version of the company's seven-speed automatic transmission, with the electric motor replacing a conventional torque converter.

The engine is rated at 208 horsepower, and the electric motor at 60 kilowatts (80 hp), producing combined maximum power of 275 hp and combined torque of 443 lb-ft.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-door Sedan C300 Luxury RWD Instrument Panel

2015 Mercedes-Benz C Class 4-door Sedan C300 Luxury RWD Instrument Panel

While Mercedes-Benz quoted its electric range on the European test cycle as 20 miles, the same as the S 550e's, the EPA range rating will likely be lower.

Like many European electrified cars, the C 350e offers four driving modes.

The default Hybrid mode runs electrically where possible until the battery is depleted, then switches over to behaving like a conventional hybrid.

That means electric-only running under low power demand, engine shutoff where possible, and electric torque to assist the engine when power demands are higher.

MORE: 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350 Plug-In Hybrid: First Details From Detroit Auto Show

Mercedes says the car can run with its engine off as high as 80 mph (130 km/h) under the right circumstances.

Also, the company says, fuel economy is 15 to 20 percent higher running only in Hybrid mode even without recharging the battery pack for extended electric running.

E-Mode requires the car to run solely on battery power if enough charge remains, and prevents the engine from switching on except in emergency situations.

E-Save operates in Hybrid mode even if the battery has enough charge to run in E-Mode, allowing charge to be saved for urban environments or more suitable circumstances.

2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e plug-in hybrid, San Francisco, March 2015

2016 Mercedes-Benz C 350e plug-in hybrid, San Francisco, March 2015

And the Charge mode actually uses engine overrun to recharge the battery to capacity. It's a very inefficient use of energy to do so, but it does permit more electric-only running at a later point.

A new feature is the provision of a haptic accelerator pedal that provides detectable resistance before the engine switches on, making it much easier for drivers to stay in electric-only mode.


 
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