While paving the way to the future of electric motoring, the E 350 e plug-in hybrid also beats the heart and soul of a true Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
lectric power is the future of the automobile. It is inevitable and, after experiencing the mind-warping acceleration of a Tesla first hand, even Bobby is convinced. Coming from an unashamed champion of fossil fuel living with the combined might of more than 600hp and twelve cylinders in his driveway, that’s saying something.
Yet, the biggest roadblock to an electrified future continues to be charging time. Even the best advances in battery technology have yet to make it possible to fully recharge an electric vehicle within a timeframe that can be measured in minutes instead of hours.
In the time it takes a Nissan Leaf to fully recharge, full tank of RON 95 would have powered you all the way from KL to Penang. And back. Until this little inconvenience is resolved, the good old internal combustion engine will still have plenty of say in how we move about in the foreseeable future.
As the electric motor makes incremental progress, the internal combustion engine stays relevant by helping it along every step of the way, most notably by being part of a hybrid powertrain.
At this moment, plug-in hybrids are the best fit solution of electrified propulsion that still fit in our existing technological framework whilst spurring development of infrastructure that will support the fully electric-powered vehicles of the future. A plug-in hybrid can be recharged and provide you with some distance of electric-powered motoring, and once you exhaust the battery, the internal combustion kicks in without fuss and keeps you going.
Hybrids have been key contributors of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s success in recent years. Building upon the solid reception of the S 400 Hybrid and E 300 BlueTec Hybrid, the company is now raising its game by introducing plug-in hybrids, first in the form of the C-Class C 350 e and now followed by the latest E-Class E 350 e.
At one glance, one can barely differentiate the E 350 e from a regular E-Class, though the trained eye will easily spot the charging port flap at the rear bumper beneath the right tail light. Cue number two; look out for the bright blue disc brake callipers. You actually can’t miss them.
Inside, the same narrative continues, you can hardly tell this apart from an E 250 without studying the instruments or looking closely at the centre console for the electric drive mode control switch. Some may be expecting bigger differentiation, but perhaps the greater idea is that if you’re coming from a regular combustion engine-powered car, the transition be as seamless as possible.
On the move, the E 350 e can also be driven with next to no change in your driving style. You might, of course, want to do so to maximise your fuel savings, but you don’t have to, the car still moves about with as much grace and dignity as you’d expect of an E-Class.
The E 350 e’s powertrain setup is based on the 2.0-litre turbo four of the E 250. On its own, the engine produces 211 hp and 350 Nm. An 88 hp electric motor is strapped on to the engine just upstream of the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission producing a setup yielding combined outputs of 286 hp and 550 Nm – plenty fast then.
Those numbers translate satisfactorily on the road. The E 350 e is never found wanting for pace, delivering full-throttle acceleration with encouraging gusto. If there is to be any complaint, it is the coarse nature of Mercedes’ four-cylinder petrol engine disrupting what is otherwise an astoundingly refined motoring experience.
As a matter of fact, the E 350 e is best enjoyed with its engine switched off, letting the electric motor whisk you along in its waves of silent and effortless torque. It is in electric mode that the E 350 e feels like a true E-Class, quiet, comfortable, and exceptionally refined.
Further adding to the experience is an impressively supple and unruffled ride provided by the standard air suspension, which helps the E 350 e glide over poorly-patched roads with astonishing smoothness. Though it may lack the dynamic and sporty handling of its rivals, the air-sprung E 350 e’s comfort and refinement here is the E-Class’ trump card against the competition.
By making clever use of the car’s coasting and energy recuperation functions built into the PHEV powertrain, a number of our media friends were able to cover around 200 out of 488 km from Johor Bahru to Tanjung Jara with the engine shut down. Against Mercedes-Benz’s official fuel economy claims of 2.1 l/100km, cars participating in the media challenge mostly yielded average consumption in the region of 5.0 l/100km.
The E 350 e is car with many new tricks up its sleeves, yet it stays true to the long-standing ethos of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class being a car that is exceptionally engineered delivering unrivalled luxury, comfort, and refinement. Whilst it paves the way to the future, the E 350 e remains firmly rooted in its origins. Amidst a hotly-contested segment, the E 350 e ensures that the E-Class holds its own against fast-advancing rivals.
So, how economical can it really get? The answer lies in how disciplined and regimented you are with your charging routine. The more you plug this car into the mains, the more efficient it becomes.
Good driving helps too. A fully charged battery will easily cover 20-30km of pure electric driving per recharge, but more is easily coaxed if one puts in the effort as seen in a recent media challenge organized by Mercedes-Benz Malaysia.