Mercedes C300 BlueTEC Hybrid review

13 Mar, 2014 10:30am Luke Madden

Mercedes C300 hybrid offers high economy and low emissions, appealing to fleet buyers

Verdict

4
The new C-Class is a real step up over the old car, boasting the kind of relaxing drive and high-quality cabin that we’ve become accustomed to from cars boasting a far higher price tag. This Mercedes C300 BlueTEC Hybrid model may not be the smoothest or the sharpest of the bunch but the margins are fine and company car buyers will certainly see the appeal. If you buying for personal use, though, we’d say go for the C250 BlueTEC and if emissions are really a priority then there’s always the 99g/km C200 BlueTEC.

Along with its new looks, lighter platform and fresh interior design the new Mercedes C-Class also comes with a hybrid option for the first time. The Mercedes C300 BlueTEC Hybrid boasts CO2 emissions of 94g/km and can return 78.4mpg, so is it a better choice than the traditional diesels?

The Hybrid pairs up the same 201bhp 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel engine used in the C250 with a 27bhp electric motor, and while Mercedes hasn’t revealed any official performance figures yet, it feels quicker than the 6.6-second 0-62mph sprint of the C250. That may have something to do with the electric motor, which fills in the low end of the rev range with torque, where other diesel C-Class models can feel a bit lacking.

You also hear a bit less of the engine, which is a good thing as we found one of the C250’s few downsides was the rattly engine note. Don’t expect to be cruising around on electric power all day, though – it really only works up to about 20mph and for short distances.

The BlueTEC Hybrid’s real benefits then come with running costs and lowering company car tax in particular. While the C250, C220 and C200 BlueTECs have to pay a 3% surcharge as diesel cars, the diesel-electric hybrid doesn’t. So while, the C250 will be taxed on 14% of its value, the Hybrid is taxed on just 10% of its value.

Mercedes C300 BlueTEC Hybrid interior

Be warned, though, the Hybrid isn’t quite as good to drive as a standard C-Class. Even with the excellent air suspension – an £895 option – fitted, our car would occasionally thump over bumps in the road. You still get the nice, floaty feeling when cruising down the motorway but this particular variant is more readily caught out on rough roads than any other C-Class.

You’ll notice a little bit more weight in the corners, too, but the nice, responsive steering and clever torque vectoring system do a pretty good job of disguising it. You don’t necessarily feel as though you want to hustle this car down a twisty road, either – its soft suspension and impeccable refinement encourage you to take things slow.

And that’s where the new C-Class’ talents lie – in its ability to soak up mile after mile of motorway with the quiet calm of a car that you could easily envision costing three times as much as it does.

It has the interior of a car from the class above, too, with a large colour screen, tactile brushed metal inserts and a level of classy detail that extends to the boot release button, hidden away in the door pocket. Specify it with matt woods and a leather dashboard and you’ll feel as though you’ve just bought an S-Class.

Disqus - noscript

Why are BMW, Mercedes etc only able to extract almost pointless HP out of electric motors? Rivals such as Lexus are able to get nearly 200HP in some models to provide instant surge torque. I know in this case it is applied to an already decent torquey diesel, but even so.

It's puzzling isn't it. One would believe that with a whole new model, Mercedes would do better than this. It's not bad, but nor is it impressive either.

It has nothing to do with only being able to extract a small amount of power from an electric motor, it's about the overall power balance vs emissions. You can buy an electric motor off the shelf that could output 1000+hp. The technology behind electric motors has hardly changed in the last 100 years.

Having a small motor like this allows the car to convert the motor into a generator and regenerate some of the car's kinetic energy while braking. It stores this in a relatively small and light battery pack. In turn this saved power is then sent back to the electric motor which assists the diesel engine when accelerating. The result is quite a powerful car with emissions below the 100g/km mark which means company car drivers pay less tax.

And as for Lexus providing an 'instant torque surge', The CVT gearboxes and throttle software they use are so notoriously lethargic and unresponsive that the above statement looks like a joke. I'm sure you would experience an instant surge with something like a Tesla though!

Key specs

  • Price: £36,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.1-litre turbodiesel + electric motor
  • Power: 201bhp + 27bhp
  • Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.4 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 150mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 78.4mpg/94g/km
  • On sale: June 2014
AEX 1,338
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