The C-Class is the best-selling model series from Mercedes-Benz and the C350e is the plug-in hybrid version of the sedan. It’s a beautiful car inside and out but only delivers an all-electric range of up to 20 miles. Still, it’s the only compact luxury PHEV sedan for now.
The 2018 C350e comes in one trim level that starts at $47,900. The price can climb in a hurry with packages and options. It looks much like the regular C350e except for the plug-in port on the right rear bumper. It seats five passengers.
The rear-wheel-drive C350e is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque with a 60-kilowatt electric motor and 6.4kWh lithium-ion battery for a combined 275 horses and 443 pound-feet, paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with manual shift mode.
The C350e boasts sporty performance. It accelerates quickly from a stop; Mercedes-Benz says it can go from zero to 60mph in 5.8 seconds. Passing and merging at freeway speeds are also effortless. When it runs out of electric range, the transition to gas power is seamless. It happened several times as I was driving on the freeway and was barely noticeable.
Several settings are available to alter the driving dynamics: S Sport, S Sport+, Comfort, Economy and Individual, which let you adjust the drive system, chassis and suspension, steering, ECO assist and climate control settings individually to your liking.
In Eco and Comfort settings, there are several operating modes:
E-mode: all-electric driving for when the battery has enough of a charge
Hybrid: combustion engine with support from the electric engine based on the driving situation to save the most fuel.
E-save: mostly gas engine so the current charge of the battery is maintained for when you know you’ll want to use all electric-driving later on.
Charge: the battery will be recharged by the gas engine.
A 120-volt charge cable is standard, and the C350e can also be charged at commercial fast-charging stations. It takes about two-and-a-half hours to charge with a 240-volt plug, and eight hours or more with a regular 120-volt household plug.
Pre-entry climate control lets you turn on climate control and either heat or cool the interior and turn on the heated or cooled seat functions while the vehicle is still plugged in.
EPA ratings for the C350e are 51 MPGe combined and 28 mpg highway and 32 mpg city with a combined rating of 30 mpg. I got 43.5 during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The interior is sumptuous as you’d expect in a Mercedes-Benz. Materials are top notch. Seats are very comfortable and supportive. Although it’s a compact sedan, the backseat is roomy enough for two adults.
I’m not a fan of the Comand infotainment system. It can be very distracting to use and even to reach. A touchpad partially covers the round controller knob, making it tough to touch without looking down.
Standard features include keyless entry, keyless ignition, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding sunroof, power front seats with memory, automatic climate control with pre-entry settings, seven-inch infotainment center, center console controller and touch pad, two USB ports, SD card reader, AM/FM HD and satellite radio.
Standard technology includes Attention Assist drowsy driver warning, front collision warning with automatic emergency braking, and the Mbrace telematics system which provides in-dash apps for music streaming, directions and searches, gas station and EV charging locations and internet radio. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available as part of the $350 Smartphone Integration package.
The C350e has 11.8 cubic feet of trunk space and 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats. The battery is housed under the rear axle so as not to reduce trunk space.
It’s the only compact luxury sedan with up to 20 miles of all-electric range
Beautiful car inside and out
As noted above, all-electric range is only up to 20 miles
Price escalates in a hurry with options and packages
Infotainment system not user-friendly
You have to pay more to get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
My tester starts at a$47,900. Heated and ventilated front seats are $1,030. Burmester surround sound system is $850. LED ambient lighting is $310. Rear lip spoiler is $350. Premium Package is $700 and adds satellite radio and Keyless Go. Saddle Brown Nappa Leather Package is $3,800 and adds leather upholstery, seat backrests and cushions in a diamond design with perforations, dark brown Linden wood trim, floor mats, MB-Tex dashboard and upper door sills with contrast stitching, power passenger seat with three-position memory and adjustable thigh support. Advanced Lighting Package is $800 and adds active LED headlamps with active curve illumination and adaptive high beam assist. Intelligent Hybrid Navigation and Multimedia Package is $2,200 and adds COMAND navigation including map updates for three years, five years traffic and weather services, voice control, 8.4-inch high-resolution color display, touchpad, route-based battery optimization, and anticipatory operating mode. Advanced Parking Assist Package is $1,090 and adds Parktronic with active parking assist and surround view system. Driver Assistance package is $2,250 and adds active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist, Distronic Plus with steering assist and stop & go pilot, Pre-safe plus with cross traffic assist, pre-safe brake with pedestrian recognition, speed limit assist, enhanced radar-based regenerative braking, and anticipatory shift strategy. Destination fee is $995 bringing the grand total to $62,275.
For now, this is the only plug-in hybrid compact luxury sedan. So buyers will have to agree that up to 20 miles of all-electric range is better than none at all. Better to think of it as a small luxury hybrid that gets better mileage than its gas-powered sibling.