Review: 2020 Mercedes-Benz C 300 e PHEV Estate
- Tested: C 300 e plug-in hybrid (PHEV) estate, presented in ‘AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus’.
- C-Class estate starts from £36,185.
- C 300 e PHEV starts from £41,245.
- C 300 e PHEV as tested: £51,155 (includes fitted options).
Mercedes-Benz was one of the earliest premium marques to embrace plug-in hybrid (PHEV) technology, so little wonder then that the Stuttgart manufacturer's current range offers more PHEV options than any other.
One of the first Mercedes-Benz model lines to get this technology was the evergreen C-Class and now that car features it in both C 300 e petrol form and an in C 300 de diesel guise.
The current, fourth-generation C-Class estate first arrived in 2015 and in late 2018 it received a facelift to keep it fresh against its competitors. I recently enjoyed an all-too-brief spell with KP70 LZD, a C 300 e PHEV petrol estate, presented in sporty ‘AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus’ trim and finished in ‘Designo Hyacinth Red metallic’…
There are few visual giveaways to differentiate this PHEV variant over the regular C-Class. The lower-case ‘e’ in the C 300 e designation is a clue, as is the discreet ‘EQ Power’ badge on the trailing edges of the front wheel arches. There is also the additional flap to the lower right of the tailgate for the charging point.
Inside you'll find a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and the superior 'Comand Online' infotainment system which offers internet access, voice control, traffic information data and advanced hard disc 3D navigation.
Business drivers will particularly like the 'Comand Online' system's 'In-Car Office' feature, a Mercedes me connect service which allows drivers use of certain office functions directly in the vehicle and access to important data – almost as if they were in their office.
For example, it uses the locations of calendar entries and automatically transfers these to the car's navigation system. The user can also dial into a telephone conference on the basis of a calendar entry and the system will automatically detect the required PIN access code before simultaneously dialling it. All that's needed is an active data connection.
Elsewhere, it's business as usual for the executive estate, with a well-designed interior that treads a careful line between being stylish and functional. Trinkets include swish circular air vents and cool ambient lighting, while Artico leather seats and wooden trim remind you this is a cut above more mainstream models.
Practicality and boot space
The C 300 e boasts plenty of room for adults in the front and rear seats, with more space between the front and rear wheels than any previous C-Class model. The standard C-Class estate has a 490-litre boot (with the rear seats up), stretching to 1,510 litres with them folded flat. For this plug-in hybrid model, those numbers are reduced by around 150-litres respectively, thanks to the PHEV tech located under the boot area.
Where SUVs can offer the usefulness of sliding and reclining rear seats, there’s less scope for such seating flexibility in this traditional estate. With the C-Class you get rear seats that simply split and fold in a 40/20/40 configuration to make extra room for luggage, but the front passenger seatback doesn’t fold flat for when you want to carry particularly long loads.
The standard electric tailgate gives easy access to the C-Class estate’s boot and the motorised luggage cover also rises automatically. There is also a low load lip and some useful under-floor storage.
AMG Line ‘Night Edition Premium Plus’ equipment
As you would expect of a German premium marque, the C-Class comes very well equipped as standard, with levels of kit rising exponentially as you do the range walk.
On the AMG Line ‘Night Edition Premium Plus’ model as tested, additional standard kit includes 19-inch black alloys, Multibeam LED headlights, full leather furniture, Active Park Assist with Parktronic 360o overhead view, electric tailgate, AMG Sports electric/heated seats, dual-zone climate control, Burmester 590W sound system, an eight-metre charging cable and keyless go.
Options fitted to KP70 LZD
Options fitted to this car included the Designo Hyacinth red metallic paint (£895), and a ‘Driving Assistance’ package (£1,695), which adds Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Braking Assist with cross-traffic function, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC, Active Lane-change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Route-based speed adaptation and Pre-Safe Plus.
Engine and drivetrain
The hybrid drive system in the C 300 e combines a 2.0-litre 211 bhp petrol engine with a 122 bhp electric motor. Intelligent technology, courtesy of the third-generation EQ Power hybrid transmission, makes for smooth gear changes.
As usual on a C-Class, the powertrain works through a standard nine-speed automatic gearbox which works with the usual 'Eco', 'Comfort' and 'Sport' driving modes that alter drive response, steering feel and ESP settings.
On a full charge, the C 300 e is capable of driving up to 34 miles before the petrol engine wakes up, and that includes the flexibility of an electric top speed of over 80mph, so it's not limited to town work.
That electric range unsurprisingly gives the C 300 e attractive efficiency figures, so while its 162 mpg maximum fuel economy should be taken with a pinch of salt, CO2 emissions of around 43g/km will be of most interest to company-car drivers, bringing down the cost of Benefit-in-Kind tax markedly.
If your commute is within the C-Class hybrid estate's electric range and you can keep the battery topped up with regular charging at work and at home, you may hardly use any petrol at all during routine day-to-day driving.
On the road
For the most part, driving around town in pure-electric mode is a serene, relaxing experience, although it can take a bit of practice to pull away from traffic lights smoothly given the electric motor's instant and seamless power delivery.
Progress is near-silent, with just a faint hint of motor and transmission whine to remind you of how the car is powered. Once it switches on, the C 300 e’s engine is barely noticeable on start-up.
If overall efficiency isn't a priority and, should the mood take you, the C 300 e can be a pretty rapid thing, thanks to quite a prodigious total system output of 320 bhp, enough to dispatch 62 mph from rest in 5.5 seconds en route to a limited 155 mph. There is 350 Nm of torque available from the engine and 440 Nm from the electric motor.
However, drive with a significant dollop of enthusiasm and its 1,870 kg kerb weight will become apparent – that’s about 200 kg more than the regular, non-hybrid C 300 petrol variant.
For those preferring a more absorbent ride, Mercedes’ Airmatic air suspension with adaptive damping system was standard on the test car and is rather desirable. 'Air Body Control', as Mercedes call it, promises a cosseting ride when you want luxury or more composed sports car-like handling when pressing on.
Underway, the Mercedes C 300 e estate will assist you in getting the best possible fuel-efficiency by suggesting when to lift off the throttle, factoring in an imminent change of speed limit or downhill stretch of road. When it comes to handling, the regular non-hybrid C-Class feels a tad sharper and quicker than the C 300 e, which is an unavoidable consequence of the weight added by the hybrid system.
As befits any Mercedes-Benz, the new C-Class is extremely safe, with a wealth of safety equipment and crash know-how poured into the popular model. It was awarded five stars from independent crash-test body Euro NCAP and, along with seven airbags, there are a multitude of systems designed to avoid or mitigate collisions.
The Mercedes C-Class is unique among plug-in hybrid estates in offering buyers a choice of petrol-electric or diesel-electric power. If diesel isn’t your thing, the petrol-electric C 300 e estate tested here makes for a sensible choice for the family or business executive mobility.
Would I get one? Surprisingly, there aren't many PHEV estate cars on offer, but I would undoubtedly shortlist it alongside the BMW 330e Touring, Volkswagen’s Passat GTE Estate or Arteon Shooting Brake eHybrid.
Key Facts as tested: Mercedes-Benz C 300 e PHEV estate
- Engine: Front-mounted, 2.0-litre, 4-cyl / 16v in-line petrol.
- Power output (combustion engine): 211 bhp @ 5,500 rpm.
- Power output (electric motor): 122 bhp @ 2,500 rpm.
- Maximum torque (combustion engine): 350 Nm @ 1,300 - 4,000 rpm.
- Maximum torque (electric motor): 440 Nm @ 2,000 rpm.
- System power (combined): 320 bhp.
- Equivalent all-electric range: 29.8 - 34.1 miles (WLTP).
- Combined electrical consumption: 2.55 – 2.26 kWh / km.
- On-board charger capacity: 7.2 kW.
- Battery capacity: 13.5 kWh.
- Charging time (0-100%): Domestic socket: 5 hrs / Wallbox: 1 hr 30 mins.
- Transmission: 9G-TRONIC PLUS nine-speed automatic.
- Acceleration: 0-62mph: 5.5 seconds.
- Top speed: Limited to 155 mph.
- MPG (combined WLTP): 149 mpg, depending on options fitted.
- Fuel tank capacity: 50 litres (11 Imperial gallons).
- Theoretical range: N/A
- Ad-Blue tank capacity: N/A.
- Emissions: 37g CO₂/km
- First year VED: £0.
- 2020/21/22/23 BiK rate % (Benefit in Kind): 10% > 11% > 12%.
- Kerb weight: 1,870 kg.
- Luggage capacity: 315 / 1,360 litres.
- Towing weight kg (braked/unbraked): 1,800 / 750.
- Roof luggage weight: 75 kg.
- Service intervals: Every 12 months or 10,000 miles.
- Warranty / roadside assistance: 3 years, unlimited miles / 3 years (pan-European).
- Insurance group: 40E.
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