What's Hot: No packaging compromises, seamless transition between electric and diesel power, superb interior.
What's Not: Noisy at idle, couldn’t get close to fuel economy claim.
X-FACTOR: Typical Mercedes Benz class, with the promise of low, low fuel consumption and greener motoring. But is it really that thrifty?
Vehicle Style: Medium luxury hybrid sedan
Engine/trans: 150kW/500Nm 2.1 turbo diesel 4cyl, electric motor | 7sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.0 l/100km | tested: 6.2 l/100km
Mercedes-Benz’s C 300 Bluetec Hybrid has finally arrived in Australia, sitting at the top of the C-Class range and ready to do battle with the Lexus IS 300h, Infiniti Q50 Hybrid and BMW ActiveHybrid 3 in the medium luxury hybrid segment.
Priced at $74,900 the C 300 Hybrid sits between the $59,500 IS 300h and the $100,200 ActiveHybrid 3, while it’s specced identically to the C 250 and C 250 Bluetec.
So given it retails for $4500 more than the C 250 Bluetec - which has the same diesel powerplant and same level of equipment as the C 300 Hybrid - what do you get for the extra spend?
- Standard equipment: Leather upholstery, powered front seats, dual-zone climate control, active cruise control, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing LED headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, keyless ignition.
- Infotainment: Sat-nav, 7-inch colour display with rotary controller, Bluetooth phone and audio integration, digital radio tuner.
- Storage: Boot capacity 408 litres with rear seats up. 40/20/40 split rear seats.
Besides an instrument cluster that houses a Hybrid-specific gauge for power flow and regenerative braking, the interior is largely identical to that of the C 250 Bluetec.
And just like every other C-Class, the C 300 Bluetec Hybrid just oozes class.
Throw a few options at it (our tester had the optional panoramic glass sunroof, head-up display, high-end sat nav and AMG pack), and it looks even more impressive, albeit at a greater cost.
Same too with the trim.
If you want something other than piano black lacquer and brushed-alloy trim you’ll need to spec one of the many option packs.
The C 300 Hybrid however gets proper leather upholstery as standard rather than synthetic Artico 'pleather', and it comes it three colours: black, beige and grey.
The C 300 Hybrid is the only model in the C-Class range to not be available as a wagon, though happily the battery pack doesn’t eat into storage space.
That means you still get 408 litres of seats-up cargo space, as well as an uninterrupted pass-through with the 40/20/40 split rear seats folded down.
ON THE ROAD
- 150kW/500Nm 2.1 litre turbodiesel 4cyl, 20kW electric assistance motor
- Seven-speed automatic with paddle shifters, rear-wheel drive
- Double-wishbone front suspension, multi-link rear suspension.
- Electric power steering.
- Disc brakes at front and rear, regenerative braking
Start up the C 300 Hybrid, and you’re greeted with a great deal of engine-clatter at idle.
It’s particularly noticeable when the window is down, but it becomes much less coarse when in motion. Thankfully, with engine start-stop, the occasions where the engine is at idlie are few and far between.
Move away, and the electric assistance motor seamlessly cuts in to lessen the load on the C 300’s 150kW/500Nm 2.1 litre turbodiesel.
That assistance motor has only got 20kW, but provided there’s enough charge in the battery and you’re gentle enough with the throttle, the C 300 can accelerate from standstill entirely under electric power.
Exercise an almost monk-like level of restraint with the accelerator, and you can even reach 60km/h without awakening the engine. It’s mighty tough though - for you, and those driving behind you.
The EV motor can also sustain a speed of around 75km/h if the ground is perfectly level.
There's no EV-only mode though, and you'll need to have a feather touch on the throttle if you want to keep the Diesel engine from firing up.
Try as we might though, we couldn’t come close to Benz’s claim of 4.0 l/100km.
On an easy-going drive from Melbourne Airport to the Yarra Valley we netted an average fuel consumption of 6.2 l/100km.
That’s in the ball-park for a hybrid in real-world use - you'll do better in city driving - but we’ll need to drive the C 300 for longer than a day and in more mixed conditions to properly assess its consumption.
Besides fuel economy, the C 300 Hybrid drives well.
It’s fairly silent and smooth, the seven-speed auto slurs through its gears and the steering has the same non-linear rack ratio as other C-Class models, gifting it with an agile feel.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.46 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: The C-Class has what is probably the most extensive list of standard safety equipment in its class, with nine airbags, (dual front, front and rear side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee), ABS, EBD, ESP, a collision warning system and pedestrian-safe active bonnet.
The C 300 Hybrid adds to this with the Driver Assistance Package Plus, which comes as standard. The package includes active cruise control, lane-keep assist, a pedestrian warning system, and active blind spot monitor.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s actually a surprising number of hybrid options in the midsize luxury segment, with the Lexus IS 300h currently the most popular. Besides the C 300 Hybrid, here are the other contenders:
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Our first drive of the C 300 Hybrid was brief, and experience has shown that the benefits - and deficits - of these kinds of new-age powertrains only become apparent after a longer time behind the wheel.
It's a bit paradoxical, but stop/start city driving generally suits the characteristics of hybrids better and delivers the better fuel savings.
Is it worthy of your hard-earned? On the basis of this run, the jury is still out on whether C 300 Hybrid has proved its mettle as a green-cloaked fuel-sipper.
We'll need to assess it over a longer test with more mixed driving.
If it can’t better the 6.2 l/100km fuel consumption we recorded at the launch, then we’d recommend you save $4.5k and stick to the surprisingly frugal C 250 Bluetec instead. Stay tuned.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
C 200 $60,900
C 200 Bluetec $62,400
C 250 $68,900
C 250 Bluetec $70,400
C 300 Bluetec Hybrid $74,900
C 200 - $63,400
C 200 Bluetec - $64,900
C 250 - $71,400
C 250 Bluetec - $72,900