2013 MERCEDES E-CLASS HYBRID REVIEW
What's Hot: Amazing fuel numbers; E-Class style and comfort with willing power.
What's Not: A $10k price deficit you’ll never ‘earn’ back; infernal gear stalk.
X-Factor: A premium saloon for buyers prepared to pay to be a little kinder to the planet.
Vehicle style: Large premium sedan
Price: $108,900 (plus on-roads)
Engine/Trans: Hybrid-drive 2.1 litre diesel, electric motor | 7spd audo
Power/torque: diesel 150kW/500Nm; electric motor 20kW/250Nm
Fuel consumption listed: 4.3 l/100km | tested: 5.9 l/100km
It’s the first diesel-hybrid ever to go on sale in Australia. It’s an E-Class, which means it’s as big as a Commodore. It's also one of the world’s great saloons - but it uses barely more fuel than a Smart fortwo.
This is Mercedes-Benz's new E 300 BlueTec Hybrid. It’s a technological tour de force, and while it does things a little differently, it drives exactly ‘like a Mercedes’.
We put it through its paces at launch; creeping along Melbourne’s Collins Street on silent electric power, opening up the 2.1 litre diesel through the hills ringing the Yarra Valley, back through Warrandyte and into the early peak hour traffic of notorious Hoddle Street.
And the fuel consumption? Solid as a rock: 5.9 l/100km on the way out, and 5.9 l/100km on the way back.
That result achieved in a car that seats five in spacious comfort, will hit 100km/h in 7.5 seconds and weighs the better part of 2.0 tonne.
Matched with a seven-speed G-tronic automatic transmission, Mercedes lists combined-cycle fuel consumption of 4.3 l/100km and CO2 emissions at a mere 113 g/km.
So, yes, this big comfortable saloon from Mercedes would seem to have more than a little to recommend it.
Especially for buyers who would like to use a little less of the planet’s scarce resources, and leave a little less CO2 hanging in the air behind them as they pass.
At its heart is a diesel electric system that combines a 2.1 litre four-cylinder diesel engine with... wait for it... an “electric machine” (we hope that whoever in Mercedes marketing came up with that gem has been soundly and thoroughly thrashed) producing a combined 170kW and 750Nm of torque.
The so-named “electric machine” is the combination device of generator, rotor and stator. The lithium-ion battery at the crossroads of the system weighs a mere 23 kilograms – barely more than a conventional larger car battery.
Individually, the two powerplants provide 150kW/500Nm and 20kW/250Nm respectively. What that means is that when they’re both at work, the BlueTec Hybrid puts a very long, flat and willing torque curve under the driver’s toe.
Mercedes built its first hybrid electric car in 1902 – the Mercedes Simplex. It’s fair to say it knows a thing or two about getting it right.
Well, it’s an E-Class. Everything you expect from the interior accommodation in an E-Class saloon is there; crisp lines, beautifully stitched materials, Teutonic restraint and sense of style, and a quiet cosseting ride.
Among a long list of standard features are sat nav, touchscreen, park assist, auto dimming, auto wipers, folding mirrors, driver assistance package, Bluetooth and premium audio.
There's also LED headlamps, keyless-entry and go, memory front seats and, externally, a neat looking ‘sports package’ with guards-filling 19-inch alloy wheels.
Ergonomically, the only thing we don’t like is the gear-selector that sits on the right side of the wheel.
It’s right where most drivers would expect the indicators to be (they’re on the left, natch). Unfortunately, it looks and feels like an indicator stalk and more than once I tipped it into neutral when approaching a corner. (Doh!)
Otherwise, either at the wheel or in any of the passenger seats, this is a very nice place to find yourself.
We really like the instrument display; you can set it up to show what’s happening between the battery, diesel engine, brakes and electric machine, as well as monitor fuel use and battery regeneration (you can also share this with passengers on the centre touchscreen).
Open the boot – it offers 505 litres of cargo space – and you’ll be greeted with a sight you won’t expect. There is no sign of a battery pack anywhere to be seen.
Instead, remarkable but true, the E 300's lithium-ion battery is tucked away in the engine compartment.
ON THE ROAD
Except for the spookily quiet start, the high-tech instrument display and the near-silent gentle whirring on exit from the carpark, you’d not otherwise know you were driving anything other than an E-Class saloon.
There’s a familiar distant diesel rattle when the 2.1 under the bonnet stirs into life, and an equally familiar urge – but a more potent one – when accelerating away from the lights.
Then, straight up over the rise exiting Melbourne Airport, and the engine instantly and silently dies, letting the “electric machine” take over for the short “sail” down the other side.
Right then you’ll be aware you’re driving something a little out of the ordinary.
It does this right through the journey; as soon as it detects the gravity of an incline feeding the momentum, the diesel switches off, springing invisibly back into life on a feather press of the accelerator.
We travelled the better part of kilometre when approaching a town on electric power only, holding 60km/h right along the main street.
At highway speeds though (but less than 160km/h), the E 300 has a “sailing” function where the diesel engine will turn off and let the electric motor lightly intervene to maintain momentum.
It’s very impressive. As far as hybrids go, this is the most advanced and seamless I’ve ever experienced.
Of course, give the accelerator a hefty shove, and the E 300 responds with a very willing and instant urge – that’s what happens when you’ve got 750Nm of combined torque lurking under the toe.
For rolling acceleration, it feels considerably quicker than the E 250 CDI, itself not shabby, and will get ‘out and around’ slower-moving highway traffic rapidly, effortlessly and safely.
It’s also completely unfazed by hills. On a mid-speed incline, you’ll feel the assistance of the electric motor: that combined torque spirits this big saloon effortlessly around a mountain road.
Point to point, its performance is more executive express than typical hybrid.
And, while the accelerator has that slightly quirky Mercedes ‘spongy’ feel, the seven-speed G-tronic will rattle crisply between the gears if you want to hustle things along.
The Deutsche Accumotive lithium-ion battery is constantly charging on downhill sections or when braking (a read-out on the dash updates the state of its charge).
When braking slowly, the brakes themselves don’t do the braking work, that’s left to the ‘electric machine’ as it collects energy. To create the right pedal feel, there is an in-built resistance in the pedal mechanism.
You’ll notice it feels slightly different when first you brake, but it soon becomes invisible. Braking performance – this is one of the safest cars on the planet remember – is very very good.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
That puts it at $10,000 premium over the somewhat similar E 250 CDI with which it shares the 2.1 litre diesel engine.
Real-world fuel use aside, with an on-paper fuel consumption benefit of a claimed twenty percent (5.3 l/100km for the E 250 CDI), you will likely never get back that $10,000 in fuel savings.
But you will get a very appealing luxury saloon from a line that sets the standard for premium transport.
The E 300 BlueTec Hybrid has a little more on-road urge than its conventional ‘sister model’, drives absolutely without compromise, and is also kinder to the planet.
And, in the purchase choices we make, it is the little things that make the difference for a cleaner, more sustainable world.
If you’re in the market for a big, supremely comfortable, sublimely engineered and inherently interesting car, take the E 300 BlueTec Hybrid for a run.
We think you’ll be well pleased with what you find.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
The E 200, 220, 250 and 300 models are available now, while the E 400 and E 63 AMG S models will arrive in August.
Mercedes-Benz has also confirmed that the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet models will arrive in September, with details to be confirmed closer to launch.
- E 200 - $79,900
- E 220 CDI - $82,400
- E 250 - $97,400
- E 250 CDI - $99,900
- E 300 BlueTec Hybrid - $108,900
- E 400 - $129,900
- E 63 AMG S (430kW) - $249,900
- E 200 - $86,900
- E 250 CDI - $107,700
- E 400 - $137,700