Benz plugs into emergent EV interest

The world’s oldest car brand, which takes pride in being a technology leader, has finally caught up with its rivals in offering electric-assist cars.


BATTERY-boosted petrol versions of the C-Class sedan and wagon, S-Class limo and the GLE off-roader have arrived.

What kind of showroom profile the uber-efficient petrol hybrid electric (PHEV) editions will achieve is not clear; Mercedes Benz New Zealand is describing them as special order vehicles, a status which normally means they require purchase ahead of being built or at least delivered to New Zealand.

Mercedes has been slow to bring its plug-in cars here, despite the parent brand saying it loves that more than 80 percent of energy here is generated by Green means (hydro, wind farms, geothermal). Germany believes this makes New Zealand a perfect location – right up there with Norway, where electrics have established a big foothold - to demonstrate an electric drive that will not stop with these current generation cars.

It has previously said that what we are set to see first is simply bridging technology; within a few years Benz says it will have full electric models out as well.

The cheapest PHEV is the C350e sedan, at $95,900, followed by the wagon edition for $3000 more. The GLE500e is a $149,900 model while the S500e will cost $225,000.

Those models are all direct competitors for the BMW’s iPerformance models - the 330e, X5 xDrive40e and 740e Performance. But Benz has been able to price-match with just the X5, also a $149,900 ask. The 330e, which only avails in sedan form, lists at $89,900 while the 740e costs $199,000, the same price as the 740d xDrive.

The road-pure models seem set to run close on the road; the GLE, though, appears to have a massive performance edge.

As previously detailed by Motoring Network, the C350e combines the 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine shared with the C250 with a 60kW electric motor.

Maximum output is rated at 205kW of power and 600Nm of torque. Claimed optimal economies of 2.4 litres 100km for the sedan and 2.6L/100km for the wagon are claimed.

Benz also claims the C350e has a pure-electric range of up to 31 kilometres. That’s 6km less than the optimum range cited for the 330e. BMW also reckons its sedan is 0.3L/km thriftier, too.

However the Benz produces 20kW and 180Nm more than its Bavarian rival and is 0.2 seconds quicker from zero to 100kmh.

Mercedes-Benz says the C350e will come standard with air suspension and pre-entry climate-control – which keeps your car at a comfortable temperature while unoccupied.

The S500e and the GLE500e share a common drivetrain, with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 coupled to an 85kW electric motor creating a combined 325kW of power and 650Nm of torque.

That allows both models to have more grunt than their BMW equivalents, especially in the SUV setting.

The Benz powertrain has 85kW and 150Nm than the 740e iPerformance, which according to BMW figures is also a bit slower and thirstier than the Benz– by 0.3s and 0.5L/100km respectively with the S500e cited to sip just 2.8L/100km (claimed) on the combined cycle and achieve 0-100kmh in 5.2. The Mercedes can rely on all-electric power for up to 33 kilometres, the maker cites.

The GLE500e is going to be a stomper within its sub-sector, facing against a rival that, in delivering with a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with a transmission-integrated electric motor, gives away 95kW and 200Nm to the GLE500e.

That extra oomph ensures the GLE500e, with a claimed 0-100kmh time of 5.3s, is 1.5s quicker to 100kmh than the X5. It will run at up to 130kmh in EV mode and yet, when operating for optimal fuel economy, will match the X5 xDrive40e’s claimed fuel consumption of 3.3L/100km.

The variants have five driving modes — Individual, Sport Plus, Sport, Comfort and Eco — that recalibrate the drive system, chassis/suspension, steering, Eco Assist and climate control depending on the style you wish to drive in. 

Eco function includes ‘E-save’, which allows the driver to essentially disengage the electric system to save the electrical input for later, such as when arriving in a city at the end of a journey.

Nonetheless, the C350e is the family champion for overall economy and also emissions, with less than 50 grams  per kilometre in testing.

The model’s electric motor works solo under low duress situations such as inner-urban driving at low speeds, or acts as a booster to the internal combustion engine during heavy acceleration. 

The electrical storage unit with this car is a lithium-ion battery with a 6.2kWh capacity. It’s a water-cooled unit that weighs about 100kg and is mounted under the rear axle. Both braking — the motor partially brakes the car in the guise of an alternator — and coasting regenerate power that is stored here. 

Though every model will be different in respect to recharging time and the recharging method also has an obvious effect, the C350e gives good example of the quick recharge capability that Benz believes will be a plus point here.

In respect to the C350e, Benz Germany suggests when hooked to a 230-volt, 16-amp, single-phase public charger this model’s cells can be fully replenished in about one hour and 45 minutes. A 13A socket will charge the cells in about two hours.

The car’s Charge mode also allows the battery to be gradually recharged while driving using the combustion engine as generator, though the motor is disengaged during the process. 

The positioning of the batteries hurts storage space; the 350h sedan’s cited boot capacity is 335 litres, against 480 litres for the regular version, while the wagon reduces from an absolutely optimum 1501 litres to 1370.