Once the entry-level vehicle for Mercedes-Benz, the C-Class was often referred to as a “Baby Benz.” As often happens in the auto industry, model lines progress to the next level in terms of content and capability. The newest Mercedes-Benz still serves as an entry into the venerable Tri-Star camp, but offerings now equate to what used to be older E-Class model status with a host of S-Class technological features thrown in for good measure.
The C-Class lineup for the 2016 model year includes a total of six sedan models: the C300C; C300 4MATIC; C350e plug-in hybrid; C450 AMG; AMG C63; AMG C63 S. Base pricing ranges from $38,950 to $73,250. The new C-Class vehicles incorporate the use of two 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engines and a third variant that includes a hybrid electric motor; a 3.0-liter biturbo V6; and two handcrafted 4.0-liter AMG biturbo V8 engines. Engines are positioned in a front-longitudinal orientation. The 2016 C-Class lineup is considered a mid-range Mercedes, positioned between the CLA and E-Class models.
We’ll deal here with the 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350e, which is a plug-in hybrid, but has dropped that nomenclature from its badging. The motive force for the C350e comes from a 2.0-liter DOHC, 16-valve ICE turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 60kW electric motor and 6.2 kWh lithium-ion battery. Horsepower is 208 at 5,500 rpm for the ICE and 80 horsepower for the electric motor. Total system horsepower output is 275. Torque developed is 258 at 5,500 rpm for the ICE and 251 pound feet in a range from 1,200 to 4,000 rpm for the electric motor for a total system output of 443 pound feet. Gearing power to the driving wheels is a seven-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The four-door, five passenger C350e has grown in stature (it’s now 3.7-inches longer overall with a 3.1-inch wheelbase increase and a gain in width of 1.6-inches), and it has shed some 200 pounds from the weight of its predecessor through the increased use of aluminum and high-strength steel in its construction.
This latest C-Class has graduated to a higher class in terms of its visual appeal, with more sophisticated styling cues. Sporting a lengthy hood, sharply raked windscreen, elegantly curved cabin and abbreviated deck, along with its low athletic stance, the C350e projects an elegant, yet sporty persona. The frontal appearance is obviously inspired by the S-Class, delivering a bold and athletic image that issues a not-so-subtle hint at the car’s mission statement – to attract more youthful buyers.
Entering the cabin, the new Mercedes-Benz C350e is loaded with comfort and convenience features such as a more contemporary interior with a wide range of multimedia and infotainment features including an optional head-up display, keyless start, Burmeister premium sound system, console-mounted touch controls, a power driver’s seat with memory, power folding mirrors and folding rear seats. There are also varied apps and Internet connectivity.
Safety features and equipment haven’t been forgotten either with Distronic Plus, Brake Assist Plus, which senses stationary vehicles and pedestrians and provides automatic braking in the event that the driver doesn’t react. There are pelvis bags for the driver and front passenger, a driver’s knee airbag, and new side airbags for the rear-seat occupants. ABS, ESP, and BA are also included along with adaptive braking technology.
My test Mercedes-Benz C350e sedan wore an Iridium Silver metallic exterior finish and came with a black interior with polished Linden wood trim accents. The base price was set at $45,490 while options and destination and delivery charges elevated the final total to $61,040. Options included the metallic paint, Linden wood trim, Premium 2 Package, Interior Package; Luxury Package; MultiMedia Package, Air Balance Package; Lighting Package; Paring Assist Package; Blind Spot Assist; Panorama Sunroof; Head-up Display; AIRPANEL Grill; Electric Roller Sunblinds for the rear window and destination and delivery charge. The content of the individual option packages are too extensive to list here.
SUMMARY: The 2016 Mercedes-Benz C350e promises to be a staunch competitor in it class. It is its own vehicle and its purpose was not to try and emulate other vehicles in its category, but rather to stand alone for what it happens to be – an exceptional mid-size luxury sedan with sporting attributes and the efficiency of a hybrid vehicle without range anxiety. The C350e follows the S550 plug-in hybrid and boasts six-cylinder power with three-cylinder fuel efficiency. Mercedes-Benz plans to have 10 plug-equipped Mercedes models by 2017.
Performance from the 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-banger (actually it doesn’t “bang” at all, but is quite smooth) is more than adequate and should please even the sport-minded driver. The seven-speed automatic transmission features the electric motor connected to a wet clutch in place of a conventional torque converter, providing the smoothness of a torque converter with the efficiency of a direct coupling. Ride and handling qualities and characteristics may be adjusted by a switch on the console that allows for a range of four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ paired with electricity-management selections (Hybrid, E-mode, E-save, and Charge). The paddle shifters allow for regulating regenerative power. The C350e obviously doesn’t perform up to AMG model levels, but it is capable of getting with the program when called upon to do so.
C-Class interiors used to be on the stark side of the equation, but that is no longer the case – the C350e delivers impressive levels of excellence in comfort, convenience, style and luxury. The only questionable issue for me, is the location of the charging port – it is located in the lower right rear bumper fascia, which seems highly vulnerable in the event of a rear end collision and likely costly to repair.
The C350e is scheduled to go on sale this fall starting at $45,490. Initially it will only be available in California and states that follow California’s zero-emissions mandates. Mileage ratings have yet to be announced and will be forthcoming at the scheduled fall launch. It will come with a new vehicle 4-year/50,000 mile warranty and a 24-hour roadside assistance program.
In the final scheme of things, this new C-Class hybrid is clearly a winner and is sure to attract new devotees to the Mercedes fold, as it does everything that it’s intended to do, and does it quite well. It is essentially a green car with the added attributes of a non-hybrid real luxury sedan.
Charging times are similar to other plug-in hybrid vehicles.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2016 Mercedes-Benz Ce350e Plug-in Hybrid Sedan
|Price as tested:||$61,040|
|Engine:||2.0-liter DOHC, 16-valve ICE turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with a 60kW Electric Motor / 6.2 kWh Lithium-ion battery|
|Horsepower:||208 @ 5,500 rpm / Electric= 80 hp / Total system output; 275 hp|
|Torque:||258 @ 1,200-4,000 / Electric=251 / Total system output: 443|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters|
|Drivetrain:||Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear-Wheel Drive|
|Suspension, front:||Aluminum 4-link|
|Suspension, rear:||Multi-link independent|
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel vented discs with radar-based Regenerative Braking System, ABS, BAS, and ESP|
|Tires:||Continental ContiProContact SSR 245/40 R18 97H M&S mounted on 5-“V”-spoke alloy wheels – machine face / silver painted inners|
|Overall Length:||184.5 inches|
|Curb Weight:||4,012 lbs|
|Turning Circle:||36.8 ft|
|Fuel Capacity:||13.2 gallons|
|EPA Fuel Economy:||TBD|
|0-60 MPH:||5.2 seconds|
|Top Speed:||Electronically limited to 130 mph|