When the oldest car manufacturer in the world puts an ultra economic diesel engined hybrid on the road, you can expect something truly special. Indeed, this Hybrid Mercedes C Class delivers, and how: mechanical refinement and smooth power, all this combined with stunning economy. All this offered in an inimitable package of stylish comfort, build quality, which is so uniquely Mercedes. A car to have, enjoy and hold on to? You bet...just read on!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Hybrid, the Mercedes way
We already commented on the hybrid layout of the Mercedes automobiles before, and again we were impressed by its cleverness. The 20 kW electric motor is actually almost just there to get you started, propelling the car in the first few metres from standstill.
Clever, as this is the situation where combustion engines will consume a lot of fuel, especially when they have not yet reached their operating temperature. Once you are moving, things are different. High gearing, meaning modern state of the art automatic transmissions with clever gearchange patterns and electronics, combined with efficient combustion engines will do the job. Just as well at slow city speeds as when cruising on the fast “Autobahnen.”
Especially in the latter situation, the efficient engine and drive train wins... And that is a driving situation where European drivers and especially German road users find themselves in, rather often.
As, said, the only situation where hybrid really tells, and the aid of an electric engine has paramount results, is in start stop situations. And here, Daimler's hybrid configuration really works. At speeds below 30 kmh, the electric engine sets in whenever it is more economical to use its smooth and silent power. But when you put the throttle just a bit deeper to accelerate, even moderately, the engine immediately gets to work again. All this happens in utter smoothness, and no jerks or whirrs are noticeable or heard in the cabin.
Furthermore, the Mercedes engineers have also taken full advantage of the kinetic energy developed by the car. The engine will shut off instantly whenever you lift the throttle, and the car will coast, charging the battery in the process. Your Merc will just roll majestically and silently along, at an unbroken pace, which indeed, will force you to anticipate a bit more when approaching speed limit zones.
Having said this, when you lift the throttle at speeds below 30 kph, the car will not continue rolling on like a bullet, but slow down more markedly, and will convert this kinetic energy into battery power. Safety first, and besides that, economy too is well served here. So clever!
Of course, when braking moderately, the kinetic energy is also converted in electric energy. Only when more deceleration is wanted, the brakes start to work.
Further drivetrain development leads to uncanny refinement.
Mercedes test drivers and engineers have certainly done their homework in further smoothing out the drive train reactions since the launch of the new C class. We vividly remember driving the petrol engined V6 version with the auto box in the French riviera roads, a formidable car indeed.
When we used the coasting function, where the engine shuts off when we lifted the throttle, we noticed a little jerk whenever we touched the throttle again and the engine was taken back to the task. Your servant discussed this at length with the Mercedes engineers present then.
Well, all this is, literally, ironed out now. This brand new 300C BlueTECH HYBRID cocoons you in its smoothness. Well done!
We just point out further here that this coasting function, where the engine shuts off totally when you lift the throttle, operates to speeds up to 160 kmh.
What is further astonishing is the velvet-like quietness when you grab this 300C by its tail and floor the throttle fully. The engine revs smoothly up to the redline, the auto box changes up through the gears with lightning speed, and you feel just a constant gentle push in your back, as acceleration is truly lively, to say the least. The 150 + 20 Kw engine/electric hybrid combination will go from 0 to 100 kmh in 6,7 seconds, and top speed in this well streamlined break version is an impressive 238 kmh.
Equally impressive is the economy. When driving with the necessary anticipation in town traffic, it is rather easy to achieve consumption figures of around 5 litres/100 km. We achieved an average during the test of 5,4,l/100 km, using the massive acceleration power of this mighty 300C more often than not. The manufacturer quotes 4 to 4,2 litres in urban use, extra urban up to 4,4 litres and combined up to 4,2 litres. CO2 emissions range between 99 and 106 g/km. For our specific test car, the manufacturer quoted 103 g/km.
The engine is the well known 2143 cc four cylinder, developing its 150 Kw at 3800 rpm. It is of course rather the torque of 500 Nm between 1600 and 1800 rpm which is even more important. The electric motor actually adds up to 250 Nm torque.
The 7 speed automatic box is of course ideally adapted to these torque characteristics, and both engine and electric motor are ideally combined- we would say literally every second of way - to deliver the most economic journey possible. The engine is now even less obtrusive than before, we found vibration and noise insulation further improved. The advantage of the rather small electric motor is of course the rather limited amount of battery power needed, which means taking up less space in the car. Indeed, this break version offers you an impressive 435 litres of luggage space with the rear backrests still upright. When you fold both of these down, the available space is a cavernous 1470 litres.
A soothing cabin with plenty of quality feel...
We drove our test car in AMG livery, and this meant in the interior white leather seats and door panels, which set off very nicely against the black finish of the wood inlays in the dashboard, doors and centre console.
Of course one finds here the familiar, well thought out layout of the controls, the smart command pad on the centre console, where you right hand is able to rest on the very elegant shining black wrist support while rotating the command selector wheel.
The excellent cruise control was again a joy to use, as was the usual navigation, radio and media setup. The atmosphere in the cabin is certainly one of luxury and refinement, combined with excellent creature comfort. The seats provide good support, there is even adjustable thigh support. In the back there is ample room for at least two adults.
Needless to say that the AMG treatment also works wonders on the car's handling and agility. This break feels quite nimble, the light and precise power steering lets you feel the road very well, the nicely shaped leather covered steering wheel feels delightfully in your hands.
Indeed, this car is a joy to drive with verve over twisty roads, and this is even true when you have put the suspension selector knob in “comfort” mode, where we left it actually most of the time. The car is superbly neutral and very predictable and forgiving at high cornering speeds, and copes very well with the massive pulling power which the Hybrid combination offers to the rear wheels.
Of course, as said, the pilot behind the wheel has the choice between several driving modes; when you opt for sport or even sport+, prepare yourself for some delightful sporting moments. This C300 then transforms in a true sports car, geared to deliver the utmost in sporting driving experience. Engine response is instant, the power available any second of the way is truly massive, the car responds beautifully to the slightest steering wheel movements, and of course, also the brakes are up to the task.
Drivetrain characteristics are then also altered, as you can expect. Gears are held longer, the engine revs are kept higher, no “coasting” any more when you lift the throttle. The engine does not shut off, but stays alert to have a go after again a few seconds. Of course, the system “remembers” your driving style, and even when you had a stint of some dynamic driving in “eco” mode for instance, the “coasting” function will be suspended for some time.
It really shows that this is a true drivers’car, refined, tuned and tested by men who know what driving is all about. It also shows what modern, electronically controlled damping systems can do. It is therefore understandable that makes like Citroën for instance, are abandoning their hydropneumatic system in favour of the modern day solutions which make good use of electronics.
This C300 BlueTEC HYBRID really shows how mature and refined hybrid driving has become when engineered and built by the oldest car manufacturer in the world. The car is also frugal, and combines with genuine sporting driving pleasure, of a calibre one does not readily find with other hybrids.
The Mercedes solution also eats up very little space, if any, and the amount of battery power needed (and the risk of costly replacement) is also kept within very reasonable limits. This makes this solution also attractive for second time and further buyers, throughout the long life of the car. Something a manufacturer who aims to give its products a long service life will consider important.
Furthermore, one enjoys the Mercedes build quality, its styling, finish and reliability. So if you are also looking for a car with excellent dynamic qualities, frugality, and last but not least long term (resale) value, then you certainly should consider this Mercedes…
Hans Knol ten Bensel