With that in mind, if you would like a well-equipped, medium-sized sedan that has performance when you need it, but a look that hides it, want to keep your spend in the five-figure range and quite like the idea of a hybrid but don’t want to try anything too different… Mercedes naturally have an answer, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz C300e.
As the name suggests, the $84,000 (before options and on-road costs) C300e sits above the 2.0-litre turbo-petrol C300 ($74,700) but below the 3.0-litre twin-turbo petrol C43 AMG ($111,935). We’ve split the range pricing in the chart below so that you can see how the C-Class range plays out, and where it sits in context with the smaller CLA-Class lineup.
Equipment is generous, but not all-encompassing. The basics are there, dual-zone climate control, air-suspension, keyless entry, DAB-digital radio and the Distronic adaptive cruise control and driver assistance safety suite, but our car also has the Vision Package ($6300) which adds a panoramic sunroof, head-up display, surround cameras and active LED headlamps, plus the Seat Comfort Package ($900) which adds power, heated, memory seats.
Pair that with the Cavansite Blue Metallic paint ($1500), which is one of eleven choices, and the C300e as tested comes in at $92,700 before on-road costs.
Now, I don’t mind the exclusion of the AMG-Line package ($3700) as that comes down to personal preference, but the exclusion of the Comand Package ($2300) which adds advanced driver assistance tech and an upgraded Burmester sound-system is pretty cheeky.
|Engine configuration (petrol / electric)||Four-cylinder turbocharged petrol / asynchronous electric (inline)|
|Power (petrol / electric)||155kW @ 5500rpm / 90kW|
|Torque (petrol / electric)||350Nm @ 1200-4000rpm / 440Nm|
|Output (max combined)||245kW / 700Nm|
|Power to weight ratio||122.6kW/t|
|Transmission||9-speed automatic w/ paddle shift|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle)||2.1L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||50L|
I mean, take the standard stereo speaker grilles for example. The W205 C-Class cabin wowed the world when it was launched six years ago, and while still impressive, the black-plastic speakers next to the other standard metallic switchgear components simply look unfinished.
It's a little thing, but it makes you pay more attention to the light-feeling cover of the cup holders on the console, and question the hollow-sounding plastic, piano-black trim around the transmission tunnel.
You start tapping panels and wiggling trim, looking for other signs of lightness, which is a real pity as it seems a silly point to be let down on, especially with this car in the upper-range of the C line-up.
Don't get me wrong, it is still a lovely car and still generally well built, but for the sake of some tech that should be included and a more complete cabin finish, make sure you get the Comand package rolled in.
The rest of the cabin though is still well-sorted, ergonomic and spacious enough to feel comfortable in day-after-day. There's even reasonable room in the back seats for me at six foot three.
As the W205 C-Class is one of the older 'Benz platforms (the new car is expected next year), there’s no double-wide MBUX glass-cockpit, instead, a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch infotainment display are tasked to the job.
It looks clear and works well enough, that is, providing you’re happy to use the Comand touch-pad and shuttle-wheel on the console as there is no touch screen here.
It’s easy to complain, but to be honest, once you’ve been driving for a few days you don’t notice and the use of the Comand interface becomes quite simple. Plus there’s the benefit of no smudgy prints on the screen, which is always a win in my book.
At the back of the car, there’s a hands-free kicker to open the boot, which has about 50 per cent less volume than the regular C-Class, dropping to 300L from 435-455L of other variants, due to the placement of the battery packs.
Is this a dealbreaker? Well, as I said at the start, Mercedes-Benz understand choice, so if you’ve got here and need more boot room, the hybrid C probably isn’t going to cut it, so just go for a regular C300. Easy.
If you’re still reading then I’ll assume shopping bags, the occasional carry-on (remember them?) and soft-bags are your norm, and so it’s worth noting there’s storage in the boot for the home-charging cable and the usual fluro-minon safety vest capsules and other ‘Benz goodies under the floor. No spare though.
|Wheels/tyres||18-inch 225/45 R18 front, 245/40 R18 rear Continental|
Turning our attention to the rest of outside, the C300e looks like… every other C-Class. The mini S has held up well and the lack of the AMG-Line pack makes this C look a little more ‘mature’ and innocuous.
The 18-inch wheels offer a 45-series front and 40-series rear Continental tyre sidewall, which doesn’t look bad by any measure, but doesn’t look particularly striking either.
Worth noting that the ‘bubble sticker’ EQ Power badges on the front fenders can go in the bin too.
That said, not seeing any changes from the regular C-Class is part of the appeal of the hybrid, although I would have expected Mercedes-Benz to implement a more elegant charge port access point than having a large flap in the rear bumper open up.
It looks very much like an afterthought – which, I guess, it was. To be fair though, this is a minor quibble and the updated LED lamp signatures and always impressive Cavansite blue contribute to a classy and evidently timeless design that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Things get a bit more interesting and, dare I say, exciting when you power it up too.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 155kW and 350Nm available. This is mated to a 90kW / 440Nm asynchronous electric motor and 13.5kWh battery pack, enabling the car to run approximately 50km on battery alone (about twice the range of the pre-update C350e).
All good numbers, sure, but the big deal is when the power units work together, giving the C300e an impressive 235kW and whopping 700Nm on tap.
That's 24 per cent more power than the petrol-only C300 (and only 18 per cent off the twin-turbo C43), but the same big-hitting slug of torque as the C63S.
I have to say, that while this might look like ‘your Dad’s Mercedes’, it doesn’t feel like it when you give it a well-intentioned squeeze.
The 0-100km/h sprint is covered in 5.4 seconds, with the car feeling surprisingly punchy from the line to the limit. Leaving the car in its Sport setting allows sharper response from the throttle and nine-speed automatic transmission, enabling you to smoothly dispatch overtaking manoeuvres far more rapidly than the conservative exterior would have you believe.
The plug-in C is however, pretty heavy, weighing in at 1917kg, a massive 275kg more than a C300, so the sporting behaviour off the line doesn’t quite translate into a dynamic drive through the bends.
Even at middling speeds you can feel the weight of the car trying to change direction, however it's when you back off and settle down to a more moderate pace that the C300e really starts to shine.
Leave home with a fully charged battery, leave the air suspension in comfort, and you’ll enjoy a plush and luxuriously quiet drive around town. I had no issue running to almost 40km on full electric power, and even if left in automatic mode, the car judiciously fired up the turbo-four, returning just 3.5L/100km consumption.
It’s a better commuter than it is a sportster, as let's face it, if you want to prioritise performance you step to the AMG cars that dig a little further into the bank balance. It's all about choices, remember.
Like all PHEV cars, the C300e does need to be charged regularly to work best – so make sure you get the Mercedes-Benz home-charging wallbox added into the deal (along with that Comand Package), so you can simply plug it in overnight like you would an iPad.
Sadly, I don’t have a wallbox and wasn’t able to charge every night, and once my battery range was depleted, I had to rely on the car to charge it up using the petrol engine, which simply defeats the entire purpose of a hybrid.
Tap a button on the console to enter charge mode, and you can see and feel the car revving higher as it uses the engine as a generator.
Stopped at lights, the car will chew 2.5L/hour worth of fuel just to charge the battery, for context that is more than a VFII V8 Commodore at idle. It's not quite as thirsty when on the move, but again, if you can't charge it at home, maybe a regular C is better for you?
|Colour||Canvasite Blue Metallic|
|Options as tested||$8700|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
You can use public chargers to ‘juice it up’ so to speak, but you’ll need to keep your accessory cables in the already smaller boot, plus there’s only a seven-pin type-2 connection, which rules out any of the faster DC charge points.
The 240-volt home charger works whereever you can find a plug, but it’s very slow (it will take up to seven hours) and best to use for emergencies only.
Speaking of which... seven hours later, I’m back in the game and again enjoying my pleasant, silent running around the neighbourhood.
The adaptive air suspension does a great job of softening the hardest edges and provides a very ‘Mercedes’-like ride. The car is light to steer and very easy to tootle around in, way back down at three or four tenths, in the relaxed zone.
The car is claimed to have a combined cycle consumption of just 2.1L/100km which is largely achievable, providing you stick to urban running using the battery for optimal efficiency.
Just how you can complete 100km at that rate when your battery lasts less than 50km, is more one for the regulators than for here, but I was able to get a very repeatable 4.8L/100km on a highway tour, which is half what I’d expect from a petrol Benz.
The C300e is covered by Mercedes-Benz’s new five-year warranty, and servicing packages are available from $2000 for three years or $4300 for five years.
Considering there are 19 separate C-Class variants across six powertrains and four body styles, it’s no surprise that there is an answer for every question. Which one is right for you depends more on you than it does the car.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz C300e PHEV sedan offers an economical, luxurious and often entertaining choice, providing you have the provision to charge it and don’t need the boot space. Fall outside of these parameters, and there’s bound to be another C to take its place.
It is afterall, what choice is all about.